"IF IT WAS EASY, EVERYONE WOULD BE DOING IT," A Conversation with Kelz
How can we as a society make the music industry better?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this question. Overall, I think the music industry needs to be more approachable and transparent. I feel like new artists like myself can be overwhelmed and confused with all the aspects of this business beyond the music. Simply, I think if we are all able to ask and engage in more taboo discussions and questions, this can improve the community for growth and learning. I feel like there are so many intertwining factors, but helping each other instead of having things feel like a competition would be better for all.
Do you feel like you’re seen as childish for pursuing music as a career?
Growing up in a traditional Asian household, being a musician has always been seen as a “hobby,” so I definitely am not surprised when people do see what I’m doing as “childish.” I admit that there have been moments where I have ingrained this belief within myself since I’ve had to learn the reality of what comes with the territory of being a music artist. My parents come from a generation of survival where success means you have financial security and a good roof over your head. I don’t blame them and others for being worried and seeing it as impractical! If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
What is your stance on streaming and the “future” of how people consume music?
I’ve been having interesting conversations with different friends and peers about this! In short, I feel social media is an extremely powerful tool for music consumption and discovery now. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram encourage short-form videos to help give more exposure to artists and their music. Thus, helping build the fanbase which can lead to merch/ticket sales and streaming. I used to think the key to this “success” would be from constantly talking and showing your face to your audience, but I’m starting to believe this doesn’t have to be the case anymore.
The internet is weird. You don’t have to use it, but it’s there if you wanna join the party more and meet new people faster. Regardless if you choose that, the right people are still gonna find you in time.
What do you want the audience to take away from your live show?
I don’t really get chances to play live shows often, but whenever I do, I really want to tell a story. Since my music is also inspired by electronic elements, I’ve always loved the flow DJs and electronic artists are able to curate - there’s never really a break in audio. I always want my audience to be able to feel the emotional highs and lows of the journey through sound. There’s a reason why the songs are played in that order!
I hope people also feel seen and vulnerable with me.
What is your recording process like?
It depends, but most of the time it starts off with a melody that comes to mind. I’m a very melodic creator, so I tend to always translate this onto the guitar or a synthesizer. I tend to think in loops and build upon the layers on top of a loop - essentially creating (typically) the chorus AKA hook of a song for me.
I’ve always seen my production and songwriting as a compliment to each other. I don’t necessarily want one to “overpower” another. I like the idea of both sides being strong enough to exist independently.
I really cherish the early moments of a song where I’m still brainstorming the puzzle pieces. I try not to worry too much about the technical details such as mixing which can be intertwined with electronic production. I tend to record guitars and vocals in the heat of the moment with the expectation of re-recording them at a later date, but I usually prefer the original recordings - it feels much more intimate and raw. I’ve grown to like those “imperfections.”
This year, I want to improve my skill of finishing arrangements first, adding the details later.
How do you deal with writer's block or creative slumps?
I personally need a break from creating whenever I am in a slump. Overtime, I’ve started to realize I tend to get into writing blocks whenever I start to force myself to create, harshly. I end up placing this inner pressure on myself to always make a good song. Where’s the fun in that?
It’s still hard for me to always remember that it’s okay to step away for a bit. I feel like I’m naturally a curious person, so during that time away, I’m probably reading up about something new, learning different techniques, or listening to new sounds that will naturally want to give me that fuel and inspiration again to create. Besides this, my own music revolves around my life events and experiences, allowing me to eventually want to translate those feelings through song!
Favorite recording tools that you use?
This is my chance to geek out!
Plug-Ins: Kickstarter 2, Soundtoys, Fabfilter, XO, RC-20, Wider
VST: Arturia Collection, TAL UNO, LABS
Synth: OP-1, Minilogue XD, Microkorg
Honorable mentions: I recently got a Korg Electribe ES-1. It has iconic drum patterns from the early 2000s dance scene. My friends also gave me a Yamaha EZ-EG. It’s an electronic synth in the form of a guitar with different sound presets. The first time I performed my songs was with this synth in New York!
I’ve also been learning how to use my SP404 MK2 more for beatmaking. Before this, I’ve just been using it for performance! It’s super fun.
What’s the most special moment you have had recording? That sort of “ah ha!” moment.
During the first session of my song “My Friend,” I was producing the song and building the chorus when I decided to test out chopping my vocals and sidechaining it to the kick, making this pulsing sound that was very simple, yet hypnotic to me. I remember feeling so cathartic for such a depressing song. It was as if that sound served as a release for the negative emotions that were associated with what the song is about. I vividly remember dancing around my bedroom in my underwear to the 4 bar loop on repeat at 5am. It felt so relieving to share these candid thoughts.
I first did this technique with another song called “Guitar + Peaches” after getting stuck on its production. It was an “oh fuck, finally” moment.