Not your typical NGHTMRE
Tyler Marenyi ’13 has amassed an international following doing what he loves: making electronic dance music.
By Adam Constantine ’10
Tyler marenyi ’13 is a musical performer, but he doesn’t use conventional instruments. Instead, the Los Angeles-based electronic dance music (EDM) sensation, who goes by NGHTMRE, relies on electronic mixers, hardware compressors and synthesizers to create original pieces. It’s a career that merges his love for EDM and business savvy acquired during his undergraduate years at Elon. The result has been a rise in popularity that has taken him to dozens of venues around the world during the past year and a half.
Despite his success, he still encounters people confused about what he actually does for a living. “When people ask me what I do, I just say I’m a DJ because that’s what makes the most sense. Sometimes I’ll say I’m a record producer because that’s what I’m really doing,” he says. “Some people know everything about EDM. But if you grew up with rock music, then it’s a new thing. I mean, it sounds like that ‘loud angry music’ parents were yelling at their kids about in the 1960s. It seems like the same thing, just 40 years in the future.” Even his parents struggled at first with his career choice. “They kept asking, ‘Can you really make money doing this?’ They wanted me to be happy as long as it’s working,” he says.
During a recent visit to campus to see his sister graduate, Marenyi took some time to talk with The Magazine of Elon in Scott Studios. For a man who commands large and very loud crowds on any given night, Marenyi has a calm air about him. He talked candidly about his music beginnings, his drive to get to this point in his career and where he sees his future. The following is a snapshot of that conversation.
You came to Elon to study finance. When did you make the switch to music?
I grew up playing instruments, so I looked into majoring in music but decided to stick to business and do music for fun. When I took a music production class my sophomore year, it didn’t feel like work at all. I loved it. That class definitely got me hooked on producing.
When did you start producing your own music?
Right before I studied abroad in Italy my junior year, I was ready to start making music. I remember making the first two songs that I released to any kind of label sitting in my room in Florence. I sent those off to a London label I had been following. They told me they wanted to sign me. That was insane. I couldn’t believe that.
What brought you to Los Angeles?
Two months before graduation, I heard about the school Icon Collective. I looked up my brother’s address in Burbank and not only was he two blocks from the school, he also needed a roommate, so I was just like, “This is too perfect; I have to at least give it a year.” It was something I really wanted to do. After I talked to my parents, I moved out to LA and started an assistant production job doing a lot of engineering for pop music. It was part-time money while I was going to school and just writing music, 10-12 hours a day. I also ended up meeting my manager through Icon. It was nice to find cool young people who were hungry managers that had been in the game for a little bit. They were ready to make moves and they definitely knew the dance music world really well.
How did you go from school to headlining shows?
Part of our strategy was to wait until I could headline shows instead of playing in a city where people had never heard of me. I graduated from Icon in March of 2014 and I did my first headline show in February 2015. It was a horrible first show. It was in San Antonio and just like 50 kids and I; it was so random and horrible. The next day, the show was with a different artist, so that was better, but it was funny to have that first show just be so bad. I feel like you gotta have at least some of those in your career. From there, I just kept playing shows and getting my name out there. I got to play at EDC and Lollapalooza, which were both really big books. I don’t know how my agent did it, but he got me in!
When did you release your first track?
I released my song “Street” in July 2015 and Skrillex played it at Ultra. He is such a tastemaker and everyone wants to know what he is playing; everything he touches turns awesome. He was one of the guys who got me into doing this stuff, so it was surreal.
Did you know he was going to do that?
Not really. I had given it to Snails and he decided to put it in his mix. It was a few hours before Skrillex’s set and Snails came up to me and asked if it was OK if he gave my track to Skrillex. Obviously, it was cool. About 10 minutes into the set, I was taking a video of another song that built into mine and it was just ridiculous.
At the beginning of the summer your SoundCloud had around 70,000 followers, which is pretty respectable. By the middle of September, you had already surpassed 300,000. What’s that been like?
It’s been awesome. I was writing music for a long time, putting a lot of songs out there that didn’t get any attention. If you are doing anything creative, it’s going to take a few years before you are happy or satisfied with the material you are creating, but it’s worth it.
Put us in your head when you decide to make a new song. Where do you get your inspiration?
It could be anything that inspires me to start a project. I can get my thoughts down but then there is that point where I need to clank stuff in my kitchen or do random experimentation to find something that is actually fresh and new that I can add to the song. I’m not just trying to make something, I’m trying to make something people have never heard before and something they can’t stop listening to. If there is anything I learned at Elon’s [Martha and Spencer Love] School of Business, it’s that innovation breeds success and good businesses are always innovative. If you aren’t trying to create something new and fresh, after a while, it’s just going to become stale.
What are some of the similarities and differences between your time at Elon and your career now?
It took me a little while to get used to traveling that much. I don’t really have a sleep schedule. Example: I went to South Korea and had a show on Friday, then flew to Burma and played a show there on Saturday. Flew out Monday and got back to the States Tuesday. I then played a show in San Diego on Thursday and a show in Vegas on Friday and then San Bernardino on Saturday. All the travel has been the craziest change and it’s the only part that feels like work. I don’t have any free weekends until February of next year. One thing that’s great about traveling, though, is you get to meet all different types of people, which is a similarity to Elon. That’s one of my favorite things about being on the road because everywhere I’ve been I now have a contact there, which is great for networking.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is the first time I’ve done a festival season that went all summer. I definitely wanna be really hard on tour and do a bunch of shows. It took me a little while to start writing music on the road but I’m getting better at that and working on my computer. I will take some time off to really focus on writing, but right now, I am focusing on doing as many collaborations as possible because people are asking me. I am gonna take advantage of the opportunity to work with these guys that I have looked up to.
Not familiar with the lingo?
We’ve got you covered.
- EDC or Electric Daisy Carnival: A music festival that combines renowned dance music talent with cutting-edge production
- EDM: Electronic dance music
- Lollapalooza: One of the largest music festivals in the country
- Skrillex: Producer and DJ who has become the face of EDM
- Snails: Montreal-based producer and DJ
- Ultra: Short for Ultra Music Festival, the country’s premier electronic music festival