Rhode Island is full of amazing producers that have all contributed to the soundscape coming from the city. A mix of different regions, a local flavor, and an air of familiarity. Fortunately, I had the chance to sit and chat with some of the pioneers shaping the sound. MLAFomart is a three-headed production unit founded here in Providence. They came together with varying levels of expertise and different styles to create an entirely new group. They’ve worked heavily with The Wavy Bunch, producing Don Dooch’s hit single Don’t Call Me, and cultivating their own artists in-house.
The three friends met here in Providence. Ari was already making beats when Leon asked for help with production programs. Leon started watching and soaking up everything he saw. Mike first met Ari then Leon through a mutual friend (as we do in Providence) and joined the fold. They started making beats on a weekly basis and soon enough they decided to form a collective. The name is a play on their names: Mike, Leon, and Ari. It also sounds pretty damn cool. MLA format is something so academic and rigid, with goes along with their passion for professionalism and attention to detail. It also maintains their willingness to have fun and vibe out. They take their craft seriously but understand music is all about making people feel good.
Their dynamic helps them stay creative. One person will start a beat and they’ll bounce ideas around. Ari plays the piano and can elevate sounds. Leon has the mixing and engineering perfected. Mike, the youngest in the group, is learning from his partners, but he brings a unique ear and hunger that pushes the other two. It was awesome to sit down with the three of them and hear them talk about one another. I’m always fascinated to see friends commit to taking creative journies together like this. The competitive and collaborative effort that exists amongst one another. The constant pushing and lifting one another out of comfort zones. This all has allowed MLA to create something good-spirited and forward-thinking.
Short term, they have a project they’re working on. Putting their beats out there and working with artists they believe in. In the future, they hope to create a studio where they can help artists here in Providence develop their sound and perfect their craft. It’s not all about the beats with MLAFormat. They see themselves operating like a label. Investing in artists and giving them the push that they need. They’re already doing the work. Leon is constantly in the studio with the next wave of RI artists and already helping craft the next sound. Mike and Ari have written songs on their forthcoming project and are working with local R&B acts as well.
I see them continuing to push the sound here in Rhode Island and build their capacity to develop other artists. I’m excited to see what they produce next and hope they keep the music scene in Rhode Island fresh and innovative.