Photo courtesy of the artist
For a while now, Psymun and K. Raydio have individually been names to watch. Since their latest string of collaborations, in preparation for their LucidDreamingSkylines LP, they've made some significant noise locally and nationally. Psymun's glitchy, ambient grooves meld perfectly with K. Raydio's nuanced voice for a fresher take on R&B.
Gimme Noise caught up with the duo in advance of their show at Nomad this Friday, as part of a showcase of cutting-edge local R&B.
Gimme Noise: How did this collaboration come together?
Psymun: I think it started when I randomly sent her a beat, and I didn't think she would reply. We'd never met or talked or anything. She sent a message like, this is good, send me more.
K. Raydio: It was crazy because I was in a production drought. I kind of went through a year, in terms of sound, where it was either really cliche R&B production that I was getting, or I would get something that was just too busy. It was crazy, because one day I just checked my e-mail, and he was like, hi, I'm Psymun, I've heard your stuff, here's a couple beats. They were like, perfect. So dope! We started e-mailing and we just kind of became friends from just hanging out.
Psymun: When me and Damacha came out with our album, I wanted to get K. Raydio on at least on one song. We were lucky and got her on three songs. After that, we were like, we should just do a full-length.
What was it about the beats that caught your ear initially?
They were so authentic and natural. A lot of times with production, it'll either be too much or too little, and Psymun's production is just very authentically him. It doesn't sound forced. He has this very innate, keen, distinctive ear. Especially as a vocalist, I really like working with left-of-center production. I worked with Denver producer Man Mantis
for some older projects that I had, and his sound is similar in the sense that he still has an ear for hip-hop, but it was more like thinking outside the box. We were able to create our own sound that was very uniquely us. It was all different but it all sounded cohesive. I had been struggling with writer's block. The last project I did was the Significant Other EP
, and there were two parts. The second part came out March of 2011, and a lot of production [I'd receive] after that was kind of cliche. When Psymun sent that [first beat], it was kind of that break of writer's block that I really needed. It was so different from all the other production I'd been hearing that it kind of was refreshing. It just helped. He ended my writer's block.
Do you come up with the lyrical direction ahead of time, or do you feed off the beat?
K. Raydio: Definitely feed off of it. "Sirens," that was one where the production was so haunting. When we have sessions, he'll send me production or we'll just meet together and kind of talk about it. It's been pretty cool because it's always a fresh take and always a fresh ear. The album is really cool because the songs are really different but they all kind of paint a picture. With "Sirens," we had written that song months before the actual George Zimmerman trial, and it was more just a portrait of the American judicial system. My uncle's been locked up for almost 30 years. It's just something to try and paint a portrait of what's going on in this country. It was poignant when that happened to have "Sirens" go... We didn't expect "Sirens" to explode like it did. It just kind of happened.
The album title is LucidDreamingSkylines. We felt the opening track "Sweet Dreams" is kind of in like a dreamlike state, like the album is, but at the same time it incorporates the perception of reality, and it's up to the listener to decide what's part of the dream and what's real, is it vice versa, it's kind of up for interpretation. It works because you can have a dream or you can have a nightmare. Kind of in that sense, some of the songs are a little bit more light and introspective, and there are others that are introspective in a little bit more of a haunting way. It's open for perception.
Psymun: I never thought about it like that, but I like that.
K. Raydio: When you listen to it, it's kind of the cycles of dreams. You don't just have one dream. Falling asleep and waking from that, if you do wake from it. We didn't set out for it to be any specific concept. It's more the music does that for you. I've never had that happen to this extent before. We work really well together, which is awesome.
What was it like to see your music appearing on national blogs?
It was exciting. Questlove started Okayplayer, so that was pretty cool. I wonder if he's heard our music. I won this contest with 2DopeBoyz
, it was a remix contest with MHz Legacy. I won the contest, like January 1st of 2013, started the year off pretty well.
K. Raydio: What song was it, "Flight", that started to get blogged about?
Yeah, me and Damacha released our album
on Two Michael Jordans Records and it got a good response. My friend from high school Vacation Dad, he owns that label, and he got that track to premiere on The Fader.
K. Raydio: It became, anytime I'd wake up get a text from Psymun, it was always good news. I was just looking on Okayplayer just to hear new music for myself, and I looked, like, wait a minute... I'm up there with Elvis Costello and The Roots, all this other stuff, it was crazy. It's just been really cool. You never who's going to pick it up. I'm a vocalist, I think of myself as a soul singer. We've been embraced by the hip-hop community but we're not specifically just hip-hop. That's really cool to be in the midst of a lot of boom-bap rappers and stuff to have our stuff up there. It feels like we're being appreciated. We just want people to take something from it, kind of step outside the box with their ears.
What's your process for producing beats?
Psymun: Ableton, I have a Fender Rhodes, I do a lot of sampling, I have a synthesizer, guitar and bass and stuff. The process is different every time.
K. Raydio: We don't really have a format, the songwriting aspect too. His production was always different. We also wanted to make shorter songs. I feel like a lot of songs we wanted to paint a picture but also hold people's interest. We're both learning the shorter the song sometimes, the better.
That's how I feel about live performances too. Shorter, in-the-moment type stuff, you don't really even think about it, you just get wrapped up in it before you have a chance to think about it because it's over so quickly. A lot of the music I've been influenced by is too, punk rock and stuff. So fast and short. That's kind of where I got that influence from. I make hip-hop but I listen to so much other stuff. I came up listening to so much other stuff. I'm also in a punk band called Dogshit Kid
K. Raydio: Dogshit Kid is awesome. We both listen to a wide array of music. He put me on to King Krule, it's just cool to have somebody that respects soul music and hip-hop but still is able to take elements from a lot of other things we listen to. It's a lot more abstract, without it being like, "We're trying to be abstract!" I love R&B, I love soul. My dad's from Memphis, my grandpa was a blues musician, so that's what it was like as a kid. One end is Stax Records, and then my mom brought in the Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. So that sense of having that songwriting element, you learned about, just through listening as a kid, hearing emotion. And so some of the songs might be shorter, but there's a lot more emotion in them because they're so much more concise. So it's been kind of cool, because I've stepped out of a box I think I was in with songwriting too. Stopped being so formulaic.
Tell me about your show at the Nomad on Friday.
K. Raydio: I'm really excited, the bill is pretty cool. It's a unique show. The variety in the Twin Cities, we could do a bill with a lot of hip-hop acts, or a bill with a lot of independent, left-of-center acts. That's what's really cool, it's cool to have an environment where you can do that.
Psymun and K. Raydio join Isadore, Word on the Street, and The Marcellas for "a night of cutting edge R&B" at the Nomad World Pub, 501 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis, Friday, 10/18. 21+ // $5 // 9:30 pm. Info here.