The making of “CIVIC 97”

Producers Zac Sanders and Ben See-Tho talk about the creative process of their newest album.

Chris Charpentier and Emily Coffey

Creating an album with nine people requires hard work. It is even harder during a global pandemic. Music collective “Herd” overcame several obstacles in order to fit all nine group members onto one album: “CIVIC 97.” 

Released on Aug. 23, “CIVIC 97” is the culmination of a two-year collaborative and creative process that yielded a new sound. Senior cinema and media arts major Zac Sanders and band member Ben See-Tho offer a deeper look into the group’s defining album, discuss the creation of  “Herd” and what comes next for the band.

HERD ORIGINS

What began as a shared interest in music evolved into a band of brothers. Herd is formed of nine members: Zac Sanders, Ben See-Tho, Henry Alper, Tyler Greene, Shaan Singh, Peter Li, Sean Yu, Michael Zhang and Thomas Burton.  

“In high school, we didn’t know each other too well,” Sanders said. “At the time, I was the only one producing music at the school. The beats weren’t good but I really wanted to make an album with people that I know. So, around 30 of us formed a music collective, some of us making the music while the others were there as support.”

The albums they produced in high school were popular among other students and inspired confidence to continue making music together after graduation.

“Zac really fostered a super-inclusive environment for the high school albums so I always saw Herd as the more closely restricted offshoot of that,” See-Tho said.

Originally 30 members, the remaining nine worked diligently to find a common ground. This inclusive environment encouraged collaboration within the collective, where every member’s unique musical taste and background contributed to the final project.  

“We could’ve made an album that just has a bunch of songs, but the albums I really love are… where they’re all consistent and it all lines up,” Sanders said. 

Sanders also explained that “CIVIC 97” was originally meant to be a concept album, but due to logistics and creative compromise, the compilation evolved. 

“To do that with nine people is hard especially when you have someone like Henry Alper who is more of a hardcore rapper who loves jazz, lyrical rap and a bunch of experimental stuff,” Sanders said. “And Sean Yu who was really into an artist called brakence during the making of the album, Shaan Singh who really likes J. Cole, and then me, who was really into Bleachers.”

CREATING IN THE PANDEMIC

Due to a lack of equipment, this album featured vocals recorded in parking lots, cars and middle schools, making several tracks an audio tech’s worst nightmare. However, defined by creative compromise, Herd found a way to work together. Though the album dropped on Aug. 23, the group has not seen each other physically since the summer of 2020.

Still, separation did not stop the group—instead, it made their finished product stronger. 

“It’s already immensely difficult to get all nine of us together in the same room,” See-Tho said. “So when COVID hit, it made progress on the album slower than ever… It led to us delaying the album a full year but the album was so much better because of it. We really got to sit on it and consider what we could change to make it better.”   

LOOKING FORWARD

From meeting new artists like KAI and lazy fox during the creation of the album to multiple peers now praising the album, it is clear that Herd’s music has become a staple within the lives of the boys who created it.

While the rap collective released their album just a few weeks ago, See-Tho and Sanders explained that the group will most likely continue to record, despite obstacles of recording with nine people.

Sander’s love for the Bay Area shines in his final statement regarding Herd.

“I’m all about music as a community and even if we don’t do anything else with Herd, we built a foundation for people in the Bay to listen to us and realize that they can do something like that,” Sanders said. 

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