This month’s student spotlight introduces you to ICON grads Jon Wienner and Sam Homaee of the Los Angeles duo, The Roommates.
We are proud of our students and their accomplishments. Each month, we connect with students and alumni to showcase their hard work and success. Their achievements offer a glimpse into what’s possible after pursuing music production at ICON Collective.
About The Roommates
ICON has inarguably made its mark in the electronic music scene. We see our grads making some big moves, including in the pop music world. Two of those grads are Jon Wienner and Sam Homaee who produce as The Roommates. They both started in the same class at ICON with the intention of focusing on their individual artist projects. But somewhere along the way, they found a new path as studio producers. And that path has already been decorated with success.
The duo has worked with prominent artists such as Krewella, Marc E Bassy, Kai, and Mac Miller. They also have placements on upcoming releases with Capitol Records, Warner Brothers, and Republic. Moreover, these wins are only the beginning for this promising duo of hit-makers. The Roommates bring undeniable creative chemistry and complementary skill sets. Expect to hear a lot of chart-toppers coming out of their studio.
Check out The Roommates latest work with AUGUST 08 on his debut Father EP.
The Roommates Interview
In this short interview, The Roommates to talk about their collaborative project. The duo shares their story about how they met and developed their creative process. They also talk about their studio setup and workflow. Lastly, Jon and Sam offer insight into how they collaborate with songwriters and vocalists.
What’s the story behind you guys linking up to form a production duo? What brought you together?
Jon: I always loved Sam’s sound design. I had heard a lot of what he was working on since we were in the same morning section at ICON. During the last three weeks of the program, I was working with an artist that a friend had introduced me to. I had done a few sessions with the artist alone but wanted to bring in some outside people. I mentioned it to Sam during a break between classes. Before I knew it, we had spent two straight weeks going to the studio after class to write and cut records.
Sam: We really jumped into that project and just tried to make the best music we could for the artist. It wasn’t until three weeks in that we turned to each other and said: “Hey, do you wanna do this as a duo?” Jon had a small studio in Glendale we could work out of. I think we probably spent 14 hours a day there for the first three months after graduation.
Jon: We clicked pretty quickly and figured out that we were each best at what the other was weakest at. We both also put the same amount of energy and time into music. It pushed us to keep making more and more music.
What were your goals/intentions when you guys started ICON and how did they evolve during the program?
Jon: I came into ICON as a touring DJ, and was living in NYC part-time during the program. I was constantly flying back and forth to DJ in NYC. But, I wanted to learn how to produce so I could work more on an artist project for myself. I was super focused on production and mixing and not at all on songwriting or music theory. By level 4, that had changed almost completely. I didn’t appreciate how important songwriting is to make better music.
Sam: I hurt my ears while repairing a microphone from a feedback loop and had to stop working on music for a month or so. This happened right in the middle of Level 3. All a sudden, I could only listen to music at really low volumes. It totally changed everything for me. I started listening to different genres of music, and when Jon asked me to work with him on some stuff, I was totally open to it.
How would you describe the creative synergy between the two of you? What’s your creative process look like?
Jon: We always start all our ideas together – usually based around chords or just one instrument. We almost never start with a beat or drums. From there, with a co-writer or artist, we like to write as much of the song as possible together. While I’m recording vocals, Sam will start a few rough ideas on production.
Sam: We’ll go back and forth on ideas and rework things constantly. One of us usually engineers while the other adds layers of synths or guitars, and then we switch. We’re constantly going between Ableton Live and Pro Tools. We use Live for synths and drums and Pro Tools for recording vocals and anything else we mic up.
Jon: We have both DAWs open at the same time, so either of us can sit down and quickly get an idea out. We found it super helpful for one of us to be in front of the computer while the other is doing something “analog” – whether it be playing a synth or guitar. Our Ableton Live rig runs on a Universal Audio Apollo 16, and our Pro Tools rig runs on a set of Avid HDX converters. All that goes into our SSL console, so its really easy to flip between sources. As we finish production drafts, all our work from Ableton gets exported to Pro Tools where we’ll mix everything down. After we get creative inputs from the artist or label or writer we’re working with, we like to spread the Pro Tools session across the board and do a final mix with some outboard gear.
How do you create the right vibe in the studio when working with songwriters and vocalists?
Jon: Being comfortable is everything. That means different things for different artists, and it’s really important to understand that. Being prepared is a huge part of that too. It’s important to be able to capture ideas as quickly as possible when a songwriter or vocalist comes up with a riff or idea. When we work with someone new, we usually spend the first hour of every session talking and getting to know each other.
Sam: I like to come in with a few different chord ideas that I’ll write before every session. I flip through them on the piano and see if the artist or writer catches a vibe to any of them. Its key to be flexible and open-minded. That always helps connect and vibe with people.
Connect with the Roommates
Nik Cherwink is the Industry Advisor for ICON Collective and an artist coach with a background in management and publicity.