Local Musicians Prospering Through the Pandemic

By: Carmen Cordova-Castro

Music has been used as a distraction from what is happening in reality. We all use music in different ways, especially during this pandemic as it has been used as a distraction from what is happening in reality. We all have our own taste in music. While mainstream music is popular, there are people who are seeking to hear something different and new. Luckily, Washington D.C. musicians are spicing it up by creating a new sound of music during the pandemic.

Photo permission from Amurrio’s Instagram

Andrew Amurrio is a local Washington D.C. latino musician who also creates music alongside Steve Dreez, a local musician from Springfield,Virginia, and Luis Lizama, known as Left Fingers, a musician and marketer. All three artists have been working throughout the whole pandemic 24/7 and have been on a journey to create music that is unique and captures their vision without any limits.  

For Amurrio, music has always been important in his life. He first picked up the guitar at eight years old and hasn’t put it down since then. “My life is music,” said Amurrio. When Amurrio was 18, he went to New York to complete a program for software engineering for music. In 2014, he constructed his first in-home studio and it continues to be in use. Music has always been his motivation to continue creating new sounds.“ I make life. I was born with it. Sauce,” said Amurrio. Music has also been a way to meet new people and gain the most important people who continue to be in his life today. “I wouldn’t know Steve if I didn’t know music.” 

Photo permission from Steve’s Instagram

Dreez is another local musician, originally from Springfield, Virginia. He spends most of his time in the studio with Amurrio and Lizama, located in Washington D.C. Dreez began his music career at the age of ten when he  picked up the guitar.  “My dad played guitar and he kind of put me onto playing guitar,” said Dreez. His unique creation of music known today did not begin right away until he met Lizama. “I didn’t make beats until I met Lu which was around 15 or 16, and Lu was already making beats and rapping. Before that I was only playing guitar.”   

Lizama, a local musician, began his music career in high school. “I got into music by just being a fan of it by listening to it everyday you know,” said Lizama. “The first song I ever recorded was in high school senior year,” said Lizama. While in high school, he recalled everyone performing cypher, rapping over a music beat. “I remember thinking I could rap better than them, what the hell.” He then recorded his first song, “Coolin” with a Guitar Hero microphone”. Besides creating music, Lizama is also a marketer for some musicians by promoting their music on social media and word of mouth. Some of this promotion is done “Through Instagram mostly, but we’re starting Tik Tok and a lot of word or mouth, but mainly through Instagram,” said Lizama. He started a new clothing line called Grandeur. He owned a clothing line called Drift, but has recently rebranded. This was due to licensing issues with Formula 1, the race car company, who owned the title ‘Drift’ and “If we were to make it official, we’d be sued like shit,” said Lizama. 

Before rebranding, “Drift really started when I met Tracy and Andrew,” he said. Tracy, also known as NuLawz, is another mutual friend of all three musicians, who also produces music. The idea took off. “Me and Streve had the idea and it grew from there. I started making t-shirts, and anything I drew, I’d just put it on the t-shirt,” said Lizama. Since there was no physical store for ‘Drift,’ Lizama rented small locations for pop-up shops in different areas in Washington D.C. 

Photo permission from Lizama’s Instagram

Although each musician has an incredible background, their history together as to how they crossed paths go back to before the pandemic. In 2012, Dreez and Lizama met while working together at PacSun, a retail store in Tysons Corner. They hit it off after sharing their love for music. “We started hanging out and making music and meeting other rappers in the area,” said Lizama. Later, Lizama and Amurrio met through a mutual friend named Micah who asked Lizama to DJ a show at the Black Cat in Washington D.C. where Amurrio was performing. 

Dreez and Lizama spend most of their time at Amurrio’s in-home studio creating music from home everyday. The room is soundproof and has become the center of all threeartists’ music productions. The software used to create sounds is called Ableton DAW software (Digital, audio, workstation). “It’s what you would see in a studio, but in computer format. Everything is done on Ableton,” said Dreez. Ableton can be bought online and is available for MacOS and Windows. With always working in the studio every single day, Amurrio, Dreez, and Lizama have all worked hard to help finance their equipment and music productions. 

Revenue from Spotify and Apple music have also helped financially. The number of streams, the amount of time a person listens to their music, affects how much money they make. Along with streams, profits made from their brand, Grandeur, have been helpful financially. All three musicians also work part-time jobs to help support their music during. It’s incredible how these musicians make extra time to work and manage their time to commit to music everyday. 

As they continue to work hard, one might question how these musicians come up with their next songs. Inspirations can come from many forms to create any style of music. These musicians’ creativity for their unique sounds come from their own personal experiences. Music creativity comes from life. “Literally, if anything happens to me like something crazy we’re gonna make a song about it,” said Lizama.  Music inspiration also comes from other music and leads them to create something greater. “I just like playing with different sounds,” said Dreez.  

When the pandemic struck, it did not put a stop to creating music. “I wouldn’t say it affected the music making side of things as much,” said Dreez. Since they work from home, the musicians had an advantage of pursuing their music. Amurrio said,  “We do this everyday with or without the pandemic.” With everything happening around the world, everyone learned to adjust to new schedules or lifestyles. Lizama said, “As life goes on you learn how to move with the new stuff that goes on.”

During the beginning of lockdown, there were some ups and downs when it came to producing music videos, as well as performing concerts and pop-up shops at certain locations to promote the clothing line. “Concerts are gone, we couldn’t do pop outs like most of our stuff came out from that you know,” said Lizama. When making music videos, it has been a bit difficult to film videos due to the clubs shutting down. “You can’t shoot inside anymore, it’s hard,” said Dreez. Instead, the musicians needed to book a private space using a service called Peerspace

On the upside, “we went out and made a lot of videos when it was empty because usually we have problems with people getting in the way,” said Dreez.  As for their plans before the pandemic, most of their concerts and music videos they had planned to record in other areas besides recording in Washington, D.C. had to be pushed back. “We were going to travel,” said Amurrio. Travel was essential to these musicians as they recorded and filmed their music in other states and countries. Before and during the panic, their creativity continued to be shown through their incredible music videos.

All three musicians help each other produce and film their videos. Before the pandemic, Amurrio’s music video for ‘Veneno,’ from his EP,  Icy Summer Vol. 2, was filmed in Cochabamba, Bolivia, his homeland. Amurrio captures Bolivia’s beautiful scenery and culture through his music video. During lockdown, Amurrio released a music video for his song called ‘2 am’ while actually filming late night to capture his exact vision of the title. No one was outside during the filming and was covid safe. Recently, Amurrio has released a new music video called, ‘El Pistolero,’ and plans to release new music soon. 

Dreez’s music video for ‘IDK’ was filmed during the pandemic in Washington D.C. It captures the empty locations and roads during the pandemic by making it aesthetically pleasing and heartwarming. Dreez has also filmed in New York for a song called ‘Downtown’ during the pandemic using a rented space. It depicts the lively city and his personal touch of esthetics such as his famous bouquet of flowers. 

Grandeur products. Photo permission from Lizama’s Instagram.

Lizama has yet to film a music video for his own music, but it could be possible in the near future. His clothing line, Grandeur, is now available and is currently working alongside Amurrio and Dreez. Some of his products from Grandeur include t-shirts, hats, bags, water bottles etc. His latest album is called ‘Drift Digital. Fm,’ and is out on all streaming platforms. Some of his tracks in this album also include both Amurrio and Dreez such as ‘Start it up’ and ‘Mamba.’ Recently, all the musicians did a show at the DC9 Club and Lizama was the DJ at the event. Lizama had mentioned potential shows in the upcoming future with both Amurrio and Dreez. 

Music can be categorized into different genres, but for all three musicians there ano limits. Amurrio has released songs such as “Seem to Be” and “Mangu,” both of  which have different styles. Dreez has created 80’s sounds to pop style music such as “Downtown” and “Smoking Section.” Lizama has created house music to hip-hop music such as “Bad” and “Vertigo.” These are just a few of the many songs they have released on both Spotify and Apple music. All three musicians share a broad range of music styles as they enjoy creating any type of beat for anyone to listen to. 

“I just make everything, I just out pop on everything , because that’s just generally. In 2021, music just crosses genres. There’s different music for different times. I kinda experiment with different things. Sometimes they don’t work and sometimes you know when it’s good,” said Dreez. 

Amurrio filming for a music video in Cartagena, Columbia before the pandemic. Photo permission from Amurrio’s Instagram

Exciting things are happening soon for all three musicians. As mentioned earlier, Amurrio has a new single out called, ‘El Pistolero,’ and can be found on both Apple and Spotify. You can also find his amazing music videos on Youtube, Andrew Amurrio. Dreez has recently released a new single along with a music video, DARLING, and you can find more of his music on Apple and Spotify. As for Lizama, the clothing line, Grandeur, is now open for business online and may have upcoming pop-up shops in the future. “I’m still working on stuff, but mainly it would be the clothes line,” said Lizama. Lizama is known as Left Fingers on both Apple and Spotify

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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