Making a Splash

For 12 Modesto-area bands, being picked to be on a new Indie compilation CD is a big break.

For fans, the locally-produced CD — called Gem Splash I — is affordable entertainment.

The idea for the CD, which costs $5, started with Brenda Francis, who owns a recording studio called Modesto Sound. Francis took a university course, and the CD — made with songs from teen-aged artists and bands who have recorded at her studio — is the result.

Bands and artists on the CD include Undergrads, Feels Like a Tuesday, Danny Deleon, Fall of Versai, Radio Inflight, Hero's Choice, and others.

"Each band has its own independent feel," said Matt Nunes, a student at Modesto's Downey High School, who listened to the CD. "This is the start of the next generation of music, available to sample before they become huge names."

Francis has a degree in music management from the University of the Pacific, and has tailored her recording studio to serve young artists with limited budgets. The studio is under the umbrella of the Stanislaus Arts Council.

When Francis took the course, one of the assignments was to put together a compilation CD, complete with cover art and a marketing plan. Everyone in the class made pretend compilations, but Francis decided that since she has a recording studio, she would put together a real one.

The next step was deciding what kind of genre the music on the CD would consist of. It seemed to Francis that the most popular genre right now seems to be power pop and acoustic, so that is what she decided to do.

Next, she began looking through lists of songs from bands and artists who had already recorded in her studio. Once she found the music she thought really stood out, she got permission to use the songs.

Of course, all of the artists and bands were more than willing to let her use their music on the album, but Francis gave them an added incentive: each artist or band got the option of having either two hours of free recording time or 10 CDs. They have all opted for the recording time so far.

"It was a lot of work because I had to find the songs and get the artist's permission," Francis said. "Then I had someone remix the songs to bring the quality level even higher."

Next, Francis decided what order the songs should play in. It's not as easy as it sounds.

"You want to put the high-energy ones first and after that it is kind of a switch between high energy and then slow songs," she said.

After picking out songs for the album, it was time to come up with the name. Part of her assignment was to think of a good marketing idea and, after careful consideration, she decided to name the album Gem Splash. Her reasoning? Each song is a gem, in her opinion.

For the artwork on the CD cover, Francis found a photo of a whale splashing and brought in members of one of the bands on the album, Radio Inflight, to help crop and Photoshop the image. These band members had already offered ideas on the album's graphics.

When the CD was finished, Francis mailed a copy to every artist and band that has recorded at the studio. She ended up sending out 200 CDs in Christmas cards.

To help promote the bands featured on the CD, Francis developed three, one-hour radio show segments with band member interviews and music. The show has been getting strong rotation on KQRP 106.1 FM, and has also been attracting attention on the studio Web site,

The goal of the CD is to help the bands get gigs, Francis said. She also wanted teens to be able to afford the CD.

"I thought $5 was a good price that teens could afford because the mission of my studio is to provide a professional recording studio that is supported by the community," she said.

"It kind of outs with the piracy thing, too," she continued. "It's low cost so I wanted people to buy them, not copy them."

Seventeen-year-old Chance Johnson is part of a band, The Kinzie Affair, that has a song on the new CD. The song, "Holding on to Nothing," was the first the group recorded at Modesto Sound.

"I think the CD will help just because people that want to hear the recording quality can get a hold of that and they can also get an idea of what our music sounds like," he said. "If they're looking for a place to record and they're listening to the CD maybe the song will catch their attention as well."

Johnson's dream is similar to other eager teen artists.

"I just want my music to be heard," he said. "I want to record it so that other people can listen to it at their house on their own time instead of just at shows. I want to be able to make a living off of it; it doesn't matter if I'm a rock star. ... I just want to play music for the rest of my life, whatever that means."

The CD Gem Splash I is $5 and available at Ingram & Brauns Musik stores, 503 Bangs Ave. and 1709 Yosemite Blvd. in Modesto, and on See the video, featuring interviews with musicians on the CD, at

McKenzie Becker is a senior at Oakdale High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom journalism program.