At 3sixteen, our product is the end result of the passions we have as individuals and as a team. We’re into art, design, culture, food, beverage, travel, and more in our own personal ways. Even if it what ends up on the shelf doesn’t directly reference any of these things, it’s informed by our collective experiences and perspectives.
Like most, we love music - and it just so happens that a few of our team members have been deeply involved in it in different ways. Last summer, we ran a series of events in our retail store called "Summer Breaks" where we presented live DJ sets from both our internal team members and close friends of the brand. We thought it’d be fun to do an informal chat on our in-house Slack workspace with Roland, Spencer and Cam to learn more about what music means to them.
Rob (content): First off, could each of you take a second and introduce yourself in terms of present / past music-related activity?
Spencer (sales): I grew up watching my dad play drums since birth, essentially. That quickly turned into me picking up sticks and learning how to play drums as well. From that, I started playing locally in bands at about 5th grade and haven't really stopped since. I quickly developed a love for all kinds of music and have just been on the never-ending hunt to listen to and play as much as I can while I'm here.
Rob: Rumor has it you also run a record label as well?
Spencer: Yeah, so at the moment I put out records under Atwater Records with one of my best friends Dandee, who is on the Schott NYC team. That happened from just having friends that make great music with no real way to turn that music into a physical and tangible release, so that's how the light bulb turned on for me and Dandee.
Cam (operations): I have been making beats under the name walterwarm now for about 4 years, but making beats in general for about 9 years. I got into beats initially through skateboarding. In the early 2000s and obviously in the 90s, hip-hop and skateboarding seemed to go hand in hand. I really liked to skate to instrumentals. I fell in love with the sound of producers like DJ Premier and Pete Rock. From there, I looked into how they made their gritty, dusty sounding beats. I learned they were taking samples from old records, pitching the sounds up or down, and adding layered drums over them. I thought it was so cool and wanted to create my own beats. I bought an MPC 2000XL back in 2008 and started collecting records. I've probably made close to a thousand beats since then, but a lot of them don’t make the cut to be released.
Rob: Cam - for our readers that aren’t familiar with the music you make, how would you describe it?
Cam: I would describe the sound of my music as hip-hop instrumental with an easy listening/melancholy undertone. I’ve heard people say that they like to listen to it while studying or doing some kind of busy work.
Roland (operations): I had an older brother (by 10 years) that was breakdancing and completely involved in the culture. When he got to high school, he started DJ’ing. So when he would go out, I would sneak into the garage and try to remember the things I saw him do since he would not let me touch the tables. Between that and whatever videos I'd watch, I more or less learned how to DJ on my own.
DJ'ing actually helped me socially too. I am introverted, and when I first started I would have my friends hang in the living room and I would blast the music from my room. That's the only way I could do it, not having anyone watching me. From there it just became a shield and I didn't really care cuz the music was the focus. I started doing house parties and school functions, and by then it was second nature - I was fine with the attention.
Rob: Spencer, what sort of music did you start playing, and in what style do you think you first found your voice?
Spencer: From playing local shows, I just ended up digging deeper and deeper into the punk and hardcore community in Arizona, where I'm from. I definitely credit a lot of my character and personality to being so entrenched in the HC community. That was around 2013 or 2014, and still, the bulk of my close friends and connections have birthed from going to those shows.
You could definitely say it was the first time that I had "identified" with anything, really. So naturally it became a part of me. I'll still fly to Berlin for work and meet people across the world who were into the same bands, know the same people through touring, etc., and it's an automatic way to kind of see eye to eye on things, which is awesome.
Rob: Roland, in a previous conversation you mentioned having grown up around some underground hip-hop clubs in the 90s. What do you remember most about that time?
Roland: Yes! Thursdays at Project Blowed in Leimert Park, an open mic where a lot of dope MC's and DJ's would go. On any given night you could see Ahmad, Aceyalone, Abstract Rude, Aloe Blacc & Exile (emanon), Nocando, Dilated, Volume 10, Daddy Kev (who also started Low End Theory), and a bunch of other independent artists.
It was religion every Thursday in South Central; the vibe was amazing. It helped me stay positive and stick with playing music - and most importantly, it kept my mind off doing other things that weren't so productive. Also, Bigga B (RIP) threw UNITY, and from what I remember he was the only promoter to bring out east coast artists to LA and have the best local talent open up. One of the best shows I ever witnessed was Juice vs Supernatural - that shit was hip hop history.
Rob: That sounds incredible, I’m totally envious, especially since I was out East and didn’t hear that much about what was going in LA. Are there any resources to help people interested in learning about the music of that time and place? I know there are underground hip-hop radio archives but I don’t see a lot of representation from LA…
Roland: Definitely, (MTV's) Sway had the Wake Up Show out here, that was our Stretch and Bobbito late night rap show.
THIS IS THE LIFE is a great documentary on the Good Life Cafe, which was the predecessor to Project Blowed… but it was the same people for the most part. It shows the feel and vibe of that scene in LA.
The Show is a great one too. I do have a strong proclivity towards gangster rap and 2Pac, Snoop and tha Dogg Pound and the whole Death Row records moment is so good for me.
Rob: Spencer, for those readers who aren’t that familiar with hardcore - what are some of the values you picked up as part of that scene that have helped you?
Spencer: For the most part, the music itself is abrasive and an acquired taste. The first time I heard that style of music, it was confusing but also intriguing. And over time you start to really learn the nuances between hardcore from the 80s vs. 90s, and beyond that 90s HC on the west coast vs. east. So where the untrained ear hears loud noise, screaming, people running into each other in the crowd, and jumping off the stage - it sounds kinda crazy on paper. But it's actually really intricate and all of this taught me to appreciate the subtleties.
It kind of turned into this philosophy for me to not ever say that I "don't like" a band or style of art, or even clothing, because although I may not get it right away, if I dive headfirst into how or why that song / piece of clothing / art was created rather than just writing it off, I usually come away with some sort of appreciation for it.
Another big thing that it taught me was the importance of DIY. From starting a band to booking our own shows, designing merch, going to Kinko's to print out our own tape inserts and going home to dub our own tapes to sell at shows. If you really want to put something out, you won't let money or resources get in the way. You'll make it work with what you got and if it's good and honest, people will react to it.
Rob: Yeah and to loop back to the music Cam is making - I’ve noticed it’s really community-based in that social media is a critical component of how music gets shared. It reminds me a lot of underground cassette culture as you described it. Do any of you have a take on how the Internet has affected these scenes that tended to be historically more regionally based?
Spencer: It absolutely helps. Not only with music but virtually everything. A super niche thing might have stayed in the shadows and unappreciated for some collector to discover and repress 50 years later. Now with the Internet, makers can present their work to millions of people for free and we can appreciate these artists while they're actually here making things vs. finding the 7" that was a private press of 50 and now has to be purchased for $300 if you want the real thing (zero of it going back to the artist).
And to build further on the internet: there used to be keyholders to different industries and mediums, and we would turn on the radio or MTV and listen to / watch whatever they were feeding us. Now we can feed ourselves with whatever we want, whenever we want, without the filter of money or power playing such a part. It's pretty awesome.
Cam: And yeah, I’d say social media is a pretty critical component to get music shared. Besides genuinely enjoying collaborating with the artists I’ve worked with, it is a great way to expand my music to new listeners.
Rob: Totally agree. I think it’s worth acknowledging that with the advent of streaming services, there is a wealth of music available to users. And that has led to it becoming harder for artists to make a living doing what they love to do. Do you have any guidance for people to help support the musically creative?
Spencer: I think the opportunity that we have in front of us is a new possibility of a working musician where you don't necessarily aim for the stars and the red carpet. I’ve seen bands tour full time, put out an LP every 2 years, run their own merch store, manage themselves, and they can actually sustain themselves financially while playing 500 cap rooms. So, although there is more music out there than ever, I think we should focus on getting in front of people who will appreciate it - because you don't have to sell out arenas to necessarily make a living. If you prefer making 1 album every 6 months in your bedroom and have something like a Patreon set up where fans support you per-release, or can just basically gather a remotely sizable fanbase, you can still make your art and live.
Cam: As far as guidance for people to support artists, just the obvious: go to shows, pay for the streaming services, purchase merch, and share the music that you’re passionate about.
Rob: Speaking of helping support the musically creative, I want to make sure we capture some of your current endeavors. What are you working on and how can our readers find out more about your work?
Roland: I do Fridays & Saturdays at Surly Goat, Lazerkat, Verdugo Bar, Rock n Reillys, amongst others and it's mostly a current music, Hollywood vibe. Verdugo is more my speed, I can play more breaks, soul, reggae, and other things I love. I post all my stuff on IG: @roland_blunts
Spencer: Most of my time is spent playing with a band called Special Lonely. We're in the studio now finishing up a new batch of songs. Outside of that, I've started writing my own music under the moniker "Willy Margo" and that's been both new and exciting.
Cam: Last year, I released two projects: one was a cassette tape that came out in the summer called House Plants. it’s a collaborative beat tape with Chicago-based producer, Coryayo.
In the fall, I dropped a vinyl record through Guayaba Records. The record is called Fungus, a collaborative instrumental project with Berlin-based producer Made In M.
I’ve also been working with London-based rapper, Lord Apex. He and I are planning on releasing some music in the near future.
All my music is available on the streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple, Amazon), as well as on Soundcloud.
Rob: One last question: there was a thing going around on social media to list a top ten of the most influential albums in shaping your world view. To scale it back, could you share one record that did that, and is still a source of inspiration? And why you find this record to be still relevant today?
Roland: D’Angelo - Voodoo
This album came out at a time when "Soulquarians" was a thing and all the music that they were making was amazing. It's an album that can be played front to back and I can never be sick of it. To this day, I enjoy this album as much as or possibly more than I did when it originally dropped.
Spencer: Los Angeles, by the band X
This record has been with me since I can remember. X was (and still is) always playing in both my dad’s house and my mom's house. When I was growing up in Phoenix, this album was what I thought of whenever LA was mentioned, and I listened to the record a lot when I first moved here. Partially as a "wow I finally made it" factor, and also as a way to feel connected to both of my parents while a state over. This record defined punk for me, something that turned out to be a big part of my life. On top of that, it's a great and early history lesson in the evolution of Americana music for me.
Cam: The album that has and always will be an inspiration to me is Petestrumentals by Pete Rock.
I love the jazzy samples, fading horns, funky basslines and exaggerated drums. Much like the clothing we sell here at 3sixteen, the music is minimal and quality-over-quantity so to speak. I loved skating to those beats when I was a teenager, and I still love listening to those beats as an adult.
Editor's note: A short while after conducting this interview, Cam decided to head off on his own to focus on music full time. We couldn't be more excited for him.