Interview with Zachary Frank Hanna



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00:00:13 - Early Musical Influences

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Partial Transcript: Me: Alright, we are on the air.

Zach: We are live.

Me: We are talking to Zachary Frank Hanna. So, I guess we could start by talking about growing up. Are there any certain artists or albums that sort of have a big imprint on you?

Zach: the Beatles' shit. I don't know. I had a weird history with music, just 'cause like I was raised on like a very small amount of like, um, weird, random music. My dad listened to a bunch of bluegrass and the Monkees.

Me: The Monkees.

Zach: Like specifically the Monkees. Like no other British invasion type shit other than the Monkees. It was weird. So I didn't really get a lot of exposure to music as a kid and then in sophomore year, I started getting more into music. And that was through a lot of hip hop, like mostly Odd Future shit. I was a total Odd Future kid back in the day. So yeah, if I'm just trying to name some albums, I'd say, yeah like, probably fuckin' Abbey Road, you know, Pet Sounds, like the classics shit.

Me: Pet Sounds!

Zach: Yeah, I fucking love that album. Or actually, Pet Sounds is great, and then the other one he put out, the one they didn't wanna put out.

Me: Smiley Smile?

Zach: Yeah, like Smiley Smile.

Me: I listen to that like every day.

Zach: Not like the Smile Sessions, but like the one...

Me: The one that came out in the 60's that's just like scrapped together.

Zach: That one is so cool to me, I don't know.

Me: I got super into that like last summer.

Zach: Yeah, right? It's like such a cool the finished versions sound like he just spent way too much time on it. I like how fucking ADD and like weird and like sporadic-

Me: Brian Wilson's probably my favorite musician.

Zach: Yeah, he's so great.

Me: Would you say people like Brian Wilson-

Zach: Yeah and because of Brian Wilson, I think like...hearing the Beach Boys' influence in Animal Collective for example was like a big thing, and, you know, Panda Bear's a big guy for me. Um, and then also a lot of like neo-psych stuff, like...Pond. You know Pond? Pond is a big band for me, and like Mild High Club is another one.

Me: I definitely hear every artist you mentioned sort of in the singles the Ledgesleepers have put out.

Zach: Ha! That's cool, yeah. And like, you know I'm just trying to do something along those lines. Um...but yeah, no. And like, I don't know...I'd have to go through...there's like a bunch of albums I'd say like, are definitely something I try to draw from, but at the same time there's no like one or two albums that I'm like, "This is like, what I'm trying to make." You know what I mean?

Me: I feel that. It's sort of like, I guess that, me making music too, I feel that when you, you don't want to really imitate, but you sort of just-

Zach: Yeah, you want to take pieces from a bunch of shit and like bring it together. Then whatever I'm listening's weird actually, like-oh! Another big band for me...I was into a lot of like DIY pop scene in Chicago, and that's like, you know Twin Peaks and stuff came out of that? The big band for me from that is the Smith Westerns. They're pretty cool, they're like, really dream-poppy stuff. That was a huge band for me. But, it's totally like...I'll get into a certain kind of music, and I'll be listening to it for a while and then like a few months later I'll start to hear the influences in the stuff I'm making. It's really weird. I don't know why it's delayed like that, but like I always end up hearing what I've been listening to way later in like...

Me: I guess it sort of sinks in.

Zach: Yeah, it has to sink in a little I guess, yeah. Um...and then by the time I'm making that I'm listening to something else, usually like different things, like...right now I'm listening to a lot of shoegaze stuff. And I feel like in a few months I'll start to be making shoegaze-y-er things.

Me: I definitely feel the same way, 'cause...this interview is mainly about you, but I guess I'll throw this in there. But, I listened to a lot of hip hop, so I'd be making hip hop instrumentals and then I moved on to like Homeshake and made stuff like Homeshake.

Zach: Yeah. Oh, Homeshake's so cool. Homeshake's a really cool...conceptually. It's kind of like, he's doing jangle pop at a very base level, you can tell that's where he's coming from, but like it's way jazzier, like he's using these really complex chords.

Me: And then there's more electronic stuff.

Zach: Yeah, and then he's putting it over electronic drums and stuff, like drum pads, and it creates this really cool effect. But yeah, that's probably a brief understanding of my influences.

Me: That's cool.

Zach: Who's texting me? ...sorry. [pause] But yeah, you can ask me the next one.

Keywords: 60's; ADD; DIY; abbey road; albums; animal collective; beatles; bluegrass; brian wilson; british invasion; chicago; chords; electronic drums; hip hop; homeshake; jangle pop; jazz; ledgesleepers; mild high club; monkees; neo-psychedelia; odd future; panda bear; pet sounds; pond; shoegaze; smile sessions; smiley smile; the smith westerns; twin peaks

Subjects: 60's; ADD; DIY; abbey road; albums; animal collective; beatles; bluegrass; brian wilson; british invasion; chicago; chords; electronic drums; hip hop; homeshake; jangle pop; jazz; ledgesleepers; mild high club; monkees; neo-psychedelia; odd future; panda bear; pet sounds; pond; shoegaze; smile sessions; smiley smile; the smith westerns; twin peaks

00:05:32 - The Songwriting Process

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Partial Transcript: Me: So now we know your mind set behind the music you like to make. What's the process behind putting a song together?

Zach: Um...well I usually, if I'm writing a song, it'll usually start with me like just fucking around on guitar for a little bit until I find a good set of chords that I really like. I usually start with the chords, that's usually like my base, like I don't know. That's the part of music I'm always the most interested in, the chords and chord progressions. I have a lot of theory shit, which also, that's a whole other thing about my influences. When I started listening to music, I was in band and shit, learning all this music theory and stuff, so um...I definitely write ... I try to write things are challening me theory-wise. But I usually start with that and then I'll like, if I have a set thing that I'm like "this is a good like verse or chorus, I'll put it on a looper and I'll just loop it and then like fuck around over it til I can find a melody. Maybe write a counter melody if I can. Um and then once I've got that down, I'll think "ok what does this need?" If it's a chorus, I'll think "ok, I should probably put a verse to this" and then I'll go through and see if I have any other ideas I've come up with in the past that I can stitch together or come up with something else. Yeah, I think the biggest problem I run into is making things that are either too complex or too simple. My goal when I'm writing is to make something that is gonna challenge me, but at the same time I want it to be something, I want to make something that's kind of an earworm that's gonna get a little stuck in your heard. Something you wanna dance to.

Me: So you're looking for that balance I guess.

Zach: Yeah, I'm looking for that balance. I want to be challenging I want another musician to be really interested by what I'm doing, but at the same time I want to like...someone that like doesn't know that much about music at all can still really enjoy and dance to and stuff. Um...yeah, I'm trying to find that balance. So I'll do that and then I'll have a basic structure of the song figured out and then I'll go in and I'll record it. Once it's recorded I'll go back over and see, "where can I add other instruments," you know like weird, secondary percussion stuff or harmonies or, you know, if I can find another cool counter melody again. That's usually my writing process.

Me: Would you say it's more of like a group effort with the band too?

Zach: Oh yeah, well, um, usually what happens...what we've been doing recently is...I'll write a thing and then I'll bring it in and rehearse and get feedback and be like "we can have this thing in here" and "I don't really like how that ends, we can change and do something like this" and "blah blah blah". Honestly we haven't had a bunch of time to do that because, we recorded two singles and put them on Bandcamp, and then like two days after we put them on Bandcamp we got hit up for a gig. And so, all these other songs written that they just didn't know yet. So I was just like, "alright, we're just gonna fuckin' run these, like get em down, fuckin' practice them quick as shit." And then ever since then it's been like, rehearsing for gigs, rehearsing for gigs, rehearsing for gigs. So, we've been like slowly evolving the songs throughout that, but a lot of it's just really quick rushed rehearsals just to get it done. I'm working with a really good set of musicians that can pick up the stuff pretty easy so like, we can play the stuff really well, but if we wanted to improve the actual structure at all, we're gonna start doing some more recording in late November. So, around then we'll probably do a lot more...look into the songs a lot more...figure it out.

Me: I've been listening to the singles a lot, honestly, because I really dig them.

Zach: Thanks dude. Yeah, no, I'm really proud of the way those turned out. That was a long...that one took too long to record. Last year, we were all like doing other shit, and I had to work out when I was going to go over to my friend's studio to do it. Ok, when can I get the drummer in, the guitarist, everything, it was just, ugh. But I'm glad they turned out as good as they did. And the producer I had, his name's Cameron, who actually I play in Bonne Chere with. I don't know if you heard about any of that.

Me: No I haven't.

Zach: It's just another band...actually they're pretty big in Virginia Beach and shit. So I get to play cool gigs with them. Also, he just has a really nice studio setup. like he's just spent years scavenging Craigslist for great deals and shit, so he just has a bunch of shit. We can get pretty good quality sound out of that, which I'm happy about. And yeah, it turned out pretty good.

Keywords: bandcamp; bonne chere; chord progressions; chords; chorus; craigslist; dance; drummer; earworm; gigs; guitar; guitarist; harmonies; loop; looper; music theory; percussion; recording; rehearse; studio; theory; virginia beach

Subjects: bandcamp; bonne chere; chord progressions; chords; chorus; craigslist; dance; drummer; earworm; gigs; guitar; guitarist; harmonies; loop; looper; music theory; percussion; recording; rehearse; studio; theory; virginia beach

00:11:09 - Gigs

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Partial Transcript: Me: Could you tell me more about the gigs you play? It doesn't have to be just the Ledgesleepers.

Zach: Oh! Ok yeah well, um... I'll say like... with Bonne Chere-I'll just start with the Ledgesleepers. It's mostly house gigs. You know, it's usually a friend of mine will like, somebody I know from something will be like "hey, we're putting together a show, we'd like to get the Ledgesleepers on it." I'll be like "yeah sure, I can totally do that." It's usually somebody's house...actually one time over the summer I was playing with this one other band called New Reunion. We had to play this little mini festival they set up. The guy books for the Meridian in Williamsburg which is like the main house venue. He's just like crazy. I respect that guy so much in terms of the amount of logistical shit that he can deal with. He set up a two day festival that was booked from like noon to like probably 11 or 12 at night. So it's probably like two days of 12 hours of music. It was really well run, they had refreshments and shit. They had booths for magazines and stuff set up. It was really crazy that they were able to do that. It went well and it was really cool. Then, because I played that I now have that connection and like...I get offered gigs in Williamsburg. I've been offered gigs a few times in Williamsburg. This show we're doing on Saturday is this, and I hope we can do more of these, where he's got two bands playing in Williamsburg on Friday night, and Saturday night they're doing our house. So I'm trying to do a thing where it's like a little tour circuit thing. But, it's usually just like somebody you know from sometihing, with the Ledgesleepers at least. With Bonne Chere, I'm really not involved in the booking of that at all. I know they've got a lot of connections to the NorVA, the sister venue to the National. We get to play some crazy gigs with them. We got to open for Glass Animals over the summer.

Me: Oh wow!

Zach: Yeah, that was really crazy!

Me: That's huge actually.

Zach: It was insane. It was a packed house, obviously Glass Animals was fucking amazing. It was really cool to open for them. So, that's a lot more...that's a lot more, you've got to contact the venue and then say "hey we'd love to play this gig." And then it's like "ok, we've got four other bands that'd also like to play this gig, so you're in the running as of now, but we don't know." And then you have to have ins with the people at the place.

Me: So it's pretty much based on connections.

Zach: Yeah, it's a lot based on connections...the thing I think we get a lot of gigs from is Cameron, the guy he does all this shit for Bonne Chere. He knows this one person at the NorVA that's in charge of booking openers for touring bands that don't have an opener on tour with them. And she just really fucks with us. So we get a bunch of shit just 'cause of that. So it depends on who you know and how well you know them and all that stuff. I think also just having a place where bands can play offers me the opportunity to get a closer connection with people because they're like "oh yeah we'd totally love to play your place." Then because they're playing our place they're like "oh yeah-" they see the Ledgesleepers or something and they're like "yeah, would you guys wanna play this?" It's just really cool. You just gotta immerse yourself in the community as much as possible.

Keywords: NorVA; community; connections; festival; glass animals; house; immersion; new reunion; venue; williamsburg

Subjects: NorVA; community; connections; festival; glass animals; house; immersion; new reunion; venue; williamsburg

00:14:51 - Virginia's Music Scenes

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Partial Transcript: Me: I was about to say, you've definitely immersed yourself, got to feel around the whole scene. Not just RVA, but even-

Zach: Yeah, I'm trying to branch out to as much of Virginia as possible, as of now. I've got a few people I know in Williamsburg, obviously. And then NOVA, there's a few bands that I know of up there. And, there's actually a really cool scene in the DMV area. That's kind of like starting to take a foot.

Me: I'm sorry, where is that?

Zach: Like, DMV, like DC-Maryland-Virginia, beltway area. That extends up to like Baltimore. But, there's a really cool scene up there getting a pretty big foothold, and that includes a lot of these bands down here because those bands are gonna want to, if they go for little small tours and stuff, they're probably gonna come through Richmond or Harrisonburg or Charlottesville or something around there. Yeah, so, there's all these little spots around where basically college towns around Virginia, where these little enclaves of music scenes, but definitely Richmond's the big one I'd say. Just cause it's like the biggest city, other than DC and the area. And, Virginia Beach is pretty big, but, yeah.

Me: How would you say that Richmond's scene is different from these other scenes in like Virginia Beach and DC?

Zach: I would say...I would say one thing that's definitely made Richmond more of a spot is the fact that there was this already established punk scene left, been here since like the '80s and shit. And, it's just like, because it was already here and there were all these house venues around, it's a pretty big spot on tours. In Virginia Beach, Virginia Beach has just kind of started to really gather up a scene in the last few years. There's not as much of like that community...there's not that much of the DIY community I guess. So it's a lot more bars and venues.

Me: It's a lot more of a tourist area.

Zach: Yeah. And then DC on the other hand has that house venue scene, but, it was a lot bigger because you had those huge bands that were from DC like Minor Threat and Bad Brains and stuff. It's a lot less ... it's a lot harder to get into right away, because you're dealing with a lot of people that have been friends for a while and know bigger bands. So Richmond's a good place to get into it really, not super easy, but pretty easy. You can just kind of like have a band, hit up some people for shows, and people are pretty chill about it. Yeah. That's the big difference, just like, a more welcoming community just because there's less pressure. It's just easier to get your foothold, and it's a smaller city than DC.

Me: So it's not as intimidating.

Zach: Yeah, exactly. It's not as intimidating and it's not as, but, yeah. There's just like, it's just a lot easier to- and then like, since it's smaller too, it's less intimidating and it's a lot easier to find like minded individuals with resources and connections because people usually...if they're from here...not even if they're from here, if they're here, most of the time, that's not the only place they're at. I feel like, I don't know. There's definitely the strong hardcore noise scenes that are based mostly in Richmond, but even those scenes have connections all the way up the east coast to a bunch of different places. And then, like usually a bunch of people from all over the place...I think that's the biggest difference between Richmond and those other areas.

Me: So when you say, like, "finding people with like mindsets," what does that mindset entail?

Zach: I mean, just like...bands that...I mean that bands that you can tell are trying to do something similar to you. Richmond, I think another thing that's cool about it is like there's a lot of different shit happening. I think that's the truth anywhere.

Keywords: 80's; NOVA; RVA; bad brains; baltimore; bars; charlottesville; college towns; dc; dmv; foothold; harrisonburg; house; maryland; mindset; minor threat; music scenes; noise; pressure; punk; tourist; venues; virginia

Subjects: 80's; NOVA; RVA; bad brains; baltimore; bars; charlottesville; college towns; dc; dmv; foothold; harrisonburg; house; maryland; mindset; minor threat; music scenes; noise; pressure; punk; tourist; venues; virginia

00:19:51 - Currents

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Partial Transcript: Me: What kind of currents do you see going around?

Zach: Well, there's like definitely strong, like, indie shit. There's a math rock kind of vibe that I'm getting from a lot of places. I know a lot of bands that are trying to do more math rock-y stuff. It's kind of a combination of a lot of stuff. The east coast has always had, since, I don't know when it started but like, there's a big emo community. Heh. And there's a lot of emo-

Me: We're all sad over here on the east.

Zach: We're all fucking sad! Um, but like, it's a lot of like...yeah, there's a lot of emo bands and stuff that are around. And then, because of that, math rock comes out of that. There's a lot of math stuff happening. I know there's a lot of different, oh, there's also a lot of different jam-bandy stuff. But you're gonna find that in a lot of places, but I think in Richmond and Charlottesville are two places where they're like a big concentration of these jam bands that're just like trying to play some fuckin' music in some bar. Those guys are all like pretty good friends with eachother. Then there's a psych scene that's kind of...pulling itself together around Virginia and Maryland.

Me: Would you say it's popping up just recently?

Zach: Yeah. It's been like, kind of in the process for the last four or five years, but it's now getting to the point where there are names taking a foothold. There's this magazine, Melted Magazine from DC. They really focus on that scene a lot. They've been trying to...they've been, what's the word...promoting and showcasing a lot of bands that started that whole thing. Then there's a lot of bands coming out from that. That whole festival I played I was telling you about, there are a few big bands from Maryland and DC and Williamsburg and shit that were doing similar shit. Like you can tell there’s like this mindset, even if they’re not making the exact same sound, there’s like a mindset there that people are trying to like...

Me: So definitely you could describe it as a current just going around.

Zach: Yeah, it’s definitely a current. It’s like a lot of different people that started with this ... vague idea of what they wanted to do, and then they like got in and met all these other bands and stuff-

Me: It just sort of materializes with all these bands.

Zach: Yeah, and the bands come together and hear each other and start playing off of each other and thinking … I don’t think it’s a conscious thing even, asking “How do we make this sound the same?” ...but I think when you’re around all those people making similar kinds of stuff, you have this natural draw to like eachother and mold styles.

Me: I guess, you could say the bands are pretty much a product of their environment.

Zach: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah....yeah. Exactly, it's a product of....the band comes in with this vague idea of what they want to do. Once they get into it, they are molded by the scene and become something a little different, a more clear idea of what they want to do. So yeah, that's my vision. You can tell that a lot of the hardcore bands around here have more of an idea of what they're going for. They all have like a sound. You could say "that's a Richmond hardore sound," I guess. I don't know.

Keywords: conscious; currents; east coast; emo; environment; hardcore; indie; jam bands; materialize; math rock; melted magazine; psych; psychedelic; sad

Subjects: conscious; currents; east coast; emo; environment; hardcore; indie; jam bands; materialize; math rock; melted magazine; psych; psychedelic; sad

00:23:52 - The Band's Place in the Scene

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Partial Transcript: Me: I'm just, would you say the Ledgesleepers and any band you've worked with is a product of Richmond?

Zach: Um...pfffft. I'd say...

Jaeden [Zach's flatmate]: I mean, if she hadn't slept on that ledge, it wouldn't have been the Ledgesleepers. [crashing]

Me: Thanks, that's going on the record.

Zach: Yeah, haha.

Jaeden: You should include all the silverware falling, too.

Me: That's what I said. That's what I meant.

Zach: Um, no, the...well I'd say the Ledgesleepers, that's what we're trying to do. We're like trying to be a band that's like...that like...represents...not necessarily Richmond. I have been trying to draw from a lot of different types of stuff that’s going on in Richmond that I really fuck with and make a thing that I can play with almost any band in Richmond and like, it would sort of make sense.

Me: It would sort of fit in the scene.

Zach: Yeah, exactly. With at least the Ledgesleepers I'd say that. Bonne Chere is definitely a band that's like super Virginia Beach, and they've always been Virginia Beach. They were established in that scene for a few years before they moved here. So, they still have a very 757 sound. But I think also like Cameron is trying to mold himself to the stuff around him, you know what I mean? ... yeah. But, I would say at this moment we're not super Richmond, but we're working on it.

Me: I guess since you're not distinctly Richmond, you grab from all these other influences.

Zach: Yeah, obviously the big bands I was talking about, and I would say big influences in scenes are like...there's a few bands up and around NOVA, there's this one band called the Duskwhales that have been around in NOVA, probably for like 5 or 10 years. They're recently getting bigger and bigger. And they're a big band for me that I've been like, "that's a dope band. I wanna do something like that." And there's another band from Maryland called Modern Nomad and they're pretty cool, they're like a lot more ... like pseudo-beach goth, not really beach goth, but know. It's like fun, happy stuff. Those are two bands I've been really inspired by recently in terms of like "that's something I kind of wanna be a part of." But, yeah. So I would say those are like...and then in Richmond, I'd say...I mean like [ ] is pretty cool, huh, and like...there's not a huge influence I'd say. There's not one huge influencing factor like "that's the band that I wanna be like" but there's a lot of cool shit that I'm like "that would be cool," you know, I see a math rock band and like "that'd be a really cool thing to get into." Adding horns to stuff. There's a lot of bands that incorporate horns and shit just 'cause there's a pretty good music school here, and there's a lot of those horn players around. So I've been thinking about doing something like that. And then, yeah. Yeah, again, it's nothing specific, it's just a general sense of what everybody else is doing and trying to do it in your own way, I'd say.

Me: I feel like that's how the scene changes. Just grabbing from different influences.

Zach: Grabbing from different influences and bringing your own, what you've come from, whatever you were trying to do before you entered the scene, into it. And then incorporating that into what's already here, you know what I mean? I think a lot of people miss that. I think there's a natural urge sometimes to be like, if you don't find something you like in the area you're in, you're just like "fuck everything here, I wanna do my own thing." Yeah, I don't know. What were you about to say?

Me: I was about to say like, on the other end of that spectrum, some people just wanna be like Mac DeMarco clones or something.

Zach: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. And then there's that too. There's also the people that aren't really paying attention to anything going on and they're just like, really obsessed with these big names and then they don't pay attention to what they're playing with, which, yeah. You don't get a lot of originality out of that. I think you just don't...if you're drawing from huge guys like that, so is everybody else, you know? Because they're huge. So, what makes you different, you know? I don't know.

Keywords: 757; beach goth; bonne chere; duskwhales; horns; influences; ledgesleepers; mac demarco; math rock; music school; nova; originality; pseudo-beach goth; richmond; scene; virginia beach

Subjects: 757; beach goth; bonne chere; duskwhales; horns; influences; ledgesleepers; mac demarco; math rock; music school; nova; originality; pseudo-beach goth; richmond; scene; virginia beach

00:29:31 - Improvements to the Scene (and a Plug for Zach's Roommate)

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Partial Transcript: Me: Let me check the time here...30 minutes, not bad.

Zach: Not bad.

Me: Anything else you wanna mention about, just anything?

Zach: Uh....[to Jaeden] what should I mention?

Jaeden: Mm...I don't know. I don't know what you've covered.

Me: We've talked about-

Zach: Don't cut your wrists at shows.

Me: I won't cut my wrists at shows, oh God. We've talked about his influences, his place on the RVA scene and the Virginia scene in general, how the RVA scene changes...we've talked about...I didn't ask: Could you see any improvements on the scene?

Jaeden: Did you really talk about his really cool beatmaking friend/roommate, Pingo Flip?

Me: I could do another interview for that.

Zach: Pingo Flip makes some dope beats. [impersonates computer sounds] Doo doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo doo.

Jaeden: That's what I do.

Zach: I've been listening to that all day. But, you said improvements on the scene? I mean, I think there should be more intermingling of different shit. And I'm trying to do that here. I love that we have...I'm just trying to book like, 'cause I have all these indie connects, and then Hank is trying to get all these noise shows going. And I think it would be really cool to see some sort of psych noise stuff, if possible. But I think that's another thing. There's also like, there's a weird...I don't think it's a big thing, but there's definitely a little bit of contempt that people that have been here for a while feel towards just the college kids that are coming in and doing all this shit.

Me: I've definitely seen that.

Zach: Yeah, it's like, I get it too. It's like, if you're trying to really appreciate the music and there's just a bunch of fucked up college kids being annoying, that's annoying, obviously. But, I don't know, if we can get the people from the new college kids that are constantly coming in to like, you know, like the ones that are really serious about it and at least take it seriously, to interact with these people that have been here for a while and are doing this completely different thing. There could be some really cool ideas that come out of that. But yeah. Yeah, I think that would be the main thing, people letting go of their pretentions or quarrels I guess, and know, figuring out what we can do. Yeah.

Me: Sweet.

Zach: Sweet. Cool, what time is it?

Me: It is 1:15, I think we can end the interview there, thank you so much.

Zach: Huh? Ok, cool yeah.

Keywords: beatmaking; beats; college; contempt; drunk; improvements; intermingling; noise; pingo flip; pretentions; psych; quarrels; students

Subjects: beatmaking; beats; college; contempt; drunk; improvements; intermingling; noise; pingo flip; pretentions; psych; quarrels; students