EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: We catch up with renowned Toronto trio KEYS N KRATES

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Keys N Krates, Kaytranada, Mura Masa and Flying Lotus

Keys N Krates need no introduction. The Toronto-based trio have become renowned for their idiosyncratic style, merging bass, trap, hip-hop, 808s, organic sounds,  vocal samples into a cerebral melting pot of styles.

They’ve been on the scene since 2018, going from strength to strength and have now released their latest project, a thirteen track EP featuring inspiring collaborations and exciting new experimentations with sound – Original Classic.

Stream / Download: Original Classic LP

Alongside the release is a visual album version by Sammy Rawal, which consists of a vibrant psychedelic video for each track, featuring models and ballroom dancers.

Watch: Keys N Krates – Original Classic Visual Album

We pinned down Keys N Krates’ Jr Flo during their North American tour, for some insight into the new release:

Original Classic is a diverse album featuring interesting collabs and varied styles. Do you have a favorite track on the album – what shouldn’t fans sleep on and why?

We honestly love all the songs on there and our favourites change by the day according to our personal moods.  It’s a great listen and it’ll make you feel things.  It’s dramatic but fun at the same time.  It’s a whole universe of sounds and stuff that we like coming through our lense and we’re so proud of it.  It’s a very unique project within the realm of dance music and we honestly feel like it pulls a lot of people into dance music that might not have naturally gravitated towards it before.  It’s a bit of dance music made from an outsiders point of view and that kind of makes it special.

You mentioned that this album was about “finding your place in dance music.” Why was this important to you and how has it translated to the album. 

We have our unique view on dance music, which comes from being outsiders, never really attached to any scene in particular.  Guess you could say we were part of the trap scene 5 years back but we never felt overly connected to that as a scene or the direction it was moving in.  So this record is us trying to make sense of different groups and tempos, but unifying them as slightly unidentifiable, but clearly tribal feeling.  When we were learning more into the trap stuff, our stuff never felt really dancey to us.  More head boppy or moshy, and at our true core we really realized we just want to make people groove and dance, and have a good time in our own way; so this album was about making that happen. 

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?

We all grew up listening to rap, r&b and a bit of house music so beat making a drum programming and stuff like that has been part of all our lives since we were teenagers; at least subconsciously. Tune came up as a drummer, Greg came up as a turntablist/DJ, and Matisse came up as a classically trained pianist by trade so we all have those respective core backgrounds.  Tune would play in bands as a drummer growing up but also dabble in beat making and eventually pursue audio engineering.  Matisse wrote and sang r&b music, and Greg competed in DMC and ITF DJ battles.  So our teenage lives were already sort of immersed in music to some degree. 

Take us through your list of dream software/gear you would like to get?

We have really most of what we need.  Ableton is a powerful beast and so are all the stock and 3rd party plugins.  We’ve started to amass a bit of a synth collection lately and have been playing with those, and that’s been really fun from a tactile perspective.  They also sound amazing to us, which could be a lot of psychology but who cares; it’s fun and they create a vibe and get us playing around and making ideas, and it’s a nice change from just staring at a screen.  We honestly aren’t that precious about gear.  Just whatever creates fun.  Ableton, some interesting Kontakt banks, and some fun synths are really all we need. 

What do you need with you when you sit down to write or produce?

Just time, free of distractions, to focus and get into a vibe and work.  Our old studio was basically in a huge rehearsal building, so we had metal bands playing above and beside us when we were trying to make music which sucked.  We finally got into a real studio this summer, and as soon as we got in there we were all like “ya we really needed this.” 

What other artistic revenues do you pursue?

Tune mixes records for people a bit on the side.  Greg and Matisse will occasionally take side solo DJ gigs, and Matisse has his “Low Key” project he does on the side which is really more of a passion project.  For the most part, we rely on touring revenue, streaming revenue and sync revenue that we all generate together as KNK.

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, what do you prefer?

It used to be live performance but more and more it’s becoming studio work.  We’ve really had time to fall back in love with the music-making process and it’s just such an endless deep well of interesting challenges and rewards. 

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?

It’s probably slightly different for all of us but we can definitely say that playing Coachella felt like a huge milestone.

Name 3 artists you would love to collaborate with in the future

Aluna, Yebba, Little Simz, Rihanna, Missy to name 5 lol.

Do you think music should provide social commentary and reflect the current world?

It certainly can, but it doesn’t have to.  There’s no requirement that music has to meet to be validated in existence.  Whether you think it’s good or not is another thing, but we’d always argue that songs about light or trivial things are no less relevant as songs about current social issues.  There’s room for everything.  People listen to music at different times and in different contexts for different purposes.  A song being good is independent of what it’s about.  A song may have a great message (in the listeners opinion) but that alone doesn’t make it a good song.  Songs about protest can be great and they can be terrible just like songs about butts can be great and terrible. 

What can we expect from you in the near future? Any upcoming projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?

We just released an album called “Original Classic” which is really our current perspective on dance music.  You should check it out.  We’re really proud of it and there really isn’t another album out there that we can find that’s like it.  It takes from house music, baile funk, afrobeat, trap, and uses a palette of 808s, tribal percussion and often orchestral textures. 

One last thought to leave your fans with?

Check out our new album and we hope to see ya on the road at a show 🙂

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Image credit: Sammy Rawal