Back Issue__ Keys N Krates
Artwork: Gillian Hurd
With a lot of recent negative energy in the music industry, people don‚Äôt seem to enjoy hip hop shows anymore. But Keys N Krates is hopefully changing that. They‚Äôre bringing back a positive vibe‚Äîthink basement or summer block parties‚Äîwhich is fun, energetic and fresh. Playing tracks you used to love to get down to at your high school dances, mixing them in with recent chart toppers and adding their own rhythms and instrumental sounds--all part of their much-lauded 'live remix' approach. It‚Äôs a recipe for success and the packed sweaty dance floors are the proof.
My interview got off to a rocky start: Between three talented musicians, namely Jr-Flo, Matisse and Tune, and one journalist--all with formal educations--we can‚Äôt figure out how to work a simple three-way call. Finally between myself and the other two members on speakerphone, and Jr-Flo mediating, we think we have a breakthrough--If I yell just loudly enough and they yell back and poor Flo in the middle maneuvers the phones speaker to ear piece we can finally hear one another. We talk (er, shout) about their talents, training, idols and music collections. They tease each other like brothers and there is a chemistry between these guys that just seems to work. Perhaps most importantly, the guys seem like true friends.
Jr-Flo: Despite the fact that we have multiple music talents, people in school, none of us could figure out how to do a three-way call.
Hana: I have a degree you know.
Jr-Flo: No, I know. We all have one.
Hana: So like four degrees, no conference call.
Jr-Flo: Yeah, no conference call.
Hana: The first thing I want to know is how you guys all met?
Matisse: Where do I start? I picked up Tune off the streets he was broke and he didn‚Äôt really have any gigs coming through, so you know. I‚Äôm playing, I‚Äôm playing, I‚Äôm going to start over. Me and Flo kind of met through a mutual friend Abby, he put us in touch with each other and Tune has been playing with me in my band for years and we got into a room together and the three of us started jamming out ideas for six months straight and what we were coming out with was crazy and we were just trying to figure out how to do it. There was a lot of head knocking and arguing and inspirations and high fives and stuff and finally we eventually decided to do a show and our first show was sold out and everyone was going crazy so we kind of thought we had something, so we kept doing it.
Tune: For the record I have never given either one of these guys a high five.
Jr-Flo: I don‚Äôt know where the high five thing is coming from.
Matisse: Yeah, just give me a sec, I don‚Äôt like answering the first question.
Tune: Ok, now I‚Äòm in a good mood because Matisse just said high five.
Hana: That put you in a good mood?
Matisse: Can you take the high five shit out? Just take that out, I didn‚Äôt say that.
Jr-Flo: The gist of it is that we met through a mutual friend.
Hana: What is band practice like?
Matisse: Flo comes in with a couple samples that he is into and I basically try to build a melody around there. Tune will try to build a groove underneath it and from there we just build it up, jamming out over and over again. New ideas come out with it and then after our rehearsal hopefully we have something that we can kind of try on stage until it becomes its final form and that‚Äôs kind of how we do each song now.
Jr-Flo: We basically go through a pretty non-traditional composite process. I mean nobody has really done what we do so we don‚Äôt really have a blueprint to follow so every rehearsal is kind of a bit different. We come in with these ideas and sometimes we end up not composing anything ‚Äòcause we end up completely reworking the way a sample sounds on the spot, cutting it up differently or we end up going in a completely different direction with something so I mean were kind of creating the blueprint for how our rehearsals are supposed to happen as we go along.
Hana: Is any of the stuff remixed live or it‚Äôs all rehearsed?
Jr-Flo: It‚Äôs all pre-rehearsed and pre-composed songs like the way any song would be but there‚Äôs definitely, like, we sometimes leave room for improvisation within the predetermined structure but it‚Äôs definitely structured cause otherwise it would just sound like a jam band or a real mess which we don‚Äôt pride ourselves on being either one. Not that there‚Äôs anything wrong with jam bands, we love the jam band but we‚Äôre not really a jam band.
Hana: Do any of you have formal training?
Matisse: Yeah, I‚Äôm classically trained although I kind of had to un-train myself. Tune do you-
Matisse: Tune has no training. Um, Flo.
Jr-Flo: I mean I definitely have no formal training except for, I mean I come form like a battle DJing background, so that‚Äôs my training but that‚Äôs anything but formal training.
Hana: What experience do you want the audience to have?
Matisse: Let Tune answer this one.
Tune: No, no, no.
Hana: Yeah. Come on.
Tune: Uh, I hate this question, this is the second time I got stuck with this one.
Hana: Oh, I‚Äôm sorry.
Jr-Flo: Ah, that‚Äôs hilarious.
Tune: I still haven‚Äôt come up with a good answer except I like to see people having a good time and dancing hard.
Hana: That‚Äôs a good answer.
Matisse: And you like to look at the girls.
Tune: I like to look at the girls and that‚Äôs my only answer I‚Äôve been able to give for this one. I just like to hear that people had a good time, when they leave which so far ninety percent of the people that I‚Äôve brought have. Or a hundred percent I should say.
Matisse: [Laughs.] Except the only guy that was upset was your Dad.
Tune: Yeah, except for my Dad.
Hana: Why was your dad upset?
Tune: Well he wasn‚Äôt upset, it was pretty rammed, I don‚Äôt know.
Jr-Flo: It was too crowded for his dad.
Hana: Well that‚Äôs kind of understandable.
Jr-Flo: His dad‚Äôs older, he wants to be comfortable.
Tune: Add that into the article, he‚Äôll love that.
Hana: He‚Äôs maybe not your demo per se?
Tune: He really dug it, he really dug it.
Jr-Flo: Yeah, Matisse do you agree? Good time.
Matisse: I want us to be like the best ever live performing band, ever. Like at the point where people years from now when they look back on when they were younger and what they did they‚Äôll remember going to a Keys N Krates show as one of the most fun times they‚Äôve ever had.
Jr-Flo: Some girl said to me last night when I was DJing she was like, ‚ÄòI came to your Keys N Krates show in New York a few months back at SOBS when we opened for Questlove and I hadn‚Äôt been out in months because I was sick of going to shows and then when I saw you guys it reminded me of why I love music and why I love going to shows.‚Äô And I was like that‚Äôs awesome. You know if people can walk away with that experience, like if we‚Äôre breathing some kind of new life into music for them that‚Äôs a big goal. That would certainly be attractive to me.
Matisse: You know if someone has been to our show and they bring a friend the next time, they‚Äôre not going to tell their friend to come out and see a great show and then be disappointed. That they feel like when they come back again they‚Äôre getting their moneys worth and they can tell their friends. We really try to make sure that every show we do whether it‚Äôs in New York City or, you know, Idaho, we‚Äôll play a hundred and ten percent no matter what, we really truly get off on playing‚Ä¶ [Laughs.]
Hana: Can I quote you on that too?
Matisse: I just realized how it came out but we‚Äôre big on the interaction with the crowd and when they get hype we get hype and it just goes back and forth this energy. Our relationship with the crowd is probably the number one thing I enjoy on stage. Just how to get that crowd interaction and that relationship going between us and them and I think that‚Äôs why the crowd responds to us so favorably for.
Hana: You‚Äôve mentioned The Roots as someone you look up to. You opened up for Questlove what was that like?
Tune: I was petrified because Questlove is one of my all time greats, favorite drummers and to see him there, live, watching me play is pretty freaky.
Jr-Flo: We were all super nervous I mean-
Tune: Yeah, especially he walked in right during our sound check and nobody else noticed him expect for me. I was just grooving and everybody was fine and I got a bit of stage fright and I don‚Äôt get star struck very easy but that day I did.
JrFlo: I mean Questlove is probably one of the most relevant opinions in hip hop and just music in general today. And if there‚Äôs something that we‚Äôre similar it would be The Roots, so his opinion would obviously matter to me probably above anybody else‚Äôs opinion in music about what he thought about our stuff so to have him in the room was just like kind of crazy. Then after our set he came up and said, ‚ÄòYo, that was really incredible‚Äô and he really liked it so we were really all super relived and stoked cause you know it means a lot coming form somebody like that.
Hana: Yeah that‚Äôs awesome that‚Äôs a huge compliment especially from an idol.
Jr-Flo: Hell yeah.
Hana: Would you get star stuck again or are you good now?
Tune: I‚Äôm good. I‚Äôm good now, now I‚Äôve gotten over it.
Hana: Now you can play in front of anyone?
Tune: Yeah I literally can, yeah.
Jr-Flo: [Laughs.] So we‚Äôve gotten through the worst-case scenario.
Hana: Yeah, life is good from now on. How many songs would you say you each have in your playlists?
Jr-Flo: I don‚Äôt know about you guys but I have like a million. I know you guys listen to a lot of shit too.
Hana: I‚Äôm sure you have more than that.
Tune: Literally 1,000‚Ä¶1,026. I get rid of all the filler.
Matisse: I have an iTunes with an iTunes list and then I have two different iPods so I got to kind of like think about it a bit probably like 50,000 I don‚Äôt know, does that sound right?
Jr-Flo: I can tell you that I have like about 1,000 gigs of music. So, if that helps.
Matisse: That‚Äôs a different question. We‚Äôve never been asked before. We‚Äôre going to have to prepare for that one.