Arts, Music, On Campus, Arts Features

Plexapalooza Opener SVRGE Speaks on DJ Process

Some kids want to take over their parent’s business. Others want to follow in their footsteps. Career paths, talents, aspirations—very often, they run in the blood. Sergio Farina, CSOM ’20, experiences this in an unexpected way. His father, a Boston College alum, was a DJ during his college years and frequently performed sets at BC events. Now, Farina is able to follow his father’s example, but on a much larger scale: On Saturday, he opened for Cheat Codes at Plexapalooza in front of his biggest audience yet.

Farina started mixing when he was just 10 years old, when he was visiting California with his brothers. It was when Swedish House Mafia had just appeared on the electronic dance music (EDM) scene, and Farina was instantly intrigued. Santa pulled through big time that Christmas when he was gifted a DJ board—and the rest is history. He began researching and started mixing. Only a few short months later, Farina had already begun producing.

Farina admits that one of the main reasons he became a DJ was because he had a crush on a girl. She asked him once to make her a mixtape and he accepted, of course. The only thing standing in his way was learning how one would go about making one. To his surprise, she ended up liking it.

Around the same time, Farina started a nonprofit with his cousins to help an impoverished school in the Dominican Republic. Thinking he had it figured out (as 16 year olds frequently do), he confidently told the principal of the school that he and his brother could financially assist the school with its needs. He was just in high school, but he went ahead and met with the contractor, who told him he would need $15,000. Suddenly struck by the enormity of that sum in the face of his meager teenage savings, he wondered how he would come up with it all. His grandmother asked him goodnaturedly as to whether this “DJ thing” he did would help. Farina decided to give it a shot. He had to take his job as a DJ seriously to make that much money, and he had to do it fast. He began booking gigs around Tampa, and all his proceeds went straight to the school in the Dominican Republic.

Farina’s music is a blend of everything, from disco to organic (using regular instruments) to what he calls “tropical house.” His first songs were very synthetic and electronic, but he has since branched out and incorporated hip-hop, mumba, and Latin music samples into his songs.

“The coolest thing about producing is taking an idea you have in your head and making it new,” he said.

That is what Farina loves about being a DJ—he can take a song that the crowd knows well and turn it into something completely new. One thing he has learned in his years as a DJ is how to read the crowd. One of Farina’s stylistic traits is the rate at which he transitions from one song to another. Most DJs mix around 15 songs per hour, but Farina averages at about 40 to 45, so the crowd doesn’t get bored. Farina explained the reason behind this practice.

“I mix a lot of songs in order to cover a lot of genres,” he said. “They only give me 40 minutes, so I want to make the most of it.”

Another way to keep the audience interested is to have ups and downs during the set. If you play only slower songs, or “downs,” the audience gets bored. If you play only fast bangers, or “ups,” the audience will tire too quickly. Farina likes to mix different genres and find something that everyone knows, and then mix it with something that they probably don’t. He says that seeing people pull Shazam up on their phones is almost as rewarding as seeing them singing along and dancing.

“I get to see the entire crowd, from a single angle,” he said. “It’s crazy to see them dancing and singing as an entire mass … I get to control the fun.”

Sometimes, if the crowd gets bored, Farina is forced to play some sing-alongs that he doesn’t love (although he tries to avoid playing The Chainsmokers at all costs). When asked what his guilty pleasure song is, he instantly pulled up “Crazy In Love” by Beyoncé. Farina said that some songs never fail as crowd-pleasers, and anything by Beyoncé always works. And the most unexpected song the crowd always loves? “Fergalicious” always does the trick.

Playing these songs help him to reach his favorite part about being a DJ: making sure everyone has a good time.

For inspiration, Farina looks to Swedish House Mafia (citing its high production value), early Daft Punk, Flume, and Galantis. He really pays attention to how a song is made and often finds himself in the depths of SoundCloud searching for good music.

Farina is very adept at mixing and producing his own music. He uses a software called Ableton that allows him to layer different sounds to create a coherent song. He also uses a site called Splice, which is a database from which producers can take songs and samples. In any given song, Farina weaves together multiple bases and instruments and creates layers of percussion and guitar. These layers give his music a “full sound.” While complicated, it is evident Farina truly loves mixing and making music: He has a repertoire of over 30 demos that are either unfinished or unposted.

SoundCloud is where listeners can find Farina’s music, listed under his stage name, SVRGE. His music is also on Apple Music. As a relatively new producer who does not do any of his own singing, Farina uses voice samples over beats he makes himself. With this, there is often the potential for copyright infringement, or nebulous legalities, so Farina typically sticks to remix competitions. This way, he can avoid violating guidelines on streaming sites while also getting more exposure for his work and himself. Some songs that he has entered into competitions have become quite popular by his own standards. Among his most-listened to tracks are ones featuring famous sing-alongs (one of his most popular uses Salt-N-Pepa’s 1990 hit “Let’s Talk About Sex”) that are not subject to any potential legal issues.

Farina is especially thankful to his parents for allowing him to pursue his musical passions: first, for buying him the DJ board for Christmas, and then for allowing him to go to Ultra Music Festival in Miami (not once, but twice) when he was just 12 years old.

Farina looks back almost incredulously at his parents’ decision to allow him to go, especially now that the music festival has instituted an 18 or older rule.

“It takes a lot of trust,” Farina said.

But these experiences at Ultra Music Festival in successive years were formative for the young Farina. One year, he got to see his favorite DJ group, Swedish House Mafia, perform at Ultra. He looks back on that time very fondly, claiming that it was one of the best days of his life.

At BC, Farina doesn’t DJ quite as much as he did in high school. He laughs because his friends here refer to him as “DJ Svrge,” although “DJ” was never part of his stage name.

“The biggest thing here at BC is people calling me DJ Svrge, thinking that me opening for Plex[apalooza] was a joke, and then them realizing, ‘No, seriously—he’s actually DJing,’” he said.

Farina enjoys his work as a DJ and is rather good at it, but he doesn’t anticipate pursuing it in his future. Right now, he is just going with the flow. He’s not expecting a career in the EDM industry, but will be staying aware of the possibilities.

“If it takes off, it takes off,” Farina said. “Say [Cheat Codes] says, ‘Hey, keep in touch,’ then that might become a consideration.”

As for now, Farina is busy preparing for Plexapalooza. It’s possibly his big break, his launching point, and something he’s been looking forward to for months. Not too long ago, during Farina’s freshman year at BC, the DJ was not so successful or anticipatory. He couldn’t find a venue, but still loved to produce. He submitted a mixtape to the Campus Activities Board (CAB) in hopes of opening up Plexapalooza the following year. He nearly forgot about it, after months passed with no response. Finally, he got a call asking if he was still interested in performing at Plexapalooza. Farina was ecstatic: He would be able to play for all his friends and classmates at BC, just as his dad had done years and years before.

Worst case scenario, Plexapalooza is his peak (his biggest crowd thus far has been just 800 people). Best (and most likely) case scenario, it’s his breakthrough as an artist. Either way, he is getting the chance of a lifetime, and he undoubtedly made the most of it.

Farina is no stranger to making the best of situations. The artist shared the story of his most fun gig.

“Definitely an eighth-grade graduation party,” Farina said. “I was probably a sophomore in high school—we all had a blast.”

If you missed Svrge at Plexapalooza this year, he’s going to upload the whole set to his SoundCloud. And if you want to see Svrge performing anytime soon, you might be in luck. He’s looking around for a venue, but it’s hard to book gigs at clubs when you’re only a sophomore—a testament to all Farina has accomplished at a young age. If all else fails, his friends are living at 62 Kirkwood Rd. next year. Maybe a residency at Club Kirk is in his future.

Correction: This article initially stated that the school that Farina raised money to help was in Puerto Rico. In fact, the school was located in the Dominican Republic. 

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff

February 4, 2018

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