Degraw Fest is a Brooklyn music festival that was founded by producer and musician Ben Rice. Now entering its second year, Degraw Fest—which derives its name from Degraw Sound recording studio—is a day-long music fest that features some of the best new bands in Brooklyn.

Degraw Fest will take place at the Littlefield Performance and Art Space on August 4, 2018. Genres such as folk, rock, indie, and pop will be on display via emerging-talents such as Eighty Ninety, Queue, Kevin Daniel, Common Jack, Elliot & the Ghost and many other such artists who are just starting to break ground in the New York music scene.

Degraw Fest was created with the goal of paying homage to the artistic and creative environment that Brooklyn has become famed for. Festival founder Ben Rice recently discussed the concert event he founded via an exclusive interview on July 30, 2018.

Music, organizing, and musical artists

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your talent for music and how would you describe your style and influences?

Ben Rice (BR): I’ve been playing music since I was a little kid. I started on guitar when I was like four years old.

You’d think that by now I’d play like Jimi Hendrix or something, but sadly I don’t. My main interest has always been about songs and the sounds that make and support them. I spent a lot of time listening to albums like OK Computer, Urban Hymns, Carnival of Light, What’s The Story Morning Glory, and The Man Who — all these lush Brit-rock records. I would try to figure out how to get those sounds, writing my own songs and making home recordings, rather than practicing my instrument.

I feel like I’m still defining my style as a producer, but if I had to say anything to that, it would be that I’m a very song-oriented person. When I hear a song that I love, I will do whatever it takes to realize the vision for it.

MM: How did you get involved with Degraw Sound recording studios?

BR: Degraw Sound is my recording studio here in Gowanus, Brooklyn so I got pretty intimately involved with it the minute I decided to build it.

MM: What prompted you to start Degraw Fest and what was the organizing process like?

BR: Last year was the fifth anniversary of Degraw Sound, so we decided to throw a big party to celebrate, and that was the beginning of Degraw Fest. It grew organically from there and quickly turned into a yearly event. As far as what the process of organizing is like… it’s a lot of work!

Try getting stage plots from ten bands! Between producing records, running a recording studio, making my own music, and being out on the road a bit more this year, it is a bit of an endeavor to take on sorting out the logistics of planning a music festival, but Degraw Fest is so much fun that it’s absolutely worth it.

MM: How did local musical artists react to the first festival and what are the requirements for joining the show?

BR: The response to the first Degraw Fest was pretty incredible… so incredible that now we have to do it every year! One of the cool things that we saw happen last year was that it opened up a dialogue between all these artists where all of a sudden it was like “Oh, hey you another band, you’re not so scary after all!” The realization that as musicians we’re all going through the same things is pretty powerful and it absolutely helped foster the community that’s growing around the studio.

At the same time, it was also very cool to see the artists connecting with new fans in a pretty intimate setting where everyone could hang out in-between sets and get to chat. I think music fans appreciated that and I know people are pretty psyched for this year’s festival and are even coming in from out of town to be there.

The requirements for performing at Degraw Fest are pretty simple: come to hang out and make dope music with us. Degraw Fest is a way to share the music that’s being made here at Degraw Sound. We’re always excited to work with new artists and welcome them into the family.

Audiences, highlights, and goals

MM: What sorts of crowds did the first event attract and how different will the second one be?

BR: Last year Degraw Fest attracted a bunch of good people and the hope for the second one is that we’ll have an even bigger turn out of even more good people.

MM: What can the audience expect from Degraw Fest?

BR: I think you’ll just have to come find out! We have a Spotify playlist posted on the Degraw Fest website with music from all the artists who are performing this year, as well music from a bunch of other artists that we’ve produced. Genre-wise you’ll hear indie-rock, indie-pop, indie-folk, and Americana.

Oh, and you can also pick up tickets at the Degraw Fest website.

MM: Generally speaking, what are the highlights of your involvement with Degraw Fest?

BR: The highlight for me is getting to hang out with everyone and celebrate and support the music that my friends are making.

MM: What are your biggest goals for the future of Degraw Fest and is there anything more that you would like to add?

BR: My goal for the future of Degraw Fest is to have it continue to grow as a stage to share the music that’s being made at my studio Degraw Sound. I have a real love for Brooklyn, and I think there’s some great music being made here, so whatever I can do to bring attention to that music is always exciting to me.

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