Outside the classroom, the University of Illinois exposes its students to a unique and growing culture for electronic music. Champaign-Urbana provides a creative network, which has allowed several music producers to work together and inspire one another to express themselves and continually improve their art.

For our brand new Alumni Artist Series, we decided to check in with several notable U of I graduates who are continuing to follow their passion for music. This week, we would like to introduce the indie/dance enthusiast Bart Urbanek, who’s currently working on his two projects, Bear Tooth and The Grizzly Type. Bart graduated from U of I in 2014 with a degree in political science, and he’s currently living in Chicago.

UPC: What got you into music production?

Bart: I remember what got me into music production like it was yesterday. I received a blue Fender Squier for my 3rd grade birthday (still have it actually) and I wrote a song for my 5th grade graduation. The song was titled ‘Franklin Rocks’ (the name of my school) and some of my closest friends got on the drums, mic, bass and tambourine and we rocked that auditorium together!

UPC: Name a few artists that have influenced the music you produce.

Bart: This one is all over the place because some artists will influence me strictly technique and structure wise, while others will hit me on a deep emotional level.

UPC: So what artists influence the structure of your music?

Bart: Claude VonStroke, Dirtybird artists, The War On Drugs, 80’s Rock.

UPC: And how about on an emotional level? What artists inspire the vibes and moods of your tracks?

Bart: Youth Lagoon, Bright Eyes, Broken Social Scene, and Explosions In The Sky.

UPC: Name your favorite artist, album, or song from before the year 2000.

Bart: Cat Stevens – The Wind [1971] – This song in my opinion is a masterpiece; it’s short, smooth, and leaves you wanting. Anyone will tell you, though, that it’s not about the song but what the song means to you. I first heard this song at 14 and it helped me through a tough time in my life, and at the same time humbled me as a musician.

UPC: Looking back, what was one of your favorite moments at U of I?:

Bart: If I had to pick one it would be the first brotherhood-only party my SAE ‘14 class had after being initiated. I will always remember brotherhood nights over any others because you will never be able to party and go out with 70+ of your closest friends again. I loved that unique time in my life.

UPC: Describe the DJ/music culture on campus at U of I. How do you feel it helped you get to where you are now?

Bart: I am very thankful about how open the music culture was at the U of I campus. Not only could you experiment and play crazy genres you probably couldn’t get away with in a Chicago club, but you could approach getting gigs with a “go and get it” attitude. It’s too small to have many of the niche music markets that I really enjoy but it taught me how to cater to crowds properly and, to be completely honest, how to play a perfect set while blacked out.

UPC: How would you describe your musical style?

Bart: In the club setting my musical style is booty shaking house with dancey bass pops. I basically just want everyone to get lost in the music and dance, I don’t want to see you fist pumping. My other project (The Grizzly Type) is danceable emotion-filled Indie music.

UPC: Are you currently working with any collectives?

Bart: Bear Tooth has been involved in a collective called “Proper Antics” for a while now, which started in Champaign and has since moved onto Chicago.

UPC: What about any music movements you’re involved in?

Bart: My Indie project has been in talks with a great Chicago team called “Future Factory,” run by local artists Autograf, and the support for my recent cover releases has been great while I write the debut album!

UPC: We’ve noticed that you’re also becoming quite the culinary artist. How would you describe your relationship between cooking and music?

Bart: Thank you! I think the artistry of creating a unique meal shares many similarities with producing music but I like it because of the differences. As music production becomes more like a job I find it important to have another artistic hobby that lets you turn off that part of your brain and focus on others like taste and visual aesthetics. Plus, I enjoy delicious food and since I sink all my money into music I’ve had to learn how to cook luxuriously to enjoy luxurious food.

UPC: What musical projects are you currently working on?

Bart: Under Bear Tooth I have: 2 originals set for label shopping, a remix, and three collaborations. 

UPC: And after that?

Bart: Under The Grizzly Type [Indie] I have: A cover of The Naked and Famous’ “Punching In A Dream” coming out soon and I am writing/working on the debut album every day.

UPC: What upcoming shows are you excited about?

Bart: With two projects underway I don’t have time to play many shows so it’s been mostly random club gigs in Chicago as Bear Tooth and talks with a festival in upstate New York for The Grizzly Type in September.

UPC: Any words of inspiration and/or advice for aspiring music makers out there?

Bart: If I could post a video here it would be of Shia LaBeouf yelling “Just do it.” It takes time and many, many terrible songs before you start making good ones. Finish songs and get feedback on them from other musicians; I don’t mind listening to a person’s new tune and either giving them praise or ripping it apart. I have gotten my songs ripped apart too many times to count and probably have to make 10 new versions of a song after I thought it was already finished. Be respectful, open-minded, grind daily, and never stop learning.

UPC: What is something you know now that you wish you had known when you first started producing?

Bart: Trust your instincts as an artist and your own unique sound will find you. There is nothing wrong with emulating your favorite artists work because at the end of the day it’s all a learning experience. I wasted so much time looking for my own signature sound instead of just making music and learning from each song I made. Every song you create is a window into the artist you want to become, be it big or small.

Be sure to check out Bart’s most recent work below and keep your eyes peeled for our next installment in the Alumni Artist Series.