DePaul dropout-founded Treehouse Records rooted in DIY


Treehouse Records was started by Matt Gieser and “Bear” Guzaldo after they dropped out of DePaul. Today it’s a thriving studio and space for bands in Chicago. (Olivia Jepson / The DePaulia)

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Once a gym full of meatheads, one West Side warehouse has been transformed into a homey, eccentric and welcoming studio space.

Treehouse Records, co-founded by Matt Gieser and Garrett “Bear” Guzaldo, is more than just a recording studio. It also has a lobby decked with old school arcade games and a variety of records — both gifts from bands and ones recorded at Treehouse — a large room for live performances with a neon sign that reads, “Just say no, DRUGS”, and multiple practice rooms with empty wine bottles and plants lining the windows.

“In today’s modern age, a recording studio itself can’t survive because everyone records in their basement,” Gieser said. “We don’t have the best gear. There’s a ton of recording studios around here that have better gear, but we have the best atmosphere. That’s what draws bands here.”

Treehouse Records has hosted multiple well-known local acts such Modern Vices, Twin Peaks and the Orwells, in addition to boasting live sessions from national acts such as Cage the Elephant and The Weeks. The DIY music scene in Chicago was how Gieser and Guzaldo met, and eventually became their inspiration and biggest motivator to create Treehouse Records.

“I went to DePaul freshmen year and Bear and I, we were always in bands and started recording together,” Gieser said. “He used to have this little place called The Treehouse on Irving Park and it was this big colonial house and a bunch of musicians lived there and they would have these crazy house shows.”

From there, Gieser and Guzaldo decided to drop out, Gieser from DePaul and Guzaldo from Columbia College Chicago, and move into an office space down the street from where the current Treehouse Records stands. After realizing much more could be done in the gym that was going out of business, Gieser and Guzaldo relocated there. Gieser’s father owns the block, so there was plenty of opportunity for Treehouse.

Treehouse Records is an impressive space already with an eccentric interior Gieser’s describes as a “stoner den,” but Gieser and Guzaldo already have bigger plans for it. Since the three current practice spaces are doing so well, 15 more are going to be added in the space next door. In addition, a guitar shop, a drum shop and a retail store selling Treehouse merchandise and products are replacing the plastic factory downstairs. Perhaps one of the most exciting extensions Treehouse is adding is a DIY music venue underneath the studio.

“We’re here to help the Chicago DIY scene,” Gieser said. “We’re kind of like a connective for a lot of people. Tons of bands use us as a contact point to communicate with other bands to get shows. We’re kind of a catalyst for Chicago. No one’s over here to get rich fast. People come here and they know we’re here to help out.”

Twin Peaks recorded and released their record store vinyl through Treehouse Records. Gieser cites Twin Peaks as another reason why they opened Treehouse Records, saying how he and Guzaldo “love their band and wanted to record them”.

The Boxers, comprising of Vincent Pimentel, Duncan Lee, Terrence Kiser, and Zach Bridgman, had their CD distributed through Treehouse Records. When asked why The Boxers chose Treehouse specifically, Lee spoke fondly of the recording studio.

“They are good friends who are very on top of their (stuff) and gave us good prices comparatively as well,” Lee said. “I think Treehouse gives a good option for bands to record or rent a space with people similar to you for a good rate.”

It helps that Gieser and Guzaldo have been involved with bands themselves. Gieser played in a band called Petty Crimes for a long time while Guzaldo is the current drummer for The Gnar Wave Rangers.

“Treehouse is especially great about being directly involved with the music scene, both with Matt’s actively playing in and supporting other Chicago bands,” Miles Kalchik, bassist for Modern Vices, said. “In terms of recording, it’s super helpful to have someone with a similar sense of musical goals there to help critique and finalize the mixes. Plus, they have (video game) Mortal Combat.”

Modern Vices recorded a mono monthly session with Treehouse Records last fall and has been involved ever since, playing Treehouse Record’s anniversary show, filming a live session, recording, and creating a “goofy but badass commercial with our film guru Ryan Ohm.”

Kalchik said bands should go to Treehouse Records “because they have some cool couches, books if you know how to read, a neon sign that says “Just say no, DRUGS” and they’ll help you nail the sound you’re looking for whether it’s The Beach Boys or ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ soundtrack.”

Gieser and Guzaldo, on top of the long list of new additions they’re already planning on, are also dipping their toes in the brewery and eatery business, making space for both on the first floor. Treehouse Records, besides providing an outlet for local and national music, is proving that they have the multidimensional elements it takes to not only stay in business, but get plenty of attention.

“It’s great and creates an incredible environment,” Gieser said. “Everyone’s friendly with each other and everyone’s just trying to help each other out. People come here and they know we’re here to help out. I always tell everyone in 20 years people are going to make movies about what’s going on in Chicago right now.”