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From TikTok Fame to Tiny Desk, Tiny Habits Is a 2022 Breakout Band

01/12/2022

From TikTok Fame to Tiny Desk, Tiny Habits Is a 2022 Breakout Band The student trio unpacks its approach to creating striking vocal arrangements and shares its first studio track, hemenway.

By

John Mirisola

December 1, 2022

Tiny Habits, left to right: Judah Mayowa '21, Maya Rae, and Cinya Khan

Image courtesy of the artist

Tiny Habits first made a name for itself singing in stairways and dorm rooms. The trio, composed of Judah Mayowa '21 and current Berklee students Cinya Khan and Maya Rae, gained a massive audience on TikTok and Instagram over the past year by performing bite-sized acoustic covers of nearly forgotten popular songs in their trademark shape-shifting three-part harmony. Then everybodys like, Oh my God, I forgot about that song! says Judah, adding with a smile: And then they like ours better, 'cause we, you know, add a little harmony to it.

Its been a rapid ascent for a band that started as nothing more than a few new friends singing together in Mayas dorm room and sharing their experiments online. (Itll be cute, Maya remembers them thinking about posting their first cover, Carly Rae Jepsens Call Me Maybe.) But it didnt take long for them to realize they had something special. Every single time we would post a video together, it would be like the most viewed video any of us had gotten, says Cinya. So they created official Tiny Habits accounts on Instagram and TikTok and started posting there.

Soon, these throwback covers began to rack up hundreds of thousands of views, sometimes millions. At one point, they even caught the eye of folk luminary David Crosby, who tweeted about them back in March, I think they are the best new singing group Ive heard.

It was really cool, 'cause hes obviously a part of a trio thats very well-known, says Judah. So I think its cool to get recognition from someone who has kind of done the same thing that weve been doing.

Watch: Tiny Habits performs for Berklees Two Track video series:

A Recipe for Harmony Its hard to describe exactly what makes Tiny Habits sound so compelling. While some of it comes down to the good fortune of three voices that sound nice together, mastering that blend and achieving the kinds of creative harmonic twists featured in all of their arrangements is anything but luck.

Its definitely a lot of trial and error, but I think because weve been doing it for kind of a while now, we know where each of our own voices will sit, and where the other members will kind of take over, says Cinya, describing their arranging process. We start with a pretty standard three-part harmony, and then one of us will figure out some sauce that makes it Tiny Habits.

And whats the secret to that sauce? We love dissonance and crunch, like when notes rub together, says Judah. I think we use that very often.

On top of that, Maya adds, we discovered that our unison is something thats pretty cool. I think its hard for people to achieve a really smooth blend. So the fact that we have that is kind of also part of the Tiny Habits sauce, you could call it.

A smooth three-part unison, balanced with surprising flashes of dissonance and harmonic complexity, all in the space of a verse and a chorus-for these singers, that formula is the result of both instinct and time spent in the classroom.

Those harmony classes... Judah muses. Cinya agrees. A lot of it is just so intuitive that were not really thinking about it, she says, but just knowing about tensions is something I utilize most. Because Judah [will be] like, Oh, add the nine. 13? Try the 11. And so I feel like, as a communication tool, thats pretty helpful.

The View from the Desk Lizzy McAlpine Taps Student Band for Tiny Desk Harmonies

Read more about McAlpines Tiny Desk concert and watch the full set here.

The recognition and opportunities the bands received havent been limited to social media, either. Earlier this year they began collaborating with indie-folk artist Lizzie McAlpine '20 on a few videos, which led to McAlpine asking them to serve as her backing band and create new vocal arrangements for her NPR Tiny Desk concert in November.

It was a surreal experience for the group, playing what was likely their highest-profile gig yet in a Washington, D.C., office building.

It was crazy, because when we were doing it, were facing the other way. So were looking at all these NPR workers and just singing. But then after, there was a picture taken of us behind the desk, and we looked at the picture and thats when it really sank in for us, says Maya. Were like, Oh my God. Thats the background. Thats Tiny Desk.

From the Stairwell to the Studio Of course, theres more to this band than what new forms it manages to make from other peoples songs. All three are songwriters in their own right-Maya and Cinya are both professional music majors with songwriting concentrations (Maya is also concentrating in music business; Cinya in music production). Since the beginning theyve also been working on original material, and when they play live, thats the well theyre drawing from primarily.

The original stuff has definitely been well received, which is really validating, says Cinya. People are just so kind to us.

Now, with the release of its first studio single, hemenway, Tiny Habits are proving to its online following that the bands collective voice doesnt lose its soul on the walk from the stairwell to the vocal booth, and it endures far beyond a 30-second video.

The song began as a project for one of Cinyas classes. She sent it, and she was like, I wrote this for my songwriting class. And then I think that day we just arranged harmonies and decided we loved it and added it to our set, Maya recalls, saying that it wound up being the first track they decided to record in the studio. Its a fully produced track, and we feel really strongly about it. Were really excited for people t
LINK: https://www.berklee.edu/berklee-now/news/from-tiktok-fame-to-tiny-desk...
See more stories from berklee

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