Interview: 5 minutes with Luvian
Luvian is an electronic producer and musician hailing from North England’s Yorkshire Dales. Mixing lush, organic soundscapes together with electronic bleeps and colourful vocal tones wherever necessary, Luvian’s rich and atmospheric sound has stood out in the vast sea of potential, with numerous singles and remixes for the likes of Lane 8, Petrie and Atlas, as well as the highly acclaimed, yet unofficial remix of Bon Iver’s ‘Holocene’ gained Luvian the attention he deserves on channels such as Majestic Casual, festivals such as Gottwood in Wales alongside Maribou State, and eventually a suitable record deal with Ultra Records (Kygo, Sofi Tukker, Haux, Kaskade etc).
Following 2016’s Memories, Luvian’s latest EP titled A Time & Place is a production-paradise; dreamy, concise and lenitive, although vibrant and animated in value and tone, the EP also features collaborative efforts including contributions by fellow singers and songwriters Jack Hawitt & Amber, bringing their own unique styles to Luvian’s exquisite electronica. A Time & Place EP was released on March 23rd, and 2018 is already proving to be the producer’s biggest year to date.
We caught up with Luvian on early epiphonys and working happily under pressure:
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
I’ve always loved music. It was a huge part of my family life growing up. I have pictures of myself, trying to noodle on a Casio keyboard, dwarfed by headphones at the age of 3. I’ve wanted to pursue music seriously for ever really. It’s awesome to be be able to create art and say that it’s your ‘job.’ Also, why not the arts? I’m going to give this a go and do something I love for as long as possible. Who wouldn’t want to give that a go?
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
Definitely the sound. Ideas don’t really flow down to me while I’m walking about. I’m always actively creating sounds in the studio, experimenting with textures and rhythms. Unexpected results then go on to inspire beats and melodies. I almost always create ideas from this free experimentation. The make-up of a sound really does dictate the type of vibe the music will have.
Tell us about the collaborations on your EP ‘A Time & Place’?
I had two collaborations on this EP, Amber and Jack Hawitt. With ‘Bones’ I first met up with Jack down in London. We initially wrote over a completely different piece of music. I took the track away and eventually started a new musical idea behind it. He then came up to me a couple of times and we really finessed how we wanted the whole feel of the track to be. It was a really good process to work through all the different aspects of the music and really spend the time getting it to where we both were super happy. I’d never worked that closely with someone on a track before. He’s got a great tone to his voice, and I really wanted to make the vocals stand out. I think because ‘Bones’ is so complex and there’s a lot of textures and tones going on, the track needed that deeper inspection.
Amber, on the other hand was a little bit different. We met once and only had a four hour session. In that time we wrote the track and recorded the final vocals. I didn’t know at the time where it would end up. I changed the music again and it arrived at a place that I could never have imagined. We didn’t really have time to re-record anything, luckily the performance was there. ‘Rooms’ is a much more of a sparse track and definitely didn’t require the same moulding sonically to get it to the right place. Amber was a really quick writer and I’m glad we got that session in. You never know what’s going to come from any collaboration.
What’s on your current playlist?
I recently saw a band play near me called Vels Trio. I was blown away by their sound live. It’s some awesome mixture of experimental jazz, beats and hip-hop – definitely give them a listen! I’m also currently obsessed with Khruangbin’s latest album. I’ve been a huge fan since their first record, but this new one has so much soul and energy to it. I really hope I get to see them live. Also loving some George Fitzgerald with the new LP, some Ady Suileman and Puma Blue, to name a couple.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I resample a lot of things. Most things are MIDI. The problem with that is, it doesn’t force you to commit to anything. You can always be thinking “oh I’ll change that later”, By re-sampling and moving on, the sound constantly evolves from what it was into something usually unexpected. I often load up a vocal plugin and stick it on some keys. I’ll then go through random settings and see what happens. I’ve often got some of the most crazy sounds by abusing some crazy preset created for a completely different sound or instrument. I also run a lot of sounds through my outboard. On the way out it picks up bits of grunge.
Take us through a day in the studio.
A day in the studio can go many ways for me. I’ve actually just finished building my new studio a few months back. I’ve converted a second floor warehouse. The space I have is really big compared to my old place and it really opens up new possibilities when it comes to experimenting. I usually like to start making a couple of ideas first thing in the morning and not really think about them too much. I used to work solely on one track for weeks but that never really ended well for me. Now I have my new space, I tend to find myself working really late into the night and getting really lost in a track. It depends what I’m doing, but a day in the studio when doing a session usually goes like this:
– Give a quick little tour (if it’s the first time)
– Make a cup of tea
– Listen to some music that we’re both into and bounce a couple of potential directions around
– Have a jam and throw about some rough ideas
– Once we’ve settled on a sound I tend to always try and get the person I’m working with to get behind the microphone as soon as possible. I try and capture everything right from the rough vocal ideas all the way through. Some of the best vocals I have got have come from those very first initial takes.
– Using Ableton and Push is great when collaborating. I love slicing up some vocals or music and handing over the push. It’s great to have a tool that is so powerful but also super accessible.
– Hopefully have something we’re proud of!
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, ‘This is what I want to do’?
I’ve always wanted to do something in music. I initially wanted to be a session guitarist. I went down to study music in Brighton. I had always made music alongside playing the guitar. I got into producing maybe around the age of 15. I got Reason 5 for Christmas and I made some horrendously un-cool electro, but it was the first time I’d created something that I could listen to on my iPod. It was really great to know that you could make drums, keys, everything on this one piece of software. It was definitely at this point that I considered how cool it would be to do this for a living. It wasn’t until I was at university and first started putting tracks up, getting some recognition through SoundCloud that I really knew (and felt it could be possible) that this is what I wanted to do. I’m just happy I’m involved in any aspect of creating music.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Two things. Listening to new music and being put under pressure. I try and listen to as much music as possible outside the solely ‘electronic’ area. There is so much to be absorbed from all types of music. A rhythm from some obscure Brazilian 70’s soul band could take you down this crazy path. Being in a session definitely makes me feel creative. There is this certain pressure there to make something. It used to sometimes stifle me but now I love being able to create and have that constant feedback and reaction, it really speeds things up and makes me work harder.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
I have gathered a really nice collection of gear over the years. I work using a hybrid setup. I track and mix everything using Ableton. The Push 2 is my main controller and is the centrepiece of my studio. I then have various pieces of outboard gear that I send individual tracks to while mixing. I have a couple of synths that i have settled on, A Prophet 08, Matrix 6, JX3P and this old Casio synth that was my Dad’s. I can then play all of them using the Push which is great. It makes everything so instant for me. I’ve really worked hard on making things instant. I have mics always ready to go. In my old place I could never leave anything out. In those 15 minutes it takes you to set everything up sometimes the idea is lost. I would be lost without my monitors. I’ve had the same pair for about 7 years, a pair of Focals and I couldn’t imagine changing. I know how things will translate and that’s super important.
Any side projects you’re working on?
To be honest I’m only really just getting Luvian to a place where I’m really happy with my whole output and identity. I am constantly making music and not all of it fits into the direction I want this project to go. I do have a good collection of more hip-hop beats orientated stuff that might one day surface.. who knows!
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
Probably the thing I have refined the most is understanding how much time to give to a certain track or idea. I used to endlessly work and get lost in one track. I’d then end up a month in, hating the track and having not much to show for so much work and time. I’m now much less precious with my ideas and don’t force anything. I’ve found that working on a few pieces at once can really snowball my creativity as one track can often give you that missing piece for another. Also, saving my projects regularly. It’s not really craft per say, but wow, I certainly don’t miss the days of having Ableton crash and losing the last few hours worth of music.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
I’m really hoping by the end of the year, I will have had another EP out, be well on the way with the next and have a half decent live show up and running. That’s something missing from my current output that I’m trying to remedy. I’m also wanting to collaborate as much as possible and put my new space to good use. I’m also a really keen film photographer and would love to create some kind of visual accompaniment or some project using film.
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