At the intersection of art and meaning, student musicians find their sound

Student musicians Colin McCloskey and Kevin Choice, some of the many Ursinus students creating their own recordings. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Angermeier.

Sienna Coleman

Music is ubiquitous: a catchy tune on the radio we sing along to, a favorite record we listen to on repeat, or even something we create ourselves.

While there are countless genres and artists we may feel this connection with, some musicians are closer to home than we may realize. Among the Ursinus student body, we found several music artists who share this goal of changing us and our world with their music.

Junior Kevin Choice is a physics major who loves making his own beats. He said he began to write his own lyrics because he felt that a lot of current music, especially hip hop, was too negative—he wants to avoid “glorifying anything negative or harmful.”

Choice records under the moniker Kasey Zoned. He has already released an instrumental tape and will release a mixtape of 4 lyrical songs and 4 instrumentals on April 20. Kasey Zoned’s music is available on SoundCloud.

Much of Kasey Zoned’s music is based on Choice’s experiences with the intersection of race and depression—experiences he hopes will resonate with his listeners.

“Those feelings of depression are not unique to myself; I’m hoping that maybe people that listen to this will [think] ‘that’s where I’m at too, I’m glad I’m not alone,’” said Choice.

Choice also makes the conscious decision of avoiding oppressive language in his lyrics.

“I don’t feel like it’s my place,” he said.

Choice added that he hopes “when people hear my music, because it’s a little different than the mainstream music, they are in a way a bit relieved that there is a different voice being heard without all the misogyny, the homophobia, and all the hate and violence [that exists in mainstream hip hop].”

First-year student Andrew McSwiggan experiments in the genre of electronic music. . McSwiggan, a history and business double major, currently records under the alias Op3rator but has plans to change his stage name to Luxoddo Menatti.

He draws inspiration for his music from everyday observations of the world and the people around him with the intention of creating meaningful art.

“What I want to do is to create electronic music that always has some sort of message or purpose, some question it’s answering or some sort of distinct emotion it’s evoking,” he said.

McSwiggan explained that he makes his electronic music by experimenting with “sounds that don’t traditionally work well together” and seeing if he can “have them work in a coherent song and stand as a piece of art.”

His music is available on SoundCloud and bandcamp. He told us that eventual goals for his music are to have his listeners understand that electronic music is a unique art form, and hopes his music will allow people to get lost in the world around them.

One of Ursinus’ most well-known student music projects is Susspect Maars, a collaborative effort of juniors Antonio Goode and Mario Heitman. More than just music, the project also includes a clothing and visual art collective.

Susspect Maars have one original track on SoundCloud, and played a concert on campus last semester. Over the summer they are planning on dropping a 5-track EP as well as having a pop-up shop in Philadelphia’s Ruckus Gallery with over 300 hand-made pieces of clothing and 20 paintings.

Their upcoming mixtape is a concept album, which Goode described as a “philosophical exploration of ourselves and the world.”

“We venture into a lot of abstract themes and we try to preach … empathy and understanding [and] tolerance,” he said.

Much of Susspect Maars’ thematic material deals with the importance of recognizing the severity of drug use and addiction: “real things that we are bogged down with as humans,” according to Goode. They market their project with a mascot called Goonbot, which serves as a metaphor for the toxic mentalities from that can result from drug use.

Goode and Heitman said they would like to change society so that people are more self-aware of their impact on the world; the pair also advocates for a more organic and sustainable way of life.

“We want to preach a clean kind of lifestyle … [and] being yourself and finding your own way,” Goode added.

Another music artist on campus is junior Colin McCloskey, an English major who strives to make the kind of music he wants to hear, drawing inspiration from some of his favorite bands.

McCloskey posed the question, “What would a Tame Impala/Rolling Stones collaboration sound like?”

“I’m going to make that and find out,” he said.

McCloskey currently has two official full length LPs and five EPs, all of which are available for free on bandcamp under the name P-body. He said his music evolves and changes with every release, but his new album is inspired by disco music from the late 70s and early 80s because he sees something beautiful in the way that music can unify people on the dance floor.

McCloskey makes a lot of his music using his iPad and GarageBand, and said that despite their sub-professional quality, these recording programs have their merits; he compared them to a sandbox with a limited amount of toys that you are forced to use in new and interesting ways.

“[I hope to] create a piece of art that [keeps] people together and [brings] people to an overarching sense of unity,” McCloskey said of his expectations for his new album.

McCloskey said his vision for his music is to cultivate the physical, emotional, and mental response that the audience experiences when they hear, and said he wants people to feel something, “whether it is joy, sympathy, empathy or a nuanced understanding of a particular relationship dynamic.”

Also a DJ at Ursinus’ WVOU radio station, McCloskey said he is looking forward to a music festival that the station is currently planning to celebrate local artists. More information will be available from WVOU soon.