Electro hip hop dub-something” reads the tag on the homepage of Timeflies’ website. The duo, comprised of Cal Shapiro and Rob Resnick, met at Tufts. In a serendipitous moment, they joined musical forces to form what is now a chart-topping unit. In the music video for their most recent release, “i choose u,” Cal navigates an auto junkyard, pursuing the perfect girl and occasionally getting behind the wheel of a car. And it’s been quite a ride since they graduated almost exactly two years ago.
Shapiro and Resnick – who goes by Rez – met at Tufts in the fall of 2007. Resnick majored in philosophy and music, while Shapiro also studied music and was involved in the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program. With a slight build and a penchant for t-shirts and limited edition sneakers, Rez fits the description of the typical behind-the-scenes music producer, mixing beats as an omnipresent figure in the background and never without his sleek MacBook. Shapiro balances out Resnick’s reserved attitude with a commanding stage presence and heartthrob looks. It was an unexpected moment at Tufts when Resnick overheard Shapiro singing at a party – “He was freestyling and he was awesome” – and invited him onboard as a singer in his band.
Shapiro and Resnick began recording songs together in the spring semester of their senior year at Tufts. Timeflies had their first-ever show in New York City in January 2011 and haven’t stopped since.
Tufts was not only the place where the pair met, but also the origin of their posse – their closest friends from college have become integral parts of the Timeflies team. Jared Glick and Luke Heffernan, who graduated in 2011 with Shapiro and Resnick, function as general manager and tour manager, respectively. Heffernen worked at Putnam Associates in Boston for six months after graduation, then joined the team in a full-time position in February 2012. In a similar move, Glick left a lucrative banking job at J.P. Morgan in oom
rder to pursue his real passion – music management – for Timeflies.
“After college, they wanted to keep making music. They weren’t making money, so it wasn’t like Jared and I were able to help out at that point,” Heffernan said.
While the duo now travels with a crew of about 10 people, including a videographer and lighting designer, the core four have remained close through thick and thin. What started out as friends messing around at frat parties has turned into a lucrative business and a contract with major record label Island Def Jam.
Timeflies’ music falls into the pop genre, but it recently has been incorporating more electronic dance music sounds. Shapiro’s vocal flexibility means Timeflies can throw in some rap and freestyle lines early in a song and then progress into pop singing shortly after. Their songs frequently feature themes of love found and lost, fast cars and youth. Between Cal’s voice and the clubby anthems, Timeflies’ music often resembles Mike Posner’s. A Timeflies concert feels like an huge party, complete with a dazzling opening video track and a neon-clad crowd. Shapiro has a natural swagger in his step on stage and instantly draws in the rambunctious crowd, managing to work the entire stage and sing live with incredible energy.
Resnick, Glick and Heffernan all agree that working together brings cohesion to the group. But it’s a fine line to walk between friendship and talking band finances.
“I live with Cal. When we’re home in our apartment, we rarely ever talk about work and try not to talk about Timeflies,” Heffernan explained. The band is a blood, sweat and tears affair for all four friends.
“I think we all feel lucky that we are able to build something with some of our best friends and call it a job, but I also think a lot of people don’t realize what goes into it,” Glick said. “This business is not an easy one, and everyone on our team works extremely hard both on and off the road.”
The group’s music has matured over time. After graduating, the two spent an entire summer shacked up in a studio creating “The Scotch Tape,” which would become their first album, released Sept. 19, 2011. Cal, recognizing the importance of his voice as his instrument, began drinking tea with a dash of scotch before and after shows to improve his vocal warm-ups.
“I think our music has changed in many ways. The first is simple quality. Both of us have gotten a lot better at what we’re doing and comfortable with what we’re doing,” Resnick said.
From a slightly more removed perspective, Heffernen agrees.
“As pop music evolves and the EDM craze has gotten stronger, Rob has gotten so good for how little experience he had. He’s learned a lot about producing, software, and sounds,” he said.
Though Resnick and Shapiro co-write all melodies and lyrics, Resnick’s passion for his music is apparent in the way he speaks: a rapid-fire, fervent kind of way that gives the impression that he’s constantly thinking in rhythm, notes and chords. Though Resnick is chiefly responsible for mixing beats and the synth in the background of tracks, he is equally as comfortable with the piano, drums and guitar – a testament to his musicality. His academic and practical understanding of classic musical theory also permits him to stray from the norms and thoughtfully defend what he’s doing.
“People make classical music seem more impressive, but in a Beethoven symphony there may be X instruments only playing one note at a time,” Resnick said. “In our songs, there can be one to five notes at the same time.”
Resnick added that this musical complexity defies a commonplace assumption that popular music is less sophisticated than something classical.
“I find electronic music not to be given enough credit,” he said.
While Timeflies was, for the most part, an overnight success, the duo has still faced and surmounted the challenge of building a grassroots movement of young college-age and post-graduate fans for several years. Between live radio shows with Elvis Duran of New York’s Z100 and recent appearances on NBC’s “Today Show,” the guys still keep it light with their fan-driven “Timeflies Tuesdays,” song covers or remixes posted on Tuesday nights. Heffernan says they did 68 consecutive Timeflies Tuesdays when they were first getting their bearings in the industry and fostering their fanbase. The Timeflies group created a music culture around the ephemeral nature of time and space, using riffs on words with titles like “Clockumentary,” and constantly inviting listeners to get involved in the Timeflies universe.
Now, there’s even an app for that. The Timeflies application, designed by one of Resnick’s childhood friends, launched in the iTunes app store in August 2012 and immerses fans in the Timeflies world with streaming playlists of all their songs and lyrics, as well as information on show locations and ticket links.
“The app is an awesome way to get all things Timeflies in one location,” said Glick.
Why the increasing fame, and why now? Resnick observes that he thinks Timeflies has reached national recognition because the group is composed of “regular guys.”
“We seem like people you went to school with, that you could have met out one night. That’s rare in the music industry,” he said.
Instead of seeming like a perfectly molded male pop band, Timeflies is just two kids from Tufts making music for an ever-expanding base of adoring fans, and they just keep on getting better.