LUNAKAI – the moniker of the South London electronic producer born Kyle Ross – teased new music earlier this year, first with “Touch” and then with single “Closer” leading into his latest EP, also titled Closer and out on September 29.
With LUNAKAI known for juxtaposing melodic soundscapes with heavy bass lines, “Closer” treads a similar path, adding spoken word, sampled vocals, and funk guitar into the mix. The track started as a live studio jam involving the Korg MS20 and Juno 60 before evolving significantly into the final result.
LUNAKAI made a splash early on in his career. His debut album has since been streamed over 1.5 million times, and he’s received support from Diplo’s BBC Radio 1 show, Apple Music, and Spotify. His distinctive style has also resulted in producing or collaborating with Ashnikko, Ross Quinn, Yussef Dayes, Cailin Russo, TĀLĀ, Litany, Pauli The PSM, KennyHoopla, and AMA, remixes for PMR and Kitsuné, and original music for Nike, Adidas, Audi, and Honda.
How did LUNAKAI get started with producing?
My dad was into music, so I’ve always had instruments around and got a copy of Ableton when I was in secondary school. However, I didn’t get seriously into music making until around 2012, when my friend Cyan (who plays in FKA Twigs’ band) and I started a production duo project off the back of the band we were in.
We landed some features on Mad Decent early on. We kind of went separate ways, which is when I got really stuck into my solo music around 2014. Inspired by artists like James Blake and Mount Kimbie at the time, I got more into electronic music and how organic and musical it could be.
What would you describe your sound as?
I always find this hard, but hip-hop-influenced electronica with a lot of influences pulled in from music from around the world.
You’ve worked with other artists, including Ashnikko, Ross Quinn, Yussef Dayes, Cailin Russo, and Kitsuné. What do you do differently when collaborating with or producing another artist?
If I’m producing for or with another artist, I’m taking on board their influences and what they want to do with their project and then doing that however it comes naturally to me. I like to work fast and bounce ideas back and forth. I’ve been really lucky in that all of the sessions I have done: We’ve been on the same page with what we like, so it’s just a fun and natural process to help bring their vision to life.
You’ve also composed music for a few brands. How did you get involved with these types of projects?
That’s something I’ve been doing since 2012, I was really lucky to be able to pitch on some ads really early directly with the agency (for free at the start just to try it). One of the first pitches I actually did was for a huge brand, and we had Twigs sing some magical vocals. It didn’t get used in the end, but I wish I still had access to the files to hear now!
Tell us about your latest track, “Closer”: What was your vision for the track?
This track started in the middle of winter in my friend Rob’s studio (his artist name is Märzen) in Vilnius, Lithuania. One late night, I think after a couple of beers in town, I came up with the main parts of the song while jamming on his modular synth and MS20.
This demo sat like that for a while until I opened it back up in my home studio, where I finished it by adding samples, guitars, and some more crazy synth stuff from my Moog Mother. The intro features a poem that I wrote, which is voiced by my talented friend and incredible makeup artist Emilie Louizides. This addition was like the icing on the cake, playing into the song’s atmosphere and emotion.
What made you decide to use spoken word samples?
These are actually both poems that I wrote, and friends do voice overs, so they sounded cool and filmic. Both Emilie, who I mentioned, and Maia Jae Jastidas did amazing jobs at bringing the words to life.
Blending together art and photography into your music seems an important part of
your releases. Do you apply this approach to your current EP?
Absolutely. I’ve gotten obsessively into painting (Link to paintings) at the moment, and I’m trying to work out how that feeds into my music and my process – that’s mainly what I’m exploring at the moment. I’m really inspired by multifaceted artists like Toro Y moi, the Beastie Boys, Tyler, David Choe etc.
What should listeners expect from your full-length EP?
I’d like to think I’ve managed to create a journey for the listener with this EP. I hope it transports them into their own world for a minute. I believe that escapism is probably the driving force behind much of my work, so it would be cool if listeners could experience an otherworldly moment through the tunes, too!
What plans do you have for the rest of the year?
I’ve got a few new singles in the works, and a few side projects I’m working on with TALA, Losing Love, and Justin Taylor (HOOST). Keep an eye out for Alchemist Villa, Taskas, and Aniko. Besides that, I’m doing a lot of painting, and I’m also working on a sample pack for Bandlab.