From dorm jam sessions, a new underground sound emerges – The Columbia Chronicle

Mike Kelley, a music composition and production junior and the keyboardist of the Groovy Motherfunkers, works on his unique blend of music. Sam Tucker

During his freshman year at Columbia, Tony Klacz found himself moving into the last available dorm on the 11th floor of the University Center. Klacz, a music junior and guitarist, quickly discovered that his neighbors were just as passionate about music as he was.

Over the past three years, dorm jam sessions have evolved into TGM Recordings, a label with a mix of Columbia talent that puts on house shows across Chicago.

Klacz grew up in the southwestern suburbs, but he always felt the call of the big city as a place where he could pursue his passion for music.

“I [wanted] be there because I know just below [the skyline] is one of the most creative places in the world,” Klacz said. “And coming here is everything I dreamed of.”

Pedro Canaan, Klacz’s roommate during his freshman year, co-founded the TGM Recordings label with Klacz and the two collaborated on songs as more musical talent from the 11th floor of the University Center began to emerge.

Quenters Simmons, also known as QLAW, takes the venue up a notch into a private show, blurring the line between where the stage ends and where the crowd begins. Sam Tucker

Jackson Arbogast, a young music student, brought his riffs and chords with a guitar in hand to Klacz’s dorm. After their first session, they knew they were onto something.

“The room has become a Mecca. People were coming upstairs…and we were saying ‘come and sing’. We just had this huge group of artists,” Klacz said. “Anyone who wanted to make music was suddenly in our tiny little dorm.”

As word spread through the University Center, Klacz and Canaan’s dormitory transformed into a collaborative space where Columbia students came together to create and share music. Suddenly, Klacz said he found himself, Arbogast, Canaan and new Andrea Contreras, who goes by the name Drea C., finishing about two and a half EPs in the first two weeks of playing together.

“We all enjoy good pop music…and that’s the thing, we’re not extremely niche or inaccessible. But I think what we’re still doing is unique and different,” Arbogast said.

Contreras, a young music student, said she never really expected to pursue a career in show business, though she had future ambitions of owning her own venue in her hometown of Los Angeles.

“Songwriting and singing in general wasn’t at the forefront of what I wanted to do until the last minute,” Contreras said. I just changed my mind and was like, “I’m just gonna write songs and stuff and figure it all out,” and now I’m here.

From left to right, Tony Klacz, Mike Kelley and Judah VanDyke all use their laptops to create songs as well as live instruments. Sam Tucker

Klacz, Canaan, Arbogast and fellow Columbia student Holland Sersen formed The Groovy Motherfunkers and the band inspired TGM Recordings, the label the artists are all under.

“We’re gearing up for seed funding to basically grow the label, not just into a bigger label, but also into a PR business,” Klacz said. The label’s goal: “To really help artists and creatives in Chicago be able to access a kind of underground scene that we’ve begun to cultivate and others are cultivating so that we can all collaboratively build that scene right below of the skyline,” Klacz said.

TGM has cultivated a unique collaborative environment with a mix of genres its artists offer. Klacz said TGM cultivates its ideas and unique sound through weekly writing and rehearsal sessions.

“I think that’s the most important thing about being an artist. It’s surrounding yourself with people who not only are like-minded, but help you grow as an artist,” said Judah VanDyke, a TGM artist also known as Saint Romanov. “And that’s, I feel like, what this environment does for me, for all of us who live here.”

VanDyke, a journalism student at DePaul University, first started working as an event security guard and is now a mainstay of the TGM lineup with his self-proclaimed punk rock sound.

From left, Tony Klacz, Drea C. and Samira Jasmine perform for a private rooftop party, with the Chicago skyline providing a striking backdrop. Sam Tucker

“Rogue musical theater major” Samira Carr, known as Samira Jasmine on stage, also never expected to be involved in something like TGM. Carr, a junior at Columbia, said she enjoys exploring her other creative passions.

“I didn’t think I would do this, but it’s really fun stuff,” Carr said. “Just being able to share my art, honestly, in a way that I’ve never shared before, because musical theater is so different.”

At TGM gigs, Quenters Simmons, who impersonates Q and QLAW onstage, brings his hardcore rap sound and the occasional box of silly strings to kick things up a notch in venues. Simmons wants to contribute and give back to the music scene he is breaking through right now.

“I feel like everyone is just waiting for this chance,” Simmons said. “I want to be able to give people the chance I might have liked to have when I was young.”

Klacz said TGM is determined to grow in the underground music scene that continues to thrive below the Chicago skyline. For more on TGM Recordings current lineup of artists and more info, head over to their Instagram @tgmrecordings.

Comments are closed.