By: Trevon James
There is a beautiful home in Manasquan, New Jersey. If you were to walk into this home it would look just like any other, but if you were to peer your curious head around the corner of the hall, much like myself, and stroll down to the basement with a mindset of child-like wonder, much like myself, you would enter a small home studio. A computer monitor sat on the right, a microphone to the left of it, and key boards surrounding it. The walls were poster-ladened with images of different bands, artists, and influencers alike. The gray walls popped with vivacious color at the sight each poster or framed picture. Casted into the corner was perhaps the most pertinent frame, and it caught my eye, a t-shirt with Recess Radio’s name and logo much like the first ones they sold, perhaps this was the one that got the ball rolling for Recess Radio, because now “Nothing is a joke,” according to producer/artist Blake Foster.
The two Recess members, Martin Terry and Eddie Destefano, along with myself, sat awkwardly for about 5 minutes, making light conversation about music. As the conversation grew Blake Foster walked into the home studio and contributed to the talk. My goal was to find out what the premise of their latest project, Decentralized Brotherhood, was based on, but I found out so much more about the popping music collective from Monmouth County, New Jersey. Recess Radio carries the age old narrative of a music group that started back in high school. According to the 3 members I spoke to, around September of their senior year the group formed. The collective is made up of 8 people. Daniel Harmon, a.k.a Skyeboii, Seamus Higgins, a.k.a ShaeBoro, Blake Foster, a.k.a Lakeblake, Martin Terry, Sean Ferguson, Eddie Destefano, Andrew Cosenza, and Justin Hetzle. The year 2016 is a time that seems about a life time ago when Recess’ success is taken into account, but that is when the high school friends got together in the clouds, made beats, and parlayed them into tracks no one knew about and very few had heard. At that time it wasn’t at all serious, but Eddie Destefano stated passionately that, “nothing starts serious.”
There is an old Casio Keyboard pressed against the far wall. I chuckled as I said, “I have the same one.”
Martin Terry seems always in production mode as he responded, “oh yeah, but I cant seem to record anything down off of it, so I just use a different one, or we go to Blakes house.”
Eddie Destefano interjected sighting the audio jack used from the dinosaur of a keyboard to the computer. Terry then ran upstairs to grab his lap top perhaps to try and appease the issue, or perhaps just to have it on hand.
Martin Terry, and Recess are very meticulous in their actions, it seems as if with them everything is calculated, and you can certainly hear it in their sound. But, the genesis of any project derives from influence. The sound influence, according to Terry, is directly correlated to Chance the Rapper’s 2013 project Acid Rap. Chance seems to be the closest thing to a deity besides God, that Blake Foster and Martin Terry can find, they spent all of high school listening to and studying Chance The Rapper’s music.
The main influence however came from within. Recess had never done a project before Decentralized Brotherhood, which released on all music platforms on January 25th, 2018. And when I asked about the main influence of the project Blake Foster sat back in deep thought as Martin Terry spoke on the phone with Shaeboro and Eddie Destafano watched on intensely. Finally, Foster said, “I don’t know, we just felt like it, I mean, it was spontaneous as sh*t.”
Terry then chimed into the conversation with resolution saying, “Well, we were done with the day time, evening, and night time…” (a series of singles the group released prior to the album). He paused and smirked as he continued, “nothing comes after night time so…we wanted to move to something bigger.”
The group was finally able to sit down together in front of their giant wall to wall chalk board located in Foster’s home and work on music over Christmas break after being away at their respective colleges, and the word “finally” to Lakeblake, and the rest of the gang was huge. Them being so far apart form each other as they see more success is only bringing them closer.
“It is really [inconvenient] that it’s a bunch of us not together,” Foster says, “and that actually ties directly into the title, Decentralized Brotherhood.”
It was the origins of the phrase “Decentralized Brotherhood” that peaked my curiosity and I dove into questioning where Recess got that term from. As unorthodox, and out-of-left-field it may sound for the fans, the term “decentralized” derived from group member, Andrew Cosenza’s affinity for, and interest in, Cryptocurrency.
“We would just make fun of him by saying decentralized and he’d get really pissed off,” Foster says. He went onto explain that decentralizing from a cryptocurrency stand point is when a price is out of place, or is “going crazy.” Foster continued on saying that, “The brotherhood part worked perfectly.” The representing members of the groups stood tall by their proclamation that they are all close enough to be brothers. Terry, Destefano, and Foster all agreed that the group wasn’t formed on a whim of finding the most talented musicians, rather a bunch of best friends finding a common interest and common bond and capitalizing off of it.
Eddie Destefano put it this way, “Everyone’s got their own [problems].” And according to the three members with me that day, those problems and issues of life and growing up are what makes their bond a brotherhood.
Going off of that influence and that idea, Foster talked about the time the group sat down on January 5th and started to sift through their old music. And what they found was that they had a Google Drive of unreleased songs, that if tweaked the right way and paired with new tracks could lead to a pretty dope project.
From January 5th up until, and past the projects release Foster explained that he and Terry had spent ample time working on music, he even claimed confidently that he had never worked harder on music at any point before this collection of songs. “[Him and I] were at it from 8 A.M. every day,” Foster says.
Terry darted in with almost a moment of revelation saying, “we actually wrote out a whole schedule to work off of from 8 A.M.”
“I felt like a fire,” Foster responded in reference to the inspiration he felt on a day to day basis.
According to Foster, the project was hard to make. He compared this project to a “second album,” and relayed the message that all of the groups music released prior to this project was like telling a story, or a “first album,” therefore making those tracks easy to write. So going back into the catalog of unreleased music for the group was a no-brainer. They had tracks on that album, Foster dated back, as old as one year, these tracks being Brotherhood, Scene 1, and Dandelions, but then there were other tracks, such as the anthemic, Pick Me Up, that were brand new, only weeks old.
As the polarizing conversation waged on with only little but comical interruption coming from Martin Terry’s brother poking his head in the room to remind his house mate that there is food upstairs, we dove into the last track I mentioned, Pick Me Up. I referred to the track as an anthem because of the way Lakeblake, and the rest of the crew vocalized it, but it was also the point they were getting across that made it feel that way for them. Foster, and Recess emphasized that one of the things they wanted to do was make it okay for kids their age in this area to chase what they want.
“Just out of our own influence that we’ve seen,” Foster says motioning toward Terry, “his little brothers and their friends get laptops and download [Logic Pro music software], and start doing it too, because we are here all the time and they are here all the time.”
Their music has reached past the edges of Monmouth County into other states, they have done shows not just in New Jersey but in Vermont as well. They have recently hosted their own concert at Gamechanger World, and find themselves currently in the finals of a “Battle of the Bands” series in Vermont, winner getting to play an opening set at a larger concert. However, perhaps their most famous claim to fame in the local area was their antics at the Stone Pony just a summer ago. Lakeblake, Terry, and Destafano cited that it was very hard to ask people to pay 28 dollars for a ticket, and when they actually did they felt like rockstars. Things got out of hand at The Pony when water started flying, and they were asked to leave the stage…And they did. Except, only, they actually didn’t. According to Lakeblake Foster, the group was given one more song.
“They said one more song and you’re done,” Foster told me with a proud smile on his face, “and we had a live band so we played one song, but did not stop, so it was really every song.” They had over 200 people in the building carrying on with their stunt and it made a name for the group in Monmouth County at that point.
This is important because, I in that moment, hearing that story, felt like the New Jersey music scene was slowly but surely growing back to having strong representation. There is a push to create new unique sound, and not duplicate another, and there is a push to create something great. I even made it a point to ask professors outside of the music field and Dr. Eleanor Novek, a journalism professor at Monmouth University with an outside perspective on the topic had this to say of the New Jersey music scene, “If the interest of my recent students is any indication, it will be [well represented] in the future!” This promising quote leads me to believe that there are enough young artists in the area that influence people. This causes people outside of the field are to take interest or notice the growth in the New Jersey music scene. However, professor Aaron Furgason says New Jersey’s relevance has been longstanding for a while now. Professor Ferguson says, “I think depending on your age, New Jersey musically is probably best known as the place that Springsteen, Sinatra and Bon Jovi built their fame. But New Jersey can also take credit for the the rise to fame of Metallica, My Chemical Romance, Bleachers, Sugarhill Gang, and may other artists.”
As I parted ways from the three of eight group members I asked what advice means the most to them, what was their pearl of wisdom? As candid as can be just like their personalities their responses differed.
“Give it your all, or don’t do it,” said Martin Terry.
“Yeah, mine would be…No plan B,” said Blake Foster.
“We are brothers, at the end of the day, we still have each other,” said Eddie Destefano, probably not knowing he may have just made the hook to their next track. It was an interesting talk, and one that makes you think. What is the most recent thing for you that did not start so serious that could become your entire life?