Utah’s Spy Hop Productions has long
been hailed as a beacon of opportunity
for youth with a passion for
media, film and music. Its successful musicology
program and student-run label Spy
Hop Records trains students in songwriting,
recording as well as producing and distributing
albums put out by the label. Headed
by veteran musician and songwriter Jeremy
Chatelain of local group Cub Country, the
musicology program as well as Spy Hop
Records are cultivating promising acts.
The label recently signed and released
albums by their first two artists: singer/
songwriter Sam Burton, and hip-hop whiz
kid Malevolent M.C. The stark contrast
and quality of the releases are testimony
to the diversity and dedication of Spy Hop
students. Each album is recorded, produced,
designed and marketed by students
in various programs.
Spy Hop Records operates just like any
other artist-run label: Musicians have contracts,
will see a return if the records sell and
are supported in their efforts to promote each
release. “I try to make it the students’ responsibility
to do the entire thing. I just try to be
around to answer questions,” says Chatelain.
“The students recorded them at Spy Hop, gave
them feedback, mastered them and created
the artwork. They did all of it.”
Listening to the recordings, the production quality of the short albums is impressive. “I told everyone at Spy Hop that I was going to do everything to make sure they didn’t sound like demos,” says Sam Burton, whose Got Sent Up is a mature and genuine debut for an 18-year-old who started playing at open mics and only picked up a guitar three years ago. His pop-folk sound is influenced by contemporary indie/folk acts along the lines of Bright Eyes but takes hints from classic folk artists like Nick Drake.
Intricate accents in his guitar playing
hint that Burton takes cues from the singer/
songwriter tradition. This quality can best
be heard on the album’s title track, which
Burton believes is definitive of his style. “I
really like listening to people who have been
doing this for a long time and still like getting
up at open mics. It’s cool to see that passion
still there,” he says.
Vastly different, but equally as talented, Ian Sanabria aka Malevolent M.C. wants to make one thing clear: “My name is malevolent but I don’t fit its definition,” he says in the title track off his debut Definition. What initially sounds like an in-your-face declaration and affirmation of the artist’s identity quickly turns into a charming introduction to what Malevolent M.C. is all about.
The album is a collection of free-form rhyming
that borders on stream-of-consciousness
writing. His lyrics sound like they were taken
directly from journal entries-highly personal
and free-form. Malevolent M.C proves potential
in his ability to present lyrics in a unique
way, weaving them into original beats created
after licensing issues prohibited him from
using samples on the album.
The two albums, released in June, and the
industrious nature of the label are encouraging
signs for the future of local music.
Their albums are available through CD Baby,
iTunes and local, independent record stores.
The program’s goal is to release five fulllength
albums with nationwide distribution
and student artwork by the end of the year.
Sam Burton and Malevolent M.C perform
this week along with Spy Hop Records prospects,
witty hip-hop duo Roe and UniversAll,
pop quartet Heterodactyl and rockabilly
songwriter Orion Chacon-Hurst.
SPY HOP MUSICOLOGY CD RELEASE
In The Venue
579 W. 200 South
Friday, Aug. 14