Starting as a live hip-hop act in 2008, Toronto’s Keys N Krates have long since become something different. Signing with Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label in 2013, the beat makers have transitioned into successful electronic music producers, with over 30 million plays on SoundCloud to prove it.
Keyboardist David Matisse, drummer Adam Tune, and turntablist Jr. Flo have separated themselves from the horde of button-pushing electronic acts by playing completely live. This approach not only has helped the trio’s popularity skyrocket, it’s also landed them premier gigs at festivals like Coachella, Tomorrowland, and Bonnaroo.
The group released its fifth EP, “Midnite Mass,” earlier this year, and DiscoverSD caught up with them on tour in Grand Rapids, Mich., to discuss it all.
Q: You’re in the midst of tackling 32 cities in 42 days. Do the shows evolve at all during a long run like that?
Tune: For the most part, it’s a game plan that we stick to and tighten over the tour. But we’re also adding and tweaking things as we go.
Keys N Krates
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 21
Where: House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave., San Diego
Q: You call the new EP “emotional, epic, catchy, poppy, and banging out” at the same time. Is it daunting to try to combine all of those things?
Flo: It’s not really that daunting, because, in the end, that’s sort of the combination of things we typically like in music. We like a lot of weird left field stuff, but our favorites always have an emotional element and pop sensibility to it. When we say pop we don’t mean pop like Taylor Swift, we just mean catchy and fun and appealing to the ear -- at least to our ears.
Q: With massive festival appearances under your belt, how does playing to tens of thousands help in returning to a string of club dates?
Flo: I think if anything it’s refreshing returning to our own headlining shows. We know every single person in the building knows our tunes and is a fan, whereas festivals you are playing to half your fans and half winning new people over. There’s nothing like playing to a room of all your fans.
Q: What’s made the scenes -- especially in Toronto and Montreal -- explode so much in the last decade and a half?
Flo: Well, I think we have very multicultural cities with sprawling suburbs, dense downtown cores, and huge populations. And that lends itself to a lot of kids on laptops trying stuff out and inevitably, some cool stuff emerging. Both cities have always had strong rap, dancehall, and electronic music scenes. I think the success of people from Drake and The Weeknd, to electronic cats like Zed, us, and all the way up to Deadmau5, has created an environment of “we can do this stuff too, let’s just get a laptop and give it a go.” In Toronto, there’s also this really cool organization called The Remix Project which mentors young producers and entrepreneurs within the music biz. Shout out to those guys ‘cause they are doing great work and fostering new talent.
Q: What’s next?
Matisse: You’ll continue to see us on the road, and we’ll be locking ourselves in the studio between shows and working on new music and tweaking the live set.
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.