For Reyes, winning the competition could be a game-changer. It could get her the recognition she needs to become a successful music artist. When she first learned about the contest, she only had a few days to enter before the submission closed.
She needed to find instrumentalists — and quickly.
A day before the contest ended, Reyes gathered up a group of strangers — a saxophonist, trumpeter and drummer — and they rehearsed and shot the video all within the same day. The music video felt rushed and unprepared.
“I wasn’t expecting to get really far with it,” Reyes said. “You know, I was just like, 'Let’s do it.'”
But it did get her somewhere. NPR mentioned ZenSoFly in a list of 10 bands that they loved in the 2017 Tiny Desk Contest. And soon after, Sofar Sounds in New York City asked her to play a gig that July.
The show reunited the band and motivated everyone to start producing fresh and creative work.
That was how she ended up with the song for her current submission, "Sky is the Limit." Logan Maxwell, the keyboardist, was messing around with a melody when lyrics just started flowing from Reyes' head.
“The ‘Sky is the Limit’ kind of just came to me, and I kept going with it,” Reyes said. “That song is really just a freestyle that we turned into a song.”
That freestyle brings an FKA Twigs-inspired take on electronic music that mutates electronic dance music and hip-hop into its own unique singular vision.
As soon as she got an email for this year’s contest, she immediately reached out to her old band members. She wanted to get the ball rolling and start rehearsing. So this year, the band teamed up with Mystic Alley, a Raleigh music studio and house venue, to help produce the video.
The band is bigger this year, adding two additional instrumentalists — including a live saxophone player who was only able to join for one practice before they recorded.
“That just shows the amount of talent that goes into it,” said drummer Jake Anthony Raineri. “Yeah, the last one was fun. I think that’s why NPR liked it so much because we had so much fun with it. But this one was fun plus utmost quality. So I’m really proud of this one.”
The band only comes together for the NPR Tiny Desk contest. The talent of every individual person in the band shows that close relationships don’t equate to good music. It’s the passion, drive and love of each person that makes the music good.
“We all just love music — it’s part of us,” Maxwell said. “We all have other jobs, other careers, so we try to make this other side of our lives work, and we love it that much that it’s like we’re willing to throw our own money and our own time into something that we’re not necessarily seeing a result from, so it would be really gratifying to see a result, to see it validated."
The winner of the 2018 Tiny Desk Contest will be announced April 24.