Riley Lake is a producer in the online music scene who creates his own beats, mixes for rising rap artist Milo, and occasionally moonlights as the Table Manners DJ. Riley Lake is the stage name of student Will Mitchell PO ’14. Mitchell has managed to balance his growing music career with his Pomona College course load and is making his way in the music world. He recently sat down with TSL to fill us in on his music.
TSL: Hey, Will. So, when did you get started producing music?
Mitchell: Well, I’ve been playing instruments since I was a little kid, and I’ve been listening to rap music my whole life. One day I found out my computer at home had Logic Pro music software, and decided I wanted to make rap beats on it.
TSL: Do you only make background beats, or do you produce your own music as well?
WM: Producing music is a really involved technical process where you attempt to get music up to professional standards of sound quality. This technical work and mixing often gets lost behind the artist these days. I personally make rap songs with an artist named Milo. I create the beats and come up with the idea for the song, and then he records and sends me vocals. Afterward, we spend a long time in post-production, where I mix all the different elements and the beat together. There are usually 20 to 30 different tracks of elements that all come together, so it takes a while to layer each one in. Milo goes to school in Wisconsin, so we often send things back and forth while giving notes. Essentially, I do post-production obsessively until I can’t figure out any way to make the song better.
TSL: Do you ever DJ on your own too?
WM: Yeah, I do. DJing and producing go hand in hand, but they are much different acts. Producing is actually creating things from scratch, while DJing involves starting with preexisting songs and playing them in a way that is cohesive. I never plan anything before I do it and just see how people react to songs. I listen to a lot of music and really like dance music.
TSL: So, Table Manners is your cup of tea?
WM: Table Manners is my domain. I love that party. It’s probably one of the most comfortable spaces on the Claremont Colleges. People go to actually hear things, have new experiences, and move out of their comfort zone. And it ends up being a really comfortable place as a result. I cherish every opportunity I get to play Table Manners. Even if there are 10 people there, it is still really fun.
TSL: I know you also write music reviews. How are you involved in reviewing?
WM: That’s one of my favorite things to do. When I write about music, I try to take my subjective idea of a song and place it in an objective and critical context. I discuss where it fits into the canon of music, make some comparisons, and write about the technical side of the music-making process. I attempt to find … how someone put something together and place myself in the artist’s shoes. I feel that the more I write about music, the better I can make my music. Working on a laptop gives me so much control, and understanding how music affects people really helps me improve my vision of how I want it to sound.
TSL: Who do you think influences your music the most?
WM: That’s hard. I could name-drop a huge list of artists that I respect. Right now, I’m really into James Blake. I come back to his music and listen to it over and over because he is able to blend his various skills in an awesome way. The people I hang out with also influence me, as well as random things I see. I sometimes make really abstract beats that probably don’t make sense to anyone but me. My hope is other people can pick things they like out of it. Like when I make music with Milo, he completely flips and re-contextualizes everything I make with his addition of lyrics. I respect his vision and like the result.
TSL: Do you want to pursue music as a career?
WM: I do, but I’m tremendously wary. The music industry is transitioning from being able to accrue value from selling a copy of music to not having that as a crutch. You need to find some other way to make money via performance or patronage, which makes things a little harder. I am actually playing Low End Theory with Milo for a Wednesday club night soon as well as three shows at SXSW. I’m pretty sure Milo is going to do well professionally, and he respects my music, so I hope to ride along his coattails.
Mitchell will be playing Low End Theory in Los Angeles this Wednesday Feb. 27 at 11:15 pm. Low End Theory is located at 2419 N. Broadway Ave., Los Angeles 90031.