Sounds Fair Preview: ‘Networking’ & ‘Soft and Dumb’

The Collective will be hosting its first installment of Sounds Fair, our first ever virtual music event series. Our first Sounds Fair will feature performances from bands Networking & Soft and Dumb followed by an exclusive Q&A session. Tune in!

When: Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 @ 2-3 p.m. CT

Where: @thecollectivemagazine Instagram Live 


By Annamarie Olsen

When people hear the word “networking” some may associate it with business networking; however, the only business Networking has is creating soft tunes. Networking is not just a talented band, but a group of five very close friends – Chirstian Waldschmidt (songwriter and guitarist), Billy Crimmins (songwriter and guitarist/bass), Matt Fanelli (songwriter and guitarist), Joe “Reinhofer” (drummer), and Jimmy Chaudoin AKA “the ace in the hole” (sax, keyboards). 

It was no surprise when they began playing together. Christian, Matt, Joe and Jimmy attended the same highschool. All members, with the exception of Jimmy, are current University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students. 

With Christian, Billy, Joe, and Matt attending UIUC together, and Jimmy visiting on weekends from Carthage, the group began jamming together and in 2019 released their debut EP: Green Houses

Green Houses is a reflection of the growing pains and anxieties of adolescence. While they express their personal emotions through their music, they encourage listeners to attribute their own value to their music. Their music has become a new part of their friendship, and the group has a bright future together, with more tunes already brewing;. despite COVID-19, and their busy school schedules, Networking is currently working on their first album.

Instagram: @networking.0rg

Check out their Spotify Here.

Soft and Dumb

By Karina Belotserkovskiy

Duo act “Soft and Dumb” is made up of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students Elena Buenrostro (vocals, guitar) and Travis Newgren (bass and vocals), who describe themselves as an “indie rock duo that writes music for more than two people, with grunge and post punk influences.” They are set to release their new EP “Out of Bed” Oct. 23.  Below is a brief Q&A session with both members, edited for clarity. 

Q: How did you meet and decide to start making music together?

Elena: We met at UIUC and we started dating. Later we both realized we loved writing music, me more privately, but Travis really encouraged me to get more involved publicly. 

Travis: We were dating for half a year before we made music together, we got to know each other as people before that.

Q: What is the creative process like for both of you, writing and music wise?

Elena: We primarily use Ableton to create our music. Most of the time, we’ll be jamming, record it, and find little pieces of what we like. It all comes fluidly and naturally, sometimes we’ll disagree about where a song is headed, but those disagreements feel “soft and dumb.” 

Travis: We each have different avenues of inspiration. Sometimes I’ll do more electronic circuit bending stuff, I’ll make a song of out of nonsense. Leni [Elena] can speak for herself, but I think she makes a song out of more bare bones, like guitar and adding lyrics. 

Elena: I write from a singer-songwriter perspective and place.

Q: Do you have any specific musicians or bands you drive inspiration from?

Elena: For me, I love Mitski and her ability to create emotionally charged work. She takes on all these narratives in her work that are really beautiful. 

Travis: One I’ve gotten off the cuff is Sonic Youth. I drive a lot of inspiration from them, also just the girl-guy aspect of that. It’s hard to look songs and not get inspiration. A lot of smaller bands are also inspirations, like Horse Jumper of Love or Spirit of the Beehive. Definitely interesting because we have our music tastes, and they’re not one and the same.

Elena: I think I like more vocally driven music, and he [Travis] will not hear lyrics at all.

Travis: Ever since I was young, everyone always remembered lyrics better than I did, I just really remember the rhythm or melody or the harmony. I like stuff that’s a little more vocal left-of-center like math rock, Leni likes stuff that’s a little more singer-songwriter.  

Q: Do you have any stories or pre-COVID performance memories? 

Elena: Well, we’ve only performed once live pre-COVID. I have really bad performance anxiety, so there was a panic attack during it. 

Travis: The first concert was about five days pre-COVID. It was a super weird momentum thing, we were finally ready to go, playing house shows in Urbana and Champaign, but then the pandemic literally killed all of our momentum. Actually, it was kind of a blessing because it forced us to focus on new material, and it’s what this new EP came out of, the project was made about two months into quarantine. [….] A lot of the album feels like a weird fever dream, kind of like a cabin fever vibe. Now we have to understand what’s it like to be a band if we’re not playing shows. I’m definitely excited for the livestream because I like we can control a lot of the elements, we can more accurately present what we want to people than just a house show.

Q: Are there any common threads or specific themes throughout your new EP “Out of Bed”?

Elena: During quarantine it was very hard for me to literally get out of bed, it [the album] was the one thing we were going to do each day, and put everything into it. Definitely like a last dying yelp.

Travis: Looking at it now is interesting, because things are getting back to normal. I can’t imagine spending the day now like we did back then, kind of weird feel that allowed us to not worry about anything except making music. When you don’t have anything to do all day, it gets harder to find creative inspiration. Kind of a dying person’s creative inspiration, but when the sparks do flow, it’s amazing. […] Making the songs at first was worrying because we were like ‘no this can’t be a song, this can’t be a project’ but we eventually found that everything kind of melded together, so in general what a lot of our songs are about is dealing with life and the mundane. Just taking different shitty things about life and amplifying them. 

Elena: Just creating these imaginative narratives surrounding these very mundane things. 

Travis: It’s very much anxiety rock. We’re kind of doing this to get away from something, just like ‘let’s just make this song so we can go to bed,’ just getting something off our chests.  

Instagram: @softanddumb

Check out Their Spotify here.

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