Bill Chesley's Henryboy

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After more than a decade at Amber Music, award-winning sound designer Bill Chesley and executive producer Kate Gibson have struck out on their own to set up a new sound design-only offering called Henryboy.

L to R: Kate Gibson, Andy Brannan, Bill Chesley, Hedge.
L to R: Kate Gibson, Andy Brannan, Bill Chesley, Hedge.
We spoke to Chesley, the ears behind many top spots for Coke, Axe, Brand Jordan and more, about his entrepreneurial motivation, starting a new company in today's economy and more.

What made you want to go out on your own?
It's been something I was thinking about for quite some time. We were at Amber for 10 years and in the last couple we just started thinking it would be interesting to do a sound design-only company. There are a lot of music houses with sound design, but then I started doing things like Coke's "Happiness Factory" and things like that, it was animation work that got me thinking this would be a plausible idea. We just want it to have sound design as the primary focus and see what happens. Right now, I think the idea of focusing on doing one thing very well is especially important, when budgets are challenged in every aspect of the business you might ask if something as esoteric as sound design can survive in this environment? And I think it's actually even more important to take the money you have to spend and decide to give it to someone who will really kill it as much as it needs to be.

What about animation work made sound design-only come to mind?
In animation you're starting with a blank slate. If you shoot a live action commercial you'll have production sound and a general palette of sound to work with. But with animation, like with "Happiness Factory", I do everything from the atmosphere to the footsteps to the sound that flying blob makes or what a penguin sounds like when it sneezes. So sound design is critical in that sense. Music can work well, too, but I think the sound design is crucial.

Henryboy's a pretty lean machine right now, with you and your long-time assistant Andy Brannan as sound designers. Any immediate plans for growth?
I'm not planning on taking on too many people right now. I want people to come here and work with me. It's my voice and the reel is my work. I've always been opposed to the bait-and-switch thing where a client comes to work for me but they end up with my brother-in-law . I don't want to do that. And in this kind of world, that's how things have to be but it's also how I prefer to work.

How did the current economic climate affect your decision to start a new business?
Our lease started on the same day Lehman Brothers closed their doors, so that was a bit auspicious. But it's just been about seeing what happens. People have been rallying around henryboy though, we just finished a bunch of spots for Nike out of Wieden+Kennedy, New York for March Madness. We also did some Sprint work for Goodby, and another Coke thing for Wieden in Amsterdam. So, it is crazy out there but we're keeping busy and have had a great reception.
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