It’s Monday night, and though you’re at a concert, you’re still a Northwestern student, so your to-do list looms in the back of your mind no matter what else you’re doing.
You’re at SPACE, the Society for the Preservation of Art and Culture in Evanston, and just as you’re getting settled in your surroundings while simultaneously crafting your history paper’s thesis statement in your head, electronic artist Lawless enters. His effortless stage presence instantly draws in the crowd, and you miraculously forget about all eight of your student groups. The audience is completely engrossed, following him through every twist the music takes—every riff on his guitar, every unexpected Nirvana clip incorporated into his music. Then you realize that he is your
Sheridan Road Records is Northwestern’s first student-run record label, and the organization wants to give exposure to as many campus musicians as possible. They organize concerts to give performance opportunities to everyone from seasoned producers with Chicago gigs under their belts to your dorm neighbor who responds to requests to silence his 2 a.m. guitar playing by countering that “maybe you should quit hating on these dope licks.” Northwestern is swarming with musical talent, and Sheridan Road Records is the platform ensuring that audiences hear it.
The group formed last Winter Quarter under co-founders Kate Camarata and Melissa Codd, both Bienen seniors. They aimed to organize live performance events to create a unified music scene at Northwestern by bringing together artists of all genres. Since then, they’ve staged concerts in a range of venues, including the label’s launch party at a member’s house, a concert-turned-open mic at Norris this quarter and “study break” event at Kafein. One recent event, Space Jam, was their largest, located at SPACE in November.
“There are a lot of music groups on campus, but they all promote a different style or a different genre, and the opportunities to play on campus are really slim,” Camarata says. She notes that the wide array of settings in which Sheridan Road Records organizes concerts, particularly informal venues, helps facilitate an inclusive, communal mentality among artists. “It’s very much an attitude that anyone can do it if you want to,” she adds.
There is no shortage of artists itching to get onstage. Victor Lalo, a junior in McCormick who performs under the name Lawless and produces music with electro, hip-hop and reggae influences, relished the opportunity to perform with Sheridan Road Records at SPACE in the fall.
"That was the most fun I’ve had,” he says about his opportunity to work with the label. “It was a really high point. To actually be onstage … You’re just in the zone, in the moment, and it’s surreal. It’s a unique experience that I don’t have anywhere else.”
The label’s founders and the performers agreed that the live performances Sheridan Road Records organizes expose a new dimension of students’ musical personas, benefitting musicians and audiences alike. The “physical aspect of bringing [musicians] together is huge,” according to Jacob Skaggs, a 2015 Communication graduate and member of Northwestern-based band Coffee Breath. From the artists’ point of view, Sheridan Road Records provides musicians with “the benefit of having a show bigger than they would normally have on their own,” he says.
“It’s surprising that they’re just students,” Camarata says. “Sometimes you forget. When you’re watching, you’re like, ‘I was in math class with this dude.’”
In order to offer exposure to a growing number of artists, however, the Sheridan Road Records founders says they must spread more awareness of the label itself, which has progressed considerably since its formation. They shared that they frequently receive emails from Northwestern musicians asking about performance and collaboration opportunities, along with other aspects of production that the label helps with in addition to promoting artists, but they say making the Sheridan Road Records name more prominent on campus is still the toughest challenge.
“It’s gotten a lot better, but it’s also difficult because you’re always inundated with flyers or Facebook invitations or notifications,” Camarata says. “There’s so much stuff to join here.”
But both Camarata and Codd predicted a promising future for their label.
“Everyone likes music, just like they like food. And everyone knows about Spoon. So why can’t we be like Spoon?” Codd reasons.
Despite their senior status, the founders have ambitious plans for the label’s future, which was clear when they quickly rattled off a long list of ideas for future events and ways they plan to expand the label beyond the concerts they regularly hold. This included compiling a recording session video series, which they would release as a way to promote artists, and the creation of an offshoot campus music publication – anything they can think of to increase awareness of the vast talent pool of student artists and build a true community surrounding it.
“It’s just a cool culture to have around if you can just go across the street and listen to live performances of your fellow Northwestern peers,” Codd says. “That’s a great opportunity.”