Brown Hall trio creates own music

Ambrosio Rodriguez

Ambrosio Rodriguez

After two years of mixtapes and basement tracks, Sam Phan, Sidney Fox, and Lj Delacruz have refined their sound together as artists to form James Smith.

“We are college kids, just like everybody else here and even when we just make beats without words, we do us and we don’t try and be anything that we are not,” said Sidney Fox.

Although they are college students recording in a Brown Hall dorm room, they are not amateurs. The group doesn’t care about becoming rock stars; they do it for the music.

Since the beginning of the group’s friendship, they have always shared the same passion for music. Sidney remembers the first time he met Sam; they first spoke about some common interests like clothes and music. Once the subject of music came up they found themselves meshing their two individual sounds into one.

“Our music is a composition between two artists, and the 155 was the room that I lived in the time. Composition 155 sounds like a course, so it was kind of a play on words.” said Sam Phan.

In the early stages of the group, they had to rent a studio and were really restricted on what they could do with the music because they were rushed paying to use a studio. Although the studio time never resulted in a perfect sound they did make some unusual collaborations.

“We first went to the studio just to watch Lj record with a Christian singer from Sioux Falls. We ended up writing some verses that ended up on his album, then after me and Sidney were vibing with Lj we decided ‘Hey, let’s start a band.’ In two weeks we wrote about five songs, then two weeks later we recorded them,” remembers Phan. “Right after we recorded, we got a concert at a church event called ‘Hype’ in Sioux Falls and it was about abstinence. It was at the convention center and I remember there were hundreds of people there. We were playing a show before our CD was even out. I was thinking, ‘Our songs are about smashing on girls and this event is about abstinence.’ So we changed a couple of our lyrics and it was like all middle-schoolers, but it was fun.”

Other than their first big show, James Smith hasn’t performed much since other than some birthday parties and barbecues. Though the shows aren’t huge the group gets a lot of downloads and a lot of views.

“We did a remix last year that got really big on campus called ‘I Like It’, it was played on the radio here. We’d go to parties and get recognized, they knew us and that’s cool and everything. That’s what fuels my fire is having people like my music. That’s all I want to do is make people excited about music,” said Fox.

After a few good investments, Sam has turned his dorm room into a recording studio. Now the group has unlimited time and opportunity to record music all hours of the day and night. This has helped refine the band’s sound and create some collaborations with artists around the dorms, like Sam’s roommate Carlos Vargas. Sidney likes working with Carlos because he has always been a big backer of the group, and because of the dorm studio Carlos was able to express himself.

Sam will get calls from Sidney at all hours of the night to record a song because it’s just something that comes to them naturally. The music just happens; once the group gets stuck on a song they switch off and do that until the track is finished.

Sam said he has no problem expressing his feelings on tracks because of all of the music that doesn’t say anything like rap or hip-hop. He is trying to put substance in his music.

Going over his lyrics with a fine-toothed comb, Phan makes sure the group’s music doesn’t fall under the meaningless category, scrapping any lyrics that don’t stand for something. Sidney shares that enthusiasm, making sure the group never dumbs down the music just to make a club track.

Sam has even taken out the radio in his car because he says mainstream music is purely for profit. The songs on the radio are catchy, but Sam wants something more; he wants it to mean something. Sidney recognizes good original music still exists but is not played on the radio. He realizes there isn’t any passion in the music so he never really connects with the music.

Composition 155 wants to get exposure and get heard, just recently getting a manager. They don’t want to just get a record deal. They want to do it on their own.

Sidney said, “We want people to recognize that we do us, we want people to say ‘you did you’ and when you blow up like that it shows that we really care. We always put in work whether we are writing or making beats or doing shows, we are excited and we bring a lot of energy.”

The next big thing for Composition 155 is Sidney’s instrumental album Headphones that came out April 1. The album is inspired from Sidney’s walks between classes and the music that he takes inspiration from. It is titled Headphones because it is headphone music. To truly catch and hear everything in the song you have to put the headphones on.

“All of the songs are named after things you keep in your pocket. If I had to pick one song to say this is what Headphones is all about, it’s Wallet, the last track on the album. It is full of progressive sounds and Wallet really encompasses the whole album,” said Fox.

Headphones is just one of the many new albums on the horizon for Composition 155. Also coming out this year is James Smith Volume 3. All of Composition 155’s music is available on their website for free at

Fusing Sam’s trance influences and Sidney’s old school drum patterns, they are constantly progressing as full musicians, making the tracks from start to finish.

“From start to finish it’s us. If you don’t write your own lyrics or don’t produce your own songs then it’s not 100 percent you. For us it’s important to make our own beats,” Sam said.

Creating a sound bigger than the city, James Smith’s music speaks for itself with the most inventive flow and fresh sound that makes their music amazing.