TRIP SLAYMAKER ’18
Austen Ballard ’16, known as A.J. to most of his friends, is a musician and Trinity graduate. The story of his love of music is closely tied to Trinity. Having attended high school in Hong Kong, Ballard’s background was already enough to make him stand out from the throng.
“I think at that time my three biggest influences were J.S. Bach, punk rock, and electronic dance music.” It wasn’t long before he gravitated toward the center of music on campus, the Mill. It was love at first sight.
“The Mill was an overwhelming flurry of creativity when I got involved in it, but I started to realize that it was quite disorganized.” Mill members and their friends dabbled here and there in the world of music, but were limited by their need for better resources. While it was a center for musical minds on campus, it lacked the tools necessary to actually record the music for the critical editing process.
“It’s kind of hard to record a drum kit in your dorm room.” In his sophomore year, AJ began to work to focus the Mill, helping to build the recording booth that is used by musical acts at the Mill today. By his junior fall, AJ was the president.
“It was quite a lot to be president of an organization that big by yourself.” Looking back on his time at the Mill and other campus organizations is what has most inspired Ballard to write music: the title of his soon-to-be-released album is “79 Vernon St,” the address of the Mill itself. For Ballard, this source material is full of emotional significance. “Most of the songs that are on the record were written either with or for people who I met at the Mill. I can give you the ‘withs’ but I can’t give you the ‘fors.’ Songs on the record like “Kiss You One More Time” and “Flowers In Your Hair” bring Ballard’s bubbly electronic sound to very specific memories, and indeed specific individuals. While they will have to remain unknown, student composer Steve Syz ’17 provided orchestration for the album, as did Tina Wu ’18 with additional contributions from several other students and former students. Another song, “Get over AKA I promise” features contributions from campus bands Woolly Mammoths” and “Lolita.” Ballard says that he feels an overwhelming sense of accomplishment in putting the finished album on the market. But it hasn’t all been fun and easy.
“This has been an ordeal for me. I really wanted to be done with this record last year, or earlier than that.” Ballard’s attention to detail and drive to make an artistically daring and interesting new sound is his source of inspiration, but also the cause of his delays. “My idea was to put out this record, leave Trinity and tie a bow on my time here.” Ballard says that what makes him most proud of the album is the number of people who were kind enough to contribute some part of their music.
“Finally I can put it to rest. Any work of art is about going through those past experiences that informed the art, and coming to terms with them.” Ballard’s album “79 Vernon St”. will be available on Soundcloud and Bandcamp, and will soon expand its accessibility.