Innovators – Ground Shakers: The Art of Blending with Keys N Krates [Interview]
Vancouver, BC – Originally published November 26, 2014 – Sitting down with the gentlemen of Toronto based electro-trap band Keys N Krates was a welcoming and mellow experience. Recently completing their tour to promote the Every Night EP, the group responded to our interview requests during their recent stop in Vancouver for the Hennessy: Art Of Blending event at Fortune Sound with co-headliner Just Blaze. The trio, who consists of drummer Adam Tune, turntablist Jr. Flo and David Matisse on the keys, were laid-back and confident as they gathered post sound-check to graciously allot us with a few moments of their time.
Although they were mostly poised, munching on Whole Foods peanut butter and oatmeal cookies, their pre-show demeanor was the exact opposite of their on-stage presence. If you’re unfamiliar with a Keys N Krates show, this is your fair warning. Their presence is so overwhelmingly energetic that it’s ground shaking. Literally, the ground was shaking beneath them. These guys fully embody the phrase “turn up”.
Our West Coast team sat down with the trio to talk over some topics including the hip-hop scene in the Six, playing as a live band and their early music memories – check it out below.
“We’re always looking for weird places to draw our sounds from whether it’s sampling an angelic choir from YouTube or taking some sound from the street and pitching it. The whole thing of what we do is taking things out of context and recontextualizing them in a way. So, I guess that’s blending.” – Jr. Flo
Keys N Krates: Q&A
Interview conducted by KassKills for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: You guys are here for the Hennessy Artistry event and you just finished a show in Toronto and now you’re here in Vancouver. You just recently just came off tour though, correct?
Adam Tune: We just came off a big tour so, we got home for a couple days and we didn’t actually have a Toronto date on the tour so it was kinda nice to play at home for Toronto.
HipHopCanada: And you’re here with Just Blaze, what’s your relationship like with him?
Jr. Flo: We met him two years ago at a festival and we were super geeked to meet him. We ended up actually hanging out with him and we’ve stayed in touch – we’re just friends now. He’s a homie; he’s a really nice dude which is really cool when you meet somebody who you look up to and they end up being really nice and just kind of fascinated with the new stuff that’s going on and being involved with it too. Which he totally wouldn’t have to be given all of the stuff he’s done. He’s really cool.
We heard there was an opportunity to play shows with him we were like “that sounds really fun”.
HipHopCanada: With artists like Drake and the OVO movement bringing more attention to Toronto how would you describe the hip-hop/electronic scene there and are you largely supported in your home city?
Adam Tune: We kinda started more in the U.S. The electronic stuff started to pop off a little more in than in did in Canada at first. It’s starting to come around with festivals like Digital Dreams and stuff like that. We’ve been touring in the U.S for years with these types of festivals. I think the U.S was a little further ahead with jumping on the electronic and then bringing the dubstep, trap stuff. So, it’s growing but it’s not where the U.S is yet.
Jr. Flo: Toronto’s always been where everything comes through but I think the culture there has always been a spectator culture versus a “we can do this as well” culture. We’ve always had local rappers like Kardinal and Socrates and all those guys (the F.O.S crew in the 90s) that were doing it but it never really evolved too far past Toronto. People in the States knew about them but not really like that. I think the whole OVO thing has given younger kids a different kind of phsyche – like “we can do this. We can get a laptop and with our friend who’s a producer we can just go make a bunch of shit”. I think that changes the psyche and you’re starting to see new guys popping up quicker because it just gives people a different realm of possibility. On the electronic side with Deadmau5 and Zeds Dead, guys in the last 5 – 7 years who have really blown up, I think again, that gives kids a different realm of possibility and that’s gonna breed new possibility for the next guy who’s doing really dope stuff.
HipHopCanada: Can you describe your progression as a group leading up to your recent EP Every Night.
Adam Tune: We started off more as a live act, doing hip-hop remixes and then we discovered there’s this whole producing side that we should start to figure out and learn. So we got together and learned that together. The SOLOW EP we did was kind of like a big learning curve of different styles; we were trying to figure out what exactly we were trying to do. I feel like on the Every Night EP we sat down and said “OK, let’s try to take the best part of the SOLOW EP that we dug and put those elements together and try to go for something, like try to really create that Key N Krates sound.” On the Every Night EP we kind of tried to go towards that. I think Every Night was a bridge between the SOLOW EP – which was a bunch of ideas – and the next EP – which will be like honing that sound even more and trying to figure out exactly the elements that we want to put together.
HipHopCanada: I like that you guys all tour together and you play live. What do you think that adds the your performance, being that you’re all present, playing your parts?
Jr. Flo: I think it’s more like a concert and less like going to see a DJ act. More like going to see an actual band and it gives it more of a concert feel. With no production at all and no lighting we already have a lot going on on-stage because we’re all playing instruments. It’s like a different experience than going to see someone play a DJ set.
HipHopCanada: What are some of your early music memories?
David Matisse: In my family it was always a tradition where the kids had to play their instruments for the family and it was like a recital type feeling. So very young I remember having to play piano for my aunties and uncles and grandparents and my brother was doing the same thing. So, kind of just always performing at age 4 – 5; my earliest memories were of playing piano. My family was very musical that way.
HipHopCanada: Do you sing or play any other instruments as well or just keys?
David Matisse: I do sing but thankfully for these guys, not in this band. But I’ve been playing keys since i was 4…I don’t remember not playing keys.
Adam Tune: I have early childhood memories of my dad DJing way back in the early 80’s – he was a wedding DJ. I gotta remember his DJ name. So ya, there was lots of music in the house and lots of him playing old dance records and me catching them and dancing around the kitchen.
HipHopCanada: Did he have a favourite jam that he always played?
Adam Tune: I don’t remember the early ones but i remember like when “Red Red Wine” came out for some strange reason. That was a big jam.
Jr. Flo: I think for me it was just watching rap music videos, like watching MTV and MuchMusic and just being fascinated by music. Obviously, also listening to adult contemporary radio with my parents when like George Michaels and Phil Collins and Dire Straits and all that kind of stuff. Then seeing rap music videos and being like “What is this? This is crazy. What is that DJ doing….and those sounds? I want to try and make those sounds”.
HipHopCanada: What was your very first show?
Jr. Flo: Busta Rhymes.
HipHopCanada: That’s a good one.
Adam Tune: That is a good one. I can’t even say mine…I’m gonna regret this. It was Diana Ross with my mom. No, no, not Diana Ross….It was Patti LaBelle.
David Matisse: Mine was Bryan Adams – Waking Up The Neighbours Tour. My first time being at a rock show, I just remember that place was sold-out. All 5,000 of us in that stadium.
HipHopCanada: If you had to add another member or instrument, what or who would you add?
Jr. Flo: I don’t think we would add another member but we would definitely like to collab with a horns section or strings section at some point. We’re open to a lot of collabs – it’s not even about what the instrument is, it’s more about who it is.
Adam Tune: I’d probably add Will Ferell on the cow bell.
HipHopCanada: If you are collaborating on a record, do you prefer to collab with singers, rappers or producers?
Jr. Flo: I mean, we’ve collabed with all of the above and it just depends on what we’re trying to do. We did “Keep It 100” with our bud Grandtheft and that turned out really cool. We also find that it’s difficult to collab with producers because it’s just like adding a fourth member to the argument. With rappers, we did the “Dum Dee Dum” remix with Cyhi, Tree and King Louie but like, rappers are a whole pain in the ass in themselves, so are vocalists. But them we did “Are We Faded” with our friend Piper Davis and that worked out super well even though that wasn’t what we were initially going for at all. Every situation is unique and every person; it’s not like so much about the role, it’s more about who’s occupying that role.
HipHopCanada: We’re here for Hennessey: The Art Of Blending event – being a blended group in the way of talent and styles, what does the phrase ‘the art of blending’ mean to you?
Adam Tune: I think for us we kind of pull from all styles of music, a lot of indie rock music, or like, soul or jazz and we try to take these elements and that palette from all different genres of music and take a little piece of it and make it our own. Taking that and making it into the Keys N Krates sound.
Jr. Flo: We’re always looking for weird places to draw our sounds from whether it’s sampling an angelic choir from YouTube or taking some sound from the street and pitching it. The whole thing of what we do is taking things out of context and recontextualizing them in a way. So, I guess that’s blending.
HipHopCanada: That’s our time, thanks so much gentlemen.
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