Grace Bromage ‘23
Around campus, Ben Lepper ‘25 is known as the sports guy thanks to his work as The Spire’s Chief Sports Editor and his football game broadcasts. However, he is now showing a different side of himself as he breaks into the global music scene.
On Nov. 11, Lepper, under the name Cloudcage, released his first extended play (EP) with a major record label, Monstercat. He partnered with a longtime friend and collaborator, Simón Marulanda-Mesa (whose stage name is Feathervane), to produce the EP they titled Nimbus. Nimbus contains four tracks, two of which are collaborations and two of which are Lepper’s solo compositions.
Lepper’s musical journey has been a long road with many obstacles along the way, but he persevered and is proud of where he is today.
“It’s crazy how this journey I’ve been taking that not a lot of people know about has finally reached the goal that I thought was impossible once,” said Lepper. “It hasn’t hit me yet how big it is.”
Lepper’s music journey started when he was five and his mother enrolled him in piano lessons. However, he only started to appreciate music several years later thanks to his then piano teacher, Rob, who encouraged him to improvise rather than use sheet music.
“One teacher told me to just improvise,” Lepper recalled. “That’s what started all of this.”
While Lepper was developing his own musical abilities, he stumbled upon electronic dance music (EDM) and the Monstercat label. Although Monstercat was founded in 2011, Lepper began to follow the label in 2016 after discovering some of their songs on YouTube. He started to really interact with the label in 2018 when he stopped by the Monstercat headquarters on a family trip to Vancouver. Also in 2018, Lepper met Marulanda-Mesa on a Monstercat radio Twitch stream. The two would start to create content for Monstercat’s weekly radio show, putting them on the label’s radar.
However, health issues would force Lepper to pause his music journey. When he recovered enough to return to the music scene, he found that his music had taken on a different sound.
“My music was more emotional, more relaxing, more melodic,” said Lepper. “It wasn’t exactly EDM. It was house music: stuff you could easily take in while studying, walking, hearing it in stores. My sound was going in a completely different direction than Monstercat.”
Lepper’s new music more closely aligned with the music of a different label, Silk Music. In March 2021, Silk Music was acquired by Monstercat, becoming Monstercat Silk, meaning that Lepper would once again have the chance to collaborate with the label that got him into EDM.
In March 2022, Lepper’s years of hard work paid off. Marulanda-Mesa reached out to him about entering a music deal with Silk and within two weeks, the two musicians created a song that they would turn into the label. The label would accept a total of four songs to add to their EP that spring. Since then, it has been months of planning with marketing and legal teams. On Nov. 7, days before the official release date, Monstercat sent the E.P. out to D.J.s around the globe.
Lepper has released a few songs on SoundCloud and with smaller labels in the past, but he has never done anything of this magnitude.
“It’s the first time I’ve done something on an actual global scale,” said Lepper. “It’s my first time working with a label with an art department, a marketing department, and a legal team. It’s a literal business with employees, not just two or three guys working in their room.”
Although this journey has been years in the making, Lepper admitted that he almost quit back in high school. At the time, not many people took him seriously and he was even bullied for his interest in making EDM. However, Lepper believes that his past experiences with bullying and serious health issues set him and his music apart from other musicians in the industry.
“I’m bringing a raw storytelling angle to music,” he said. “I almost died a couple of times. That comes with conflicted feelings. There’s hopelessness but also positivity that things can get better.”
Lepper refused to elaborate on any specific stories that inspired the songs on Nimbus, but did imply that they came from his lived experience. He believes that part of the power of music is people being able to create their own meanings from his songs.
“It doesn’t matter what my thought process was. Everyone will take the songs their own way,” said Lepper. “You can’t say it means X-Y-Z because someone will say it’s A-B-C. I just try to draw on what I’ve gone through and try to make others feel similar things.”
Although music is something that Lepper is passionate about, he doesn’t think he wants to pursue a career in music.
“It’s not the life for me,” said Lepper. “I just want to have as much fun as possible. I like making music. There’s not much else to it. There is nothing that can connect so many people like a song.”