Skylar Funk Boorman ’10 and Merritt Graves ’10 have spent their years since Pomona successfully combining their love of music with the fight against climate change.
Their outlet is Trapdoor Social, a band self-described as “Los Angeles Alternative Energy Rock and Sustainability Activism.” They recently released their second album and have been touring, doing shows throughout the Midwest and West Coast. The music videos for their alt-pop songs from their first album “Death of a Friend,” which featured Death Cab for Cutie’s well-known drummer Jason McGerr, have drawn large viewership online and radio airplay.
Boorman and Graves channel their anxieties about climate change and other environmental issues into Trapdoor Social’s music, with lyrics and melodies ranging from stormy to upbeat, nervous to hopeful. “We really do want to create an anthem for the environmental movement — a popular song that has a message that gets people pumped about social responsibility and leaving a great legacy,” says Boorman.
The pair met at Pomona on Orientation Adventure and developed a friendship through such courses as Green Urbanism and Farms and Gardens in the Environmental Analysis Program under the tutelage of Professors Rick Hazlett and Char Miller, who has attended several of Trapdoor Social’s performances, describing even their unplugged gigs as “electric.”
Boorman was active in music while at Pomona, singing in Men’s Blue and White and taking music theory courses. Graves managed his own hedge fund from an office in the Claremont Village while using profits to found his company Farmscape.
“One day in Intro to Environmental Analysis, Rick Hazlett was talking about L.A sprawl. And it just clicked that we’d never get to go back and redesign L.A with the appropriate density, but we could make the best of the error by farming the sprawl,” Graves remembers.
Now, Farmscape operates more than 150 farms in the Los Angeles Area. With 12 employees including seven full-time farmers, Farmscape designs, installs, and helps to maintain urban farms that range in size from rooftop garden plots to a larger farms used by restaurants. Graves also helped create the company Agrisaurus, a web app that helps gardeners to plan and manage their own plots.
Integrating community work is important to the pair. They held a presale for their second album as a fundraiser, working with partners Everybody Solar and Grid Alternatives to donate their profits toward the purchase of solar panels for Los Angeles nonprofit Homeboy Industries, which re-trains former gang members in Los Angeles.
Among all the activities, Boorman and Graves work to find time for their songs. Striking a balance in music with an environmental message can be difficult, Graves says. “On one hand we don’t want to be preachy and play into stereotypes, but on the other hand we don’t to play so coy that the message is lost.” A growing fan base indicates that the duo is on the right track.