PRODUCER PROFILE is a platform in where we interview music creators, i.e. producers/beatmakers, both locally and globally, and showcase their musical works. The goal of PRODUCER PROFILE is to explore and reveal how communities of grassroots music creators are crossing borders, both in sound and geographic location using social media and the Internet. Their music is innovative and visionary – their music is powerful, brilliant, and unapologetic – and their music is part of a fast growing worldwide community that is changing the way we listen and share music.
Name: Maple Years
Location: Tucson, AZ
Equipment: Akai Mpd26, Pioneer DDJ-SX, Macbook Pro w/ Logic Pro X/Serato
Years Active: 3 years
Label: Growllective from Santo Andre, Brazil
Contact: SoundCloud // Bandcamp // Facebook
Thank you for being a part of our PRODUCER PROFILE series. It is much appreciated! So I began listening to your music at great length. My goal is to give producers who are being profiled an invested time in listening to their music. I feel like I learn a lot, but not quite enough. Let’s begin.
ER: For those who don’t know Maple Years, please introduce yourself?
DV: First, a quick but huge thank you to featuring me on your Producer Profile series! My name is Dominic Valencia, I’m from Tucson, AZ, and I make experimental hip hop/electronic/instrumental/sampled music [laughing].
ER: You do everything! [laughing]
DV: I always find it so hard to put a genre on it myself- I feel like that’s for the listeners to decide for me. Anyways, I’m an art student at the University of Arizona, so visual art inspires a lot of my music. I produce my music primarily on my own, but I always love to collaborate with other artists/producers! I just want to create raw mood music that doesn’t necessarily have any specific subject matter, but rather just an atmosphere.
ER: Will you describe your sounds and your process in producing?
DV: I feel like it’s hard for me to describe what my projects really end up as when I’ve finished mixing and mastering and everything. Just like any artist, I have my influences (Fly Lo, Dilla, Giraffage, Nujabes, Toro y Moi, to name a few) but I couldn’t really say what I think my genre is. I kind of just make whatever sounds cool to me, so I think my style is always changing a bit from song to song. My favorite part of my sound, however, is incorporating beautiful, chilled out melodies with heavier hitting drums and rhythms. That’s probably the most consistent thing I do with my music from song to song [laughing]. As far as my process goes, I usually start by somehow finding that sample, in whatever form that comes in. That tends to be my main influence for the direction of a track (although some good drum sample can also be pretty damn great to start with). From there, it just depends on what I feel the sample needs. I’ll change it up a bit, play some drums with it, or add other melodies with some synths, which I kind of like to sound a little cheesy (shout out to Toro y Moi and Giraffage).
ER: Do you feel like Hip Hop beats have burnt themselves out because of the lack of music composition?
DV: My goal is just to end up producing a song that works with the mood of the sample or vibe that I want the track to have. That’s probably why my style changes so much from song to song- I don’t want to rely on the melody to convey the mood, I want to produce in that style as well. I’ve gotten a little burnt out on listening to hip-hop beats over the past few years because I just feel like there are so many producers (especially online) that don’t try to do anything original with their samples or beats. In my opinion, sampling is such a beautiful way to create many different types of music, and many producers use it as an original instrument- they take a song and make it a building ground that they can utilize to create something totally different and new, you know? What I’m tired of is people using a sad piano sample straight up to create a sad piano hip-hop beat. I just don’t think I can really appreciate that all that much. I definitely am guilty of doing that in the past; I used to be that way completely- I would do anything for a good sounding beat, even if that meant that I was kind of ripping off someone else’s song, or doing absolutely nothing original so that people would think it was cool. For that reason, during my time producing as Maple Years, I’ve ditched trying to make music in one genre, and I try to change my samples significantly while adding a lot of original material also. Previous artists and producers have already explored a lot with hip-hop/electronic music, why not try something different?
ER: That good because you have the power to create and distribute your music as you wish. What was it that made you want to begin producing?
DV: I started playing guitar at about 12 or 13, and I just loved playing for hours at a time, but I only played covers- that really got me into playing music myself. After getting tired of just playing other songs, I invested in my first computer using the Garageband software. At first I was just trying to imitate the sound of the best hip hop producers. Obviously I was not very successful, as I had no idea how to sample, mix, or anything that is necessary for that style of producing [Laughing]. I really didn’t even realize those producers were sampling to start with, so I was trying to write my own original melodies and everything! I think the combination of that and guitar helped me so that I could eventually add my own elements and layer them with samples. Anyway, I upgraded to Logic Express 9 after that and began to develop a little more of a style, but it’s been in the past 2 years that I really feel like I’ve been really producing in the style I like to listen to.
ER: How and why do you believe social media has improved your relationship with music producing in its exposure to a greater audience? In using twitter, Soundcloud, and Facebook?
DV: Oh man, social networking has been absolutely everything for me. I can’t overstate how crucial Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, etc. have been in gaining an audience. Soundcloud is where I get all my traffic, and I really appreciate all of my followers, listeners, and everyone who supports me there- it’s just such a good place to connect with other people who are interested in weirdly specific genres or are ready to explore relatively unknown artists. It’s an inspiration listening to well-known and lesser-known artists and producers all in the same place. Facebook has been great too, all of my friends help me spread my music and share all of my news on there.
ER: Do you see any downsides in how music is distributed and promoted?
DV: The one downside to relying on the Internet for exposure is that it limits your creativity and ability to create large projects if you want people to listen. You have to understand how people function online. They don’t want to see a full album because that takes time to listen to; one song is much more attractive to most [listeners]. For that reason, I’ve been trying to do some more local events to get a bigger audience [offline]. I just played a show at a venue called Plush, did an interview on University of Arizona Kamp radio, and hopefully B 3 N B i, some other producers, and I can put on a beat show somewhere here in Tucson! I would really love to just travel around and play some other shows places solo or with some other producers if that was ever possible!
ER: Tell us about your new project Charcoal – for the experienced Maple Years listeners, what can they expect?
DV: Charcoal, as a whole project was entirely inspired by noir black and white art, film, and photos. For that reason, it has a little darker vibe, and it is probably my most experimental electronic project. Although you can hear some pretty pure hip-hop sounds in a few tracks, a lot of it I just made with no genre in mind at all. I really just tried to let the tracks go where I felt they needed to, without any regard to whether the song ended up cool at all [laughing]. I used a lot of heavy synths layered with samples and tons of textured drums in this project to create a darker atmosphere, along with pulling and creating some minor melodies from samples. This has kind of been the pinnacle of my thought process while making music (that sounds so dramatic!) I really made all of the songs by just trying to alter the samples and take them completely out of context, really without any concern as to what others thought of that. Ironically, the project that I don’t try to make cool or impress with has gotten by far the best feedback I’ve ever gotten with my music [laughing].
ER: What advice would you offer a new Maple Year listener when listening to your music? I assume that there are many people who have not heard you. Where should they start?
DV: I would definitely say, especially with a lot of my newer songs, just give them time and listen for the subtleties in the production. The first half of that statement is pretty important, because a lot of my songs don’t necessarily reveal themselves for a while into the track- unlike a lot of hip-hop producers, I like to build the track up slowly, or piece by piece instead of dropping this one huge beat at the same time – just a personal preference. I would hope that people don’t give up on the tracks in the first few seconds when they’re pretty simple and undeveloped. Also, one thing I always try to do when I’m listening for samples and adding all of my original elements, is create subtle melodies, textures, and sounds in my songs. It’s not unusual for me to have a ton of different weird drum sounds, vocal samples, and separate melodies all in one song, so I hope listeners pick up on that as well. I spend a lot of time creating those little extra bits that hopefully make my music a little more interesting to listen to as a finished instrumental track. But honestly any listening I really appreciate, and my music is there for the listener to interpret completely personally in whatever they want to. I can make it, but I love the idea that it can mean something totally different to every person who hears it.
ER: Let’s get started with the music showcase – tell us about your five song selections starting with Shine:
DV: “Shine” is one of the first songs that I ever used multiple samples in one track- that vocal sample and the other instruments mostly come from different tracks- so this song really started that for me because now using different samples and reverberated vocal samples are mainstays in almost every track of mine. This song also was when I really started to change the style of my melodies to be more powerful and beautiful. People like to tell me that my music is very relaxed and beautiful but heavy at the same time, and I guess if that’s my style, then I think this song is where that began for me. (It’s one of my personal favorites
Rain and Peach Tea
DV: I made “Rain and Peach Tea” very recently because I just love rainy days, and there was a gorgeous one here in Tucson. This is pretty much my creation from sitting, looking outside, drinking peach tea, and feeling a cool rainy breeze. I really enjoy some of those cheesy sounding arpeggios in the synths and those silly little 808 style toms and bells and stuff. They’re a ton of fun, but I really think they worked with the vibe of this one. Once again, I really tried to go for a beautiful, chilled out, floating vibe, but still heavy hitting drums that kept a hard rhythm.
DV: “Chroma” is the final track of Charcoal, and it completely encapsulates the meaning and concept of the whole album with one song. “Chroma” is the Greek word for “color”, and so this track represents the shift from black and white into full color to end the album. To go along with that concept, I let this track build up more and more until it reached this deep synth climax that changes the vibe and melody of those chilled guitars. I wanted this song to slow itself back down after that and go right back to where it started so that it could almost be played in a loop of never ending ups and downs. I’m also colorblind so this song has kind of a special significance to me. It’s definitely a more deeply emotional and dynamic track that I hope people can connect with in their own way.
DV: I’m sure all producers and artists and everyone has those times where songs take them absolutely forever to make and be happy with and then, once in a while, there’s one that just immediately clicks. “Wildflowers” was that one for me. I just started chopping up a sample for fun the night before I was planning on releasing “Charcoal”, and this one made it on there super last minute. It was really fun for me to get creative with the drums by adding some Middle Eastern influence and all kinds of other textures. Sometimes I wish that every song just came to me this easily because it’s so fun to make when it does – this was probably the most fun I’ve ever had making a track.
DV: This one is really funny to me because there’s a long story behind it. So I had just watched the movie Drive, and I was just in love with the soundtrack- it had that like Miami vice – sunsetty awesome vibe to it. (I clearly don’t know how to explain it) But anyway, I was looking for new wave 80’s songs, and I found the soundtrack to Better Off Dead, which is primarily by Rupert Hine. I wanted to use “Arrested By You” as a base sample for a song, but I eventually switched it out for this song called “Dance of the Light” by James Asher. So those incredibly cheesy lyrics to “Arrested By You” became those haunting vocal samples of “In Time” (just the complete opposite vibe from the original song). I was way happier when I was able to change the context of those vocals; I think it ended up a way better song than it would have. I could go on and on about this one actually- I had a great time side-chaining the hell out of that bass line, and I really enjoy listening to this one because it’s a little different style for me. Always must change it up a little to keep it interesting!
Thanks for featuring me, hope I was somewhat interesting for you! I really appreciate it!
ER: You are always welcome back to STERYO – please keep us up to date with any new releases.
If you’re a producer/beat-maker and would like to be considered for STERYO’s PRODUCER PROFILE series, please submit a brief bio and five links of your music to STERYOmedia@gmail.com, ATTN: PRODUCER PROFILE.