With its unconventional electronic sounds, abstract lyrics and upbeat rhythms that make an impression on listeners, the Binghamton-born experimental synth-pop project Basic Printer is returning to its hometown, playing at Spotlight on Court Street on April 12 with student band natural born kissers.
Jesse Gillenwalters, ‘15, founded Basic Printer when he was a student at Binghamton High School, but began producing his own original music the summer before he began his freshman year at BU.
Although he considers the genre of his music to be somewhere in the range of pop, Gillenwalters emphasizes the experimental label in Basic Printer’s self-description.
“I like the experimental tag because it’s just a big question mark that makes you wander into all these territories of a genre and have it still make sense,” Gillenwalters said. “The dichotomy of pop next to experimental help keep the two different music styles in check.”
Initially interested in video game development as a computer science major, Gillenwalters shortly dropped the major to pursue economics in hopes of finding a practical job after graduation. While at BU, he was involved in several music-related organizations and events on campus, including WHRW 90.5 FM, the Food Co-op and Woodstock at College-in-the-Woods.
Gillenwalters has played a multitude of shows in various cities, but his very first performance in front of a live audience was at an open mic for BU’s Food Co-op in the University Union basement.
“I have never encountered a time I’ve been more nervous since then,” Gillenwalters said.
After the initial stage fright, Gillenwalters played his first traditional set at Woodstock, an event hosted by College-in-the-Woods that promotes live music and local bands. He said that the laid-back environment in the residential community played a major role in his finding confidence with his abstract style of music. This eventually led him to perform more shows in the Binghamton area.
“I thought my music was so bizarre or wouldn’t be for anyone, but the friends I made at [College-in-the-Woods] celebrated my music and would always see me play on campus,” he said. “It was totally that initial response that empowered me to keep going.”
After college, Gillenwalters left Binghamton and headed to Nashville, Tennessee, with the intention of finding a job in the city while still experimenting with his music. Shortly after moving, he hired a backup band for Basic Printer and started recording new singles, which eventually caught the attention of Newlywed Records. The New York City-based music label invited the group to release an EP on its label, which came out in February 2017.
His hard work and his dedication to his music career paid off and now Basic Printer is headed on its first tour around the east coast, playing in cities including Pittsburgh and Brooklyn — and Binghamton.
“I love Binghamton and having lived there for so long, I know how the music scene is there,” Gillenwalters said. “It just sounded cool to put on a show there and get campus people involved. There’s not a lot traditional concerts for small-scale bands in Binghamton.”
For students who also want to pursue music as a professional career or hobby, Gillenwalters said he encourages the creation of music that is meaningful to them, whether or not it’s conventional.
“You have to find your voice and run with it as far as you possibly can,” he said. “Literally do exactly what you want to do and do it in the loudest, best way possible. That speaks better than feeling like you have to dilute yourself into a boring act.”