Photo by Matthew Claybrook
Any college student will tell you group projects suck. With conflicting schedules, just getting three people into the same room is a feat. Add onto that differing visions for the project and a discrepancy between work ethics, and your chances of getting anything meaningful done are slim to none.
Now imagine your group is a band, and all but two members of the group have never met in person. That’s how Echo Park came together, and they’ve dropped two albums since forming in December of 2017.
Senior Joel Holmes and junior Kievan Boudreaux-Bostic are both members of Echo Park. Music has long been a part of their lives.
On the heels of their latest album, “Expressions,” which was released on Feb. 22, 2019, Holmes and Boudreaux-Bostic spoke on the origins of Echo Park and their experience in the group.
“I actually was added to two groups of Redditors that were trying to form their own musical collective,” Holmes said. “And I suggested that we all just join into one group. There used to be a lot more of us, but over time people just started to go their own way … so, we’re a smaller group now, but I think we have a lot more chemistry.”
Echo Park currently consists of eight members, including Holmes and Boudreaux-Bostic, who use the pen names JOHO and Kiev, respectively; Cole and Joleissa, two Canadians vocalists; WVIMEV, who hails from Hawaii; and Quad-L, the oldest member of the group at 24 who feels like he’s from “nowhere,” according to Boudreaux-Bostic.
The other members of the group are between 19 and 20 years old. Holmes noted that, aside from himself, Boudreax-Bostic and Quad-L, all the other members of the band identify as bisexual.
“The duality of sexuality has come up a lot in our music. It’s very much a generation that was inspired by Tyler, the Creator,” Holmes said.
Holmes and Boudreaux-Bostic described Echo Park’s signature sound as “progressive, millennial Wu-Tang.” The two cited numerous influences on their individual styles.
“I find my inspiration for melodies from classic ’70s rock and ’80s R&B, and a lot of my rapping style, like my cadences, come from classical music,” Holmes said. “I listen to strings and try to synchronize my voice to them.”
Given the separation of each group member, Echo Park’s creative process is quite unique. The group makes use of Google Drive and group chats to share ideas. But even with the aid of technology, it took some time before the group fully melded.
“The first album, we had songs that were seven minutes long because everyone wanted their minute-and-a-half verse,” Holmes said.
Spending over a year on polishing its latest album “Expressions” helped Echo Park find cohesion. According to Holmes and Boudreaux-Bostic, “Expressions,” was originally pitched as a double album with a different name, “Chiaroscuro,” with half of the songs “light” and the other half “dark.”
“Expressions” is a balanced album, and Holmes seemed to suggest that the group is more balanced as a result of making it.
“But we decided to try and make it more cohesive,” Holmes said. “Now someone can do a 10-second verse and then someone else comes in with the next 10 seconds, and it fits together better.”
Clay Crosby, sophomore, discovered Echo Park following the release of “Expressions.”
“I was enticed enough just after halfway through the first song to want to check out more of their work,” Crosby said in an email interview. “I really like how they’re not just a group of rappers. It feels like a lot more. They work with a lot more than just rap to make different songs with different sounds/vibes rather than just focusing on rhyming well behind a cliche beat.”
Much of Holmes and Boudreaux-Bostic’s work on “Expressions” is deeply personal, giving the album a distinctive vulnerability.
“I rap a lot of what I’m feeling at that moment,” Boudreaux-Bostic said. “It’s not very hard to me because rap is something that allows me to de-stress. And when you’re listening to a song, you can feel when somebody’s ingenuine.”
“We all talk to each other in our group chat every day, and sometimes people lay out really vulnerable, personal things,” Homes said. “And that vulnerability makes it to where as long as everybody in the band has your back, you’re fine. And whatever you put into your art, we’ll appreciate and admire.”
Following the release of “Expressions,” several members of Echo Park are taking time to explore solo projects, including Holmes and Boudreaux-Bostic. Holmes cited a project he called “The Kids Have No Fear,” and Boudreaux-Bostic mentioned a solo album dubbed “Ambrosia,” which he expects to release in March or early April.
Echo Park’s music can be found on Spotify, Apple Music and Soundcloud.