Written by Alec Rubman
We sat down with Pat and Dean from Hi-Vi Sound System for a wide ranging conversation on their origins, running a successful sound system, and much more.
New York’s Hudson Valley, located about 100 miles north of New York City, might not strike many as a hotspot for sound system music, but HiVi Sound System has put the community firmly on the map. The stunning design is matched only by the incredible sounds within, and artists like De-Tü, Ellis Delta, and Dubamine have stepped up to flex some serious bassweight at deployments across the Northeastern United States, along with local events throughout the Hudson Valley region.
To learn more about Hi-Vi’s rise to prominence as a shining beacon of American sound system culture, we sat down with Dean Ruggieri and Pat Gubner (aka Tunic) to discuss their first experiences with sound systems, how Hi-Vi came into existence, setting up for shows, and much more. Hear what they have to say below!
Let’s start from the very beginning. What was your first exposure to sound systems?
Pat: For me, it started with experiencing a home theater system at my high school friends’ house. They had added subwoofers for more low end, and we used to sit there and listen to music for hours on end. Another friend had an uncle who was super into building speakers, and he had a massive system with two highs and dual 15-inch subwoofers. Hearing that changed everything for me and I absolutely fell in love with quality music on quality systems.
Dean: My father had a big room of speakers in our basement growing up, but my journey truly started overseas in when I visited a friend in Catalonia. At the end of the summer, different villages each had festivals with their own sound system for everyone to enjoy. No ticket required.
What sort of music were they playing?
D: It was roots and reggae but done in a Spanish style.
How did your love of sound systems eventually translate into starting Hi-Vi?
P: As I started going to more events in Brooklyn I met the crew from Jungle Skankin’ Sound Systems. We became good friends and one day I jokingly asked if they had a mini scoop [subwoofer] that I could take off their hands. Eventually, that led to us obtaining our first stack, which was already built and sitting in storage in their warehouse. We got it and designed it with our colors and logo, played our first big show with Dubamine and De-Tü – and then COVID hit. We had our system ready to go but nowhere to play it, which ultimately led to a bunch of family gatherings in the woods near our house where we would set it up and play tunes with close friends.
D: I met Pat at a show at Turks Inn in the city and we realized we didn’t live far from each other. Eventually as things opened back up, we started throwing small one-off events together to show people the system and get them to fall in love with the sound. There’s a town here called Beacon that’s known as “Little Williamsburg” with tons of art galleries and a monthly gallery crawl event called Second Saturdays. We've done a few system showcases there which have been incredible. We’ve been throwing these two night events called Reason & Ruckus in Poughkeepsie as well, our Night of Reason is dedicated to easy listening and educating others on the sound system, and then we let loose at the Night of Ruckus the following day.
You also just expanded your system. What’s that been like?
P: It’s been unreal. I had always wanted to do a full system, I had acquired the cables and amps years prior knowing we would eventually upgrade. We asked Jungle Skankin’ to build another version of what we already had, and they used their skills to build a new and improved version for us. Now we can run four subs, four kicks, four mids, and four tops.
D: It’s made a massive difference for sure. As we started playing more events we realized how much harder it would hit if we were able to run two stacks instead of one, and now it’s a reality. Our original system was great, but this has been next level.
What goes into deploying the system? Do you have other people who come in and help out?
P: At our core we’re a three person operation: me, Dean, and Lindsay [Ackerman] handle everything for Hi-Vi. Now that we have the full system, we invested in a trailer so we can bring it anywhere within driving distance and we set up and run the system ourselves at every show. But the community really makes it what it is – we’ve got people there before setup and they don’t leave until after we’ve broken it down. Their support is what keeps us going.
D: With our old system we could set it up in less than an hour, but even with our new system it only takes us about an hour to get up and running. We’ve learned a ton and we have so much fun with it when we’re all working together.
P: It’s like Legos for soundboys (laughs)
What are some of your goals for Hi-Vi in the coming months?
P: More than anything we just want people to fall in love with the sound the way Dean and I did. Education is a massive part of our mission, we want people to not only experience the sound but understand the deep history of sound system culture. We want to give people in the Hudson Valley an opportunity to hear a system that they may not be able to experience otherwise. Seeing the same people returning to our events is a huge testament to that.
D: We’re always looking to enhance the quality of the experience every time we turn our sound system on. We want to show the community why this is so important to us and giving new artists, creatives, and the people who attend our shows the best experience possible. More of this is always the goal wherever and whenever you see the Hi-Vi system.
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