Student Spotlight: Stavros Hughes ’23 Releases ‘Entropia’ Album
Hughes’ raw, upbeat style explores his past while looking to the future.
Source: Courtesy of Stavros Hughes
Source: Courtesy of Stavros Hughes
After almost a year of experimentation, Stavros Hughes ’23 recently released a full-length debut album titled ‘Entropia’, a portmanteau of entropy and utopia. His album tackles the chaos of adolescence as well as the themes of mental health and anti-establishment protest.
“I wouldn’t say I have any formal musical training,” Hughes said. “I played the violin from CE2, since my mother and my sister were cellists, but with hindsight, I should have chosen the trumpet. I was in my high school orchestra but never liked it very much, I stayed because it would be fine in college [application].”
For Hughes, being a musician seemed like a choice between being a big commercial pop band or being a classically trained musician. It wasn’t until Hughes started music outside the classroom that it became something of his own.
“It was The Strokes and Vampire Weekend that got me back into playing guitar,” Hughes said. “I started learning some of their songs on the guitar and playing them for bribes. One of the first songs I learned that really stuck with me was “These Days” by Nico, with a really cool fingerstyle guitar riff. »
After learning the guitar on his own, Hughes began experimenting by writing his own riffs, one of which would become the opening sound of “Blue Whale” on Entropy. He started composing basic progressions and riffs using the Garageband app with his iPhone as a mic and an unamplified electric guitar.
“Looking back, those demos weren’t good,” Hughes said. “The ideas were good, but the execution was sloppy. I didn’t know much about mixing, so it was just layered parts.
During the winter of 2020, Hughes briefly formed a band with a few other members of the Class of 2023 in his dorm, and they were jamming in the Hop’s rehearsal rooms. However, once school was moved away, the band went on an indefinite hiatus.
“I gave up on the collaboration because it wasn’t working in the age of COVID,” Hughes said. “So I started practicing on my own and bought some drums. I had a really cheap CASIO synth and no speaker, but I invested in a $50 mic. At that I didn’t know anything about music EQ at the time, I had shitty headphones with no bass, so my first songs had no kick drum or bass.
Despite his lack of technical knowledge, Hughes decided to release his music on major streaming platforms using Distrokid, a low-cost independent music distributor, and attracted a small audience.
One of Stavros’ first fans was Tulio Huggins ’23, who reached out to him in the freshman year of Spring to compliment him on his debut single “The Mariner.” The two did not meet in person until the second winter.
“I put his first song ‘The Mariner’ on my playlist to lay on the floor,” Huggins said. “It was like a comforting song, it’s the kind of song that puts you at peace for self-reflection.”
Hughes spent much of the fall of 2020 writing songs for his album, but it took longer to mix and record before he was satisfied with the finished product. He finished recording “Blue Whale” in his dorm during his second summer. Hughes said he didn’t have a strict writing process, but would always start with the instrumental and let it guide the lyrics.
Hughes says “Entropia” was largely inspired by early records from bands like the Strokes, MGMT, Arctic Monkeys and others. He developed his mixing style through imitation rather than formal education.
“Amazingly, I wasn’t thinking about ‘A-Punk’ when I was writing ‘Sideways,'” Hughes said, noting that listeners compared his song to Vampire Weekend’s.
Hughes’ music raises the question of whether mixing is an artistic or a technical craft. A balanced mix can dramatically improve a track’s clarity and emotional impact – Hughes compares it to the unsung glue in music. But the number one rule of mixing is to “make it sound good,” Hughes said, which no doubt depends on the viewer’s ears.
Hughes notes that he instinctively blended his vocals under the instrumentals in many of his earlier pieces – perhaps due to artistic style or a lack of self-confidence – but he came to recognize the importance in a louder and clearer voice.
“I was worried that all the songs on ‘Entropia’ would sound too different,” says Hughes. “But once the album came out and I listened to it all again, it finally made sense.”
Hughes’ music explores a wide variety of themes, from satirical hymns to imaginary worship life. The content of certain songs and the cover of the album testify to Hughes’ introspection on his past.
“Some songs have always been more personal to me, like ‘Marigolds’ which is about my experience with OCD and anxiety,” Hughes said. “I chose a photo of me as a child receiving the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy for my birthday for the album cover to emphasize this meaning. I cut out my eyes to make it look more punk and edgier, even if there was no particular meaning to it.
Hughes hopes to continue writing music and strives to make his next album more polished, thematic and continuous. He doesn’t plan on having formal vocal training because his untrained singing is part of his raw style, but he hopes to learn not to force his voice. He also hopes to collaborate with Robin Martinez ’23 to perform covers and original songs live.
“We try to put together a band for some gigs and play covers and original songs,” Martinez said. “I had a lot of fun playing this summer, and I’m excited to play with Stavros and would love to see what he looks like on stage.”
Huggins is also excited to see Hughes bring his music to a wider audience. He personally hopes Hughes will start using TikTok as a tool to connect with more people.
“I’ve been toying with a bunch of ideas for my next project,” Hughes said. “I’ve been considering going in a more mature, serious and moody direction, as well as considering a bright and danceable direction since I’ve been listening to ABBA and Interpol. I haven’t made my decision yet but I’ll take my time.