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Meet Zeke Reed

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zeke Reed.

Zeke, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a multi-instrumentalist, producer, and recovering comedic improviser. When I’m not creating or performing music, I work at USC teaching a journalism class and at a nonprofit in South LA called A Place Called Home where I give music lessons. I have a passion for music, education and community-building, and a dual degree in politics and neuroscience from the University of Virginia.

A native of Topanga Canyon, California, I grew up in a musical community and I have been playing the cello since the second grade. I cut my teeth playing in orchestras, jazz bands, and alternative string ensembles throughout middle and high school at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies. During my first year in college, I learned the bass and started a band named FNTN (pronounced “Fenton”) after my first-year roommate. Now the band plays together out here in LA! I also started a solo project called Friends of which allows me to combine cello, bass, and electronic production.

Beyond music and education, I am a practitioner and strong proponent of mindfulness meditation as it helps keep me sane and put things in perspective. I also love scuba diving, snowboarding, backpacking, camping, and vintage Americana. My girlfriend and I are in the process of starting a pin, patch and jacket company so stay tuned!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My first year of college was tough. I went through some pretty serious personal challenges that year, and I still deal with anxiety and occasional PTSD. Volunteering, teaching, meditating, playing music and staying close to loved ones helps get me through, but I’m still learning to live with the past and trying to move forward. It’s never easy, but I’m constantly inspired by people around me and watching others deal with their own past trauma. Growing older has shown me that everyone has personal struggles, fears, and anxieties, but these things bring us closer to one another in the end. Trauma can break us, or we can channel it and improve ourselves and how we treat other people. I’ve definitely become a much more compassionate person through it all. Helping others helps ourselves.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
My solo project, Friends of, combines my classical training, indie rock mojo and electronic influences in compositions that include cello, bass, found sounds, samples, synths and live vocals. Featuring collaborators like Matt Rucker and Madeleine Chalk, Friends of is an inclusive project inspired by artists like Odesza, Toro y Moi, Glass Animals, James Supercave, The Growlers, Kacy Musgraves, Damon Albarn, Danger Mouse, slenderbodies, Tame Impala, Sudan Archives and Kali Uchis. I don’t like to be tied down by a single genre designation because no one, certainly not myself, listens to only one genre. Genres are an artificial industry construct for the most part. Why should artists create music that fits into a single box? That’s not how art works. I think a lot of artists are starting to buck the single-genre mold, but I try to carve out a unique niche for myself by combining live strings with classical and rock influences, and electronic production that spans future bass, house, lo-fi, bedroom pop, dub, indie-dance, hip-hop and more.

My three songs that are currently out on all streaming platforms, “Kalamazoo,” “Haunted,” and “Coming Over” showcase very different elements of my sound. “Kalamazoo” primarily relies on found sounds from a trip to visit my grandma in Michigan, while “Haunted” and “Coming Over” are more electronic.  “Kalamazoo” is a lo-fi pastiche, combining live instruments like cello, my grandma’s old piano and my uncle’s wind chimes with rain recordings and firecrackers. “Haunted” is a high-energy banger with wobble synth and dance-floor keys underneath soaring sax lines and cello melodies. “Coming Over” remixes a pop-punk, late-night, wistful song by my friends Quitting Whitney, ups the BPM, and adds driving bass, skittering African percussion, upbeat synth riffs, vocal chops, and Sci-Fi sound FX to make it dance-floor ready. Thematically, all these songs are melancholic, introspective and wistful, trying to make sense of the past while yearning for an unrealized future. I suppose that mood captures where I’m at in life right now. There are lots of unresolved emotions and unanswered questions swirling around my head. 

If you want to check out my music, give me a follow at Friends of on your streaming platform of choice and/or check out my website at friendsofbeats.com for more info! I have a lot more tunes in the pipeline, and I’m planning on releasing an album early next year.

With recordings coming along, I just played my debut show at The Study on 10/24. Now that it’s over, I plan to start hosting an intimate concert series at my home studio in Topanga Canyon. The goal is to bring more music to the West Side and help build out the scene. One of the best parts of playing music is connecting with fellow musicians, and I think I have a great space to help make that happen!

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memories from childhood are of being outdoors. I grew up camping every summer on Catalina Island, both with my family in Two Harbors and as part of a sleep-away camp called CIMI. A given day might involve scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, cliff jumping, line fishing, spearfishing, mountain biking, hiking, Walkie-Talkie tomfoolery, campfire cooking, campfire stories, S’mores, or sneaking out with other campers to look at the stars. I still try to go camping as often as possible. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Joshua Tree, but I’ve visited parks all over the West as a source of enduring nourishment. Being in nature connects me with my inner child, so I want to find more ways to create, record and perform music outdoors. I started down that path with “Kalamazoo,” but I want to keep exploring the relation between two of my favorite things in life: music and nature.

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Image Credit:

Brenna McDugald

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