DropLabs’ own Trevor Humphrey shares his new album as post-rock recording artist Deer Park Ranger.
Building connections with others is one of the most integral components of being human. For creatives specifically, inspiration can often be found in those vital moments of connectivity, whether that's in the form of having a memorable conversation about one's art or in the literal act of creating music that deeply resonates with listeners. For DropLabs' head of customer experience Trevor Humphrey, cultivating connection serves as a common thread both in his professional career and in his creative ventures as a musician.
As part of his day-to-day at DropLabs, Trevor works to ensure that customers have everything they need to best utilize the technology, serving as a liaison helping to encourage others to find out how DropLabs can amplify their audio experiences across facets such as lifestyle, music and gaming. Exploring the ways in which technology can help connect others to their craft and to others is one area where DropLabs thrives, with Trevor helping others identify those potential connections.
In addition to his impassioned work in the tech realm, Trevor also is a recording artist, who today (March 19) has released his third album as a solo act. Recording under the name Deer Park Ranger, Trevor's latest is a full-length titled Adaptation, a 6-track collection that is not only an excellent primer if you're new to the world of post-rock but also a perfect soundtrack for those who are currently adapting to working from home or seeking a sonically cinematic escape. Trevor's love for post-rock has been a guiding force informing his own musicianship for quite some time now, allowing him to find solace in instrumentals and serve as a vessel for his own creative self-expression. Accentuated by chaotic crescendos and serene afterglows, Trevor's work as Deer Park Ranger invites listeners into a compelling world of his own making, encouraging others to dive deep into their own sense of wonder.
Adaptation, which is available now through Fluttery Records, was also made utilizing DropLabs Technology, most notably during the mixing process. During an in-depth conversation, Trevor graciously provides an inside look as to how he was able to incorporate DropLabs Technology into his creative process, as well as touches on how rewarding and serendipitous it can be when your passions merge with your professional career.
What do you do for a living and how did you get started?
I head up the customer experience team at DropLabs. I've been working in the tech world for the last ten years or so, specifically in support. I've grown into a leader in that space and have run the support teams at TaskRabbit, Turo and ChowNow. Now that I'm here at DropLabs, it's really awesome because I studied music in school so it's a bit of a full circle. Everything I've done up to this point, it's been very tech focused and nothing that sort of touches the music industry at all. I'm starting to experience that overlap a bit with DropLabs, where I work with a lot of professional musicians and music lovers, as well as am helping bring a product to market that people can use to experience music in a new way. Basically, what I do is make sure that everyone's having a great time with the shoes. I'm doing a lot of proactive outreach and my team has reactive support as well. We work to make sure everyone's up and running and fully understands how they can best use the shoes, as well as make sure that any feedback they give, we're relaying to the rest of the company so that we're always in tune.
I think it's awesome that in your role specifically, you're able to bring a human element into an industry that can be so focused on the tech aspect. Can you speak a bit about the importance of that?
Especially in the early days, the first thousand customers are informing our product roadmap so much and so we want to talk to them as much as possible. We take every opportunity we can to send a personal reach out to everyone that orders the shoes, asking how they want to use the content, so we can give recommendations. But we're also learning directly from them. We've come up with a couple great use cases that are awesome for the shoes. One of the great things about DropLabs is that any audio that's coming from your device to the shoes is going to work and so we're constantly learning new and interesting use cases from our customers. I think it's super important to be human and real and build those actual connections with our customers, so they feel a connection to the brand and love the brand, but also because they're going to tell us so much about what the future of our business needs to be.
How would you describe the DropLabs experience to someone who hasn't tried the product out yet?
The easiest way to describe it is Bluetooth subwoofer shoes. What I describe it as is, when I wear the shoes and listen to music, I feel like I'm at a live show. I feel like I'm at a gig and I can feel the music in my body. And it adds another dimension to the music you're listening to. It almost gives you chills. It's definitely a visceral experience.
Would you say that DropLabs can carry you from the creation stage to actually being on stage, too? How are musicians utilizing the shoes thus far?
I haven't personally yet in my own music but this year, the DropLabs team went to National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). During the conference, we talked with a lot of musicians about the in-ear monitors they use during performances to hear themselves and the rest of the band. Most in-ear monitors really don't do the low end very much justice. You don't hear the low frequencies very well. So, a lot of bass players are actually cranking up the volume in their ears to the point where it's probably damaging, just to hear themselves play.
In the old days, you had the monitor speakers on stage and you'd be able to feel your part. You'd feel the air move as it hit you from your speakers, so you'd be able to feel yourself playing and lock into that. With the in-ear monitors, you don't really have that as much. So, we actually hooked up some in-ear monitors with the shoes, and had some bass players play along and hear themselves in the in-ears while being able to really feel it with the shoes, which was really powerful. I think a lot of people loved that. We've also talked with a lot of drummers that like having a metronome in their foot, so you can feel the click track as you play along. With DropLabs, it's almost instead of tapping your foot, the product is tapping you.
How did you get started with your solo project, Deer Park Ranger?
I studied music in college and I've always been tinkering with music on the side. I've done stuff with other people in the past. Even when I was working in the tech world, I've always made a point to keep up with music since graduating from school. In 2016/2017, I decided to start recording my own music and try to get it out to the world. As Deer Park Ranger, I've put out two EPs and this latest project, Adaptation, is the third full-length album. Each of these five releases have been released through a little label called Fluttery Records, which focuses mostly on post-rock, ambient and Neo-classical music. Their focus is mostly instrumental stuff. It's a bit of a niche community but a passionate community.
I've always been interested in that kind of music, and I can't sing, so instrumental works well for me [Laughs]. I like doing the solo stuff because you can move so fast. There's not a lot of debates about certain decisions or anything so when you have an idea, you run with it, and things can snowball from there. You can really crank out a track without a lot of friction, which is fun.
In your work as a recording artist specifically, how has DropLabs Technology played a role in your creative process?
I recorded this album in my bedroom. I don't have a super high-end sound system or anything like that to play back the tracks as I go. When I finished recording and was in the mixing phase, I was trying to get all the levels right, everything panned out to the right side, so that it feels really lush and balanced and whole. It's hard to really get the low end if you don't have a high-end sound system or good subwoofers or whatnot. I actually mixed the whole thing with the shoes on, so I could feel the bass and a lot of the low end of the drums in the mix while I was listening with my headphones. That helped me to really get a more well-rounded view of how the songs should be mixed and how it should sound and making sure I was getting all the levels right. I think it made the bass in the low end pop a lot more on this record, which is really awesome.
With this project specifically, do you start with a concept or theme? How would you describe the sound?
I think it's very cinematic. It intentionally builds tension as the song goes and you know, eventually it leads to a more epic climax or high point of the song. That's typical in the post-rock world to try to build up this tension and then release it. I've tried to create longer songs that have the room to build and build and build. One of the tracks is nine-and-a-half minutes long, and there's another that's eight minutes long, so it's definitely more cinematic in that sense and hopefully it pays off.
First and foremost, I play guitar, bass and use a Rhodes piano. It is mostly live instrumentation but I do everything in Logic, so I'm able to add on some synths. I program all the drum beats in Logic as well. The result is a nice blend where you have a live feel from the instruments and then some electronics and synths programmed in as well. This is definitely the kind of music you can put on while you're working, or want to crank through something, or if you want to get motivated.
With the current coronavirus crisis, what helped you make the decision to keep the release schedule as planned? Do you think you'll go on to tour the project in the future?
I did have a conversation with the label about changing the release date but I think, more and more, as I've been talking with other musicians and other people in general, I think a lot of people need an escape and they need an outlet. Yesterday, we hosted a livestream of the record for a bunch of people. There were people all over the world commenting and saying "Thanks, I needed this." Especially when times are weird or challenging, it's good to have outlets and music for me personally is a huge outlet. Maybe more than ever, it's important to keep moving and keep putting things out there.
My main goal is to get the music out to as many people as possible. I've always really enjoyed putting a record together and recording it. I think live performance is super fun, too. But I think the main goal is to just share the record with as many people as possible. I'd have to get a whole band together to play it live because of the nature of it being a solo project; there's definitely a lot of layers in there and a lot of different parts happening simultaneously. I do have a loop machine and I play around that a little bit, but I think to do it justice, it would need a full band. That's not currently planned but I've always imagined that'd be a ton of fun to do.
When it comes to the environment that you feel the most creative in, what does that look like for you?
I think you have to get in the right headspace. Like I mentioned, I record at home, so I'll usually try to simulate a live performance with dim lights. I've got all my pedals lit up on the ground so it kind of feels like you're on stage. I think trying to put yourself in the headspace that you're performing and not just sitting in your living room or bedroom is really helpful. I'm definitely more creative at night. It's hard when the sunlight's out to really lean into something or rock out. I'm sure my neighbors don't love this but it's definitely better at nighttime.
Do you have any words of advice or mantras that you live by that you'd like to pass on to other creatives?
When you're going through the creative process, and you hear something over and over and over again and see something over and over again, you start to question it, you start to doubt it, you start to get in your head. You start to question if anyone's going to like what you're working on, and things of that nature. It can be really easy to go negative, but every time I put something out, I've always been pleasantly surprised by the reaction and feedback. I think it's important just to make things and to create things and to put things out there in the world. It can be easy to have imposter syndrome and self-doubt, but I think you have to find a way to push through that and keep creating.
Trevor Humphrey can be found on Instagram at @chevrontrevor and on the web at https://deer-park-ranger.bandcamp.com/.
As innovators by design, the team behind DropLabs Technology is dedicated to supporting and elevating members of the creative community. Together, we aim to serve as a platform highlighting different creators as they work towards achieving visionary excellence and inspiring others along their path. To nominate a creative leader you’d like to see highlighted on our website, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.