Student music partnership crescendoes on web

After an enlightening and highly formative experience, Eads sat down at his desk and wrote what is now their upcoming EP, “Mermaid Weather:” “It’s interesting how one day like that could spurr the next whole year of what I put out.” Photo By: Sean Eads
After an enlightening and highly formative experience, Eads sat down at his desk and wrote what is now their upcoming EP, “Mermaid Weather:” “It’s interesting how one day like that could spurr the next whole year of what I put out.” Photo By: Sean Eads
After an enlightening and highly formative experience, Eads sat down at his desk and wrote what is now their upcoming
EP, “Mermaid Weather:” “It’s interesting how one day like that could spur the next whole year of what I put out.” Photo By: Sean Eads

In an ethereal field, a barefooted figure enters the foreground. The sky behind him is dark gray and the trees a vivid green. The figure—Sean Eads ’15—comes right up to the picture frame and breaks into song as space, time and the world around him come in and out of focus. This misty, otherworldly scene is a glimpse of the music video for “Everyone,” released by Bend Music this past summer.

Bend began as a creative partnership between two friends but is quickly becoming more, thanks to a large—and growing—Internet following. It all began in Los Angeles after Eads’ freshman year, when he approached his childhood friend Garrett Nash about putting together an EP. Nash, who studies music industry at the University of Southern California and specializes in engineering and recording music, came over to Eads’ garage, set up a microphone and hit record.

That was over two years ago. Since then, the duo has created a large body of work—much of which remains unreleased—under the name “Bend Music.” And although they live on opposite coasts, Eads and Nash are in constant collaboration.  “It’s changed over the years how we make music and stuff. For the first year, I was here and he was on the West coast, so we kept emailing back and forth. I’d make files and then he would add on to mine and send it back,” said Eads. “It was just this kind of cool digital collaborative thing. And now every time I go home to L.A., we just spend hours and hours in the studio recording.”

Since getting together in 2012, Eads and Nash have released an EP, as well as an album titled “Riverfriend.” Just last week, the duo released “Four,” a song from their forthcoming EP.

Creating music has been a major facet of Eads’ life since he was a preteen. Eads began writing songs at twelve and has since written music that both encompasses and transcends a range of genres—from musical theater and jazz to hip hop and electronic. But for all of his interests, Eads has devoted a majority of creative energy to Bend. “For a while, everything I was writing kind of just went to Bend but there is definitely a different process [when it comes to writing songs for Bend], because having Bend as a name to write under kind of puts you under this cover,” said Eads. “It allows me to write whatever I want. I can bear my soul just because I have this pseudonym of the band that I’m working for.”

With Bend, the song writing process usually starts with one member coming up with song lyrics or a melody and sending it to the other through file sharing or email.

“I am writing songs all of the time so it’s just kind of funneling into Bend material right away, just as it would be if we were in the same place,” said Eads. “We are pretty much a digital band entirely because we never actually have to be in the same room, but it varies from year to year. Just after we started our project, we were emailing back and forth just all the time. But now we are kind-of jaded by that process, and just like ‘Okay, we can do the work separately and bring it together when I’m home for breaks.’”

When it comes to putting out their music, Eads and Nash have created a personal model that caters to each member’s strengths. “[Nash’s] strong suit is definitely production, and he is kind of our business manager. I am just so not interested in the business of music… He loves making connections and selling our collective soul,” Eads said. “I usually write all of the material and then produce instrumentals on my own. Then we go to the studio together and he will engineer me and record my vocals, which is nice to have someone to do that so you don’t have to be running all of these different things. Basically he runs the sessions while I record vocals.” Once the instrumental and vocal tracks have been recorded, Nash and Eads sequence the song and build it together.

This past summer, Bend released the music video to their song “Everyone” from their first album, “Riverfriend.” The video was shot by Ben Simpkins ’15 and features a group of Vassar dancers moving across a field as Eads sings in the forefront. With the ambient looping of Eads’ voice against the natural scenery and dynamic dance routine, the effect is mystical, dreamy and emotionally charged. Eads allotted Simpkins total creative control when it came to creating the music video. Simpkins said, “Sean gave me the CD two years ago, and I started listening to it pretty intensely during my sophomore year. I thought it was really great. Sean is incredibly talented—mind-blowingly so—and ‘Everyone’ was a song in particular that stood out to me.”

From there, Simpkins began brainstorming about what he could do with a music video. He said, “I came up with this idea of using people in VRDT [Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre] and dancers because I think VRDT is insanely talented, and I love what they do. I was thinking about how it’s called ‘Everyone’ and how there should be a lot of people in it and how we needed Sean singing. He has all of these crazy harmonies and I thought it would be cool to show that by using multiple Seans.”

Once his vision for the video came into fruition, Simpkins then met with Kelsey Greenway ’16 about organizing VRDT dancers and secured the archery field below Kenyon for shooting.

When it came to the choreography for the music video, Greenway allowed the dancers to improvise. “I had the dancers play with the difference between organic, unconscious movement and forced, almost robotic movement,” she said. “I asked them to think about what it would be like if there were faces filling every space on the wall. Then I asked them to imagine that those faces were implanted on screens. I told them, ‘Don’t move. Then see how that makes you move.’ I also asked them to imagine that their cells were all made of little sim-cards, and then they would just notice how these prompts affected their movements.”

She continued, “I then created a short dance phrase and applied those concepts to the phrase, so I had half of them do the phrase organically and the other half robotically. It was amazing to see each dancer translate these abstractions corporeally.”

Then came the day of filming: “We had two cameras on set and shot from a couple of different angles. We had the dancers do the routine, but most of it was us, with two cameras, shooting really high frame rates so we could slow it down, shooting people just free dancing. People in VRDT are crazy talented. We were playing Sean’s music and letting them dance,” described Simpkins.

The process was equally fulfilling for those on the other end of the camera. “The filming day was magical,” said Greenway. “I gave the dancers some of the same prompts from rehearsal and they did a lot of improvisation. The whole scene on the field was surreal. We blasted ‘Everyone’ out of Ben Simpkins’ silver Beetle and the field was glowing with mist. It started pouring rain and everyone’s energy accelerated.”

You can now find Simpkin’s video on Bend’s YouTube channel or posted to their Facebook page. Thanks to Internet hype, Bend has created a massive following. Eads and Nash first began building their following by emailing their music to friends and then encouraging them to share it on social media—a publicity tactic that has proven successful . The first time the duo released music as Bend, around fifty people shared it via social media. Because of these shares, Bend received a huge audience outside of their immediate circles of friends. The pair also reaches fans by sending their music recordings out to music blogs with each release. Bend has received a large Italian following thanks to one of these blogs.

Eads said, “The best thing that’s happened as far as that is that an Italian blog posted us after we put out our first album and it had a lot of followers. And now over half of our plays are from Italy. We have something like 35,000 plays on SoundCloud and over 15,000 of them are from Italy.”

In the weeks to come, Bend will be releasing their second EP, “Mermaid Weather”—an album that holds both creative and emotional value for Eads. “I pretty much got home from this really formative experience I had one day, was feeling inspired, sat down at my computer and spent the next 24 hours just writing. It’s interesting how one day like that could spur the next whole year of what I put out,” Eads said.

“I wrote it and we finished recording a year ago. Not every song I recorded this summer will be a Bend song just because I am trying to think about writing for other people, because I really do want to be a song-writer. So I am kind of working on thinking about a voice and how I can write under it.”

While the pair do not currently have plans to play a concert for, say, their fans in Italy, Eads and Nash have been known to make a few appearances a bit closer-by. “We started playing live shows shortly after we made our first EP. The Loeb has asked us to play, Ferry had us play and some people in L.A. had us at house shows. It’s been a cool side-project for both of us.” And Eads currently has plans to perform at the Loeb on Oct. 30.

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