Welcome to In the Studio, a feature dedicated to exploring some of the fantastic independent musicians at Kenyon. This week, we showcase Miles Shebar, a studio art major and producer from New York blending his ambient style with hip-hop to create original electronic compositions. Stay tuned for an exclusive release of his newest single.
When did you start being interested in music or playing an instrument?
I started developing my own musical taste in 8th grade listening to artists like Skrillex and was very into electronic music and dub-step which later progressed to house, trap and then hip-hop. Also, my mother has been a singer with Meredith Monk’s vocal ensemble, so my entire childhood I grew up around music. I took a few stabs at guitar and piano but never held it out or got to a place where I could, you know, play Frère Jacques. Then in 10th grade, I started DJing since I loved EDM and was into technology and computers and thought I could focus on curating music if I couldn’t make my own pieces. Also, I would call the computer an instrument but I would not say that playing the computer is at all equivalent to musicianship.
Do you recall a specific moment in which you found your sound/voice/personal style?
One year at my summer camp, there was a counselor who was a producer who made beats for rappers and showed me the ways of Logic. I started to ask my counselor if I could skip pool time to hang out with him. I downloaded Ableton (a music production software) in high school but really couldn’t figure it out–nothing I made sounded good. Then senior year, I tried as hard as I could to make something new every week and a lot of it was shit but slowly things started to jive more! It was pretty recently that I started making originals. I think I figured out my personal sound once I felt comfortable uploading tracks to SoundCloud, which are jazzy hip-hop beats borrowed heavily from electronic influences.
Take me through your music making process. Is it something you intensely focus on or is it more spontaneous?
The process of actually writing the arrangements or the simple loops, which become the rest of the song, is pretty spontaneous because that can start with a sample, drum line or synthesizers. I did have to get used to the process of listening to them over and over again since a big part of it is tweaking and adding minuscule layers.
What aspects of culture, politics, art or your environment have been most formative to your music?
I have no idea how true this is but my mom says that parts of my compositions remind her of Meredith Monk’s songs since they can be very trancey and don’t have a clearly defined structure found in pop music, which is partly because I have no idea how to write structure. I have definitely been, subliminally or not, inspired by the minimalist composers of Meredith’s generation such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich.
Hip-hop is a harder thing for me to think about culturally since I’m a straight, white dude. A lot of what I try to do when I make hip-hop is let rappers bring their half. I will say that the hip-hop ethos of sampling plays a big part in the stuff I make. The best part about sampling is how endless it really is. Some people say it isn’t really an art form because in some way you are using other people’s work. I think those people don’t understand what’s capable of being done to samples and what you do to the sample is often the art itself.
What are a few songs or an album that has been important to you?
An album that is more generally important to me is Immunity by Jon Hopkins.
What are some upcoming projects you are working on?
I am going to put out a single with Adama (Adam Berndt ’17) this weekend and am also working on an EP with him. I have my own EP coming out soon that I am particularly excited about since I had a some-what studio set-up to work on, which enabled me to create tracks that are less meditative, more beat-driven and are meant to be played loudly. My first album, which was only 22 minutes long, is more ambient because it was created entirely using headphones.
Check out his latest single!
Listen to Miles Shebar: