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Compiling the album of the year
The annual meeting of the Chorduroy Club took place in Gasson 206 on a snowy Saturday afternoon in December. As recorded ukulele music played from two speakers above the chalkboard at the front, a dozen or so students sat at desks tapping their feet, nodding their heads, and jotting notes. The song was titled “The Ocean” and was the work of Nick Leal ’15 and his band, Indigo Child. It was one of 21 original songs, all by Boston College undergraduates, that the students would listen to during the next hour and a half. Eighteen songs would be chosen for an album, Chorduroy 2013, to be released by the club January 1 on the digital streaming service Spotify.
Preston Landers ’12 and David Machajewski ’12 founded Chorduroy in spring 2010 as a way to promote the original music scene on campus, variously described by current student musicians as “underappreciated,” “underrated,” and “underground.” According to Landers, a keyboard and guitar player, students on the Heights have plenty of opportunities to perform arranged music—in a cappella groups and symphonic, jazz, and marching ensembles, for example—but few outlets for original compositions. According to Landers (now at the accounting firm Deloitte), he and Machajewski (currently an intern with the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition) “decided to meet the music listeners where they are already listening: on their iPods.” The two called for original music submissions through the Art Club (both were board members) and from nearly 40 entries released a free, downloadable, 14-track album on the Art Club’s website in April 2010. A year later they offered a second album with 24 tracks. After gaining official recognition from the Student Programs Office in fall 2011, Chorduroy received funding to launch its third album, Chorduroy 2012, on Spotify, with the potential to reach more than 20 million listeners in 21 countries.
The club’s rules are few: At least one current Boston College undergraduate must perform on a submitted song. The music must be completely original—no covers, no samples. And students may propose as many songs as they like, but the album will include no more than one song per act. Louis Fantini ’14 was able to sidestep this last rule. He entered two songs in December—one from his hip-hop ensemble, No, Yeah!, and the other from his acoustic solo project, Arbor Day (both were accepted).
Standing at the classroom podium, Rebekah Mark ’14, Chorduroy’s current president, cued up the submissions on her laptop. A soft-spoken accounting major and non-musician, Mark spent many evenings during her freshman year at open mic nights in the McElroy Commons Chocolate Bar (now reconfigured as a mini-mart); she joined Chorduroy to help foster the talent she saw. By paying Spotify’s fee, she said, “we can give [musicians] a leg up.”
The songs ranged from one to eight minutes, and from punk anthem to folk parody. Guitars and handclaps swelled through “Staying Awake” by Ryan DeRobertis ’15, who over the course of the fall semester wrote, recorded, and mixed an entire album in his 90 St. Thomas More Drive residence using guitars, a USB MIDI keyboard, microphones, and production software. DeRobertis’s sprawling synthesizer ballad “I Took Too Long” appeared on Chorduroy 2012. This year the sophomore opted for something more personal, he says: “a song about how I felt over the summer . . . trying to go back to whatever normal was at home.”
The Phish-inspired funk of Mamojam followed, with a song recorded by bassist Andrew Jones ’15 and hometown friends from Westchester, New York. There was punk from Spaghetti’s “Pride Dies in Allston,” featuring Mike Stepanovic ’13 and Andy Abbate ’13; heartthrob pop rock from Radio Flyer, the solo project of Eddie Jonny ’13; and a meditative guitar score from Declan Diemer ’13, recorded with a laptop in his Lower Campus residence.
The assembled musicians, friends, and walk-ins who’d been lured by the posters pasted around campus remained attentive as club-thumping electronica by 3D in Space (AKA Sam Scarpino ’16) gave way to a kazoo-sprinkled sing-along by the Educators, featuring singer and pianist Andy Meigs ’13. A couple of students were heard reprising Meigs’s chorus while leaving Gasson: “Lettuce and tomatoes / peppers and potatoes / growing in my garden every day (every day!)”
Mark played through all the songs then told listeners, “If you think any of these are too poor in quality to be included, let me know.” Students looked around at each other for a moment, but no one raised concerns.
Usually a two-semester project, Chorduroy’s album this year would have to be assembled from only three months’ worth of submissions, because key club officers would be studying abroad in the spring. The relatively low number of entries made the cull fairly painless: Bluegrass duo Jimmy and the Gooch (James Farrell ’15 and his friend Chris “Gooch” Bloniarz, of Berklee College of Music) had two of their three submissions cut, in accordance with rule 3. Singer-songwriter Anthony Ford ’13 similarly saw his acoustic guitar tune “Shadow Farms II,” with its whispery lyrics, included, at the expense of a second song.
With 18 works selected, the group turned to determining the album’s order. Sarah Garcia ’13, who was attending the club event for the first time, said, “Let’s start by showing variety. Let’s start with Indigo Child” and its ukulele sound.
Mark wrote down the order as it developed on the chalkboard. She then played the end of each song and the beginning of the following one, to check that the music flowed. Within 30 minutes, the group had assembled a 71-minute album, Chorduroy 2013. It is now available at Spotify.
Read more by Zak Jason