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A Conversation with Apartment X, Creators of the “Nexus” Score

human interest

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Duke

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- experimental

A Conversation with Apartment X, Creators of the “Nexus” Score

Will Walker

4.27.18

The Rival had the chance to cover the stunning FORM magazine X Nasher Muse collaboration: “Nexus.” In accordance with the video’s public release, we’re interviewing all key stakeholders in the project, from dancers, to videographers, to the creative directors.

I sat down with Apartment X, the band that created the project’s soundtrack, to discuss how they came together as a group, their musical inspiration for the project, the challenges of putting an original, unique track together for the video, and more. The conversation highlighted just how haunting, evocative, and ambitious the track is. I have no doubt that Apartment X has an incredibly bright future.

The group that would eventually become Apartment X formed when Pascual Di Tella and Quinn Scanlan became friends, drawn together by their shared love of music. In his youth, Pascual had trained both in piano and in music theory and Quinn was a talented guitar player; it seemed a perfect match. They originally played casually together, but began taking their musical goals more seriously last fall. That’s when Apartment X (named after the apartment where the group makes its music), as it’s known today, was formed. Since then, they’ve added a drummer (junior Juan José Jiménez) and a bassist (freshman Jacob Allen). In many respects, success has come remarkably quickly. To gain the attention of music critics and interested listeners, Apartment X usually submits its music to well-known playlists curated by respected names in the industry. Their track “Young” was recently featured in the French playlist “Dealer de Musique,” granting the group both attention and confirmation of the quality of their work.

The process of creating the track for “Nexus” was unlike anything the group had done. They were given an inspiration video and were informed that the first third of the project would incorporate classical elements, that the second third would draw from African music influences, and that the third would largely invoke hip hop. The group doesn’t usually release tracks in any of those genres.

“We didn’t want to butcher it,” the group recalled, laughing.

Despite the fact that the song is different from Apartment X’s typical work in most ways – it features no vocals and cycles through three different musical genres – the group brainstormed the piece just as they would any other project: by experimenting on the piano. They eventually settled on a simple loop that became the song’s core melody. Instead of changing the song to capture the moods of each of the three genres, the group built different elements on top of the core melody, using tracks recommended by dancers in each of the aforementioned genres as inspiration.

The composing process was not completely seamless. The group had the most difficulty with the hip hop section of the piece, featured in the final minute-and-a-half of the video. “We didn’t want to just grab a hip hop song and make a really bad copy of it,” they noted. But, in putting the original elements together, the group knew something felt missing. The section was too short and lacked some of the dynamism they had hoped for. The key missing component was the addition of a new lead instrument. Referring to it as “this growling lead,” the group was so pleased with how it incorporated into the existing beat that they extended the hip hop section of the track. It’s now among their favorite parts of the piece.

The end-product is undeniably compelling, moving seamlessly from a heartbreaking, classical introduction to a cyborg-like conclusion that seems straight out of Blade Runner. And how could it not, given that the melodic inspiration for the song is in the pantheon of music itself: Kanye West’s “Runaway.”


“It’s the best-produced song of all time,” Di Tella noted, in reference to using “Runaway” as a primary influence. “I don’t know if that’s too much to say, but that’s how we feel.” While the resemblance is clear – Kanye fans will immediately recognize the similar arrangement in the haunting opening notes – Apartment X does something with the track that makes it completely unique from its influence. And that’s pretty impressive: taking one of the all-time great hip hop songs and making something utterly original. If Apartment X continues to innovate like they did in “Nexus,” I have no doubt that the scope of this group’s success is only just starting.

Check out Apartment X’s single, “Young,” here.