The Co-Pilots practice in one of the many storage units used by local bands across the city. Photos by Steven Longmire.

Come at the right time to Quality Storage & Mini Warehouses, a storage unit facility on the outskirts of Gainesville, and you’ll catch the sound of live music.

It’s not your ears deceiving you. Past the decaying fences and under towering yellow pine trees, on a small piece of land lined with narrow concrete buildings, behind the dark steel doors of the units packed tight like sardines, local bands are hard at work jamming at the highest volume possible.

Local bands have been using these units to practice unrestrained by city sound limits for the past few years, and the Co-Pilots are one of them. With little room to move amid a mess of equipment and cables, members Ricky Brockway, Victor Florence and AJ Herring stoop over their instruments on a Thursday afternoon and play under the glow of Christmas lights that crisscross the ceiling.

They are three of six people who collectively own and pay rent for the unit. Various projects have assembled and dismantled among them, but they’ve also brought in their own networks of musicians to practice and try new sounds. And the rent only gets cheaper as more join the ranks.

The Co-Pilots, who are looking to recruit another guitarist, even jokingly said they’re only doing it to bring the rent down.

It makes sense: They’re all 20-something and broke, making music on a budget with whatever tools and resources they can find.

It’s the essence of Gainesville’s DIY music scene, Florence said. Everything from their music (recorded and mixed themselves) to their space (the walls and ceiling lined with cardboard that serves as makeshift soundproofing) to their instruments (Against the wall rests a keyboard with two pens taped to where a G key once was) is handmade and lets them stay self-sufficient.

It makes sense: They’re all 20-something and broke, making music on a budget with whatever tools and resources they can find.

And many of the musicians who practice there go on to perform at Display Gallery, an artist-run studio, gallery and event space downtown which has been hosting an ongoing marathon of local DIY shows for the past year.

“I’d say if Display had an official practice space, it’d be that space,” Florence said. “I mean, it’s not an official one. But it feels like it.”

The Co-Pilots practice in their storage unit, which is strung with Christmas lights and lined with cardboard to maximize acoustics.

Brockway, bassist for the Co-Pilots, first rented out the unit a little over a year ago. He’d heard the facility was used by bands in need of practice space.

In fact, Pedro Sanchez, drummer for the Co-Pilots, sits at his drum set under an amateurish spraypainted mural of children holding hands atop a pile of ammunition. Its origin is still unknown; none of the renters know what went on within the graffitied walls before they moved in.

But there’s a good chance it came from other musicians who used the space for the same purpose. Brockway said so many other musicians use the units, so it’s not uncommon to see the parking lot busy with cars and musicians lugging amps around.

“Some days there will be, like, four or five bands there at a time playing in different units,” Brockway said, “doing their own thing.”

Although they often hear the other musicians more than they see them, they enjoy walking through the facility and catching bursts of wildly different music coming from the different rooms. On any given day they’ll hear a jam band playing Grateful Dead songs, a punk group with a loud female voice blasting through the walls or a band playing KISS covers tirelessly for hours on end.

The facility’s development as a hub for musicians may come as a surprise to people who live near the facility but not within earshot — probably for the best. With an equipment rental store and a Waffle House as two of the crowning businesses in the area, it’s not exactly a bohemian environment.

“It’s something you wouldn’t really expect to be out in the middle of nowhere,” Florence said. “It’s the last stop. Cause after that it’s just woods.”

“It’s not really convenient,” Brockway added. “It seems like it’s somehow always 15 minutes from anywhere you are in Gainesville.”

On any given day they’ll hear a jam band playing Grateful Dead songs, a punk group with a loud female voice blasting through the walls or a band playing KISS covers tirelessly for hours on end.

Then again, distance is also part of the facility’s draw, Brockway said. It allows the musicians to play as loud as they want at any time, day or night, without warranting noise disturbance fines or bothering neighbors or roommates.

“I can’t imagine us trying to practice in my apartment,” said Tanner Williams, vocalist and guitarist for the Co-Pilots. “It’s definitely worth it.”

Brockway added that it’s important to have a place where you can play at the volume at which you’d perform, and local spaces for this purpose have become hard to come by. In fact, many of the venues where the musicians would regularly perform are increasingly unavailable: Mars shut down early this year, 1982 is going through renovations and Display has been off the market until it gets up to code after a recent string of noise violations. And the practice space desert has affected a large portion of Gainesville’s musicians: Another unit on Waldo has been overrun with musicians with the same idea.

“It gives me a chance to explore being live,” Florence said. “When you’re in your own room you can’t really do that. Going to a place that’s remote — it’s really freeing.”

Florence also said he appreciates the laid-back nature of the space. The musicians let each other know when they’ll be using it through a collective group text, and everyone respects each others’ property.

Florence said he also enjoys seeing the space bring together musicians with varying styles under one roof.

“It’s like a nexus,” Florence said. “Such wildly different genres are going on in there.”

This has provided a communal creative experience. The musicians share equipment, go to each other’s shows and sit in on each other’s practices and recording sessions, Florence said.

Since sharing the space, Brockway and Florence have started working on a new project, which Brockway says is tentatively called Cult Film. Without the storage unit as the center for all of their music endeavors, they might not have been able to find the right time or place to collaborate, Brockway said.

“It’s too small. And too hot,” Florence said. “But it’s a great place to just stretch out ideas. It’s definitely a DIY, lo-fi place. It’s perfect. It gives us a chance to explore.”