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Organically Grown: The Stuyvesants

The musical duo, The Stuyvesants, says the neighborhood is their inspiration

Darien Victor Birks collects records. Allen Cole produces music. Their friendship, one that stems back for years, revolves around eclectic experimentation with sound. Together, they call themselves The Stuyvesants

“I’m a record geek,” Birks said, who lost count on how many records he owns after he reached 1,000.

The two met at a performing arts school in Maryland, where they both attended middle school together, and then parted ways. It was by coincidence that years later, they both moved to Bed-Stuy. They reconnected through a mutual friend and discovered a shared interest in music and design.

“[Birks] would put on a record, and we would hear the same exact thing,” Cole said. “He was like, you should make a beat with that. And I was thinking the same thing. So after a couple of times, we decided to turn this into a project.”

The Stuyvesants released their first project in June 2010 -- an album inspired by 90s hip hop, soul music and funk. The sounds are then recasted to make it relevant to the current generation, infusing drums and effects. Cole and Birks, both 27 years old, began their work together in the summer of 2009.

“I would say this is one of the most organic processes ever,” Birks said. “That’s what we appreciated about it. There was no client asking us to do a specific thing. It was strictly, this is an amazing sound, let’s do something with it.”

The two worked on the project every week for a year, meeting twice a week, but they both said it was a seven-days-a-week process.

The name The Stuyvesants is a thank you to the community, a place the duo believes has pushed their creativity to a new level.

“A lot of people see the name and think we were born and raised here,” Birks said. “The idea is that we’ve been inspired a bit more since we’ve moved here, and that is why we wanted to attribute the project to that name.”

Cole said they also wanted it to have the sound reminiscent of an old band name from the 60s or 70s, such as The Temptations.

“We wanted to pay homage because that is where we are sourcing most of our music,” Cole said.

Out of their group of friends, Cole and Birks are known as the “old dudes” for their love of records and fashion sense. They describe themselves as the “behind-the-scene” type of guys.

“You’re not really going to find us at the center of the party,” Cole said. “We’re a lot more low-key.”

Cole and Birks said their main goal is to introduce a new generation to rarer music artists.

“That is part of the project, to use source material that really hasn’t been run down by every other artist in the world,” Birks said.

Regardless of the rarer sounds, the community responded better than Cole or Birks had imagined.

“We just love music, and we had to do something about it.” Birks said. “We don’t prefer to be celebrities. If it happens by chance we won’t turn it down. Our goal is to fill a void in music.”

Since the record's release, word about The Stuyvesants has gone viral. Cole said there is no way they could have predicted the amount of blog posts, emails and word of mouth that has happened. Recently, they received an email from a fan from Amsterdam who found out about their music and can’t stop listening to the record.

“No fluff. Nothing commercial about it,” Birks said. “Just a labor of love.”

Bed-Stuy is such an inspiration to Cole and Birks because it’s unpredictable.

“[Bed-Stuy] changes drastically from day to day, which gives the neighborhood character,” Birks said. “It’s like something out of a movie. I took a liking to it the second I moved here.”

“It’s like family around here,” Cole said.

The Stuyvesants are now working on their second album. For more information about them, visit their website.

Annie Reuter February 17, 2011 at 03:10 AM
Love the story behind the Stuyvesants! So glad there are people out there who are trying to introduce a new generation to classic artists. I'm definitely interested in hearing their next album!

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