Keys N Krates, ‘SOLOW’ EP: First Listen

Keys n' Krates backstage at HARD Summer 2013 in Los Angeles, CA

Lance Skundrich/FilterlessCo

EDM’s hottest live band sticks to their jam session roots while dropping the bass.

Were someone to describe Keys N Krates as an artist who includes Diplo and Annie Mac as friends, one whose schedule includes appearances at festival stages like HARD, Mad Decent Block Party and Electric Zoo, and one who is signed to Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label, you might have and idea of who this artist is. But as a live electronic band, Toronto-based trio Keys N Krates, are anything but a typical EDM act.

In fact, as they show on their new EP, "SOLOW," out this Tuesday, there’s still a lot of room for originality in a genre typically defined by similarities. Check out the first listen of SoLow here, exclusively on CODE:

Harkening to the era of classic rock, most Keys N Krates songs begin as a jam session. “We sit in a rehearsal room for a really long time like a regular band would,” drummer Adam Tune explains.

Tune, along with keyboardist David Matisse and turntablist Jr. Flo, describe themselves as musicians who learned how to produce, rather than the other way around. One of the complications of translating tunes that originate as studio productions to a live performance is that Keys N Krates never uses a backing track on stage, a point of pride for the band.

“Most bands in the electronic genre play over backing tracks,” Flo explains. “A lot of kids who go to see those bands see us and think it’s the same. But we’re actually doing all of [the production live]. Nothing against anybody else but that’s something we put a lot of work into.”

“We have to figure out the most important thing – the root of the song – and divide it between the three of us,” Tune continues. “It’s funny because when we have a produced track we’re like, ‘How do we do this live now?’ If there’s only two notes, and they’re bass notes, I can play them on my kick pedals. If there’s more, [Matisse] has to play them on his keyboards.”

The mechanics of Keys N Krates – a live band making electronic music – make them a standout, but the “SOLOW” EP erases any lingering doubts about their place in the dance music space. Its four tracks make good on the promise of their summer single, “Treat Me Right,” in the depth of bass and the complexity of the beats. Vacillating between essential base tracks and peak hour bangers, the band has struck a balance between their live roots and their crossover potential. All of it primed for an audience.

“The energy we get locked into is very infectious,” Matisse says of their time on stage. “When we get into that comfort zone we start to see a pocket of kids dancing here, another pocket there. It’s like popcorn. There are certain drops where it’s like, ok if they go for that one, they’re going to love the next one.”

While the band continues their push for new fans through their live shows, their affiliation with Aoki’s Dim Mak is not an inconsequential one for them either.

“Being on Dim Mak kinda puts us more in that category that these guys are good, these guys are accepted, they belong on stage,” says Matisse. “Now someone has recognized what we’re doing. It’s a stamp of approval.”

The “SOLOW” EP is out Tuesday, September 18.