Saturday night at Ascend Nightclub, I sat down with Kenny Beats and Ryan Marks of LOUDPVCK. Hailing from Connecticut and Los Angeles respectively, these humble, goofy, and truly talented musicians met while attending Berklee College of Music, right here in Boston.
Erica Schoneberger: Can you tell me about Berklee and your experience there as students?
Kenny: It was rough. We were so anxious and nervous and stressed the whole time we were
here. We enjoyed the friends we met and the music we were making and all that stuff, but school was such a heavy weight on us that to come back to the city now and play a show and not have that on our back… we enjoy Boston so much more.
Ryan: I can’t compare it to any other college experience. It’s certainly an atypical one and I think it has got to be one of the hardest schools in the country to go to. You’re taking ten classes a semester. You’re taking private instruction where you’re held accountable much more strongly than you are in a three hundred person lecture at a university. It’s great because it makes you rise to the occasion to become a greater, better, and hopefully amazing, musician.
Kenny: It’s just that much more stressful. When most kids have four finals a semester, we have eight midterms and eight finals. Boston was rough when we were here. Now we come back to it and we love it so much and it’s one of our favorite cities in the country; not being biased because we lived here for a bit, it’s really just a dope place.
ES: So you both got into Berklee to play instruments?
Kenny: Yeah, we got in for instruments. I got in for guitar and Ryan got in for piano. We were both trying to get into bands. We were both playing in ensembles. We were fully on our instruments every day, but still making beats for fun. Then, slowly, what we were doing for fun we got really good at and it started to be a viable outlet. We started to see all these kids on Soundcloud just putting up whatever they were making and getting love for it and getting fan bases for it and we kind of just hit it at the right time.
Ryan: A lot of kids go to Berklee and really they’re just there to get better at their instrument. I was fortunate, I come from a somewhat musical family and they told me “Ryan, you’re never going to be a performing piano player. If you know that right now, you’re going to be better off mentally going into this industry.” And so I always kind of knew I was going to get there and be way worse than the Presidential scholar piano kid. But that was always fine with me, it never bothered me.
ES: I imagine it must be very difficult to be pressured to be creative all the time in a school like Berklee.
Ryan: Honestly, it wasn’t a pressure for creativity that I felt. It was more just pressure to get so much technically better at your instrument, which to me are two different things. I don’t think technical prowess necessarily fosters creativity. There are these kids that are monster musicians but might not ever write a note of important music. And you don’t have to. You can be an amazing performer your whole life, but it’s just we want to write music and we always knew we wanted to write and compose music.
Kenny: For me, it was kind of the opposite. I thought my creativity was kind of getting shunned. You gotta have that creative spark at all times, but when guys like us get there and you realize on day 1 when you’re around a hundred kids who are the best piano players at your age group in the world … I’m not gonna be a piano player, I’m not gonna be a guitar player. We realized that real quick. Electronic music and production was much more where our interests really were and that wasn’t popular then.
ES: Can you tell me about how you came up with LOUDPVCK?
Kenny: It was the first name we put on the table. We had made these songs very quickly. Ryan came to visit me for a weekend and he played me all this new music that was stuff I never heard before that was similar to what we started making and we were like “ok let’s try it” and we made three of them and then we were like we gotta post it and we were like we need a name… and we were just getting super high and it was a joke with us that we were gonna name it a slang term or like a funny get-fucked-up thing and it was just one of the first new hot slang terms that came to mind. Loudpack was just starting to get said in all these rap songs we were like “Ok, it’s something that’s kind of unique,” so we picked that and we spelled it different.
Ryan: It’s not an onomatopoeia, but there’s a word for when an adjective means the opposite sense of what it’s saying. “Loud” you would think is a hearing thing, but it’s really a smelling thing. It’s like “that smells so loud.” It’s a cool double entendre for us because we’re loud and crazy.
ES: Why did you put the v in it?
Kenny: It was honestly a searchability thing. We figured if we use this slang term that people are saying all the time it’s never gonna get back to us, but if you search that name with a v, you only get us.
ES: How do you measure your own success as DJs?
Kenny: We don’t think about it and we don’t talk about it. The only time we talk about it is when other people approach us like “Damn, how did you guys blow up?” and we’re always like “Bro, we’re waiting on it.” We talk about plays and we talk about followers and we talk about those things but never in terms of how well we’re doing. It’s always “more more more.” It’s always “what do we do to up this?” This is great that we got to this point, but we gotta keep it moving. We’re never at a point that we’re like “F*ck, we killed that, let’s kick it.”
Ryan: Every conversation we’ve had recently has been about how do we creatively step this up for us, so we’re excited, you know? And that’s been the biggest goal- to keep it fresh. There’s so much of these same beats being made over and over, and it’s so easy to fall into that pattern.
Kenny: Not to say that we know everything, but we started doing this with that mindset. What’s fun for us? What makes you and I excited? Because we’re just like all our friends. We went to all the same shows, we listen to all the shit they do, we have the same mentality, so if we’re stupid hype about it, other kids are gonna get hyped about it.
Ryan: The cool thing about DJing is that we get to test it out all the time. You always have this try-out. Sometimes we’ll play a song and we think it’s amazing and the kids are just standing there. It also depends on the crowd. And other times, a song is a little wonky or weird and everyone just goes crazy and you really never know until you try it. It’s such instant gratification. You know the minute that the song drops if it’s working for those kids.
Kenny: That’s success for us. That’s for us what qualifies as like “Wow, we f*cking are killing it, we made a new song and the kids are going ham.”
Ryan: And when we’re in the studio playing something back that we’re really excited about… that’s all that matters.
ES: Do you prefer smaller venues like clubs or larger venues like arenas?
Kenny: Personally, I’m gonna go small club, but generally no preference.
Ryan: I’m gonna say the opposite but same answer. I kind of lean towards a huge show, but I love things about both of those types of shows. You can’t have one, you have to do both I think to be a good DJ. If you can’t walk into a room with 250 people and crush it, there’s something wrong. And there’s something really wrong if you can’t crush it for 8,000 people.
Kenny: To justify my answer, though, the one reason I would say just a little bit more on the club side is just I like being able to look into a kid’s face and really get it. When you’re at a festival, I can see the front row and I can see generally if there’s a pit or something, but I can’t feel you all out. I can hear you screaming and if we’re killing it I know, but when you’re in that room with 300 kids at eye level and you can see 60 kids faces, that’s powerful. There’s times where we play songs and I’m looking at these kids… you couldn’t have more adrenaline. But when you’re a little farther back, sometimes, you’re much more focused on the experience you’re giving to all these other people and you’re a little bit removed from the one-on-one. Both of those things are extremely exciting for us, but sometimes I’ve felt intense moments looking at a kid and him and I are both going as hard as we can.
Ryan: I would go as far as to say the big multi-thousand person crowds… it’s almost like you’re playing for one big person, you know, like that wave jumps up and down for that song and that’s why I lean more towards that, because the adrenaline from that is like no drug I’ve ever heard of. We really do love both. And I don’t care if we’re like Tiesto-level one day, I always want to be playing 250-300 person rooms. Always. It’s the best.
ES: Vodka or whiskey?
Ryan: Oh man… vodka, yeah.
ES: PBR or craft beer?
Ryan: Craft beer.
ES: Paper or glass?
ES: What kind of glass?
Kenny: Any glass.
Ryan: Bongs… a fat 18-inch bong…
ES: Blondes or brunettes?
Kenny: I’m an equal opportunity lover.
Ryan: Me too, man, but probably brunettes.
Kenny: I’ve had more brunette girlfriends.
Ryan: I think I’ve hung out with more brunettes.
ES: Dream collab?
Ryan: Jeremih. And that is how we came up with the dream of a LOUDPVCK-Jeremih collaboration that gets remixed by Flume.
A massive thank you to Kenny and Ryan for blocking out some time to talk to me, and for throwing down an amazing set at Ascend Nightclub! We hope you guys come back to Boston soon!