Toronto’s Keys N Krates aren’t easily classified, and that’s fine by them
The members of Keys N Krates like to take it easy before they perform. Sometimes they do a little yoga, sometimes they nosh on salads and on occasion they even indulge in half of a Red Bull. “We don’t do prayer circles or anything like that,” says Adam Tune, drummer of KNK. While all is calm behind the scenes, as soon as these guys hit the stage, they are known to make a dance floor spontaneously combust into chaos and booty shaking with their live electronic compositions.
Keys N Krates is an electronic/hip-hop trio consisting of Tune, David Matisse (synths and keys) and Jr. Flo (turntables). All of the guys hail from Toronto, where they grew up and performed separately before eventually finding one another in 2008. They were connected by their strong desire to bring live remixes and drums to audiences in an intense dance-party setting. Their ability to showcase a wide range of blends, combined with heavy hip-hop aesthetics, puts Keys N Krates in the electronic genre spotlight.
While some would describe Keys N Krates as trap music, they don’t necessarily agree with that label—but they won’t put it down or deny it, either.
“We are not hung up on labels one bit,” said Tune. “But the issue with labeling certain music as ‘trap’ is that the meaning of ‘trap’ has become so diluted. You have kids now who never really grew up listening to true hip-hop, but only recognizing the beats they hear and associating it with something like trap rather than realizing that it is classic hip-hop. Sometimes the whole idea of trap music gives some producers, who are trying to do something unique, gag reflex. That’s why you have to be careful with how you try to present your work.”
Trap came to fruition in the South in the early 2000s and uses aggressive beats, heavy layered synths and thick bass. According to Runthetrap.com, the latest incarnation of the genre that emerged around 2010 can be simplified into equal parts hip-hop, dance music and dub. Some might classify it as party music that’s moody and sometimes dark. There are trap characteristics obviously present in KNK’s music, but it also has a nasty dose of grime, electronica and heavy-handed hip-hop.
“We draw from so many different styles, predominantly hip-hop and electronic,” Tune says. “We appreciate and embrace the fans we have that are trap music lovers…but we also like to look at music and genres from a broader angle.” He points out that no matter what direction their music takes them, hip-hop seems to always serve as their ground base.
The trio first saw success on a large scale after the release of their first EP, SOLOW, in 2013 under Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak record label. The two singles “Treat Me Right” and “Dum Dee Dum” were released with critical acclaim. “Dum Dee Dum” is a flat-out dance club, new-age rave type hit that will serve as the trio’s golden child for years to come.
The video for Dum Dee Dum even reached its own level of creative notoriety. Directed by Amos LeBlanc, the video shows the music of KNK being introduced to a Mennonite community. Some are disgusted, some are intrigued, eventually some let loose and manage to let the music move them. At the end, young women are hiking up their dresses to get on the back of a motorcycle, or letting the wind run wild through their hair while popping out of a sunroof.
The group’s live dynamic is probably their most prized endeavor. According to their official site, “Perhaps what truly separates Keys N Krates from the mass of Electronic and hip-hop producers out there is the unique show they create by performing their bassy beats as a band, completely live. When you go to a KNK show, you will see their music and the music of others morphed and turned on its head using only drums, keys, turntables and live sampling. This unique style creates not only a crazy dance party, but an experience and vibe like no other.” Soon, the group hopes to experiment a bit more and morph vocals and rapping into their performances.
Live performances from KNK are mesmerizing and spontaneous: no song sounds the same during live mixing. “The energy at our shows is what keeps us going,” Tune says. “We used to drink a lot in the beginning to get us pumped, but we have realized that the crowd will electrocute you and give you all of the energy you were seeking.”
Adam also speaks on the weird phenomenon of mosh pits erupting at electronic shows lately, perhaps the only negative thing he has been experiencing at live shows. “They are not safe, and they are distracting. We see so many female fans getting pushed and shoved and it’s just uncool,” he says. “It doesn’t happen often, but we have been seeing it and it’s just weird. A pit of people moshing will suddenly appear and the whole action seems really displaced.”
On Sept. 23, the band will release their new EP, Every Nite. Their first song released from the album, “Are We Faded,” is a surprisingly sad and dizzyingly sexy song about a heartbroken person needing to self-medicate to keep their mind off of their lost lover. “The response we have been getting thus far with this song has been really astounding. If it is any indicator as to how the album’s release will go, that has me incredibly excited,” said Adam.
Keys N Krates just completed a summer festival tour and will embark on a three-month-long bus tour this month. One of their last shows was in Chicago, where they say their music first started to gain momentum in the states. “We just happened to play the right shows and venues in Chicago,” Tune says. “We suddenly had a huge fan base there, and they helped us hit the ground running. We have been fortunate to go from playing slots in the day and taking what we can get, to being a headlining act. We have so many people who come to shows just to see us.” Keys N Krates will be joining other prominent acts at Sacramento’s own TBD Fest Oct. 3 to 5.
“We are so excited to be coming to Sacramento and playing TBD. Some words of advice for Sacramentans: Bring some water to hydrate, and bring a towel to dry yourself off…you’ll need it once we get done with you.”
The Toronto trio is bringing their live magic to the TBD stage on Sunday, Oct. 5. For various ticket packages or more info on TBD Fest, visit Tbdfest.com. Visit Keysnkrates.com to check out their latest video from the Every Nite EP.