I arrived at the LNRZ Freshmen Camp as a tangle of nerves. I had never met any of the freshmen in person, and while I had great feelings about all of them, I knew it would be naive to think living and working with 6 other people in the same house for 5 days would be a cakewalk. I arrived at the house first and sat on the porch staring down the driveway, waiting for the others to pull up. When they did, my worries evaporated within minutes.
We spent that first night getting the house set up and getting to know each other. We turned the living room with a huge vaulted ceiling into our main room and moved things around in the master bedroom to create studio B with a beautiful view overlooking the driveway. After dinner we had our first cook-up in the main room. I emphasized this was low-pressure - we had four days after this to make more music, tonight should be fun. As Ricardo and I built out the start of a beat we heard Margarida and Madalen working out a melody behind us on the couch, singing it back and forth. We could hardly tell their voices apart and had the idea to have them both record the melody and switch between the takes with each syllable. This song didn’t make the final tape, but finding such a dope effect as a team was the first spark of a magical week.
The next morning I came downstairs to hear Aly, Ricardo and Margarida already cooking up something beautiful in the main room. I got some lunch and joined them, trying one of my favorite granular effects on Margarida’s vocal line at the end of the song. It sounded crazy and I immediately exported it and started a fresh song…what would become SIRENS.
Ricardo added some awesome hats to the beat and Madalen and I started working on the chorus. We noticed Margarida humming to herself on the couch and had her track those hums - they became a vital backbone of the song. Before long Madalen’s chorus was recorded as well and Aly sat down and recorded his exuberant verse as the rest of us stifled exclamations of joy.
Reo, Dave, Iman and Heno came over after dinner that night to hear what we’d been working on and Vaarwell made G&Ts for the group as Aly and I blasted our favorite Drake songs, dancing and yelling around the house. Ricardo and I sat down after dinner to make a beat in that world and BIG was born. It came together at lightning speed and Aly performed a 5 minute freestyle for all of us that was culled down into the final version. We ended that night staring up at the stars. Day 2 was complete and we already had 4 songs.
The next morning I again awoke to music from downstairs. A beautiful acoustic ballad with guitar from Ricardo and production from Aly was coming together. As I ate lunch I watched Tate track the first vocals for the song, singing lyrics inspired by our hot tub conversations the evening before. One by one each freshmen artist took a turn and somehow all five vocalists fit together perfectly. This was STARGAZING.
After a long walk in Joshua Tree, Tate sat me and Ricardo down with a specific rhythmic idea. We laid out the backbone of a beat and before we even added any harmonic elements Tate was singing the hook for GHIRADELLI (I didn’t notice this at the time but that was the brand of chocolates left for us on the table by our host). Once Tate’s verse was recorded we called down Aly from upstairs and he and Mark Johns responded to his energy perfectly.
With that song wrapped Ricardo and I found ourselves idly hanging in the main room and we heard Madalen’s voice coming down from studio B where she was working on a crazy choral thing with Margarida and Aly (what would become the intro to BIG). We couldn’t hear any of that context though - all we heard was a looping, yelled melody. Ricardo started playing guitar along to it and I tapped a rhythm on my water bottle. We both looked at each other - this was fire. This would become SINGLE MIND.
Ricardo and I decided every element in SINGLE MIND would be recorded in the house. We made a kick drum from banging on the table and used guitar squeaks to make a hat pattern. Tate started singing to it in ways that surprised and delighted us all. Another four song day was in the books. We ended it as had become tradition, with a long conversation in the hot tub, under the stars.
I had intentionally let things happen organically for the first several days, knowing that on day 4 it would be time to switch into executive producer mode and FINISH THINGS. Before that of course, I again woke up to new music from downstairs, this time the chaotic and incredible SWIM.
As it was our last full day, I spearheaded a hike in Joshua Tree with the full gang. We chatted and laughed as we zigzagged through the desert trails, learning so much about each other’s unique backstories and passions. We’d built a wonderful comfort with each other over the week and conversation came easily. There was also palpable relief and joy at the amount of music we had already completed. Anything made today was found money.
Back at the house, we all sat and listened to all the songs we’d made together, and I took notes on the things that needed finishing. Then began the busiest afternoon of the camp - every room in the house was active as everyone tracked verses on songs they had yet to appear on or finished production on specific moments. Ricardo sat in the dining room working on headphones while Tate paced the kitchen in headphones writing a verse in response to Aly’s on SIRENS on his iPad.
After our last supper we sat around the fire outside and Margarida and Ricardo enjoyed their first every s’mores. There was a giddy energy to the group now, laughs came easily and constantly - we knew it would all be over tomorrow and none of us wanted it to end.
My last official business as executive producer was to record gang vocals to scatter throughout the project. We all crowded around the microphone in the main room and yelled out the chorus to GHIRADELLI while I conducted and then explored different textures and harmonies (some more successful than others). When things didn’t go as planned we would burst into laughter and these laughs made it into the final project in many different forms. In all we had 9 minutes of audio of all of us having fun in a room together - when I listen to it now it’s like I’m still there.
After five days we had 10 songs to work with and I had made 6 new close friends and collaborators. It was truly one of the best weeks of my life, and I think we all could feel it. I felt creatively rejuvenated, full of inspiration and passion for the music that each of these undeniable artists had made and had yet to make. This was the energy I’d been chasing for LNRZ, and I couldn’t wait to do it again.