From basement to bus: Zac and Mak, making their music

  • 8C78E585-BAD0-42A1-AA80-30CE58067FB6
    Mak and Zac, in a still from their music video. Photo: zacwoods
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    Mak and Zac, in the music studio on Mak's bus.

ARHS junior, Zachary Poulin, and ARHS grad Makenna Rodgers, 23, share a passion: producing music in their homemade music studios. For both of these young men, music has been a way to express themselves while taking a break from the world. 

Poulin produces music on SoundCloud, Spotify, and Apple Music under the name “zacwoods,” while Rodgers’ music can be found on Soundcloud under the name Mak Rodgers.

Poulin has been into music for most of his life, since he was “five years old.”

“I’ve been playing piano forever,” he said. But Poulin got more serious about producing music in high school, making beats when he was a freshman and producing not just music, but music videos this past fall. The most popular hit produced by Poulin and featuring Rodgers is a song called “IPA shit,” a catchy homage to growing up in Western Mass, making music “in my parents’ basement,” promoting an attitude of “positivity” and being in it “for the music” rather than trying “to be famous.”

Rodgers was 16 when he really started to explore music as a hobby. After graduating from ARHS, he spent some time working at Cowls Building Supply. “I was thinking about quitting one day,” he said. “When I got off work, I went on my Facebook and one of the first posts I read was about following your dreams and not wasting your time at a job you’re not happy with.”

Rodgers took that as “a sign” and “gave my two week notice the next day.”   

By age 21, he was pursuing rapping more seriously, and by 22, he was doing more singing. He regularly posts music to his Facebook page and to Soundcloud. A most recent hit, “Corona” talks about his life living in a 1974 tour bus he renovated with his dad, his desire to “keep spittin’ til I make a million bucks,” to keep living the sober lifestyle that has put him in “a good place,” and to spread joy and love around the world.

Rodgers said he makes music because “I love it. I love the feeling I get when I’m writing a song.” He feels like this is what he is meant to do. “Everyone has a purpose in life, and I think [making music is] what I’m meant to do right now,” he said.  

Like Rodgers, Poulin makes music because it “makes him happy,” helps him express himself, and it “brings inspiration to the nation!” 

Poulin knows that many other people have picked up making music/beats as a hobby around the town of Amherst although he joked that “I started the wave.” 

Poulin also collaborates with friends on his music, including some fellow ARHS students, “mak,” “Chubz.””Lil souf,” “rayreefa,” “Iansnothome,” “E3,” and “K.woke.” 

Rodgers has made music with zacwoods but noted, “I’m pretty solo, it’s just easier for me to make music by myself right now.” 

Poulin and Rodgers both have unique at-home music studios, Poulin’s is in his parents basement, like he mentioned in a song; it’s also where he spends most of his time. “It’s a nice basement, I’m there 24/7,” he said. 

To record and produce music Poulin uses a program called “DAW” (digital audio workstation). It isn’t an app; it’s a digital music studio. “So instead of having the expensive equipment, it’s all available at your fingertips,” he said. “And I use a mic that Denzel bought me, and my laptop.”

Rodgers’ studio is a soundproof room in the bus he resides in. He set up his studio by himself, buying all of the recording equipment and the sound insulation on the walls and ceiling from Amazon. Rodgers also bought three mattress pads from Walmart for a couch to make the studio comfortable. 

Poulin said Rodgers’ bus has heat, but no running water and no bathroom. Rodgers showers at the Hampshire Athletic Club where he works out.

While co-producing the music and the video for “IPA Shit,” Rodgers and Poulin spontaneously ended up including ARHS senior Karta Khalsa’s dad in the video. 

Poulin said they “were driving around” and stopped at the food mart on College Street, where they bought two aloe waters. Poulin said they “asked if we could film, but they said no, so we went to [Amherst Eco Laundry] next door,” co-owned by SiriNam and Kirn Khalsa. SiriNam agreed to be featured in the film, as did ARHS grads and friends who appear in their college dorm. 

Poulin said it took one day to film the video, which also includes footage of them “standing on top of Mak’s bus” because “it fit the vibes.” 

Poulin and Rodgers said they try to make music as authentic as possible and break down all boundaries that could dictate how a song should sound. “[My music has] no genre,” Poulin said. His favorite music to listen to includes hip-hop, 70s and 80s rock, and EDM.

Poulin has high hopes when it comes to his musical goals.

He would like to continue to make his own music and produce music in the future, and maybe eventually achieve some fame. The American rapper “Riff Raff” is his inspiration. Although he does say that it’d be nice if making music was his career, he also stated that it’s hard and “very competitive.” Poulin thinks the idea of starting a career with Rodgers would be “sweet” but “I have to focus on myself and so does he,” he said. 

To further his career Poulin plans to live in Florida or California and continue to make music.

Rodgers would also like music to be his career. “I think I’ll just let it take me as far as it will let me take it, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop making music,” he said.