Four years ago, fourth-year college student Caroline Hullman moved to Charlottesville with a collection of original songs, an affinity for ’90s grunge, and an urge to start a band. A former Fairfax theater kid who yearned for a wider audience, Hullman is now the lead vocalist and guitarist for indie-rock project Marti, for which she released her debut EP last year.
Hullman found his place in the music community thanks to University records, a student organization dedicated to providing resources for musicians in the field. As current co-chair with fourth-year business student Nate Cantu, Hullman remains a leading force in the culture of the University’s music scene.
Thinking back to her childhood, Hullman recalls listening to the radio on hour-long drives to school with her father, whom she credits with introducing ’90s alternative bands like The Smashing Pumpkins.
“My dad’s taste in music really influenced my desire to get into the kind of music I’ve been doing for a long time,” Hullman said. “Some people who don’t listen to rock music have this 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 vocalist Lindsey Jordan – the singer of Snail Mail – marked a turning point in her musical trajectory.
“I feel like [Jordan’s] The tomboy kind of reflected a part of me that didn’t feel great at the time,” Hullman said. “In high school, his 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 range of independent and alternative artists. Hullman cites the unexpected chord progressions of Alex G, the emotionalism of Phoebe Bridgers, and the ethereal distortion of 90s rock band My Bloody Valentine as deep influences on her music.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hullman was inspired to record a collection of songs she had written over the years, culminating in the release of her debut EP “Marti” last year.
“I just wanted to document everything I’ve written so far and get it out in a professional way,” Hullman said. She called on Cantu for the production and mastering of the EP.
“We had a kind of mind-meld,” Hullman said of the creative dynamic between the two, who became close friends during the recording process. “It’s really funny how it turned out that we are now both co-chairs together.”
Hullman expressed her gratitude for the relationships she has built 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 had, all of whom were instrumental in being able to do band gigs and bringing my sound to life in performances.”
According to Hullman, URec has grown far beyond its former reputation as a “boys club” that primarily caters to “fraternity groups.”
“URec means the opportunity to do what you’re trying to do with music because it offers 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, hosting performances, creating opportunities for musicians to perform live, and providing access to practice spaces and musical equipment, URec is committed to shaping a vibrant and supportive community of musicians and artists in the field.
Hullman and Cantu have been instrumental in the recent growth of URec and the emergence of a diverse range of student groups, such as Undecided and sweet drama. The most recent stage of the URec is the creation of a website designed to digitize the organization and centralize resources, making them more accessible to students.
The website has also made it easier to market the organization and form partnerships with venues in Charlottesville like The Graduate and The Southern, both of which have pledged to host URec shows this semester.
Hullman and his bandmates, many of whom are members of URec, are also proud to be part of the lineup of MACROCK XXVan annual DIY music festival in Harrisonburg on April 1-2.
“URec is about musicians and artists supporting each other. Because we all have the same passion for music…making it and creating it specifically,” Hullman said. “I think some of my fondest memories are playing house shows and watching bands at house shows.
To catch Hullman and his bandmates live, one can stop by Marti’s set at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Pale Fire Brewing Company.