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A spirit that is not afraid

Suite 1111: The Artists of TigerFest

<p>Make Sure performs in the Gogue Performing Arts Center for Tigerfest, Auburn University's on-campus music festival, on Aug. 21, 2021, in Auburn, Ala.&nbsp;</p>

Make Sure performs in the Gogue Performing Arts Center for Tigerfest, Auburn University's on-campus music festival, on Aug. 21, 2021, in Auburn, Ala. 

[Listen to this episode of Suite 1111 on Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.]

On August 21, local bands performed across Auburn's campus to wrap up the first week of the fall semester, including bands like Make Sure, Supper Club and The Student Section. But who are the artists behind these names? In this episode of Suite 1111, Trice Brown and Collins Keith spoke to a few of them and share their stories.



CK: Hey, this is Collins Keith, podcast host for The Auburn Plainsman. Welcome back to Suite 1111. If you didn’t catch last week’s podcast about Opelika’s growth and development over the past 30 years, called The Other Side of The Tracks, be sure to check it out. This week, it’s all about TigerFest; Auburn University’s first annual music festival, filled with local and national talent. Trice Brown, our multimedia editor, and I spoke with some of the artists before their performances this past weekend to hear a little bit about their story and background, and in case you couldn’t make it to the festival, we’ve got some live audio from the respective bands for you as well. We spoke to Josh Jackson of Make Sure music, the guys from Supper Club, and Harry Cain of the Student Section. Stay with us.

CK: Josh, who graduated from Auburn in 2019, grew up in Opelika, and has always been into music, whether that be from his parents’ Christian music catalog or 90’s rock bands that his older brother introduced him to. Josh has always known that he wanted to make music, but when he started to write songs when he was 14, he wasn’t just making individual songs; he wanted to create something holistic, with a story.

JJ: I just always wanted to make the thing that I loved, which was records you know? Just CDs. I wanted to make something that's a holistic experience from track one till track whatever, you know. It's like, ‘oh, there's like a story in here.’ It's like a little movie but told with sound. So I've always wanted to chase that. I still love listening to what other people are doing and getting inspired by that. There's so much music out there now it's kind of overwhelming.

CK: Being the youngest of four, Josh was always being exposed to new music from his older siblings, and assimilated those new sounds into his own identity, mixing CDs from different artists and albums he was listening to and trying to get his friends to listen. As the youngest, he would show his parents his mixed CD’s, looking for a little affirmation as he tried to give them a view into the sad and melancholy soul of a 14-year-old, he said. 

JJ: I would make these mixed CDs to show my parents what I was listening to, which was similar to what you’re talking about. Radiohead, and Death Cab for Cutie, and that stuff. And like, all I really wanted was for them to just affirm that like, the song, these songs are so melancholy and beautiful. Now I understand your sad soul of a 14-year-old, you know, like all that I would ever get was they were always affirming. My dad would just be like, ‘good tunes, Joshua.’ You know, that was all I would ever get.

CK: Starting in 2010, Josh began to dabble into recording his music on an old MacBook. While his guitar playing might sound like crap, he said, he could record another guitar on top of the original, layering the two and hiding the “not-so-great” sound of them individually. Learning how to layer sounds is a huge part of making an album, and starting with less than stellar equipment taught him a lot of the mechanics behind production, he said. There were points in the beginning where he thought his music sounded good, but Josh said he’s very thankful for those who told him the truth about it.

JJ: Oh, gosh. Well, I can tell you, there were points I thought it was really good. And then you get, you know, I thank God for the, the, you know, indie, indie music bloggers that didn't just sugarcoat things and told me the truth. You know, I was, I remember a lot through like, the first five years, ‘cause I've always tried to send my stuff around and just get it, you know, published or whatever, to just get exposure. But I think in like 2013, or 14, I actually sent an album to Anthony Fantana. From the Needle Drop, if you’ve ever watched his videos, and he's like, definitely, I think he knows what he's talking about. As far as like, what's good music and what's not. And he knows, he can tell you why or why he does or doesn't like something. So I sent him a record that I'd worked on just ‘cause I was like, I didn't want I wasn't like asking for a video interview, I genuinely wanted to know, like, what do you think of this? And how can I improve? And he straight up just told me like, yeah, I mean, thanks for reaching out. It sounds kind of like Mac DeMarco demos to me. And you need to figure the drum stuff out. He didn't say stuff. He said another word for that. But I took that to heart, you know. And he was also really encouraging. He didn't just say that one sentence.

CK: In playing and producing for eleven years, Josh has made music under a few different names at this point, which has somewhat been to his detriment, he said, as people are often confused by the different names. But there’s a reason behind it. Josh had a conversation with a friend of his, who said if he produced music under his own name and it wasn’t good, people would always associate that with his name, but if he starts a band, and the band fails, he can just move on to another project and switch the name. And the band name sounded cooler than his own, he said.

JJ: So, the first band I was in was called Quality Strangers. And we made ambient drone music. Basically, just like put people to sleep, take a nap. And then I had a project called Fiery Crash. And that was named after an Andrew Bird song, of the same name. And I had as well, like a kind of home recorded pop music, just kind of weird project called Summer Rooms. Which I started in like 2014, I think. And then eventually, I settled on the title Make Sure. And that was, that was a song name I had come up with, like, years ago. And there wasn't really anything particular about the song that has deep meaning for me or anything. I just liked how it had two syllables; somehow it wasn't taken. It's like a common phrase that people use a lot, so. And it also sounded like it could kind of house a lot of different sounds, like genres, maybe. Because I try and do a little bit of genre hopping here and there. Not just do one singular thing all the time. So it sounded like, you know, Make Sure that can be, that can be a lot of different sounds. So yeah, that's it. It's not like a super romantic answer why I picked it, but that's the story.

CK: The genres that Josh usually falls under are Indie Rock and Indie Pop, but he also appreciates when his songs get put in the emo playlist too, he said. While Make Sure is a solo project, Josh performs live with additional support. 

JJ: The lineup that we have for TigerFest is me, Harry Cane on guitar, Jamie Newsome playing bass,  Hunter Jackson on drums, and then Marina singing. Presley or Marina Gramindy, Gramindy sorry. Gramindy is her last name. Presley Elliot also singing, and Justin Rivers playing keys. So, seven of us.

CK: Quite a large set.

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JJ: Yeah, yeah. I think it's the biggest group I've ever played with. But it's gonna be a lot of fun.

CK: Make Sure has a new album coming out September third, called Ninjitsu. You can find them on Spotify and Apple music, as well as on Instagram. And here’s Make Sure.

CK: Supper Club, who formed in Auburn, is made up of Jackson Dupree on bass, guitar, and vocals, Robert Cowen on guitar and vocals, Griffin Smiley on guitar, bass, and vocals, and Billy Prewitt on drums. They split the singing pretty equally, they said, and have come a long way in the harmony game in the last year. Here’s Griffin.

GS: His brother in law is like a fantastic musician. Like perfect pitch, crazy good. I think, I think the first harmony that we like really learned, we were doing stuff at the SoundWall last year in like November, December. And we were gonna do two live recordings of two songs. We're like, dude, we got to have harmonies on this thing to really make the song. So he came along. I pretty much just wrote the harmonies and then just like recorded for us over the, the melody and like we just practiced and practiced it.

CK: And here’s Jackson.

JD: And I feel like the awakening kind of came after we listened to Parcells for the first time. It was like a band from Australia who just have like, immaculate harmonies, and it adds so much to their music. And we're like, what are we doing? Like, especially on recorded stuff, like you have so much time to figure that out? And we just like weren't doing it, then. Like we're like, let's put a little more focus.

CK: While they formed in Auburn, Billy, Jackson and Robert grew up together in Birmingham, where they played together as a 7th grade cover band called Lamb the Lion. Robert met Griffin at Auburn, and after all becoming friends, they formed Supper Club two years ago, and started playing live shows. They fall into a lot of categories, but one thing they aren’t is a jam band, Jackson said, which was especially important when they were starting out.

JD: And that was like the point. Like we have a, our slogan, not a jam band. Because we only had like, like 10 songs maybe. And we were playing for like two to three hours. So we just stretch a song, stretch a song for like 20 minutes.

CK: Most of the guys from Supper Club got their inspiration from different places, they said. Billy’s uncle was a drummer in some local bands, and his mom made his uncle give him drum lessons as a kid. Jackson’s brothers were very musical, and introduced him to Rush, where he saw that a bassist could be a front man. Robert and Griffin, though, attribute their interest in music to Guitar Hero, where they would try and learn Metallica and Rush songs. Here’s Griffin.

GS: I kind of think I might be, guitar hero might have been a big influence on me too. Have you heard who Daniel Donato is? He's like, uh, an Instagram guitarist kind of? Like pretty young, though, like younger than us. And I remember him; I was listening to a podcast one time and he's talking about like, anyone that's like age, like 18 to 25 is like the Guitar Hero generation. Or it's like, at some point, there's like a little bit of influence of Guitar Hero on every guitarist. So maybe, maybe that's it. And then my uncle, he's, he's kind of like a Super manly man, he's like a personal contractor, he’s a preacher. And he, I wouldn't know if I would call it an Elvis cover band or tribute band. But like, a little bit like he kind of sounds like Elvis, and he's a man, but just like, really loves Elvis. And like, I remember at family gatherings and stuff. Like he would always like play guitar for everyone. And then he gave me my first guitar and gave me a few lessons and stuff. And then I kind of put it away, like I got that in like fifth grade and then really didn’t start playing till like eighth grade. Never like, was in a band until this band. So it kind of came just naturally after me and Robert started talking one day, we met each other freshman year. And like ‘dude we should form a band.’ And here we are now.

CK: Supper Club’s music draws from all different sources and is influenced by each of the individual member’s music tastes. Starting out, someone would bring a song to the studio, and they’d record it without changing anything, but now, they all edit and cut up their ideas, each of them adding something unique. Their upcoming EP, they said, has a lot of Young the Giant into it, which has roots all the way back to 7th grade. Here’s Robert.

RC: I think what actually got me into music, and what made me want to, like got me into like, modern music, made me want to make it, was Young the Giant. Their first album. Yeah, me and Jackson listened to it and them in like, seventh grade, and we were completely obsessed with them. They're like the first modern band I'd ever heard. And that was like, princess forming the cover band. And Lamb the Lion, our seventh grade band. Me, Jackson, Billy. Just like wanting to be Young the Giant?

CK: And here’s Jackson.

JD: And that was like the transition from like, an era of like, Lil Wayne and Skrillex they were actually kind of the same period for me. Yeah, like it was like, all in on dubstep. And then like, we heard, like, Strings by Young the Giant in like, seventh grade. And they were like, they seemed like just super cool dudes like playing music that was really good. And it was like, Oh, dang. Like, I think that was like, the introduction to like, band band. 

CK: Even from the beginning, the guys all knew that putting out music and being invested in the process was the goal. Just like they aren’t a jam band, they didn’t want to wait until they had an album’s worth of music before they’d start performing. Again, here’s Jackson. 

JD: I think that was always the goal. Yeah. And it was just like filling in the gaps while we're headed there. Kind of like, like, we didn't want to wait to be a band ‘till after we had like 13 songs that we could play live. It was like, let's just start going for it. And then like write songs along the way. And our first like three songs that are on Spotify right now under Supper Club music, go check them out, haha. But they're very different because we each wrote them individually. It didn't really bring like, like, didn't really have our sound yet, I guess. And then as we've been writing songs, we've been falling into a more cohesive sound.

CK: The process is always in motion, they said. They hit the ground running, and don’t plan on stopping any time soon. Here’s Billy.

BP: So, you know, we got another EP coming out, we're already, the EP is not even out and we're already writing another EP or album, whatever it's going to be. So we're just kind of constantly writing and like they said too, it's it kind of started as like an individual, we're all writing songs separately, bringing them to the table. Now it's much more cohesive with songwriting sessions, and it's, it's a much more collaborative effort now, so it's a lot of fun. 

CK: And here’s Robert.

RC: Yeah, I feel like we're always, like one step ahead of where we actually actually appear, like live and I guess publicly. Yeah, like when we first started, and we were, we had like two original songs that we play live, and everything else is just like really, really rough covers. We were already planning on being in the studio and then like, I don't know trying to put out an EP right now that we're really proud of but also trying to balance time.

CK: The name, Supper Club, is a little bit of an homage to a place in Auburn that used to be called the War Eagle Supper Club. While it’s closed now, they used to host live music, and became pretty infamous in the Auburn music scene for its ability to attract big, national acts. Here’s Billy.

BP: Actually, it's a, there used to be years ago, about seven years ago, it closed down, there used to be a place here in Auburn called the War Eagle Supper Club. There used to be a bus that would pick you up from downtown, it was like a bar venue, pretty like infamous place, my grandparents went to it when they went here, and our parents all talked about it. And it was just the place to go see live music and Auburn for forever. And it closed down a few years before we formed and we thought it'd be kind of cool because we're an Auburn band we formed in Auburn and like this place influenced our sound and like us a lot so we thought it'd be cool to kind of play kind of pay tribute to that. So War Eagle Supper Club we just supper club we actually, Robert was the one to come up with the name I'm pretty sure, ‘cause he had a War Eagle Supper Club t-shirt, we were like, that’s pretty cool. It's like an Auburn thing, so.

CK: Supper Club has a new EP coming out this September, and they have a live recording of their second album on Youtube. And here’s Supper Club.

TB:  The first thing you notice when you walk into Harry Cain’s living room is that he no longer has one. He has a live room: a very important distinction. A large window is covered with 100 pounds of mass loaded vinyl — a soundproofing material. Heavy black curtains separate the room from the rest of the house. There’s drums, and microphones, and just a sea of wires. He calls it Magnolia Records Studio A. Harry’s journey into music started young. He said he started learning to play guitar around seven or eight, and soon began writing his own songs.

HC: I mean, by the age of 12, I was playing two hour original music-only coffee house shows. I don't know what happened, But somewhere between the age of 9 and 11, I just started pumping out songs. So I wrote just a bunch of songs, hundreds of songs.

TB: Harry said his early songwriting was largely a way for him to process what was going on in the world around him, and with himself. He said he can be overly analytical, and songwriting allowed him to get outside of his own head.

HC: Definitely writing can pull me out of my own muck and mess of thought. And just put me in a place where I'm simply emoting. And then I write that down. And I sing it out. And I record it, you know, and then usually that comes out in the form of, like, voice memos, you know, so if we go and check out these work, I mean.

TB: At this point, Harry pulls out his phone, opens his voice memos, and scrolls downs, more and more and more, past hundreds of audio clips, most of them unlabeled.

HC: It allows me to get out of my own head, but still get the essence out. When I'm writing, this is what I like to call vomit, all of this. Which is kind of gross, you know, kind of vulgar. But yeah, like all of this — just who knows what's going on?

TB: It’s notes app poetry, essentially.

HC: Yeah, it’s just, I mean, what’s going on here? I don’t know. Yeah, I don't know. So, like, that can become a little vibey thing, who knows? Catchy enough melody to make something, but there are 1000s of those, and the art of finishing is something I'm still learning. For sure

TB: This is Harry’s writing process: spew. It’s a process that often happens in his car. He doesn’t listen to music there, instead taking time to sit and think, and often pray.

HC: And in that vacancy and in that silence, you know, things will start creeping up. And emotions that I haven't let myself feel will start to creep up. And it's just kind of ticking around in my brain. And then it'll just catch and I'll start singing a melody, and I take that back here. And I have a studio to make the music to do the rest of it.

TB: Harry began producing at the end of high school, because he wanted to produce personal projects he had and didn’t want to pay someone else to do it, so through YouTube, as well as lots of trial and error, Harry learned how to produce, how to mix, everything he needed. When other people heard what he did with his own music, they wanted him to do that for them. Pretty soon, producing for other people became a way to make some money, while also justifying his investment in all of the equipment he bought. Now, at Magnolia Records Studio A, Harry’s bedroom is now his control room, with a huge analog console, some instruments and his laptop where everything is recorded onto. He’s even converted his closet into a sound booth.

HC: So here's a little booth. A little disheveled.

TB: Are your clothes back there. Where's like your living space?

HC: My thought process over the summer was it was like less studio or less home or studio, you know. So what I did is I took all my clothes and turn them sideways. And I hang them like this. And similarly again, they act as bass traps. So just hanging mass absorbs energy. So when I come when you come in here, same thing. It's super, super dry. But without all this stuff. And I have more and you can see back here. I've got another another panel. Oh yeah, my jackets and stuff and just miscellaneous things to just absorb sound. Yeah, so I can get a really tight and dry vocal.

TB: A lot of Harry’s work as a producer involves understanding the vision of the artist and finding a way to achieve that. When he starts working with an artist, they’ll get to know each other, and Harry will find out what kind of music they love, and what makes them want to be alive. Being a producer is being a facilitator, and small details, like Phillips hue lights in his closet-turned-sound-booth, help artists get in the right mindset to make their best product.

HC: I have certain artists where they don't really care, like, “Just give me some lights.” That's cool. But some artists go crazy. The whole reason they come back to my studio, I think,is because they were so happy. They stepped in the booth, and I dimmed the lights and I was like, “Hey, what color do you think the song is?” For example, one song was called Love like Spring, you know, so I made some nice green hue lights come up in the vocal booth and just created a vibe that pulled out the best performance from that artists and making them comfortable.

TB: Harry still writes his own music, and as he has gotten older, it’s changed. Now, it’s less about trying to make sense of the world, because in many ways, he already has through his faith. Now, he’s trying to externalize that through his music. 

HC: But maybe you could call him a goliath, and maybe he’s a little bit headstrong, and maybe he’s in need of a messiah, and maybe he’s already got one, got one, got one.

TB: Harry said that his experience with Auburn’s music scene, whether it’s through Sonic Nation, the University’s commercial music ensemble, shows at bars and coffee shops or house shows, it’s affected him as an artist.

HC: There’s so many amazing musicians I didn’t know. I’ve been uncovering them slowly, like my roommate Josh Jackson. He’s the main guy of Make Sure, like he is Make Sure. He’s put out like 10 records or something, and just a beast of a producer. By far the best producer I’ve met in Auburn. I just tried to identify all those people and keep them close. So now he’s living across the hall.

TB: From the Auburn Plainsman, this has been Suite 1111. I’m Trice Brown, signing off. See you next week.

Trice Brown | Multimedia Editor

Trice Brown, senior in english language arts education, is the multimedia editor of The Auburn Plainsman. 


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