Midwest is a band that is no stranger to musical metamorphosis.
The duo is composed of Nick McNeal, a first-year in political science on guitar, piano, bass and synthesizers, and Colin Flanagan, a second-year in political science and economics, on bass, guitar and vocals.
McNeal and Flanagan said they met in elementary school in Oregon, Ohio, while competing in a chess tournament. They began making music after Flanagan saw McNeal posting covers of Mozart songs online.
Over the course of their musical careers, McNeal and Flanagan have been involved in an eclectic mix of musical endeavors, ranging from playing in heavy metal bands to the pit orchestra of musicals.
Today, Midwest does not identify with a single genre, with musical influences ranging from trap and electronic to folk, indie and jazz.
McNeal said the band does not have a distinct style and enjoys playing all types of music.
“We fluctuate a lot. I feel like we try to keep things minimalistic, but we still want it to have an impact on the listener,” McNeal said.
Flanagan and McNeal said they are influenced by trap music when producing their beats and lyrics, particularly artists such as Travis Scott, Lil Uzi Vert and Ski Mask. Flanagan said they are inspired by rappers such as Kodak Black, Trippy Red and Juice World when it comes to the duo’s writing process.
Flanagan also cited jazz as an impact on the chords Midwest produces.
“I think a lot of the chords come from jazz and complex theory,” Flanagan said. “But we slim it down so that it’s accessible to pretty much anyone.”
An important aspect of their creative process is to ensure that their songs stir a feeling within them, Flanagan said.
“We wait until we feel something,” Flanagan said. “Until it hits and it makes us look back and just lay on the floor and turn the lights off — that’s the music we want to make.”
Recently, Flanagan and McNeal said they focused on cutting back their digitally produced music to create more real and raw tracks.
“When we first started making music, everything was digital,” Flanagan said. “Everything sounded so fake and automated.”
Flanagan and McNeal said they began by playing heavy metal music, making extreme metal, black metal and death metal tracks in sixth and seventh grades.
“We called it metal for the masses,” Flanagan said.
He added that they stuck to clean vocals rather than the growling and screaming “dirty” vocals that heavy metal music delivers.
Midwest still focuses on creating music with a broader appeal today, Flanagan said.
At the same time, McNeal said they’re striving for a more analog sound.
“I think that we found that the actual passion and soul comes from real instruments,” Flanagan said.
Midwest’s newest album, “North Berlin,” is set to release early November.