Having too many things to do and not enough time to do them is a challenge that fazes many college students. In psychology senior Nate Braks’s case, after moving to Bellingham from Spokane he realized he would be too busy to be in a band despite his passion for music. He needed some avenue to follow to enable him to continue writing music and found himself forming Student, a solo music project.
Braks classifies his music as chillwave, which he describes as a mellowed-out version of classic electronic music, lacking the upbeat kicks that electronic dance music would typically have. In order to create his beats, Braks uses a program known as Logic.
“A lot of the time what I will do is look at synths on the computer I haven’t used before. I try to mess with it and use a new sound and try to work off one chord I like, or I’ll find something on the guitar I really like,” he said.
He started playing guitar in the fourth grade and in the fifth grade he was introduced to the viola. Upon entering high school, Braks became interested in metal core.
“I moved over here and didn’t have time to be in a group but really wanted to play music. I’ve always loved chillwave, so that’s how Student came about,” Braks said. Braks said the project’s name is derived from what is most salient to him.
“I’m really intense about school. My first and foremost thing I do is be a student,” he said. Braks has only recently started performing, mostly at house shows and the Make.Shift. Over spring break, he performed at a show in Spokane with two other Bellingham artists, Vision Field and Infinite Penz.
During performances, Braks uses his mini-controller and plays around with the buttons, knobs and faders. In general, he remixes and plays over songs that he has written and will sometimes sing. All the music that he plays at his shows is original, though he sometimes uses snippets of drum samples from other artists.
“Usually as I’m writing, depending on the music, as it starts to form, it reminds me of stuff in my life and more emotion is being embedded into it,” Braks said.
A lot of what Braks has learned has come from other local musicians.
“I feel like I’m a little bit of a product of the scene, but I’m okay with that because it’s a cool scene,” Braks said. “I’ve been mentored, especially by Grant Eadie of Manatee Commune and Michael Remington of Vision Field. They have showed me everything I know about mixing and how to use Logic.”
On the weekends, there will often be “sucker-free-Sundays” where local musicians will gather and show their beats to one another and receive feedback.
“This project has been very directly friend-supported. Even though I’m a solo artist, I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of friendly awesome friends,” Braks said. One of the challenges Braks has faced is staying true to his own music and not letting others influence him too much.
“It’s really easy to let people influence how you start writing something, especially after you release something. You want it to be an enjoyable experience for your listeners,” Braks said. “At the same time, you have to keep a balance between being true to what your original statement was.”
In the future, Braks wants to perform more in Bellingham and hopefully some in Seattle. After graduation, Braks is considering going to graduate school for philosophical neuroscience. To listen to his music, check out student.bandcamp.com.