Keys N KratesEXPAND
Keys N Krates
Photo by Devon Little

Keys N Krates Breaks Out of EDM's Singles-Only Mentality

Turntablist Greg Dawson (AKA Jr. Flo) of Keys N Krates wouldn't say the group is distancing itself from EDM, because "that sounds snobby and elitist and kind of shitty," he says. But he does differentiate the Canadian electronic band's style from the "harder electronic music that's kind of specific to North America and some parts of Europe."

On one hand, he appreciates how EDM has excited younger generations about instrumental music. Dawson says he and bandmates Adam Tune (drums) and David Matisse (keyboards) thank EDM for giving Keys N Krates an attentive audience "that wants to hear weird instrumental stuff." It's just at this point in their careers, they'd all prefer to make more nuanced music rather than focus exclusively on block-rocking beats.

Keys N Krates dropped its first full-length, Cura, on Steve Aoki's Dim Mak Records in February. Taking the time to make the album was like hitting the pause button, allowing the group to reset its mission statement after years of grinding on tour. The record includes some kick-ass instrumental jams, such as the big, brassy leadoff track "Início," but it's mostly made up of pop songs with choruses and verses.

"It feels like musically and vibe-wise, we've taken a more soulful and organic direction," Dawson says.

Keys N Krates is set to play Wynwood Fear Factory the second day of the festival (Saturday, October 27). They'll play cuts off Cura as well as some oldies that have become fan favorites, Dawson says. For example, the band's 2013 breakout hit, "Dum Dee Dum," is still a staple of the set list.

"That's a big song for people who come see us, if not the biggest," he says. "We have to play that record. But we play a different version of it now. There are a couple of remixes —  one by Nghtmre and one by this guy Alexander Lewis; he did like a brass take on the lead — and we actually do a hybrid version of both of those remixes... We like reinterpreting and doing a fresh take of our older stuff."

They've been touring the new material for several months and have noticed their audience shifting away from "bros who want to hear trap bangers," Dawson says. "They're kind of not coming to the shows anymore. We're getting kids with a little more intricate taste in music."

Keys N Krates had put out a handful of EPs and a ton of singles but never a proper full-length before recording Cura. They were always too locked into touring, often playing more than 100 shows a year, to spend enough time in the studio to cut an album.

"We were always playing catchup, trying to throw some shit together," Dawson says. "We were definitely making stuff we were cool with, but I'm not sure if that equated to making stuff we actually loved."

He adds that electronic artists often forgo releasing albums in favor of dropping consistent singles. "The ways kids consume EDM is very of the moment," he says. "It doesn't feel like it's ever been substantial. It's never felt like 'I want to hear what that sounds like in the form of an album'... I don't think a lot of the music translates well outside of a festival or a club. It's hard to listen to at home. It's very harsh. It's very of the moment, like, 'I want to hear this really loud thing right now, and then I want to hear the next loud thing.' Albums aren't a part of the culture."

Wynwood Fear Factory. Friday, October 26, and Saturday, October 27, at Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd St., Miami; wynwoodfearfactory.com. Tickets cost $60 to $110 via tixr.com.

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