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Charlottesville’s queen of indie-rock, Caroline Hullman

As co-president of University Records, Hullman is a leading force in the cultivation of the University’s music scene

<p>Four years ago, fourth-year College student Caroline Hullman moved to Charlottesville with a collection of original songs, an affinity for 90's grunge and an itch to start a band.</p>

Four years ago, fourth-year College student Caroline Hullman moved to Charlottesville with a collection of original songs, an affinity for 90's grunge and an itch to start a band.

Four years ago, fourth-year College student Caroline Hullman moved to Charlottesville with a collection of original songs, an affinity for 90’s grunge and an itch to start a band. A former theater kid from Fairfax who yearned for a bigger audience, Hullman now serves as the frontwoman and lead guitarist for the indie-rock project Marti, for which she released her debut EP last year. 

Hullman found her place in the music community through University Records, a student organization dedicated to providing resources for musicians on grounds. As its current co-president along with Nate Cantu, a fourth-year Commerce student, Hullman remains a leading force in the cultivation of the University's music scene. 

Looking back on her childhood, Hullman recalls listening to the radio during hour-long commutes to school with her father, who she credits for introducing her to 90’s alternative bands like The Smashing Pumpkins. 

“My dad's musical tastes really influenced my desire to get into the kind of music that I have been doing for a long time,” Hullman said. “Some people who don’t listen to rock music have that reaction where they hear a grittier voice and they're like, ‘Oh, I don't like that.’ I feel like it did the opposite for me.”

Hullman’s identification with indie-rock guitarist and singer Lindsey Jordan — frontwoman of Snail Mail — marked a turning point in her musical trajectory. 

“I feel like [Jordan’s] tomboyish-ness kind of reflected a part of me that didn’t feel super seen at the time,” Hullman said. “In high school, her music really resonated with me. Just the style … it was kind of emotional and feminine, but also cool.” 

Hullman’s musical impulse draws from a wide array of indie and alternative artists. Hullman cites Alex G’s unexpected chord progressions, Phoebe Bridgers’ emotionality, and the ethereal distortion of 90’s rock band My Bloody Valentine as profound influences on her music. 

In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hullman was inspired to record a collection of songs she had written over the years, resulting in last year’s release of her debut EP “Marti.” 

“I just wanted to document everything I had written thus far and put it out there in a professional way,” Hullman said. She enlisted the help of Cantu for the production and mastering of the EP. 

“We had sort of a mindmeld,” Hullman said about the creative dynamic between the pair, who became close friends during the recording process. “It's really funny how it worked out that we’re now both co-presidents together.”

Hullman expressed her gratitude to the connections she has made through URec, from Cantu to the rotating cast of talented musicians she has collaborated with. 

“I wouldn’t be where I am without URec,” Hullman said. “I wouldn’t have met any of the bandmates I’ve had, who have all been completely instrumental in being able to do band gigs and bring my sound to life at performances.” 

According to Hullman, URec has grown far beyond its former reputation as a “boys club” that primarily caters to “frat jam bands.” 

“URec means the opportunity to do what you’re trying to do with music because it provides so many different opportunities, whether you’re trying to perform or record music,” Hullman said. 

By serving as a musical and social network for students, organizing shows, creating opportunities for musicians to play live and providing access to practice spaces and music equipment, URec is committed to shaping a vibrant, supportive community of musicians and artists on grounds. 

Hullman and Cantu have played an instrumental role in URec’s recent growth and the emergence of a diverse lineup of student bands, such as Indecisive and Mellowdrama. URec’s most recent milestone is the creation of a formal website designed to digitize the organization and centralize resources, making them more accessible to students.

The website has also facilitated the organization’s marketability and the formation of partnerships with venues in Charlottesville like The Graduate and The Southern, both of which have committed to hosting URec shows this semester.

Hullman and her bandmates, many of which are URec members, are also proud to be included on the lineup at MACROCK XXV, an annual DIY music festival in Harrisonburg on April 1 and 2. 

“URec means musicians and artists supporting each other. Because we all have the same passion for music… making it and creating it specifically,” said Hullman.“I think some of my best memories are playing at house shows and watching bands at house shows.”

To catch Hullman and her bandmates live in the flesh, one can stop by Marti’s set at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Pale Fire Brewing Company.