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Keegan Tawa Returns To Matter and the Penn State Music Scence

Over the summer when electronic dance music producer and Penn State student Keegan Tawa was collaborating with vocalist Kathleen Warner, also a Penn Stater, he wanted to fill her in on the concept behind his newest track “Return To Matter.”

“Imagine going on an incredible voyage through space and time and finally, at great length, ‘Returning to Matter,’” Tawa said to Warner during one of their summer e-mail correspondences.

I’m not sure if that would have been the first thing that came to mind when I heard the newly released electro house track, but it certainly takes you on a journey and leaves you feeling quite satisfied as the outro plays out.

“Return To Matter” started as a re-work of a song that Tawa collaborated on with Atomisk — former Penn State student Andy Fitton — a year ago called “All Matter.” The track was good, but it wasn’t great and it strongly lacked in production quality. The melodies were there. The concept was there. It felt like it could be a great song. But it wasn’t. When Tawa started working on tidying up “All Matter” in July, it began morphing into a totally new song.

“It was easily my most popular track, so I decided to reconstruct it ground up since my skills were more developed,” he said. “Slowly, as I began digging into it, it became a sequel, not a reconstruction. The first big divergence was the vocalist and then the lyrical breakdowns evolved into something completely new, then some new chord progressions and harmonics. Really the only recognizable piece is the prevailing melodies during the drops.”

All of that work made for Tawa’s best track yet — and it does have some solid competition — in an absolute banger of an electro house tune. I hate the word banger, but I’m going to use it here anyway because if I’m tired and laying in my bed and I start dancing, you’re doing something very right.

The track opens with a commanding kick drum intro before a dark melody starts to come in. About a minute in Warner’s stellar vocals begin with the first two lines: “Suddenly, I wait to see the place where I reside, Energy and entropy, space and time collide.” She sings over a fairly simplistic melody, but tension begins to rise as she sings the title: “Return To Matter.”

And then come the booming stabs. And there’s a synth piano riff. And there’s vocal chopping, something that Tawa messed around with on a track he collabed on with Penn State student and vocalist Annelise Gaus called “Daybreak.” The vocal chops were solid back then, but they’re better on “Return To Matter” as Tawa’s production skills have clearly come a long way over the sumer.

And then the drop. Or the chorus. Call it what you want, it’s awesome. I won’t keep you waiting any longer. Take a listen and then read on to hear more about the story behind “Return To Matter”:

My only complaint is that I’d like to see a little more variation between the two drops and I’d like the vocals to be a little longer as Warner belts out the three words from the title at the end of the second verse.

Those vocals are extremely strong. This girl’s got some chops. But they get drowned out by the instrumental and take away from Warner’s outstanding performance.The lyrics in the song were written by Myles Billard, also a Penn State student, who Tawa has worked with in the past. Those lyrics are nothing though without the amazing voice behind them.

“I met Kathleen at a show I was playing,” Tawa said. “We wound up hanging out at her place afterwards with a number of other people and she got on the keyboard and began singing and I knew she had to be in one of my pieces. Interestingly, she does not remember any of that night.”

“There may have been some tequila involved in that night,” Warner said. “I went out with my roommates and listened to [Keegan] and a few other people play at Indigo. The night ended in me drunkenly singing at the piano. I was actually pretty surprised when he e-mailed me later in the summer wanting to collaborate. Sometimes good things come out of tequila nights.”

Since posting “Return To Matter” on his SoundCloud page just five days ago, it has been listened to 1,757 times as of publishing time. For comparison, his second most played song is “All Matter,” which has 1,717 plays since being released a year ago.

“I knew it’d eventually be my most popular piece but right now it’s exploding at a rate I did not predict,” Tawa said. “I’ve tried not to lay any expectations for getting signed because I don’t want to psyche myself out. I’m actually talking to someone extremely big in the industry about releasing the vocals for a remix track. That’s still just conjecture, but if it happened, dear lord.”

Just to give you an idea of how far Tawa has come over the last year, take a listen to “All Matter” as a point of comparison to his newest release:

And if you’re enjoying his sound, here are my two favorites from one of Penn State’s best electronic dance music producers:

About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.


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