Canadian electronic band Keys N Krates began 2016 with a bang, releasing their newest EP Midnite Mass on January 15 and launching a North American tour. They have an upcoming show stop in San Francisco at the Regency Ballroom on February 18, which is their first trip back to the Bay Area since playing 1015 Folsom last August.
Their musical ride has been on an impressive upswing since signing to Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label in 2013. In addition to sold-out dates on their current tour, Keys N Krates also has a big festival appearance later this year at Bonnaroo.
This tight-knit group of performers, consisting of drummer Adam Tune, keyboardist David Matisse, and turntablist Jr. Flo, began their professional music journey as a live hip-hop act, clinging to rough acapella loops atop of heavy bass-driven beats. Today, Keys N Krates have a much more diverse sound, meshing live instrumentation with pre-recorded dance samples plus strong vocal collaborations. Recent achievements have resulted in support from major headlining electronic music acts including Diplo, Flosstradamus, and TNGHT.
To preview their SF live show this month, we spoke to all three members to learn more about the group’s recent releases, some of their dream collaborators, and recent hardware updates to their live setup.
How did Keys N Krates formalize back in 2008?
Flo: Matisse and I met through a mutual friend and started jamming. Matisse and Tune had went to music college together so Matisse brought Tune in to play drums.
What about Dim Mak and Steve Aoki have motivated you to release all your material so far on the label?
Flo: They were the first real label to really believe in us and our vision. We signed a term deal with them for multiple releases after the first EP did well with them. They’ve been good to us and believe in what we are doing.
Keys N Krates have four EPs under your belt so far. Are there plans to eventually release an LP or will you most likely stick with additional EPs?
Matisse: We haven’t really decided yet. The shape the next project will take will just depend on how we feel about it, and if it should be more of an album or an EP. We are open to doing an album tho if the material lends itself towards that.
What were your biggest influences when creating the Midnite Mass EP?
Tune: Everything from Swizz Beats and Just Blaze to M83 and Caribou, to jungle music and classic house. We were also listening to The Weeknd a lot which I think influenced the lead sound on “Nothing But Space”.
How did you get introduced to Katy B for your collaboration “Save Me” and what do you most appreciate about her style?
Matisse: We actually met her on the Mad Decent boat party we hung out a bit and did hip hop karaoke with her. We then reached out to her to collab and she was down and she blessed us with those “save me” vox that we ended up making into that tune.
Flo: She has a big powerful yet very classic voice that kind of reminds me of some of the early 90s house stuff on Strictly Rhythm I used to listen to.
Who are some of your dream collaborators?
Flo: Would love to collab with Andrew Wyatt from Miike Snow. That guys voice and writing is so crazy and I can hear him on aspects of our stuff.
Tune: Rick Ross
Matisse: Maybe Drake or The Weeknd – cause we ride for Toronto. I also think we could so some interesting stuff with A$AP Rocky or Ferg.
Do you have any pre-show rituals or habits?
Tune: Not really actually. Just going over the set and maybe having a drink of something.
What the the most recent piece of hardware you have incorporated into your live set?
Tune: The Midas M32 mixer which we sum all our instruments through, and the grandMA2 Command Wing for lighting.
Can you talk about how you develop and enhance your visual setup for shows?
Tune: We spent a lot of time before this Midnite Mass tour working with our lighting guy, designing the lighting layout and programming looks to capture the vibe of Midnite Mass. We wanted it to feel epic and church like but still rave-y and mysterious.
Who of the three band members does the most sleeping while on the road?
Flo: I’d say Matisse. He can sleep any where at any time, sometimes even mid conversation. It’s an unbelievable talent.
What are your fondest memories from playing in San Francisco?
Flo: The first big show we headlined there two years ago at The Mezzanine was so epic and it made us really fall in love with the crowds here.