Photo: Athletic Director leaves for Tulane University

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 Outside of class assignments and homework, Jerry Kurty spends an additional five to eight hours per day on his computer—but he is not perusing the Web for mindless entertainment or social media distractions—he is trying to produce the perfect sound that will make X5IGHT’s music different from the rest.

Kurty, a junior kinesiology and sports studies major, has been spending his first semester at Eastern doing Skype sessions with his band mate, Brandon Levinson, and going over the hundreds of projects they have started to try to create a concrete, unique sound that will stand out in the world of electronic dance music (EDM).

“At first it was just a hobby and I would just pick at (a song) for a couple minutes, an hour, two hours max,” Kurty said. “But now if I want to see the results, I have to spend a lot of time on it.”

After spending about seven months teaching himself to produce music using computer software programs like Ableton Live and FL Studio, Kurty began to take his music more seriously. 

And when he met Levinson while they were both DJ-ing the same club in Chicago, X5IGHT’s journey finally began.

Kurty is newly transferred to Eastern from Harper Community College, and while music has certainly been a priority, he said he has been too busy trying to settle into his studies here to have been able to secure a sizable fan base in the community.

However, the group’s manager has been in contact with local bars, and Kurty plans to reach out to fraternities to eventually find more places to play music.

Kurty said he started producing music about a year ago after nearly four years of DJ-ing at family parties and house parties. 

Having DJ-ed for smaller parties for so long, Kurty’s first experience playing at a large festival was a bit overwhelming.

“Going from house parties where people usually request songs and don’t really pay attention to you, they’re just there to party pretty much, to (our) first show playing in front of 2,000 people, it’s pretty nerve-wracking to be honest,” he said.

But once he got used to talking on the microphone and playing to the crowd, the shows got better and better, Kurty said.

Whether they are playing for huge crowds at SnowGlobe Music Festival or WheelHouse Festival or to a small room in California, the members of X5IGHT give each performance their all.

“It doesn’t matter if there is a hundred, 200 or even maybe 50 people there, if you put on a good show, those people will remember the show and they’ll just keep following you more and more, and that’s how you’ll get those true fans,” Kurty said.

Unlike a rock concert where the musicians run around beating on their instruments to rile the crowd, EDM musicians have all of their instrumentation sitting in front of them on computer equipment.

Therefore, getting the crowd energized requires strategic song selection, Kurty said.

“When you go to an alternative rock concert you know what band you’re seeing; you know every one of their songs because you’ve been listening to them for a while,” he said. “Going to a EDM concert or show, you’re going to be seeing artists that you’ve never seen before; you’re still going to listen to their set, but the difference is it all depends on their music selection.”

He said he and his band mate try to create songs that span multiple subgenres of EDM, such as electro, trap, progressive and dubstep.

The difference, Kurty said, mostly comes down to variances in tempo, which can be used to play off of a crowd’s energy level.

He said one of the biggest mistakes some beginning artists make is that they play their set list without taking the crowd’s reaction into consideration.

“You have to read the crowd because sometimes we have a set planned and we know what we want to play, but people are going crazy for our fifth song that we play and it happens to be trap, so instead of going back down to progressive or something lighter, we just keep playing trap until the energy dies down, and then you play something lighter to give them kind of a breather,” he said. 

He said the California crowd preferred the more melodic, progressive music, while the Chicago crowd preferred higher energy songs to dance and jump around to.

Examples of X5IGHT’s remixes include a progressive house mix of Tegan and Sara’s “Closer,” an electro trap mix of Travis Porter’s “Make it Rain,” and a trap mix of Katy Perry’s “Peacock,” according to the band’s Soundcloud page. 

Kurty said he first got hooked on EDM when he stumbled upon a YouTube video of Australian musician DJ Cotts, who performs a subgenre called happy hardcore.

Kurty said happy hardcore, which is more fast paced at 170 to 180 beats per minute, is not as conducive to dancing and jumping around, and it is mostly known in Australia, so he eventually moved on to other subgenres.

As diverse as the EDM spectrum is in itself, Kurty does not limit his tastes to only electronic music; he said while his go-to music is progressive electronic, he also enjoys alternative, pop and hip-hop.

And while the EDM is known for its popularity in clubs and at parties, Kurty said it can also be used to relax.

He said deep house music, which has more of a groove to it, can be very relaxing as well as lighter dubstep.

He said EDM producers work just as hard as any other musicians.

“It might not seem like we’re doing much on the stage, but when it comes to studio spending all those hours and trying to make that music, that’s where all the work is done,” Kurty said. “That’s where all of the ‘magic happens.’”

Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]