When Kyle Serota (’23) was in seventh grade, one of his teachers was childhood friends with legendary DJ-slash-producer Steve Aoki. At the time, Serota had just embarked on a musical niche comprised of techno, EDM and electronica acts, and the constant supply of such content inspired him to create his own.. He was already an amateur DJ stumbling over his own image, slowly learning the ins and outs of production through Youtube videos and online forums.
One day, Serota asked her teacher to forward a letter to Aoki, along with three of her best homemade bites. (Serota now admits the songs were terrible.)
“Dear Mr. Aoki,” Serota said in the letter, “My name is Kyle Serota. I am a dance music producer and musician. My name is ‘Rattrap’ and I am 14 years old. […] When I was in fifth grade, I discovered dance music through your music alongside bands like Swedish House Mafia and Knife Party. I became obsessed with electronic music, which led me to start writing it. I work everyday making original music and remixes. I spend hours on my computer in my bedroom making music with Ableton and would love if you could listen to some of it.
Today, if you google the term “Rattrap”, you will either get the House Rodent Guillotine or the lesser-known character “Transformers”. If you Google “GoldenGate,” however – the newly decided stage name that Serota will perform with from now on – there’s a good chance, especially if you narrow your search to include the date of October 24, that you can find information on an upstart DJ who just gave Steve Aoki a hard act to follow.
Before Serota opened for his idol at a sold-out show in downtown Nashville, he begged his college principal for a chance.
“At a young age, when I started DJing, I would literally go to my college principal and say ‘Hey, let me DJ something,’” Serota said. “And so ultimately my manager literally gave me a chance, by DJing this dance for everyone.”
The seventh-year dance DJ – his first big concert – didn’t come without roadblocks. At one point in our interview, we shared a laugh about a viral YouTube video in which a student guitarist completely spoil the star-spangled banner in front of a gymnasium filled with peers. While it’s a fun prospect to laugh now, it wasn’t far from what happened in her case: her computer crashed halfway through.
“That sort of thing rocked me, but overall I thought it was a great experience,” Serota said with a laugh. “In the end, I really got people moving, and that was kind of like, ‘okay, I feel like I can really do that. “”
Such resilience, and the ability to pull something out of nothing, have been necessary additions to Serota’s already fearless approach over the years. DJing, on the other hand, is an industry that seems to require as much skill as sheer luck. Just because it opens for Steve Aoki in a month’s time doesn’t mean that the navigation went smoothly the entire trip – and even when the challenges weren’t relatively obvious, its success still required insane courage that pushed above and beyond everything. inhibition.
When Serota was deciding on his next step as a high school student, for example, he was forced to face an ongoing conflict between his interests in music and political science.
“The most important thing for me when I applied to college was to decide, ‘Well, is this something really serious – because at that point I didn’t really have jobs in high school other than DJing – or do I want to try and get a “real degree” and then make music on the side? “
He ended up committing to Vanderbilt (if you couldn’t tell now) instead of pursuing a school strictly dedicated to music, and there was a desperate desire not to let his artistic side die. During his first year, he joined the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, where he was able to foster a musical community.
“I met a bunch of guys there who also did DJs and music, so that’s how I connected with them,” Serota said.
As the first year to join a fraternity full of people he didn’t know, he had every reason to be intimidated when an upper-class student challenged him to display his things on the signs. However, it came into the limelight, quickly building a niche reputation on campus playing pre-game parties and social gatherings.
But the most significant musical development to date would come years after his debut at Vanderbilt.
“This summer I started working for this tech startup in Nashville called Yat,” Serota said, “and they wanted me to be a music producer.”
Although Serota’s music then begins to take a step back from his studies, he receives a call from an old family friend who remembers that he is interested in the production and wants him to help him. to create Yak’s own sound.
Over the summer, Serota lived in an apartment in Nashville, built a studio, and produced music for the company. He estimates that he applied for almost 40 internships in the field of political science, without a single interview. Music was what worked.
“I was like, if this is my passion, if this is what I want to do, and this is really the only way to make money, maybe I should do it,” Serota said.
One day, Serota received an Instagram DM from a Nashville promoter who introduced her to a newly founded promotion agency called Blank Canvas. He got involved at the advertising level, putting shows covered by the agency on his Instagram stories and hanging posters on campus. After doing this for a while, he sent the promoter some of his new music and asked to be considered if an opener was ever needed. The response was a vehement “yeah man” – which, understandably, was recorded by Serota as a kind way to be brushed off.
A little later, however, while Serota was in class, her phone rang. He couldn’t answer them for obvious reasons (for the record: The Vanderbilt Hustler doesn’t approve or encourage personal calls during conferences), but when he checked his phone afterwards, there was a SMS from the promoter. He was opening act for Steve Aoki in a month.
“It would really be an honor if you could listen to some of my work,” Serota said in her letter to Aoki several years ago. “I’ve been writing music since I was 11 and it’s my dream to become a professional musician and producer. I really hope you enjoy the music.
In a matter of weeks, dreams will come true.