“I think that’s the thing that excites us most about music—it’s just a way we can understand each other and relate to each other in such a special way.”
Alden McWayne greets me with his nose still red from the cold—he’s just arrived home from jazz ensemble, and he’s bundled up in an oversized teddy bear coat with a pink fur hat perched on top of his signature mullet. But his eye-catching ensemble isn’t what stands out most to me during our conversation—it’s the way the corners of his mouth are always slightly upturned, as if he just can’t wait for the next opportunity to cackle with glee.
McWayne is a 21-year-old senior at Berklee studying performance, specifically on the drums. He was raised in Eugene, Oregon, along with his brother Dana, a 24-year-old organic inspector, and the two now make music together as the band Dana and Alden. Alden also creates content on TikTok under the username @gucci_pineapple and is known for his videos interacting with people as a “cringy, indie simp guy.”
The brothers were raised in a musical family, with a jazz-obsessed father and a church choir member mother. Alden remembers drumming for hours on a toy set at four years old, not caring whether it sounded good or not, just wanting to make noise. Dana took up the clarinet after being forced to join the school band, then switched to saxophone.
“From when I was a toddler, I was just captivated by music and rhythm,” Alden said. “Even when I was in the bathtub, I’d be drumming on the water.”
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The two credit the late Kenny Reed, who passed away in 2019, as their mentor and introduction to the world of jazz performance. Reed headed the Jazz Station in Eugene, a club with Sunday jams. With a laugh, Alden remembers his dad dropping him and Dana off there for the first time, the two of them “mortified” and their dad sending them off with, See you guys in three hours!
“[Reed] really took us under his wing and hired us for gigs and gave me private lessons,” Alden said. “He bought me a suit and showed me how to dress—we just felt very nurtured by the jazz scene in Eugene. I feel like we wouldn’t be pursuing music like this or putting out this much music—I might not even be at music school if we didn’t have that mentorship early on.”
The two began seriously making music together during the early stages of the pandemic, where they’d wander downstairs in their bathrobes first thing in the morning and sit down at their instruments to jam together. This is where their 2021 EP brothers was born, and coincidentally, where Alden began to make TikToks.
“Both me and Dana kind of tried to pursue a traditional jazz career and felt kind of stifled by it,” Alden said. “I love swing and traditional jazz, but the scene can sometimes be a little pretentious and serious and I feel like we both felt like we didn’t fit into that. But then we started composing music that was less traditional and a little bit more authentic to us and what we enjoy.”
Since then, the two have put out the singles “Bound” and “Coconut Water,” which Alden claims are much more representative of their current aesthetic and sound, though he’s still “very proud” of brothers. This past winter, Dana and Alden recorded their first debut album, which is scheduled to be released this year. They recorded it in just 10 days, while Alden was home for winter break, and the speed made the whole process feel “electric.”
“It feels like we’re making the album of our lives—it just feels so explosive at times, nostalgic at times, relaxing and warm at times,” Alden said. “It’s a late spring, summer album, where it’s like stuff you can put on when you’re cooking and camping or on the beach. Maybe great for driving to the countryside. It feels experimental, but also extremely us.”
The two are no strangers to the stage—their pre-show rituals include cappuccinos and Wim Hof breathing, and after the show, an ice cream cone for Alden from FoMu. Both love the feeling of being in the spotlight, but Dana is happy to let his little brother take the lead during shows, and enjoys watching him “really love what he does.”
“For me, [music] was really just a way to connect with Alden,” Dana said. “I think that’s the thing that excites us most about music—it’s just a way we can understand each other and relate to each other in such a special way.”
In addition to his jazz performances, Alden has garnered attention through his TikTok account, having amassed nearly half-a-million followers. It all came to fruition during the early boredom of the pandemic, after his mom forced him to seriously quarantine for three weeks after returning from college. He started using his mom’s iPad, since his phone screen was shattered.
“I would climb out of my bedroom window and shower in the backyard with a cold hose,” Alden said. “So I was living like that for three weeks, and probably after a day or two, I just had this yearning to make TikToks.”
Alden admits to wanting fame ever since he was young, and said he’s always been a “schemer” (“dreamer, maybe that’s a better word”). His idea for the @gucci_pineapple brand was born in the eighth grade, when he bought several white T-shirts and screen printed a pattern of pineapples onto them with the intention to sell them. He even went so far as to change his Instagram handle to @gucci_pineapple, but never sold the shirts.
“I was that type of kid who would, for a week, get into one project and then forget about it—I had a new hobby every week,” Alden said.
His affinity for content creation also began in the eighth grade, when he created a second Instagram account where he would post “really raunchy” raps. He snickers as he recounts the origin story behind its username, claiming that it might be too inappropriate.
“When I first smoked weed, I nicknamed the strain we smoked Mediterranean garden… I think I’ve always been a little out of the box,” Alden said. “I don’t know if anyone else has ever called weed Mediterranean garden.”
The most defining characteristic of Alden’s TikTok account is the way he uses humor to uplift. From complimenting his fellow gym goers’ techniques to telling people on the street that he likes their outfits, Alden’s silly jokes are a breath of fresh air on TikTok. He often chooses to film with elderly people and has been pleasantly surprised by their willingness to engage with him.
“There’s this little park next to Berklee and there’s a nursing home there so there’s always these grandmas hanging out in the park,” Alden said. “I’ve always walked by it and thought, Dang, no one really interacts with them, it’ll be interesting to just go up to them and have a conversation. So I think I did one video where I was kind of goofing around with a grandma and that did well.”
Though he loves the spotlight, Alden admits to getting performance anxiety before approaching someone for a TikTok. But he’s always able to push past it and get into a “zone.” It helps that his character on TikTok, a “cringy indie guy who owns a record player and thrifts weird clothes,” is just an exaggeration of his real personality. Despite the lighthearted nature of his TikToks, he spends several hours per day planning and filming videos, and half his content doesn’t even make it past his drafts folder.
“I have a childhood friend who[m] I send every single draft to and he says yes or no,” Alden said. “The best thing about him is he’s super mean—I’ll send him a video I spent an hour making and he’ll just reply “no.” Occasionally, I’ll be rebellious and I’ll still post it, but usually, if he doesn’t like it, it won’t do well. He has a really good comedic gauge.”
Though Dana enjoys being in Alden’s TikToks, the two don’t film together often as they now live in different states. But when they are together at home in Oregon, Dana is simultaneously amused and impressed by Alden’s dedication to his TikTok.
“He always just enlists whoever is around to be his cameraman,” Dana said. “He’s like a dictator when he’s filming—it’s like, Quiet on the set! If I’m in the kitchen making soup, it’s like, Stop chopping the carrots.”
With a repentant grin, Alden admits that he’s always wanted to be famous, but still gets performance anxiety before he approaches people to film a TikTok. He claims he’s always been like this, but Dana remembers a specific moment when he noticed Alden’s confidence building. He describes Alden as being “shy and quiet” until the beginning of high school, when he convinced their parents to let him live in Nicaragua alone at 16 years old.
“Seeing how he came back with so much confidence in himself, a love for the world, and a love for the people of the world, that was really a defining moment for me, seeing my brother like, Wow, he’s really stepping into himself as a person,” Dana said. “I think that was the moment where he started to be his wild and weird self, no matter who he was with, and everywhere he’s gone, people love him.”
To Alden, TikTok has been nothing but an opportunity for expression and growth. It’s easy to forget he’s an accomplished drummer until he posts a new TikTok of himself with his musician friends. He admits that a recent comment about how he’s not a “serious” musician made him reevaluate if comedy was hurting his professional career, but concluded that humor and music are both equally important to him.
“I wouldn’t have this platform or this space to share all of my music if I hadn’t started posting dorky fun videos,” Alden said. “Being a goofball brings me a lot of joy, and it would feel wrong to let that side of me go. It feels like the comedy and the music are symbiotic—it feels like they uplift each other.”
He recently realized how important it is to be kind to every fan he meets (not that he’s ever in a grumpy mood, he says), after running into rapper Yung Gravy’s photographer outside of the Boylston St. Trader Joe’s. After their encounter, the photographer sent Alden a DM asking him to come backstage and make a TikTok with Yung Gravy. Though Alden makes it a point to be polite to everyone that comes up to him, he can’t help but notice how some people treat him differently now, like a business opportunity instead of a person.
“People are a lot nicer to me and I enjoy it, but I feel like I’ve distinguished who cares about me,” Alden said. “I think I’ve learned to be more selective with the energy I surround myself with.”
As of now, he plans on continuing to make TikToks and pursuing music with his brother.
“I wanna move to New York City, I wanna release this album and try to blow it up, I wanna tour in the next year or two with my band,” Alden said. “I’m very excited about posting TikToks—I want to keep running with my TikTok and just see where it takes me. My mom uses this phrase “daring greatly,” so with the humor and the pranks and skits, keep daring greatly and see where it takes me.”
This article was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its current effort to tell stories about local artists and creative influencers
Ponette recently graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism. She enjoys writing about music, movies, culture and cool people. In her free time, she loves consulting Wirecutter, listening to Phoebe Bridgers and playing with her dog, Honey.