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News and Media

Underground Music Scene Emerges with Student Collective

Dec. 14, 2012

Elizabeth Kuhr

Pictured left to right are Stereocure co-founders Gabe Kanengiser, Adam Hirsch, and Myles Emmons

A closely-knit group of friends have found inspiration in Oberlin’s underground music scene to produce their own music label. Within the span of a few years, the founders and members of Stereocure, a music collective begun in Los Angeles and established in Oberlin, are well on their way.

“The idea of a collective really resonated with us because it’s where a lot of musicians our age are finding a wealth of support and an outlet for their art and for their music,” says Stereocure cofounder and English major Adam Hirsch ’14. He believes that artist communities more readily access listeners and make important connections than traditional music labels. Artists are also more connected and encouraged to musically inspire and collaborate with one another.

The idea for creating a progressive music label like Stereocure has been brewing for several years. Back in their hometown of Los Angeles, high school friends Gabe Kanengiser ’14, a self-designed major in practice and economics in the music industry, and Hirsch tossed around the concept with Jordan Alper, a student at New York University.

Turning this dream into a reality began once Hirsch, Kanengiser and Myles Emmons ’14, the fourth founding member, arrived at Oberlin as first year students. Oberlin’s renowned Conservatory has spawned a well-developed underground music scene in which Obies from both the College and Conservatory collaborate.

Emmons, a composition major and Technology in Music and Related Arts (TIMARA) minor, says that Oberlin’s underground music scene is full of “pure talent and ingenuity.” But with limited campus venues, such as the Feve and the ’Sco, to showcase Oberlin’s talent, the four decided to organize, intent on sharing this music with a wider audience.

This past summer, the group hosted concerts at a venue in Los Angeles, the Art House Live. There, Kanengiser says the team created the kind of music collective community they wanted through their work during the summer. It gave them the confidence to launch Stereocure in August. “We realized that taking things into our own hands and fostering creative space was actually doable,” says Hirsch.

Stereocure’s founders are enrolled in economics and business classes, and are applying to fellowships offered by the college that could provide them with financial support. Both current and former Obies are signed under the Stereocure label, and the music produced varies from folk to a creative mix of electronic and acoustic sounds.

“The vast majority of our artists are Oberlin students,” Hirsch notes. “Our friends are doing really incredible things that we wanted to share with the world.”

Charlie Abbott ’14, one of the signed performers, is grateful for the founders’ investment in his work. “Everybody has been super supportive and helpful with publicity and booking shows, and has gone way out of their way a number of times to give us a bunch of incredible opportunities.”

The group PEAKS is an example of the collaborative network’s success. “We are extremely democratic in how we decide things,” says Tom Kearney ’14, one of the five PEAKS members. “Every message and proposal is discussed and decided on collectively. On the creative side of things, a lot of walls have been broken down as a result of my inclusion in the group.”

Stereocure is fulfilling its goal to spread Oberlin’s alternative music beyond the campus. Over fall break, the collective led its first tour, traveling to Boston, New York City, Vassar College, and Wesleyan College. Every member of the label but one (who resides in Los Angeles) performed during the tour.

In addition, the Student Finance Committee recently allocated funds for Abbott and Emmons to travel to Osaka, Japan, over spring break to study the city’s emerging electronic music scene, which is also based on a collective model. They plan to film a short web documentary about their trip, which they will screen on campus when they return.

And the collective has no intention of leaving this project at Oberlin when they graduate. With little hesitation, Kanengiser, Hirsch, and Emmons all echoed the same desire to become a full-fledged label after commencement. The founders continue to develop connections in Los Angeles with hopes of making Stereocure their career.

For now, the team is committed to building the collective’s core community of close friends who inspire one another. “As long as I get to keep working with people that inspire me,” says Hirsch, “I’m happy.”

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