Junior Dan Lyle Is Working To Reshape BC’s Independent Music Landscape

“I’m religiously invested in the music I like.”

Sometimes he will catch one of her songs playing back in his head. Dan Lyle, A&S ’16, grew up with his mother’s gospel music. The same stations, the same CDs, the same songs would cycle, on repeat, at his family’s home, off the corner of Bergen St. and Clinton Ave. in Newark, N.J. Lyle’s aspirations as a music producer started with his church, and more specifically, an old keyboard: he would tinker with it on Sundays at Refuge of Hope Mission, writing his first song there, learning to play. His mother’s love of church music was the start of it all. “She’s a Christian, I’m a Christian,” Lyle said. “I’m religiously invested in the music that I like, just like she is—but it isn’t gospel.”

Lyle began as president of Chorduroy in September of his sophomore year, coming into the position with experience as a music producer, sound designer, and instrumentalist. Chorduroy is Boston College’s only student-run record label, and at the time that he took charge, the organization’s sole purpose was to create a compilation CD at the end of every year. It was a simple model, and ultimately, Lyle found it quite problematic.

“We released it, and people listened to it on Soundcloud, but I felt like afterwards that it’s the same thing as throwing BC events,” Lyle said. “Only your friends are going to come to it.”

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Lyle’s vision is for Chorduroy to produce and market the work of independent artists at BC, rather than package their music onto a CD. He hopes to refashion the organization into a pre-professional group for musicians. On Friday, Lyle released his own EP (under his stage name theisl∆nd) through the Chorduroy label, a project he started the summer of 2013. This move, according to Lyle, is the first in a plan to rebrand Chorduroy into a fully functioning record label.

“I haven’t found the musical culture here that I wanted—I don’t think it’s exactly what I hoped it was, and I’m trying to figure out ways I can fix it,” Lyle said. “I think that putting out my project is going to be my first step toward it.”

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Lyle took his first job at age 15. As a high school student, he joined the facility maintenance crew at St. Benedict’s Prep, with his particular job requiring that he mop and sweep the floor. Although he did not care much for the work itself, Lyle used the money to buy a keyboard and audio interface to use with his Pro Tools sound-editing software.

The youngest of four children, Lyle discovered hip-hop while looking through his older brothers’ iTunes libraries. The first album he listened to seriously as a musicians was Kanye West’s Graduation, and ever since then, hip-hop has melded into his style.

Lyle’s foray into songwriting began with an assignment. Under the supervision of his band director as St. Benedict’s, he penned and recorded “Completion in Progress,” a track bringing together his personal tastes in hip-hop and rock, as well as his experience as a keyboardist in the school’s jazz band.

“For me and music, it’s never really done,” Lyle said, who now laughs at the title of this first project.

Outside of Chorduroy, Lyle works sound for the Music Guild and plays as a keyboardist for William Bolton, CSOM ’16, a neo-soul singer here at BC. Apart from playing together, the two have been close friends since freshman year, and they often advise each other on projects.

“Dan just thinks on certain wavelengths that I don’t normally think of,” Bolton said.

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Most recently, the two performed together live at the University’s Homecoming Concert, opening for Miami rapper Shwayze. Working with Chorduroy and the Music Guild, Lyle and Bolton have been part of a broader movement at BC to open up venues for independent artists.

Last semester, for example, Chorduroy tested the concept of “Mod concerts,” an idea first happened upon accidentally. The organization has scheduled a concert of around a dozen BC bands to perform in O’Neill Plaza.

“Visibility is important,” Lyle said. “Kids won’t realize it’s cool to do until it’s out in front of them.”

The event was ultimately cancelled, as it started late in the afternoon and began to rain heavily. Thinking on the spot, Lyle and several performers pushed to have a small concert in the Mods—an idea to be continued by Chorduroy and the Music Guild in the weeks to follow.

Soon after gaining popularity, however, these Mod concerts were shot down by administrators, concerned about the implications of live music in the Mods. This weekend, the first University-sanctioned Mod concert will take place, with a limited number of attendees given the opportunity to see BC rock band Lucid Soul perform in the popular housing units.

This movement toward a more active music culture is precisely what Lyle’s shift in Chorduroy is about. He’s hoping that by increasing exposure for independent artists, Chorduroy can begin to reinvent how BC students interact with artists.

“The culture at BC is geared toward pre-professional stuff—work you do need a degree for,” Lyle said. “Music is not one of those things, by any means.”

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Lyle’s EP is divided into three independent concepts: “I loved you,” “I hated you,” and “I miss you.” It’s a record about relationships, and according to Lyle, it’s not particularly flowery.

“I really like sad songs—that’s my s—t,” said Lyle. “I have a playlist on Spotify called ‘The Saddest Songs of All Time,’ and it’s my favorite one.”

Inspired by Brian Eno, the inventor of the ambient music genre, the EP finds itself musically at the crossroads of hip-hop, electric, jazz, and alternative. Lyle chose to release the project under the moniker “theisl∆nd”—a title derived from his last name, which is old English for “of the isle.”

Looking forward, Lyle plans to continue to expand Chorduroy’s membership, marking the organization a go-to for artists at every step of the recording and promotion process.

“There’s a marketing club, there’s an entrepreneur’s society,” Lyle said. “There are all of these clubs for people who want to go into these fields: Chorduroy can be that club for musicians.”

Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Photo Illustration

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John Wiley was the Editor-in-Chief of The Heights in 2015. Follow him on Twitter @johnjaywiley.