Interview: Five Minutes with Kayobe

Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist Kayobe  Islands To Bridges album is set to release this Friday(10th April 2020). His previous EP titled Hidden received attention and support from the acclaimed Atwood Magazine, Aupium and Impose Magazine. The EP was also featured in Spotify (New UK Garage and New Music Friday Canada) and Apple playlists. Kayobe’s sound is diverse, combining chillwave and deep house elements in his latest album, and the outcome of this freedom can be compared to the work of Bonobo, Massive Attack, Abi Ocia, and CHVRN.

We find out more about the talented Kayobe in our exclusive interview below ahead of the album release.  

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

The sound! I typically start by playing around with various textures and synth, or sampled sounds before something grabs me, and then build it out into a beat from there. I do this a lot. From the literally hundreds of these short ideas, I will then build them out into full songs/tracks or at least something that can be written on. I’m very melody focused, and then percussion and rhythm come next, and then lyrics come last for me. Which is why I’m happy for any opportunity to work with other artists when it comes to vocals.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

For this album, I worked with multiple awesome singers. Some of the vocals are from samples that came out of writing sessions I’ve done over the last little while, such as ‘Views,’ ‘Miss You / Blame You’, ‘Blue Eyes’ and ‘Énergie’. And then ‘No Sympathy’ is a full song I wrote with the talented Zoe Sky Jordan, and last but not least ‘Seaside’ which I wrote with the ever-talented Olive B., whom I worked with on my first Kayobe EP ‘Hidden’.

What’s on your current playlist?

I listen to a very wide variety of genres, anything from ambient/jazz/world / instrumental stuff to your modern electronic / hip hop & indie. It depends on the setting.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

Experiencing the feedback loop of performing songs I’ve created in the studio with a live audience is one of the greatest feelings in the world. My live set is a hybrid between DJ set and live set, so I love to feed off of what I think the crowd is vibing and take the set in that direction. My LED lighting rig (which is synced with my beats/set) is also very fun to work with, and I love how much visuals can influence the energy of the live experience as well.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

For me Kayobe is about combining my wide variety of personal influences and journeys into a cohesive project, so that entails a lot of broad exploration of rhythms, tempos, vocal styles, textures, etc, and then trying to corral them all in the same pen. This can be very challenging at times but I very much enjoy the variety and freedom of not having my project be defined by a singular synth sound. Ideally, Kayobe is perceived as an expression of myself, which is constantly changing.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

For me since I produce, mix & master everything as a solo act, I like to separate my studio days into different types of days. One for just making new beat/sound ideas (my favorite by far), another for learning or refining a sound, another for singing/writing and recording vocals, and then others for building out and finalizing the structure/arrangement, and mixing & mastering. I feel it helps to establish a goal for what kind of day it should be otherwise, it can be problematic switching between all the various musical tasks and goals. And also I feel that a 4-6 hour dedicated block seems to be the most effective amount of time to accomplish real meaningful progress.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

Probably before I even had many thoughts at all. I vaguely remember using cooking pots laid out on the floor of my mom’s kitchen, banging on them as drums. From then on music as always been a huge part of my life.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

A craft IPA.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I write, produce, mix & master with Ableton Live on my MBP. I have a Dave Smith Prophet ’08 analog synth, and an APC 40 that I use mostly for my live set but also in the studio from time to time. I produce on KRK Rokit 8’s with a KRK sub as well, mainly because I know them so well after all these years. I use a Focusrite Clarett 4Pre as my interface.

Any side projects you’re working on?

I have a side project of ambient/meditation music that I haven’t done much with yet but I am planning to do more with this year. I would love to utilize these sorts of music I’ve composed to create some sort of an art installment.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

A follow-up album very soon, and shows in places around the world wherever my travels take me.

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