Photo by: Sammy Rawal

Ten years ago, Keys N Krates first debuted their signature, one-of-a-kind sound. The Toronto collective – drummer Adam Tune, keyboardist David Matisse and turntablist Jr. Flo, continue to create music of a unique genre exclusive to KNK – a bass-centric, sample-driven sound, existing in the realms of electronic, hip-hop and beyond.

Their early sound succeeded in combining catchy, pitched up, chopped vocal samples with 808s which were reinterpreted into energetic live versions that earned the trio a reputation as one of the leading live electronic acts.

In 2018, their debut album Cura marked a musical shift for the band – with added elements of R+B/soul music, more dense instrumentation and catchy vocal-driven pop songs to their existing use of 808s, organic sounds, and vocal samples.

Following their 2019 release A Beat Tape For Your Friends, KNK is back with a brand new album. Original Classic delivers a diverse collaboration of sounds familiar to its predecessors with notable featured artists including Lido Pimienta, Haviah Mighty and Juicy J.

Like each of the group’s tracks, their upcoming album’s latest single “Pull Up” was inspired by a range of musical influence:

“We were channel-ing everything from baile funk and Miami bass, to Missy Elliot with this one. We were already in touch with Haviah at the time before making this. When we came up with the initial 'Pull Up' demo, we knew she would be perfect on it, and we knew it would be perfect to show how special she is as an artist.”

While their music itself is a solid listen, it’s Keys N Krates live show that truly sets them apart from other acts. From intimate venues to stadiums and festivals stages, their live performance and uniquely layered production style make them truly one-of-a-kind with a fusion of turntablism and live instrumentation presented with unmatched energy.

They kick off their headline tour on November 17 in Washington and continue across North America into the new year.

Q: Your music is a blend of electronic and instrumental components – how did your one-of-a-kind collective come to be?

Tune and Matisse are real musicians. Matisse is a classically trained pianist and Tune has been playing drums in bands since he was a teenager. Greg comes from being a DJ/turntablist. Naturally, we’ve always been a band with a fondness for nice chords and song structure and nice groove, but also samples and experimentation. We are all fans of sounds that blend the organic and synthesized. We never like anything to sound to clean, so it’s very natural to reach for violas, and harp and other orchestral things when writing our music.

Q: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the new album Original Classic? 

This project has really been about us finding our place in dance music, which we know probably sounds weird coming from a dance act; but we think a lot of our past music has been either jump up and down music, or bob your head music. So, with this album we wanted to create something more groovy, that maybe belongs more in a dark club rather than a big festival stage. We’ve all been listening to a ton of world music, whether it be more modern club stuff like Baile funk, or disco, or soundtrack kinda stuff from the 70s, so there’s a lot of inspiration from that. We wanted the whole thing to have a bit of a tribal feeling to it, and a lot of that desire came from how we were seeing people dance to the earlier demos of the album that had that feel. When we saw people sort of entranced when dancing, we were all like, “ya this is the kind of world we want to create and play in.”

Q: Your new album features a lot of guests – including Haviah Mighty and Juicy J. How did these collaborations come about?

When it came to working with vocalists, it we just wanted to work with characters that had their own massive personalities but would oddly fit very well into this world we were trying to create. Haviah Mighty, we already knew and were talking with before we made the “Pull Up” demo. Once we made that demo and sat with it, we knew that it would be an amazing platform for her to be her in many of the ways she can be, and we knew those vibes would work so well with the mood we already had going with the tune.

Juicy J, we reached to through our label. We already had the beat and the hook written for “OG Classic”  and knew that bringing Juicy J on it would be sick because he kind of raps in chants already, which can sound very cool and anthemic on up-tempo stuff. We also knew that despite how at home he would feel on the record, that nobody would expect that from him. We love trying to make the unexpected record with someone. Something you would never expect to hear from them. That seems to kind of be our pocket.

Q: It’s been a decade since your first EP release, how has your music evolved since then?

Yes, a lot. We started as a hip hop cover band, and then transitioned into becoming this instrumental trap band, which seemed like an easy and obvious transition to us because we just really wanted to be a dance band but playing more hip hop inspired music. We were already starting to mess with that sound before that whole scene really even popped off in the U.S. We had already turned tunes live kit into all triggers and pads that had 808s. So, we made music in that genre for years which was really fun, but eventually we all were tired of being situated to just doing that, so we started messing with making more pop songs using our trap sensibilities but also our sample chopping and orchestral sensibilities that we had been kinda hiding. That was really what the Cura album was about. The beat tape that we released a year or so after that was kind of a passion project that wasn’t supposed to be an album. It was kind of like, “hey let’s chop up some samples and make a low pressure beat tape that pays homage to the techniques we are kind of employing to make this soulful poppy kinda dancey music.” We were just gonna put it on Bandcamp but than our management was like, “hey, let’s put this on Spotify” and we ended up being so proud of it, so we said, “yes let’s do that.” 

As much as we all loved the Cura album and the beat tape as departure records; we still consider ourselves a dance act and felt like we needed to find our place within dance music that really resonated with us personally. That’s really what this album was about.

Q: With a live show that sets you apart from other dance acts, what can fans expect from a KNK performance?

When doing our live show, we just always tried to give fans a fun dance party but headed by a band. Ironically, we aren’t doing our live show for the next little while. It will be all DJ sets which is actually new and exciting for us because we get to be more spontaneous, and really test new things as we make them. We are also really proud of our approach to the DJ set, because we really try not play music we hear other people playing for the most part. We’ve really gone out of our way to try and create our own vibe through mostly playing our own stuff and edits we’ve done of random obscure stuff we find that fits into our vibe. The set feels like our album. It’s fun and dramatic at the same time. We like to classify as emotional dance music sometimes.

Q: What are you most excited about, returning to live music?

Just being able to feel the human energy again. Being able to be in the same room as people dancing.

Q: What’s next for Keys N Krates?

Our album is rolling out, we are touring, playing DJ sets, and working on new music always