The only thing adorning the space-themed walls inside the VibeHouse 405 recording studio is a bright purple neon sign reading “good vibes only.” The sign itself represents the ever-present positive attitude of VibeHouse owner Kevin “Kaze” Thomas and the mentality he wants others to strive for in the creative space. But the empty walls stand for something else as well.
“The only thing that goes on these walls are plaques,” Kaze said. “So it’s a high expectation in here already, and it sounds crazy to be standing in Chapel Hill on Franklin Street and say that, but we’re dead serious.”
That standard is not fueled by arrogance or naivety, but is instead based on Kaze’s vast experience in the creative industry and his unwavering belief in the artists of Orange County to succeed and excel. A UNC grad, Kaze has deep roots in North Carolina but spent years in Los Angeles collaborating with some of the biggest names in the music business. He was signed with Universal Motown and toured with Wu Tang Clan, Kendrick Lamar, and Seventh Wonder. However, when faced with the reality of balancing a family with life in the music industry, Kaze chose to move his family back to his college stomping grounds of Chapel Hill.
Kaze purposefully chose downtown Chapel Hill has the location for VibeHouse 405, mindful that the town used to be considered among the top cities in the world for Indie music. Things have shifted in the music industry and in the landscape of Franklin Street since then, but Kaze believes in the level of artistic talent in the community, and Chapel Hill’s ability to reclaim its status as a hotbed for live music.
VibeHouse celebrated its first anniversary at the end of February with a party at Cat’s Cradle and performances by Kaze himself as well as other VibeHouse artists such as Alo Ver and Ethan Taylor. The past year has been a learning process, Kaze said, and it means the world to him and the community to have a resource like VibeHouse available to artists in Orange County.
“The number one export, the number one shining quality in this state is the talent,” he said. “The fact that I can help cultivate that, whether it be in the discovery format or helping artists catapult to where they’re going to go, that this can be that place means the world.”
But VibeHouse isn’t just for musical artists. In addition to the recording studio, it has an all-purpose arts space that can be used for almost any type of creative endeavors.
“We are dedicated to anybody’s art and expression, no matter what that is,” Kaze said. “If we’re known as a place that is open to anybody, to any type of art, that is a blessing.”
VibeHouse has hosted poetry events, songwriting workshops, and been a regular venue in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro 2nd Friday ArtWalk. Coming up in March, they have a freestyle event on the ninth and a producer showcase on the 23, as well as other recurring monthly events.
It is important to Kaze that VibeHouse is known for its inclusivity to all genres of music, all forms of artistic expression, and all types of people. When people to VibeHouse for the first time, they often ask him, “what do you do?” to which Kaze responds, “well, what do you need?”
“Because,” he says, “if it fits the parameters of what we can do, then, by all means, let’s do it.”