fter graduation, Stavros Piperis, BC ’19 was sure of one thing—he had a collection of music memorializing his college years, and he wanted to turn those into professional recordings. Even if the songs weren’t heard by anyone but him, he wanted to make sure he heard them in their best possible form. For most, a professional recording is a lofty goal—but some, like Piperis, have the determination to see it through.
Piperis was a prolific songwriter and performer during his time at BC. Throughout his college years, he wrote songs and played plenty of gigs, even winning BC’s Sing It to the Heights competition in 2018. During the 2018 Battle of the Bands and Singer Songwriter, he even played “I Remember,” a soft, John Mayer-esque song that appears on the album. After graduating last year, though, his days have been busy recording a collection of the songs he has written over the past couple years.
“Second semester senior year, I knew it was time to bring some of these songs to life,” Piperis said. “I had these songs and I was just dying to hear them with the full-studio treatment.”
Piperis headed back home to Omaha, Neb., with some big goals in mind—much bigger and riskier than the dreams of most 22-year-olds upon graduation. He spoke with a few friends, and they brought up a local studio where he could record an album. Interestingly enough, that studio was where he learned about a better opportunity at ARC Studios—a place known for producing top-flight records.
“I heard they drive down their rates for new artists, and I had no studio experience,” Piperis said. “I shot the producer a Facebook message, and once I pulled together enough money to pull it off, it came to life.”
Piperis credits a lot of the album’s smooth, clean sound to his producer at ARC—a man named Benjamin Brodin. He has been recording professionally for over a decade, and is the house engineer for ARC Studios. Brodin has appeared on many albums, including those by Jason Mraz and First Aid Kit. He walked Piperis through the entire recording process, which they began in late June. Brodin assisted with a little bit of everything, even helping Piperis out with the instrumentals throughout the album.
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hile Piperis did the vocals, guitar, and some piano, Brodin was able to fill in on all the other instruments used during the recording period, including percussion. Since all the songs were either written on the piano or guitar, Piperis and Brodin laid these two instruments down as a foundation.
“For most of the songs, I had a vision of what I wanted them to sound like,” Piperis said. “But I didn’t actually know until we got in there and started trying things out.”
They started out recording the piano or guitar, then moved to vocals. Once they had that done, the duo was able to dive in to additional aspects like percussion. And since Piperis has never been a drummer, he had to place a lot of trust in Brodin.
“Drums and percussion were the trickiest … We had rhythm guitar or piano, but drums are such an influence on the character of the song,” Piperis said. “Drums are really the heartbeat of the piece.”
While some songs had a clear path for percussion, others were difficult to determine. For those songs that they didn’t necessarily know how to add drums, Brodin recorded five or six different drum beats so that when they arrived at the mixing stage of the recording process, they had options.
Thankfully, Brodin understood Piperis’ visions pretty well.
“He had good intuition, he caught on to what I thought felt right for that song,” Piperis said.
The album itself, which currently has the working title Chances, was not originally meant to be one collection. When Piperis started writing songs, he couldn’t have possibly known he would one day be putting them into a single album, let alone professionally recording them. Although the album’s songs span from his sophomore year of college to this past June, he says there are definitely themes that run throughout.
“I didn’t write them for the same record but they work together as a single record,” Piperis said. “These 10 match really well.”
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iperis was detail-oriented enough to put a lot of thought into what songs flowed best together. The track order is fully intentional, and he had to make hard decisions regarding what songs fit with the overall feel of the record.
“There were songs I had written that didn’t quite match what this album is about thematically, even though they were good enough to record and release” he said. “There were just differences in intensity, tempo, outlook, and lyrics.”
The musical aspects of creating the album are nearly done, but Piperis is currently in the midst of choosing album artwork. He cites this as one of the most surprising and difficult parts of the entire process, along with choosing a name. Piperis is very aware of the importance of visuals—since they need to fit with the music and with each other. Cohesion is key.
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he working title, Chances, was on his list for a while. He kept going back and forth between his options, but one day his sister called out of the blue and told him she thought he should go with Chances. He took it as a positive sign—“and I think it sums the album up well,” he said.
Although he’s toyed with a couple different ideas for album visuals, he has decided on photography, rather than digital artwork or something more abstract, to provide the aesthetic of Chances.
“It wouldn’t make sense for me to have something digital as the cover because the entire album is all real instruments,” Piperis said. “Photography meets the aesthetic of the recording better.”
He described large downtown buildings with just one or two lights on as “captivating”—and the image is currently leading his inspiration for cover photography. Piperis says it reminds him of the setting where he wrote most of the album.
“When people hear the album, that’s going to make sense,” Piperis said.
It is hard for any artist to single out favorite songs that they have recorded, and Piperis is no different. But he does have a particular affinity for the album’s opening track, called “Time and Time Again.” He says it has some of his best lyrics and melodies, but the song also surprised Piperis—it had the cleanest drumming and production out of the entire album.
“Sometimes when I write a song, I have to go back to it a couple times,” he said. “I was really happy with this one from the first few lines, but somehow it also changed the most from when I originally wrote it.”
The song was difficult for Piperis to record. It stretched his vocal abilities, and he admitted that he tends to stay in his comfort zone when it comes to singing. On top of that, the guitar lick that runs through the entire song was recorded live—and it was both hard to master and exhausting to complete.
“By the time I would get to the second chorus, my hands were basically giving out,” Piperis said. “Trying to get a clean run through took a lot of effort, and to keep it rhythmically tight took a lot of coordination.”
“New Orleans” is also a clear standout on the album, and it is another of his favorites. The song is smooth yet musically adventurous, especially in terms of chord progressions and harmonies, he said. One of the hardest parts was getting the vocals right—this song really pushed the boundaries for how high his voice could go. On top of it all, the song’s instruments are piano- and organ-heavy, which he said really “serves it well.”
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ecording Chances was a huge step for Piperis—an idea he had thought of for a long time but finally took the dive after graduating. As of right now, he’s taking baby steps. He plans to play some shows back home, but just like any new graduate, he’s not completely sure what comes next.
“I don’t know how much space this will take up in my life,” Piperis said. “I just wanted to do this properly and give the songs what they demanded.”
Piperis followed through with the project both because he was confident the world needed to hear his songs, but also because he needed to hear them recorded in their best format possible. There are some things in life that you do for yourself and hope that it can contribute something positive to the world in the process, he said.
“Since I first heard the mix, I thought, ‘Even if I was the only person who heard this, it would have still been worth making,’” he said. “The songs needed to be brought to this level for my own listening.”
Making the album wasn’t easy—it was time-consuming and expensive (“It drained my wallet, but it’s fine,” he joked). It is set to be released within the coming weeks in mid-October, although he still hasn’t pinned an exact date down. Piperis will have his hands on the final copy the last week of September—some of the album is still being mastered. But even with all the time and stress, he is undoubtedly proud of his work. The album might soar through the charts and become a sensation, or it might not. He is happy with it either way.
“Hearing these songs in their final stages has been so rewarding for me,” Piperis said. “Anything that comes on top of that is just a nice bonus.”
Featured Images by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Senior Staff