Pusha-T, SZA share stage with student musical group

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Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 8.13.29 PM Artists Pusha-T and SZA will perform for the College’s Spring Concert on Saturday, April 25. Pusha-T, a rapper, and SZA, a soul and R&B singer, along with student band, Bend, offer a wide array of styles. Photo by: Pusha T and SZA

The two pixelated figures on a ViCe poster have been stirring wonder and curiosity ever since they appeared on campus. The puzzle is now finally solved as ViCE reveals a different version of the poster showing who the artists are for this year’s spring concert. SZA and Pusha T, as released recently by ViCE Music, will perform at the 2015 Spring Concert. But before the blurred image of the two performers could become clear for us to see, months of hard work and negotiation led up to that point.

Head of ViCE Music, the organization responsible for planning this event, Alex Adler ’16 spoke about the process to bring outside artists to campus. “I have a [general body] of around 25 people and what we do is we work with this middle agent and we talk about what we think the campus might like for the Spring Concert,” he said.

Adler continued, “We establish a list of artists that we think would be good and we go to the middle agent and we say ‘these are the artists that we’re interested in’ and she gets back to us with if they’re available, she gives the price. We see if it fits our budget and whether or not the artist would be interesting.”

After the members of the group decide on a few names, they open up the decision-making process to the student body to make sure there is a wider interest for the show. Although there have been many ways that ViCE has executed this part of the process, Adler and Director of ViCE, Maya Toler ’16 tried a different approach this year. “So what we did was we would have a list of three artists and then we would ask the…GB to go around the retreat or when they’re walking to class or members in their class, mostly people that they didn’t know and just randomly ask them ‘hey would you be interested in seeing this person, or this person, or this person?’ And then they’d report back to me in our GB meetings. Basically that’s how we arrived at our names this year,” said Adler.

As Adler’s predecessor and the former Head of ViCE, Toler had a different role this year when planning and preparing for events. She described her new position as such, “I was there to help kind of mold [Alex’s] vision and see what he wanted but also trying to balance that with what I think would work best and trying to get everyone on the same page. I’m here to help him if he needs help on negotiations or paperwork or anything like that.”

With the experience and passion that Toler has for music and ViCE, she was able to give Adler tips about how to choose artists for the Spring Concert, advice that might not be obvious without the background that Toler has acquired. Adler spoke about some insights she shared with him, “One of the pieces of advice that Maya has given me a lot this year is: don’t think about what the artist says outside of their music. I think a lot about what the artist might say on Twitter, or what they might say in interviews, and I think a lot about offense. But I have to remember that music is separated from that and art is separated from that and when we listen to art, we have to separate it from the person as the person vs. as the artist.”

Toler echoed this sentiment and went into more detail on how to find musicians and artists that fit the preferences of the student body, saying, “You can always find something wrong with someone no matter what… One of the biggest things is trying to please everyone. This year we tried a new formula with having one bigger show. In the past, we dealt with catering to different demographics with each show, which worked.” She continued, “This year–everyone really likes a big artist usually and they like when big artists come, so we’re kind of experimenting again with having a bigger artist. So we’ll see how that works out–I think it’s going well.”

To satisfy the interests of all, or at least the majority of students, Toler and Adler worked to find a diversity of artists to feature. Adler commented, “Pusha T is rap, and SZA is more of an R&B soul singer and we think that’ll actually be a really nice medley. And then we also have student band, Bend opening for the whole show.”

Bend is a student group started by Sean Eads ’15 which adds yet another genre and style of music to the lineup. Bend, which is comprised of Eads, Matt Mendoza ’15, Ben Parra ’15, Jeremy Katzenstein ’15, and alum Sam Judkis ’14, played their first show together this past December and the members have been working together ever since. Eads spoke about why he started the group and his background in music, “The project itself I formed in 2012, the summer after my freshman year with a friend from home, who at the beginning was just on the production and business side… And then last semester I decided I wanted to take those songs which I had already written and arrange them for a band and have my friends play with me here.” He describes his music as a blend of genres, saying, “I would say it’s electronic pop with some funk influences.”

As Eads transitioned from being a solo artist to working with members of the band, he had to adapt his music to work for the group. “We’re just figuring out what sounds good and trying to make the songs which I already recorded sound new and live and fresh. What I’ll do is bring demos in the way I recorded them and then we’ll parse out who’s going to do what part of it. They’re all really really good musicians so it doesn’t ever take very long- they just kind of pick it up right away. Or I’ll send them chord changes and they’ll get it.”

Although Bend has performed on campus a few times, they weren’t on Adler’s radar until he stumbled upon their music and reached out to them. Adler said, “Sean Eads was in one of my classes last year and I literally had no idea that he did music stuff. Really it was just a moment when I was in the ViCE office and someone played his music for me and I was like: ‘Shut the fuck up this is a student?’ Initially I was just going to have two student DJ’s open, and then I was like: ‘Oh, Bend wants to play’ so I got really excited that they’re going to play.”

SZA’s performance will be following Bend, and Toler gave a nod to the female singer and the exciting prospects of her career, “It’s interesting because people might not know a lot about SZA but I was talking to our agent on the phone and apparently she has a mix-tape coming out very soon. She’s on the up-and-up with her career right now and she’s going to explode, I think, in the next few months.”

ViCE is also introducing a new feature of the Spring Concert this weekend, one that they are enthusiastic to announce to students. “We’re doing tickets for the show, but it’s not going to be a ticketed show. The tickets are kind of like a memorabilia item, but each ticket has a number on it and then we’re going to do a raffle, number randomization thing on the day before the show. And we’ll release the 30 numbers that are winning tickets and those 30 people will be selected to meet SZA and Pusha T,” said Adler.

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