Three distinct musical backgrounds come together in a recently created collective, Digital Natives. Their sound is self-defined as something along the lines of “neo-electric soul inspired by jazz,” and blends elements of classical, hip hop, jazz and electronic music in fluid, unconventional threads throughout their EP “Insekeurig.” Their band name, Digital Natives, reflects the dynamic of the group as a slightly ironic claim to their millennial, young personas while maintaining inspiration and roots in centuries-old genres such as jazz, classical ballads, and more.
Samantha Uzbay, 21, is a 5th generation classical musician who grew up playing the violin, singing to herself, and listening to artists such as The Rolling Stones, the Beatles and Lady Gaga. However, her family’s musical talent revolved around jazz, and Uzbay’s music is heavily influenced by jazz sounds and the music of icons such as Nina Simone and Hiatus Kaioyte. In high school, she began singing covers, switched to the viola, and taught herself the guitar and piano. As a current Boston University senior in the College of Fine Arts, Uzbay is majoring in viola performance and is a vocalist in the Digital Natives collective.
Kian McGee, 21, from Wenham, Massachusetts has a similarly deep-rooted jazz background like Uzbay, but his musical background began at age 3, when he began learning the jazz piano. Since then, he’s mastered the jazz piano, guitar, and drums, and his musical talents have only broadened in college. McGee is a producer, guitarist and pianist for Digital Natives and is now a senior at Boston University. He is majoring in hotel management in the School of Hospitality Administration.
Wyatt Ward, 21, grew up on a farm in Saratoga Springs, New York, where he spent the majority of his time exploring the natural environment around him. He attended an alternative elementary school where music was an important part of the academic atmosphere; his class sang songs together each day. During his childhood, Ward taught himself the guitar, but never thought he’d be one to perform music. However, he befriended Uzbay their freshman year at Boston University and had always admired her musical talent. He introduced Uzbay and McGee, and once they formed Digital Natives, he became a vocalist and guitarist for the group. Ward will graduate this spring from the College of Communications with a major in Film and Television.
The first night the three met together, they wrote the initial lyrics for one of the tracks on “Insekeurig,” titled “Morning.” The song critiques the normalcy of casual sexual relationships in society today, and how miscommunication can make “hook up culture” problematic and unsatisfying.
“As a culture, we have a tendency to shut down what we think our weaknesses and insecurities are,” Ward explained. “Openness is something we completely lack.”
The verses are sung by both Ward and Uzbay, and reveal their frustration with the presence of hook up culture in their realities. The chorus emphasizes this notion: “I never see you in the morning/I never see you when the sun shines over the hills/ I never see you in the morning/ I never see you anymore and it really kills me.” The lines reflect their perception of the current generation’s lack of patience for each other and inability to stay present in moments of connection with other people, which serves as part of the song’s overarching message.
However, it’s vagueness is intentional, said Uzbay, and subsequently the song exists as a relatable, relevant commentary on this modern dynamic in society.
“All it takes is one conversation to actually show some weakness and then everyone knows that person is just like you,” said Ward, describing how the absence of communication withholds individuals from forming real connections. Their song is both a reflection of the musicians’ personal experiences, while also provoking conversation regarding the normalization of hook-up culture.
Another one of Digital Native’s tracks describes sexual relationships in a different context. Titled “Ladies of the Late Afternoon,” the song was written after Ward spent a summer living in the Chinatown section of Paris. He observed Chinese-French prostitutes linger around outside a mall in the early afternoon with a seemingly positive disposition, and disappear once the sun began to set.
“Even though they’re out there day-to-day in broad daylight, they don’t seem embarrassed by what they’re doing” he said.
Instead, he described the men he watched exiting the women’s apartment as appearing more ashamed by their actions than the women. This interaction inspired the line “Not the perfect man with the whitest smile/type of dude who looks for ice pops in the produce aisle,” which illustrates the failed, regretful men who picked up these afternoon shift prostitutes.
Ward continued, “She actually wants a guy who’s more of a bad boy, someone who takes risks, but at the baseline of what they’re doing is giving people who don’t have a lot of self-confidence a safety net.” However, the song illustrates how this reality doesn’t hold them down, despite their harsh realities.
From the female perspective, Uzbay’s lines describe the prostitutes’ outlook as resilient and honest, rather than defeated.
“She has a spring in her step, and she doesn’t let her work ruin who she is,” she said. “This message can relate not only to prostitutes but women in general who don’t feel they are worthy or deserving.”
In particular, the line “all she wants is something mutual and beautiful,” emphasizes her take on these women’s perspective, and her verses elevate their experiences to a resilient, feminist take on an oppressed, typically ignored group of women.
The two perspectives sung in this track were written independently from each other, yet Ward and Uzbay unintentionally shared a similar sentiment through their words. Both their descriptions of the specific event, and its suggestion for women at a broader level, presented a message of empowerment.
The content of both “Morning” and “Ladies of the Late Afternoon” reflect Digital Natives’ commentary on two separate forms of male/female relationships, frustrations with experiences in their personal lives, and perspectives of current day societal constructions. However, beyond the lyrics of the two tracks, the sound and music behind each song is intended to provoke and enhance their messages.
“We believe the vibe of the song is the underlying sound that expresses an emotion without lyrics” Ward said. “We want you to be able to feel the song and understand the emotion, and then the lyrics add context.”
This philosophy echoes countless musicians before them, who’ve used specific sounds to enhance or initiate the feeling of a song. For example, Uzbay named Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” as an example of a song that “pulls” her to listen again and again, through the sound of the music and accompanying lyrics.
Digital Native’s variety of classical and jazz piano tones mixed with neo-electronic beats and verses of nuanced hip hop create a specific, desired backdrop for their lyrics to emphasize, appealing to the listener through both sound and word.
Because they believe everyone is a product of their environment and upbringing, Uzbay and Ward explained how they believe their role as musicians is to create a space where people can tie their experiences to music and explore who they are in that moment. Both tracks contain lyrics that are specific to their described situations, yet leave room for interpretation. This space allows their listeners to connect with the messages offered throughout the album, which represents an important part of their music as a whole.
“I write about personal experience, but in a way that urges people to read between the lines, and allows people to relate my words to their own story” said Uzbay. Similarly, Ward suggested that while music may not be able to physically do anything, it can inspire people in countless ways if their audience feels a connection to it.
“I want people who listen to our music to know that we’re trying to tell other people’s stories too,” said Ward. “If they can sit back, listen to something we have to say, and really, truly resonate with it, that’s more than we could’ve ever asked for.”
Digital Native’s music, including their EP “Insekeurig,” is available on Spotify and Apple Music.