Sean Tasse and Ali Hepps’ musical partnership began at a UCLA family resort.
While working at Bruin Woods in summer 2017, the two became friends and eventually wrote their song “The Game,” which they will perform at this year’s Spring Sing. Although reluctant to perform at first, Tasse said he wants to showcase his talent as a music producer; Hepps, having never performed a solo act for a large audience, will take the spotlight as a solo singer. Tasse, a fourth-year economics student, said the duo wants to bring what they consider a new type of collaboration to the stage before they graduate.
“(It) kind of worked that both of us (have) never been in that position to put our music out there together but have it actually recognized as only one – that’s what motivated us to do it,” Tasse said.
When conceiving “The Game,” Hepps, a fourth-year cognitive science student, said she and Tasse recognized that they come from different social circles, but they still wanted to write a song pertinent to both of them. Since both are graduating soon, they agreed the song should be about moving onto the next stage in life, tackling the anxiety and uncertainty of postgraduation plans with full force, she said.
“We took that idea of this part of our life is ending, and we’re entering a new one that’s beginning, and expanded upon it to create ‘The Game,’” Hepps said.
In September, the two began making music together. Hepps showed Tasse a chord progression and Tasse started playing around with it, incorporating various electronic dance music elements, including synthetic sounds and bells, into the upbeat tune. The next time they met, they settled on a version they both liked and decided to audition for Spring Sing, Tasse said.
The completed song involves live sound mixing by Tasse and vocals from Hepps, Tasse said. He said he first started producing music in high school with hip-hop instrumentals and, quickly enough, EDM. He would watch EDM producers mix sounds live on YouTube, initially mimicking them and then adding his own chords or melodies. However, he never found someone to rap or sing to his sounds, only making “empty” songs at the end of the day, he said. When the duo began collaborating, Tasse said he found Hepps’ lyrical additions fulfilling, making his “empty” songs finally feel complete.
Jess Grimes, Spring Sing co-talent director and the duo’s liaison with Spring Sing, said Tasse did not produce many EDM tracks until recently, but has learned which sounds he likes and what mixes fit together throughout the preparation for competition. Though most EDM songs – including his – follow a similar structure, the decisions Tasse made about particular notes and mixtures of sounds have allowed his individual music style shine through, said Grimes, a third-year dance and communication student.
“Just by having the opportunity to try a hand at it more, he’s definitely more confident at the sounds he’s making and that shows. It’s very much his own music,” Grimes said. “I wouldn’t see someone else up there making it because this song is so much part of him.”
Unlike Tasse, Hepps said she has mainly expressed herself musically through a cappella for the last eight years. She has performed at Spring Sing since her first year as part of the a cappella group ScatterTones. In her second year, she also sang backup for one of her friends in Spring Sing, which motivated her to pursue individual performance in her last year.
Although accustomed to writing slow, balladlike songs, Hepps said her usual compositions didn’t feel right to perform at a large venue. She said transitioning to EDM was not difficult because her voice is well-suited to the genre. However, EDM follows a set musical format, so she had to write structured lyrics and melodies, unlike in her previous compositions.
Arriving late to the EDM trend, Hepps said she quickly fell in love with the genre as it makes people energetic and eager to dance – qualities she wishes to imbue, especially in the performance. Tasse also said he hopes to see people dance and personally aims to bring a concert-level energy with their debut.
“I just want to bring a different energy and make people feel like they’re at one of these fun and exciting cool concerts,” Tasse said. “It’d be crazy to recreate that in Pauley Pavilion.”