Lowtide. caught up with Keith, the alternative & eclectic genre-bending band that has been responsible for "Makes a Beat" at our Flower Street address since the beginning of this year. A persona onto itself -who's different personalities are made up of Michael (bass), Connor (guitar), Ezra (drums) and Akshay (keys) - Keith spoke to us about their genesis, what they've gotten out of their open-mic nights thus far and their goals for the future.
How did you meet and decide to work together?
E: Shay and I met at SAE. Me & Mike have been playing together since intermediate and then Connor kind of slithered his way in after being a sound guy at one of our first gigs.
Where did the name Keith come from?
M: Its just a concept really, it’s just a funny name that’s not too serious but also not a complete piss take.
A: I think everyone thinks about their names too much these days, so Keith was us kind of doing the opposite.
M: Yeah it’s kind of the least worst name we could find.
C: But its also quite comical.
E: Keith's like a person but he's also four people
C: Yeah its a persona
M: Like Keith does things you know, like he could go to the movies.
Sometimes things just need a persons name - like they're a person.
How did you establish your style and how would you describe it?
A: I think we’d call ourselves alternative hip-hop. It started more traditional hip-hop but it’s kind of grown into what it is now. It’s kind of all of our music tastes combined with Hip-Hop as the main denominator.
E: It’s just music with people rapping over the top haha.
M: I would say it's all of our music tastes combined
A: We’ve all got pretty weird taste to be honest, like Mikey shows us some pretty weird Japanese music sometimes.
A: Its cool to have a lot random influences sometimes, because it feels less like you’re stealing - but alternative hip-hop really is our "style." But we’ll see what it turns out to be.
What sparked this idea to do the open mic and why is it so important for our community?
A: What initially sparked it was that we wanted a way to play live without having any original content, and then we realised how much people loved it and how it built a community around it.
E: The idea for us as a band initially was to be instrumental so we needed to meet people and figure out who's got chops to work with.
A: We said “we’ll do this once a month for a year” and now we have.
Have you thought about finding a resident vocalists or is staying instrumental the consistent ethos of the band.
A: We’ve got an EP on the way, I’m on a few of the vocals
M: But most of the other vocalists are people that we have met on from the "Makes A Beat" nights.
E: It's all people that we want to work with too
M: We’ve had a few people hitting us up now which is awesome, like we’re not specifically looking but now we’re also being found.
A: We’re working with people like Native B/Native Bush so I guess the original idea worked
M: It’s pretty awesome, and we just want to work with everyone.
It must feel rewarding knowing you’re helping some people overcome their fears of performing by creating a comfortable environment, what sort of feedback have you received?
E: The biggest compliment we’ve kind of had is the two rappers who came up from Hamilton. That was a big like “This is cool.”
An open mic brings with it unpredictable performances.. sometimes awkward, amusing, or will absolutely blow you away - talk us through how you navigate supporting an artist’s style once they begin?
E: I guess we try and judge them by looks and start playing beat that might suite them, like some dudes get up and we're like "yup hip-hop" but sometimes we're completely wrong haha.
M: But we can change pretty easily, we just sloooow it on down.
E: The dudes that want a slow jam kind of have a swagger when they walk up slowly haha
C: Hard or they tell you pretty quick "yo can you guys slow down" haha.
E: We just kind of figure out what they’re doing and go with them.
A: But that's why its important to have a good MC, so that if anyone starts being disrespectful and starts going crazy then the MC can make sure that it doesn’t get out of hand.
C: The buzzy thing though, is that we’ve never really had that, there’s always like a pretty cool vibe.
A: And the audience is super supportive of the artists as well, everyone just clap’s them down. We’ve never had boos or complete shock.
E: The only awkward thing is people going too long sometimes because time is a factor in the night and sharing it
M: We just let it roll really because at the end of the day it’s about the vibe really. If it’s loose and sloppy at the end then that’s kind of cool because people remember the feeling of “oh that was a bit crazy.”
E: There’s no way that we can like stop anyway.
A: Hard, I try and ask Mikey "yo, what key are you in" and he just smiles and nods at me and Im like "haha sweet man."
M: All i can hear is "boom kts, boom de boom kts" and I'm like "yeah man sick."
What have been some of the most memorable moments ?
E: Mine would be when I figured out how to live sample with my SPD, so I can now grab people's vocals when they go up and make a beat out of it.
A: What’s buzzy is that most of the time I zone out from the crowd sometimes and focus on the music and often when we start theres fuck all people and once I come back I look up and the space is packed.
M: I always remember the last one. Like at each one there's always someone who gets up that you’re like “they were dope” and you wish you could talk to them after. That's whats memorable for me the artists who stick out on the night.
C: I would say that the moment - it's always too ephemeral ae - it’s hard to say.
Have you noticed any trends or movements among the acts coming through?
C: It definitely has a sound. If I could give New Zealand or Auckland a sound it would just be earthy.
What’s the most interesting performance / arrangement you’ve experimented with?
E: The first song we made with Pip - or whatever monicker she feels fits towards it, Native B or Native Bush - is so buzzy. The first thing she said when she came in was that she didn't like the kick. Which is a fundamental part of drumming. I thought "how the fuck do I not do something Ive been doing since I was 7." So I had to work around reducing it, like relearning how to make my music. Which was buzzy
A: Also she makes her music, vocals first. So I had to write chords around her vocals, which is something Ive never done before.
C: She also describes her music visually, like "I want it to sound soft pink."
A: We had to work around her vision. Normally its the beat first and then the rest of the melody and the lyrics last, but with her its different.
M: Yeah its a really awesome experience.
What do you hope people take away from the gig?
M: Inclusiveness and openness. The confidence to get weirder next time.
What’s next for all of you ?
A: We have an EP coming soon.
E: What we really want to do is bridge the gap between this jam thing and focusing on our production and making sure that people know that we are an instrumental hip-hop band. We aren't Keith Makes a Beat, we're Keith. I think to do that we really need to focus on pushing rehearsed live sets from the EP and from other things we're working on individually. Sometimes I think we're 20 years ahead of ourselves in our own head.
M: Yeah we're quite lucid really
A: But thats the cool thing because we know that theres something that we are working towards. Mikeys an engineer but he's constantly taking our knowledge on Audio Engineering and learning from us
M: HAHA yeah, I made a pretty sloppy beat this morning.