Combining two art students and a derivatives trader into an all-encompassing art project was surely a novel concept. Autograf — formed by Jake Carpenter, Louis Kha, and Mikul Wing — craft a shimmery mix of futuristic electronica with a D.I.Y. ethos that melds the skills from their former day jobs. The trio put their talents together at a gallery exhibition, where Carpenter, a sculptor and painter who worked as a welder in a fabrication factory, and Wing, a street artist, created an installation that included a homemade robot. As the electronic music scene reached a certain peak in 2015, the group wanted to bring some sexy back to the genre. After remixing songs by a string of prominent artists like Lorde and Pharrell, they released their first original song, “Dream,” a languidly sensual track that recalled the most positive Avicii output. A month later, they dropped the electronic disco “Running,” another glittery jam, which featured original artwork to accompany the release. The third track in as many months, “Metaphysical” again featured Autograf-designed cover art, as well as vocals from sultry alt-R&B singer Janelle Kroll. Autograf’s future philosophy and artistic talents led them to create their own instruments and stage installations, which they hoped would revolutionize the electronic music scene. In early 2016, the trio released their debut EP, Future Soup. A handful of remixes occupied their time later that year before Autograf returned in early 2017 with a pair of singles. First to arrive was the WYNNE-assisted “Nobody Knows,” followed shortly by “You Might Be,” which featured vocals by Lils.
Credits to: AllMusic.Com
Who Is Autograf? A Trio Who Thinks EDM and Art Is Getting Lost In the “Neon YOLO Generation”
AUTOGRAF’S BIG ‘DREAM’
If you’ve heard their eclectic collection of future/tropical house remixes, you will know that Chicago-based trio Autograf, comprising of Jake Carpenter, Louis Kha and Mikul Wongis in a league of their own. Unlike many who took the EDM route, the lads are part of a new breed of DJ and producers that bank on the overall musical experience. However, before the music came into play, there was Future Soup; an eight foot sculpture that was their first art creation.
What started out as an art project eventually became a musical adventure for the trio. Their remixes of Marvin Gaye, Pharrell, Stevie Wonder, and French Horn Rebellion & Savoir Adore gained them an abundance of fans in a short period of time. Combining their passion for and art showcases their eclecticism and now, they are ready to share it with Asia. The lads who are scheduled to perform at It’s The Ship in November spared us some time to talk about their musical journey and the pursuit of an artistic haven. We spoke to Louis Kha on the current developments of Autograf.
What’s keeping you guys busy these days?
We’re working on a bunch of new original music right now because we’ve just been releasing a lot of remixes. We recently released our first original track, ‘Dream’ this summer. Right now we have ten original tracks that we’ve worked on including more that are close to be completed. So we hope to share those at the beginning of the fall season. We’re also working on the artwork for hopefully our potential debut artist album. The idea behind that is to create a physical art piece kind of like a street art style using screen printing and collages that you can make on various surfaces like a wall or a canvas. Having that art piece photographed will be the album cover.
We’re working on that and also pushing our live shows. Right now we have the live vibraphone, a live djembe drum, and we have controllers so the next step is to incorporate some drum pads. It’s almost like sculpture piece. It’s clear, acrylic and reacts to light. We want to work on the visual aspects for our live shows.
Can you elaborate on that visual aspects you’re working on?
Well the first piece is the drum that I just described to you. It’s basically every instrument outfitted with lights and LEDs so we can programme it to be sound reactive. We want the crowd to see what’s happening visually.
How difficult is it to come up with art installations and stuff while having to concentrate on the music elements?
It’s definitely time consuming. We initially started out this project creating visual art because the three of us had our own musical project before this and then we kind of stopped doing that. Both of them come from strong art backgrounds; Jake went to art school and Mikul was actively pursuing street art but they weren’t doing much in that field. We collaborated on several visual arts projects and then we started putting music out and there was a huge demand for that. At that point, the music side of us completely took over.
Tropical and future house is what you’re labelled with. Do you think defining genres as such is necessary?
It’s funny because I think genres are silly. Trying to describe music in words is quite difficult because music is meant to be experienced so when you take a song and try to describe it in two words like deep house, it is impossible. But I do understand why it is necessary to create labels. Like when you’re having a conversation and need to describe what it sounds, having labels to describe it makes it easier for everyone. Things like future house and tropical house describes a movement and a scene instead of an actual genre.
Music that have been given these labels sound wildly different. As the electronic music scene begins to evolve, it is harder to just give it the traditional terms like deep house and progressive house and house. Like future house is house music of the future. A lot of times we just poke fun at the genre naming and make up our own, it is pretty fun. I don’t really like it because it tends to pigeonhole music and people who have pre-conceived notions whether they like it or not.
Having have said that, your sound is new and unique. What influenced you guys to explore this in the first place?
We were quite big fans of the French filter house sounds. It blew up with Daft Punk then it moved to an indie electronic moment with guys like Danger and Justice. Our musical influences are pretty much varied. Earlier on with Autograf, we had a blast playing soulful vocals like Stevie Wonder.
Despite having a long history of electronic music that began in the 80’s, the US scene only boomed more than a decade ago when Tiesto made an impression on the fans but these days people like you guys and Tokimonsta are churning out something different altogether. Are you hoping to hit the mass market in the US?
I think it would be nice if we did hit the mass market and that everyone enjoyed our music but I feel like we want to make music that we enjoy. Right now pop music is huge and if that’s what the masses want then clearly they won’t enjoy our music but if things change in the US it could be something big but I think we are going to continue creating music that we think is interesting and if the mainstream market digs it then that would be awesome but I don’t see us compromising our sounds to cater to the pop market.
The festival scene is booming more than ever, is it a good thing for you guys in a musical sense?
The festivals are actually where we’re getting most of our fans from. When there’s a festival you have over 50 different acts performing so you have a lot of different music fans there. This is the perfect chance for people to discover new music. Like when we played at the Electric Forest and punters go through all the stages to check out the diversity offered. They like what they hear and they’re having a great time, they would definitely want to know what is up. I think in terms of gaining fans, that’s the way to go.
How’s summer been treating you guys and what’s left to do this season?
Summer has been busy and we’ve been touring while trying to make music at the same time. We definitely want to create more art with any free time that we have left. We’d like to create the instruments I mentioned earlier. There’s just so much commitment we have for our music and there’s just three of us. I cannot imagine doing this as one person but even with three of us, it isn’t easy getting everything done. We’re doing what we enjoy at the moment and we’re trying to finish our debut album.
Many producers out there are opting for EP releases instead of full album ones, what’s the motivation behind the decision of releasing an album?
It’s probably smarter to put out singles and EP’s but for us, we just have a vision of making an album. I feel like music is so easily consumed now and it makes people’s attention span shorter. Back then listening to a 60 minute album is an experience from start to finish. I feel like today’s generation suffer from ADD. It’s just like how our social media is; people cannot focus because they just snapchatted, got a notification from Instagram or an alert from Facebook. All this stimulus is making people out of focus. People have just forgotten how to appreciate single bodies of music. We want to take people on a journey and be able to rock out the live show based on our original materials. It’s a good time for people to shut themselves from the world.
Seeing that this is the first time you guys are touring Asia, what comes to mind when you think of the region?
I’m Asian so I’m definitely thinking of the food. I’m in New York right now and I’m trying to eat more ramen, soba noodles, Thai food and Vietnamese food. I just love that kind of food so I am excited for that. I’ve been to Japan, Thailand and Vietnam pre-Autograf days so I know what it’s like to be a tourist but coming as an artist is definitely going to be different and interesting. Mikul is the same. He’s a quarter Chinese and three quarter Caucasian but he has spent some time in Taiwan teaching English and I know he loves Asian cuisine.
What kind of set are you guys thinking of rocking up on It’s The Ship?
It would probably be something good for summer vibes. Stuff that is chilled out and relaxing but at the same time you can dance and have fun to it. Like I said it’s not easy describing music to people so I just tell them to check it out for themselves.
See them this Friday, June 7th at The Bluebird, downtown Reno. Tickets are now on sale.
Support: The Schmit / Roger That! Doors 10:00pm