Syence: a Cal Poly alum music duo making it big
Syence – a music group consisting of two Cal Poly alumni aerospace engineer Zach Montoya (graduated in 2015) and industrial engineer Brayden James (graduated in 2016) – will be opening for Whethan, a Los Angeles-based artist and producer known for his electronic sound. This performance will be a drive-in concert at the City National Grove in Anaheim, California on March 19 and 20.
This is one of the biggest direct-support gigs the duo has had. Previously, Syence has played at events such as Snowglobe, a music festival in Tahoe, and in local clubs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Luis Obispo.
“We formulated Syence with the idea in mind that we wanted to get to the point where we were playing Coachella and things like that,” Montoya said.
The pair met in their freshman year chemistry class, which is what inspired their name. Syence is a play on the word “science” and is pronounced the same way. They became good friends over their shared passion for music and started making music using a software called Ableton. Montoya was on the production side and James performed and DJs. However, the project Syence did not begin until 2015, and it took them two years to release their first single, “Arrival.”
As Montoya and James got more invested in pursuing Syence, their careers started to domino and they got more serious.
“Everything starts to legitimize itself when you’re committed to it, when you continue to put out good music, things start to happen,” Montoya said.
Now, they have been living together in Los Angeles for two years and are making more connections in the intense industry. Montoya and James were connected with an official booking agent from Paradigm Talent Agent, Lee Anderson, who helped them set up the drive-in concert.
“Through Lee we’ve now connected more directly with Whethan, which is cool because we dig his music and have for quite some time,” James said.
While potentially on the cusp of adopting Syence as a full-time career, Montoya and James still hold other jobs. Montoya has been working at the online music production school Hyperbits since graduation, where he works as the lead content creator and teacher. James works as a Senior Account Executive at Adobe.
For the past year, COVID-19 lockdowns meant ample time for Syence to create and release music. Their latest release, “a little bit bored (feat. ruuth),” debuted on February 19, 2021 and has amassed more than 100,000 streams on Spotify. They are also sitting on about 15 unreleased original songs.
“I think having COVID happen, we knew that live shows weren’t going to be around for a while, so we weren’t going to grow in that way, necessarily,” Montoya said. “We knew all we could do was grow musically.”
Before the pandemic, Syence did not have a manager or booking agent for shows, according to James. A few months into all the lockdowns, their current management showed an interest, reached out to them and started their current working relationship.
“The momentum and team is finally there, so we’ll see what comes of it,” James said.
Post-pandemic, Syence expects to play more shows and festivals consistently and become recognized as a legitimate touring act.