The Origins of Synthwave - Part 1
What was the first track you ever listened to in the synthwave/retrowave genre? Was it a
track by Kavinsky, Tesla Boy, College, or Electric Youth? Odds are that it was and while you
may not have known it at the time, you were listening to the artists that pioneered this genre and
helped to make it what it is today. We focus a lot on the latest tracks from the hottest new artists
but today we’re going to take a look back at the artists that started us on this journey and how
they influenced the scene. Those listed above are our primary focus and the ones who we felt
left the biggest impact.
Starting off strong, we’re talking about Kavinsky. Even for those who aren’t devout
followers of synthwave, this name might ring a bell. Born Vincent Pierre Claude Belorgey and
arriving on the scene in early 2006 with his EP Teddy Boy which immediately set the tone for his
future work with standouts like “Testarossa Nightdrive” which was followed up by the legendary track “Wayfarer” from his 2007 EP 1986. Most will have become familiar with Kavinsky with the 2011 release of the movie Drive, featuring the now iconic track “Nightcall”. With Drive itself being a major influencer on the synthwave scene itself with its gorgeous aesthetic it is no wonder why the two go so well together. Like many artists in this scene, Kavinsky is heavily influenced by his favorite movies and we can definitely feel the nostalgic vibe in each track. Widely considered one of the greatest
tracks of the entire genre, “Nightcall” cemented Kavinsky as a titan of synthwave and set the
gold standard for how music in this genre should sound.
Next up is another artist brought into the mainstream spotlight by Drive for most listeners. We’re talking about Electric Youth. Consisting of Bronwyn Griffin and Austin Garrick, the synthpop duo Electric Youth is perhaps most famous for the track “A Real Hero”, which basically
became the theme song for the main character of Drive, The Driver. Written about the crash landing of US Airways Flight 1549 it became an instant classic with its rolling synths and silky smooth vocals. This track single-handedly showed what Bronwyn and Austin are capable of and it is no question that “A Real Hero” will continue to be remembered as a staple of the genre for years to come. While “A Real Hero” was arguably the standout track on their 2014 release Innerworld it is just one of many memorable experiences on this album. You would be remiss to not lose yourself in the soothing synths of “Runaway”, “Innocence”, and “WeAreTheYouth”.
Having collaborated with Electric Youth on “A Real Hero”, the spotlight now falls onDavid Grellier hailing from Nantes, France. Known to many around the world for his musicalproject, College. Grellier is a member of many different projects each with their own unique sound. Like nearly all artists in this genre, Grellier was inspired by the aesthetic of the ‘80s and shapes his music around these influences. Through College, Grellier has consistently released great material always following his own unique sound but managing to make each release fresh and interesting. Many of his best work as College can be found on the 2008 EP Teenage Color, especially the opener “Can you kiss me first” featuring sounds that deliver instant nostalgic callbacks. Contrast this with the track “Save the Day” featuring Nola Wren from the 2014 release of the same name and we can hear the same soft consistent beats and vocals that he is famous for. The list of artists that pioneered the synthwave genre goes on and is nearly endless. No matter how long you have been creating music, each artist can honestly be considered a pioneer all working to deliver an experience of their own through this style of music. We’re proud to consider Kavinsky, Electric Youth, and College to be the golden standard and it goes without saying that we will continue to watch all of their careers with great interest, as always.
By Tristan Williams