Keys N Krates unapologetically evolve sound 10 years in with debut LP 'Cura'
The once electronica-known trio talks organic transitions, risking fans, choosing collaborators, and what happens to music that doesn’t make the cut.
Ten years into their career, Canadian electronic trio Keys N Krates are looking for a fresh start. The group has found massive success in the EDM world over the last half-decade, releasing a string of club bangers in the form of singles and short EPs. But now they’ve chosen to shift their focus, taking a step back from electronica and getting in touch with their hip-hop and R&B roots, with their debut album Cura, which sounds like an R&B project from the future, serving as the first evidential offering.
REVOLT sat down with the trio to discuss transforming their sound, risking fans, choosing collaborators, and what happens to music that doesn’t make the cut.
Why did decide to release your debut album this late in your career? It is kind of crazy that this is our first album. We had been doing a lot singles and EPs and touring relentlessly and kind of hit a point where we wanted to reset musically. We weren’t still necessarily attached to doing the album. I guess we’ve never been like, “We have to do an album.” We’ve never felt that urge before. We’ve always been like, “Let’s do projects, little projects, singles and EPs.” And then we got to this point where we felt like we need to pivot our sound and get it to a place that we really wanted it to be. We felt like we needed a bit of a mission statement to do that so that the records were in context. So it felt right, right now to do an album ’cause it’s like, “Yo, this is who we are, going forward, this is our new shit, new sound, new vibe.” Feels right to do that with a body of work, rather than if we just released “Glitter” on its own; out of context; it just would have been weird. We wanted people to hear how all of this stuff makes sense together so they could hear our frame of reference.
Did you know when you were making an EDM hit? Not really, because we were never even really that act. We were always a little weirder. We always know when [a record we’re working on] is gonna pop off at our live show and it’s gonna be fun and [have] exciting energy. I’m not necessarily gonna go and listen to this at home myself, but it’s gonna work in the club and be awesome. With [Cura], it’s more like I want people to listen to this shit at home. The music needs to stand up beyond being club music. It’s gotta work there too, but it’s also gotta work at home and come from more of an organic place.
Were you worried about what fans would think of such a big transition? Yeah, we’re gonna lose some fans. We’ll lose a lot of fans that aren’t into the new sound and we’re okaywith that. The ones that stay with us, we can build with. At least we’re doing stuff that we like and hopefully they like and if that’s the marriage, then it’s great.
How did decide on who your features would be? When we were making the album, we made a bunch of beats and then we whittled down to the sonic pallet and the vibe we were going for. Once we had that, we started doing vocal sessions, experimenting to see what happens. We were really trying to find people with unique voices. All three of us are into people that have a crazy voice. Brian from Dim Mak sent us 070 Shake. We were like, “Her voice is crazy, let’s try some shit.” So that was one of the sessions where we tried some shit and it really worked out. That’s how we found vocalists, it was people sending us vocalists. Ambré was the same thing, we just thought her voice is really dope and she blew us away when we worked together. The Tory Lanez thing happened by fluke.
How? He hit us up and he wanted a record of ours that he heard, which he still hasn’t used and I’m not sure if he will.
It’s not “Music to My Ears”? No, that’s our record. That’s what he did for us so we could give him that other record basically. I don’t know what he’s gonna do with it, but he did “Music To My Ears” with us just off the strength of that. It’s crazy because the beat that we used for that, it was one of the first beats we made where we were sure it fit the direction of the album. It sounds very poppy, but still very dusty. We [knew we] could make a poppy song over this and it would totally fit on that album. [But] we ended up taking that beat into so many vocal sessions, and [because of] either the vocalist not liking it, or the vocalist trying shit over it and really good writers trying shit over it that just didn’t work, we kind of lost faith in that beat. And then when we took it into that session with [Lanez], it was almost like an afterthought. We just threw it in the folder and then he pulled that up first and we were like, “Aww, fuck.” He just went in and bodied it. We were, like, holy shit and looking at each other in disbelief. This record actually came together, so [it’s] ironic the way it happened. As soon as he opened his mouth, we were like, “Jesus, this is exactly what it needed.” Tory Lanez is a fucking beast. That guy’s fast, too. He goes in the booth and he just literally freestyles and makes records in 20 minutes. It’s fucking insane. I can’t even imagine the kind of output he’s gonna have in 2018.
How many records did you make that didn’t make the project? We made five albums worth of stuff. I guarantee we have 25-50 beats each that didn’t make the album.
What happens to all those beats? At the beginning of this, we pulled up a lot of stuff we worked on in the past that didn’t make it. There’s one song in particular, that this is the third project we’ve done where I’m trying to make it fit. Sometimes you just need to re-approach shit with fresh ears.
Listen to Cura below.