Two Cal Poly alumni are featured in this year’s SnowGlobe Music Festival lineup alongside artists like Dillon Francis, Khalid and Gryffin. Engineering graduates Brayden James and Zach Montoya, better known as Syence, will take the stage together.
James, who studied industrial engineering and graduated in 2016 and Montoya, who studied aerospace engineering and graduated in 2015, both had music experience prior to coming to Cal Poly. They decided to collaborate after they attended Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2014. After watching DJ Zedd perform at the festival, the pair realized that they wanted to perform a set of their own at Coachella in the future.
“We were both kind of young and pretty passionate about it, so we decided to partner up at that moment and we’ve just kept working on it since then,” Montoya said. “It’s been about four years in the making after that. We’re still working our way up to Coachella, but getting closer and closer every day.”
Montoya said their manager was approached by SnowGlobe’s booking team after a friend on the festival’s street promotion team suggested Syence for the lineup several times in previous years.
“She knew the guys who help book the talent for the festival, and she was always pushing us to them,” Montoya said. “The last couple of years, we just weren’t big enough and didn’t really have any commercial success.”
According to Montoya, when Syence’s song “We Won’t Leave You” got more than two million hits on Spotify this year, the SnowGlobe booking team was convinced to take them into serious consideration for the lineup. Both members of Syence attribute much of their success to their surroundings while they were at Cal Poly.
“You’re around happy, go-getter type people with the work-hard-play-hard mentality where everyone’s trying to be successful and do something special in their career,” James said. “Everyone’s about having a good time while also trying to do something important in life, so it’s just a cool environment to be around when you’re trying to develop your music career, especially.”
James also got a lot of his initial experience as a DJ while he was part of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.
“I think being in Lambda Chi Alpha was like a huge factor to get me to where I am now,” James said. “I had a good environment in terms of having people who were also into the type of music I wanted to make and taught me some of the skills for performing in front of a crowd. They’ve also been insanely supportive the last three years once they were kind of in the know in terms of what I was actually trying to do.”
Brayden James’ brother, industrial technology senior Lucas James, was in the fraternity as well and supported him along the way.
“I could not be more proud of him for following his passion,” Lucas said. “It will just be exciting to see my brother and Zach perform on such a high level. It’s a sign that all of their hard work has really paid off and they really deserve this opportunity.”
Montoya said Syence plans on performing a DJ set at the festival instead of their normal set, which typically includes other performance elements such as drums.
“Because it’s our first festival and we’re kind of small in the lineup, we’ll probably play really early,” Montoya said. “We just thought it would be more fun to do a DJ set so we could really enjoy it and just get really into it with the crowd and play what people know versus playing only our music.”
The pair have prepared for SnowGlobe in several ways, including finding new, undiscovered music, making live edits, producing music and releasing new music before the their set in December. They are mostly excited to see their hard work pay off and to perform in front of friends and family.
“It’s kind of like the dream coming to fruition,” James said. “It’s always been fun but it’s just one of those moments that really defines our career and establishes that all the work we’ve been doing really meant something.”
Montoya agreed with James and said he is excited to finally perform on the stage.
“One of my biggest goals in life has always been to perform at big music festivals,” Montoya said. “Everything I’ve done to this point has really been working towards making that a reality, so for the first time I’ll be able to actually experience that.”
Montoya and James said they are very grateful and excited to have the opportunity to perform at SnowGlobe and they hope this leads to further opportunities. They said they hope to connect with other artists and perform at other music festivals, with Coachella as their ultimate goal. James’ advice to students at Cal Poly is to support the music scene and art scene in San Luis Obispo.
“It’s really crazy how great of a community we have at Cal Poly when you actually put your mind into something and you have your friends and your colleagues supporting you,” James said. “You can make really great things happen and hopefully we can continue to do even greater things. I hope that we can be at least a small example of what can be accomplished at Cal Poly, specifically when you have a great idea and people support it.”