Music and Community: The MASH 2018
On Saturday, September 8, students from Wesleyan University will gather for The MASH, which is a day-long celebration of musicians and other artists in the community. For the second year in a row, Reverberations Mag is partnering with the festival to offer a platform for festival-goers to respond to the art in a venue beyond the immediate performances. In other words, we’d like to foster a digital community of response because, after all, art begets art, and this is our founding premise as a publication.
We encourage everyone to connect with our new editor JR Atkinson at the Olin Stage, and to submit your responses (written, visual, or otherwise) to us afterwards. Guidelines can be found here. Until then, we talked to several phenomenal musicians who will be sharing their jams this Saturday.
Julia Rose Atkinson: So, can you just tell me a bit about how you got interested in music, how you started, and where you’re at now?
Rebecca Roff: Yeah, my parents made me take piano lessons from a very young age, which I hated for many years. I stopped sometime in middle school but then got re-interested in writing my own music in Freshman year of high school. I've been writing songs since the 9th grade, and I hope I've gotten better since then!
JRA: (Laughing) I’m sure! I always think it's interesting that something can start off as an obligation but end up really being something that you love. So, do you think there was an artist that kind of made you think "I can do that" or that you really connected with?
RR: This is kind of silly but there was—there still is—a YouTuber named Carrie Hope Fletcher. My best friend in high school was like, "Oh I love her songs they're so like funny and cute," and I thought, "I can do that too." So, then I started writing my own stuff because I wanted to impress my best friend.
JRA: That's really cool. Do you still follow her work?
RR: She doesn't do nearly as much songwriting now. She lives in London, performs on the West End, and writes books and stuff. So her songwriting has fallen to the wayside.
JRA: How do you think her work influenced you as an artist? What do you see in her that you see in yourself, or what does she do that you really appreciate?
RR: Well, when I first started writing music I didn't want to be too vulnerable about it. She wrote kind of silly music, so I took that on as a way to write because I liked doing it while not having to expose myself too much. Since then, I’ve kind of grown past that. I wouldn't say that her music really influences what I'm writing now.
JRA: How do you think coming to Wesleyan has changed your musical path?
RR: My freshman year, I took Intro to Experimental Music, which was a wild, crazy-fun class to take. Since then, I've had a good relationship with Professor Matthusen, and she's very much into experimental but also technological music. That's not really going to come out at my performance at the MASH, but it has opened me up to a whole new way of making music that's not just the Western standard.
JRA: Right, sometimes even just learning about other music can maybe subconsciously influence the way that you look at your own work.
RR: Yeah, exactly.
JRA: Have you found, in the music scene specifically, aside from taking classes, opportunities for collaboration?
RR: I'm a shy person. I had a band for like one semester, but then one of our members went abroad and I broke up with the other member, so that's kind of dead now (laughs). I really liked working with my friends, but we weren't as productive as I am alone. When there's not a central point of power, things go much more slowly. So, when I'm just doing it by myself, or when I can ask people to help me and tell them what to do, then it goes a lot faster. But, collaboration makes for cool music, just of a different kind.
JRA: I get that. When you are writing alone, or even working with a group, is there a specific mindset that you find helps you be creative for helps you feel "in the zone" with your work?
RR: I wish that I knew. Sometimes I feel like I really want to write music, and then I try but can’t put anything out, and that's really frustrating. I guess it's easier to write on command when there are other people around because there are other ideas to feed off of.
JRA: I'm interested in the question of playing for people you know, versus playing for strangers. How might one be more difficult than the other?
RR: Yeah, I don't usually play live that often, and when I have it's been at like a coffee shop with my mom in the back. I post videos of my songs and whenever someone is like "Oh I want to listen to it!" I have to leave the room. Like, I can't just sit there and watch you react.
JRA: So, on social media, is there a different interaction with fans or followers versus in person? Do you find that it's easier to communicate that way?
RR: Yeah, I'm working on it, but for a long time I didn't want anyone to know that I post things on a YouTube channel. I didn't want anyone I knew to see it because my songs are pretty personal. I don't mind strangers reading my diary, but I don't want people I know to read it. But I kind of realized that if I want to write music professionally, then I can't hide it, I have to show people. So, just interacting with people over social media is a lot easier. They'll comment nice things, and I don't have to see their faces. If they don't like it, they usually won't comment on it. It’s just a much easier, less risky, less vulnerable way.
JRA: Yeah, I was going to say that it goes back to the vulnerability piece, which I’m assuming is especially hard with music that you're writing yourself. I think singing and playing songs you wrote has to be one of the most vulnerable positions you can be in. It's interesting how the internet ties into that. So, do you have any advice for yourself as a younger performer, or for someone who maybe wants to play the MASH one day?
RR: I would say that you're never going to feel ready. I considered playing the MASH freshman and sophomore year but didn't feel ready. Then this year I considered it again and didn't feel ready, so I wasn't going to do it, but my friend is the intern setting up the MASH and really encouraged me to do it. So, I took it as a sign, and was like, “yeah, now's the time!”
Linne Halpern: How did you get into music?
Myles Johnson: I’ve been doing music for as long as I can remember, from singing in the shower to eventually studying classical voice at the school that “Fame” is based on. Music has always been one of the most important things in my life.
LH: Who are your main influences?
MJ: My main influences are Daniel Caesar, Avi from Pentatonix, and Rex Orange County.
LH: What’s the most important aspect of performing music to you? Why is it your preferred medium of art?
MJ: To be completely honest, the most important thing in music to me is that musician enjoys the music they’re playing. I’m a strong believer that if you’re not enjoying what you’re playing, it’s not gonna come out well. But when you do enjoy it, there’s no feeling that you can compare it to. Being on stage flying through a rift and feeling the music is easily the best feeling ever.
LH: If you had to pick three items from a grocery store to describe your musical aesthetic, what would they be?
MJ: Banana, pineapple, and a really purple milkshake.
LH: Why are you excited about performing at The MASH?
MJ: I’m excited to perform at the MASH because I’m completely in love with music and sharing it. If I walk off the stage having seen people sway to what I’m playing, I’ll be happy.
PHILIPPE GENE S. BUNGABONG
Sage Marshall: How did you get into music?
Philippe Bungabong: I loved watching American Idol as a kid, so I always tried to sing with the contestants on the show.
SM: Who are your main musical influences?
PB: Scotty McCreery, David Cook, and Lauren Alaina, all of whom were on American Idol.
SM: What’s the most important aspect of performing to you? Why is it your preferred medium of art?
PB: Human interaction. I find the idea of ensuring that both myself and my audience are having fun both thrilling and fulfilling. I love how personal and intimate I can get with everyone when I perform.
SM: If you had to pick three items from a grocery store to describe your music aesthetic, what would they be?
PB: Eggs, milk, salt. The ingredients for making a good scrambled egg, which is a daily classic you should never miss.
SM: Why are you excited about performing at The MASH?
PB: I’m excited to share my passion for singing with the Wesleyan community!