The red light is on, a thin, vertical bar glides across the screen of Spencer Vann’s computer screen, which is delicately placed on top of an old Nintendo box. Wires hang from the side of the desktop, weaving their way down to the floor of Vann’s bedroom. They connect to two speakers, both of which are placed perpendicular to a barstool chair beside the foot of his bed.
“It’s super jenky,” Vann said. “But that kind of gives it some character.”
The room is quiet as SUNY Plattsburgh senior, Tyler Smith, finds himself in between the two speakers. He has headphones on and is in a world of his own, muttering parts of his verse under his breath. This is the first time that Smith and Vann have collaborated. However, the two have been working separately on their own projects for years. Both were surprised with the hidden talents of their counterparts.
“I knew that Tyler rapped,” Vann said. “I just didn’t know he was that good. “I couldn’t stop smiling when he was recording.”
Smith shared a similar admiration.
“He kills it on the beat,” Smith said. “The first time that I heard it I could literally picture all of my friends at a barbecue jamming out to this song.”
The two continued to work on this particular song for the rest of the night. It took them 45 minutes to come to an agreement on what it should sound like. However, this is not reflective of the life of these college artists. Hours have been put into their craft.
“Getting used to Garageband alone took me months to get used to,” Smith said. “I still have a lot to learn.”
Garageband is an application that is offered on all Mac computers. It allows users to use sampled instruments and sounds to compose their own music. Smith has a similar set up to his dorm room DJ counterpart, except his studio is nestled in what used to be a hallway closet in his apartment. It is here that Smith has worked to string together his current portfolio of music, using Garageband.
Vann on the other hand uses a more sophisticated software, LogicProX. A feature on this particular program that Vann has become fond of is its ability to record live sound. He is notorious for putting random snippets of his friends saying random things in the middle of the beats that he produces. One particular clip that he uses often is of his roomate saying, “God damn.” Vann uses autotune to make it sound really low.
“What started out as a joke has become my trademark,” Vann said. “I try to throw it in every song I make.”
Although both artists are trying unique strategies to enhance their music, both are still hesitant to release it to their peers at SUNY Plattsburgh. Smith credits this hesitancy to his need to be perfect when it comes to his music. Vann is waiting for the right moment when he thinks he can put out a full album that he will be proud of.
“It’s kind of like singing in the shower,” Smith said. “You’re in your room in front of the computer and you feel like Kanye, but that’s in the shower. It doesn’t mean you’re ready to perform at Madison Square Garden.”