Four people sit in a circle, keyboards and laptops out, heads bobbing in unison with music blaring through multicolored headphones. These are the sound scientists, part of the 20-person hip-hop collective of Cal Poly’s Music Production Union (MPU).
What started three years ago as a club of mostly acoustic singer/songwriters spawned into an equally vibrant digital production group with dozens of members meeting each week to hear each other’s beats, tracks and melodies.
Its goal is to create a space where musicians with similar musical goals can get together and explore different areas of music production techniques.
This space to play and produce music gives artists the opportunity to see where others plan to take their talents and creates a platform where students can collaborate freely. Beginners and advanced producers fill Graphic Arts (building 26), room 104 Monday nights from 8 to 10 p.m. to learn, create or just jam.
Biochemistry sophomore Austin Gandler and anthropology and geography junior Christian Salyer met through the MPU. Now roommates and best friends, Gandler and Salyer spend many late nights making
Salyer is trained in classical guitar and music theory. Gandler can play live instruments, but has extensive knowledge of music production and the ability to warp sounds in his projects with Salyer. Together they form a duo called Soul Patch. The pair likes to make music that embodies peace, serenity and emotion with guitars, piano riffs and spacey groove synths.
Salyer’s production name is MNSGRV (moonsgroove) and his style can best be described as “chill hop,” drawing inspiration from emotion expressed through hip-hop music.
“I like hip-hop the most,” Salyer said. “It’s a platform for people to just speak so much about any experience they are having. People talk about the struggles they have, the pain they have, and that inspires me to do the same thing because I want to help others like music helped me.”
Gandler, who calls himself “Lifegrid,” is inspired by people who push the boundaries of modern music through experimentation. For example, he admires the raw, primal sounds of DJ and producer Bassnectar.
“Music is the vibration of sounds around your ears,” Gandler said. “It can come into your ear and you can feel some of the craziest things you’ve ever felt before.”
Salyer and Gandler make music using a device called a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) that transforms acoustic sounds to digital sounds. The MIDI device can act as any instrument the musician wishes. This allows a two-man band to create songs with upwards of five instruments in them. The pair mixes digital beats from the MIDI with live instruments and vocals to create their staple groovy sound.
Making music is something the pair enjoys doing on a personal level, but Soul Patch said they are also ecstatic when their friends hear their work.
“I love making music with my friends in my basement, but I also love watching people moving, grooving and vibing to the music we made,” Salyer said. “It just is so awesome to see other people receive it. You can control your area with sound, you can control the feeling and the vibe of a room with random sounds.”
Salyer and Gandler both write and produce to help cope with stresses in their lives. According to Salyer and Gandler, when they were feeling emotionally out of control, they were consoled by music. The duo said they hope to bring these feelings of security to other people through their music.
“We try to create a community that people feel comfortable [in],” Gandler said. “So many people are so far away from home. I come here to SLO now and it feels almost more like home than where I grew up was, just because how positive, inspirational and influential my friends are.”
Industrial engineering senior Logan Kregness, one of the founders of the MPU, is happy to have the company of members like Salyer and Gandler. Aside from being part of the original MPU crew, Kregness is a solo artist pursuing production and beat making.
“It was hard for me at first because I struggled to bring in that crowd,” Kregness said. “There wasn’t much of a hip-hop production scene when MPU started here.”
Collaboration is a natural part of surrounding oneself with like-minded people. Mechanical engineering junior and MPU President Ryan Gelinas finds solace in the combination of beautiful sounds.
“You can probably hear it right now,” Gelinas said as MPU members played music at their weekly meeting. “Those are people who may or may not have ever played together before and they can because music is such a
Though most musicians in MPU pursue music consistently and passionately outside of the club, weekly meetings act as workshops where students can get advice from those who are more advanced.
“It’s kind of like a study session,” Gandler said. “If you were to go to a group study session for organic chemistry and you really understand one concept and someone else has no idea how to do that, you can exchange. You will probably learn more by showing them too. It kind of works the same way as school, it’s just a different field.”
Though the MPU can be thought of as a place to learn the basics, most production is done outside of the “classroom.” Gandler said that succeeding in music production is all about dedicating time to refining the craft.
“The people who come consistently every week to MPU are the people making music because it’s what they want to do. All the time,” Gandler said.
Despite the beats, sounds and rhythms that come from the MPU members, there is something more special that keep people coming back to the club: comradery and culture.
For these singers, songwriters, producers, beatmakers, DJs and rappers, the MPU is their home. And it is jamming.
“The best thing to come out of the MPU is the culture,” Kregness said. “It’s all about the culture, the space, just providing that resource to everyone where everyone can meet up and find something that they are looking for. There is a little bit of everything for everyone in MPU.”
The hip-hop talent finely crafted in MPU will be showcased on Friday, at Operation: Hip-Hop. This is the club’s second year doing the signature event. The free concert will feature rappers and breakdancers and starts at 7:15 p.m. in Chumash Auditorium.