Reno Music Artists Prosper During Pandemic

COVID shutdowns took away live performances but as Nancy Vazquez finds out it allowed local artists such as Stu J The Vamp and Treazy to make more music and related projects than in years prior.

Stu J The Vamp poses with colored contacts and vampire fangs, his staple music artist look. Photo taken by Nancy Vazquez.

Get To Know Stu J

Stu J The Vamp is a local 29-year-old music artist who makes alternative pop, R&B, and Neo soul content. Born and raised in Reno, he started making music when he was 14. Back then he would take his guitar to school and get his classmates around him. He started off playing heavy metal but learned a few Usher songs along the way to try and impress girls.

$300 dollars later while in high school he had professional equipment. Recently, due to shutdowns and the pandemic, he bought more camera equipment to create short films and explore other outlets. Some of his musical inspirations include The Weeknd, Michael Jackson and AC/DC.

His latest release is a single with $inClar3, a local Chicana rapper, To Myself which is available on all music platforms. Stu J is currently working on a new project called Emotional Damage which is going to be a Japanese city pop genre. He plans to release it sometime this year. “I got to the point where I feel like I’m good enough at my music to where I need to work on getting it out to people,” Stu J said.

Stu J’s latest release To Myself in collaboration with $inClar3

Some of the venues Stu J likes to perform at are the Dead Ringer bar on 4th street and The Holland Project on Vesta St. He recalls one of his best shows being held at Dead Ringer where all his friends were present and sang all his songs. After being shut down for a while, local venues have reopened and have had less and less restrictions on who can attend shows. His last show was on February 31st in the Oak Room on Oddie Blvd. where 300 people were present. “It was mostly $inClar3’s show but I hopped on,” he said.

Stu J also shared one of his favorite songs by him: Come By, a classic rock song. “My dad passed away over 10 years ago, I know he would love that song because he was a rock guy. He used to be in rock bands,” he said.

Treazy by the Truckee River downtown. Photo taken by Nancy Vazquez.

Get To Know Treazy

Treazy is a 28-year-old alternative hip hop artist born in the Bay Area. He started putting raps together when he was nine and making music when he was 12. Treazy’s mom had gotten a computer then and a mic which he would use the recording app on to capture his music. It wasn’t until a year later that he was able to get into a professional studio. Now Treazy works with mixing engineers. He doesn’t record any of the beats himself as he doesn’t have his own set up. “Mostly because I don’t trust myself with my own set up,” Treazy said. He also mentioned how expensive it is to invest in one and maintain it.

Treazy grew up listening to country music which he describes as very lyric and story heavy. It is one of the genres that inspired him to make his own music. Alongside he also mentioned legendary hip hop artists Tupac, Jay Z, and Busta Rhymes. “I was growing as the internet was growing. Also I was growing as a hip hop fan,” Treazy said. Kids couldn’t just go buy albums at a store because they didn’t have any money. YouTube, LimeWire, and illegal downloads were how he navigated that issue. Very similar to during the pandemic streaming platforms were heavily relied on for music during quarantine.

A tweet from Treazy about his latest album. Stay tuned on their socials for upcoming projects.

A New Album

Treazy’s newest release is his album I Can’t Hang Out I’m Trying To Get Rich. It is a twelve track concept album about people’s relationship with money and relations with love and how sometimes we intertwine the two, or conflate the two for being one and the same and how that affects our decisions on a day to day basis, as individuals, and our obsession with money and companionship,” Treazy said.

It took him two years to write the album but the pandemic helped with the extra focus. Treazy hasn’t had a live performance since November 2019 and looks forward to performing this album. “I wanted to contrast a theme and not put a bunch of songs together,” Treazy said.

“My whole goal for this is for the music to live on, I don’t want it to be a drop and that’s it. I’m carefully curating all these extra things that come with the album, music videos, short film, and merch,” he said. During the pandemic Treazy was able to really take a close look at all the behind the scenes happenings of his favorite artists and wanted to incorporate it into his own work.

“Everyone else’s plans slowed down, and so when people were executing plans they were doing it in slow motion so it gave me and everyone else to really take a look at what other artists were doing,” Treazy said. He has music he is currently writing, but says he’s not immersed on the next thing as he’s just trying to “juice” this album. “I want to squeeze the most out of this album until, ok no one cares about this anymore,” Treazy said.

Visual created by Nancy Vazquez.

A Prosperous Pandemic

For both Stu J and Treazy 2020 and the following year was the best for them. “Everybody got trapped inside, people just really wanted to get creative,” said Stu J. He claimed to have gotten more done during that time than three years prior. “I don’t know if I would have had the same spark if COVID didn’t happen,” he said. For Stu J it was also the year he made most of his connections and the year he made the most income from his music.

“A lot of people I knew went full time and they still have been since then. Just because everybody got let go of their jobs and they couldn’t go to work,” Stu J shared. “Creatives find a way to do things.” Stu J also works as an editor for the Vile Eye YouTube page which is where most of his income comes from.

One of the issues Stu J had to deal with during the pandemic was moving out of his family’s house. He had been coming and going from the house working on his career but some of his family members had asthma. Stu J was putting them at risk so he decided to move in with his brother who was also in and out of the house often.

“I got sick a few times, but I’m on a mission here,” Stu J said. Another thing Stu J mentioned was how some of his audience would pass out during shows due to the masks while he was on stage.

Stu J The Vamp at a performance during the pandemic. Photo taken by Stu J with permission to use.

Reprioritizing

Treazy’s struggle was finding motivation. “My biggest struggle was having to sit with myself and ask the question why and what for?” For him COVID made the struggle of being an independent local artist harder. “There were a lot of bleak moments in the pandemic where people were getting sick, people weren’t working or people were dying, then all these restrictions where you feel your freedoms are taken away,” Treazy said. Many artists reprioritized or had second thoughts on their career choices and if it was even worth it.

“When you’re doing something for the love and you’re trying to figure out how to monetize it and then that’s taken away and you have to reprioritize it makes you question whether it’s worth it to keep putting yourself through it,” he said. Treazy works as a mortgage consultant alongside being a father. His second son was born during the pandemic. “It was weird, it was like we were getting a mandatory extended parental leave,” he says in reference to his son.

Both artists were saddened by the shutdown of Jub Jub’s, a parlor on Wells Ave. that was really the only place hip hop and R&B artists were always welcome. “All the big artists we could get here would go there,” Stu J said. “It was starting to get big and then COVID happened. A place was missing for hip hop and R&B when Jub Jub’s shut down,” he said.

Treazy also mentioned The Saint, a music hall on Virginia Street that also shut down. Some places that were closed though made a comeback under different names, and even if performing live is not yet like it used to be locally, local artists such as Treazy and Stu J have new material they are eager to showcase.

Reynolds Sandbox reporting by Nancy Vazquez

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Reynolds Sandbox

Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.