A pillow for noise cancellation, a headset microphone and a group of music-driven friends lie at the heart of “ya aunty’s favorite boy band”: Weston Estate.
The name Weston Estate references a local neighborhood in Cary, but vocalist and UNC-Chapel Hill first-year Manas Panchavati said, “The name doesn't matter, it's what is behind the name that matters.”
Weston Estate was created in 2017 by five then-high school students: Panchavati, Srikar Nanduri, Tanmay Joshi, Abhi Manhass and Marco Gomez. Two attend UNC-Chapel Hill, while the others are spread across N.C. State, Duke University and UNC-Charlotte.
Behind the name are five musically-inclined friends who have quietly put together one of the most successful and on-the-rise bands in the area. Joshi, a UNC-Chapel Hill first-year and vocalist for Weston Estate, said a night of messing around with FL Studio, a music production software, and an Indian dance hall beat led to the group's unofficial first song.
“We made that song in a day, and were like ‘Yo this is the shit, this is amazing,'" said Nanduri, guitarist and songwriter for Weston Estate. “We can look back and laugh at it, but it was the start. We knew this could actually go somewhere.”
After a couple more times messing around with beats and vocals, a Google Hangouts call led to the official birth of Weston Estate.
For a while, the boys tinkered with their sound and released music with haste. Release after release came with little traction, and Joshi attributes it to their relatively careless approach.
"Since then we have become much smarter, perfecting each file,” Joshi said.
Slowly the band began crafting their smooth sound and low-key aesthetic. Drawing from idols such as Frank Ocean and Clairo, the band oriented itself as a lo-fi, indie, anti-pop band. Weston Estate strives to emulate their idols, but wants to blend genres together and create its own original and memorable sound.
This sound came naturally, explained the team’s executive producer Manhass.
“We had to do with what we had, we had to make good music out of a shitty production value,” Manhass said.
The team embraced their situation, creating a low-quality production style that resides in a lane of its own, Manhass said.
A critical moment for the band came in December 2018, when they performed at a local high school’s charity ball event.
“The performance was insane,” Panchavati reflected. “We sold out the show.”
Hearing its lyrics performed by so many fans for the first time was a milestone for the band. It was time for the boys to really lock in, Panchavati said.
“It was a 'holy shit' moment," Nanduri said. "It was surreal."
Weston Estate reached another level with their breakout hit, entitled "Cotton Candy," released May 2019. With echoey vocals layered over Manhass’ simple chords, the song is the manifestation of the group’s lo- fi vision.
The breakout hit landed itself on several Spotify editorial playlists alongside industry giants, such as Billie Eilish and the group's very own idol, Frank Ocean. After that, it was just a snowball effect, Panchavati said.
"Cotton Candy" now has 1.4 million streams on Spotify.
Despite such success, the band has stuck by its unique music-making process.
“Everything is recorded in a bedroom, in an attic, in a basement” Panchavati said. Currently, he and Joshi record melodies and freestyles in a simple set-up in Panchavati’s dorm room in Craige Residence Hall.
“We are sticking to the sound we originally had, it’s really beautiful,” Manhass said. “Now it’s the best of both worlds."
With the band spread out among N.C. State, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke and UNC-Charlotte, the music-making process has become more difficult.
"We are all so busy with classes and stuff, it's almost like being a student-athlete, its a whole other commitment,” Panchavati said. “We haven't really found that balance yet. Right now, our focus is just to start making more music, make more singles.”
Nevertheless, the team has been quietly cooking up, zeroing in on a new single looking to drop in early March, Manhass said.
Each layer, each note, each melody is perfectly and precisely curated by the team, Joshi said. Months of re-recording, editing and mixing have been poured into the new single.
"I personally think it's the best thing we've ever made," Nanduri said.
Even with such a meticulous process, the vibe in the in-house “studio” is lighthearted and relaxed. Jokes, memes, dancing and the occasional “silence in the stu” phrase frequent the room as the team places the final touches on their new single.
Today, Weston Estate has more than four million streams with just three songs, appears on 19 Spotify editorial playlists and has fans from Los Angeles to Atlanta.
Still, the team remains humble through the hype.
“I think at the end of the day, we are just regular-ass kids making music," Joshi said.
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