It’s not often a band releases its debut album 10 years into its career. A debut album usually marks the beginning of a band’s existence and a rite of passage into the music industry. So it was a bit odd when well-established electronic music trio Keys N Krates announced it would be releasing its debut album in the Winter of 2018, nearly a decade after forming.
The record served as a musical reset for the Toronto-based trio, who will perform at Eugene’s McDonald Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
“It was a hard reset in terms of the vibe of our music and a hard reset in the direction of us being more serious about recorded music,” Keys N Krates turntablist Greg Dawson told the Emerald. “We just weren’t really psyched on the direction the music was going in. And we just wanted to make music that was more for us personally and our friends.”
The record took over a year for Dawson and fellow bandmates Adam Tune and David Matisse to write and record. During this time, the band solely focused on revamping its sound. Throughout the writing process, the trio moved away from club-style remixes and put a stronger emphasis on cohesive material by adding warmth and texture to its sound.
After a year of anticipation, Keys N Krates released its debut record CURA on Feb. 2, 2018. Stylistically, the record is highlighted by the heavy use of samples from 1970s soul and disco music. CURA’s sound is similar to legendary hip-hop producer J Dilla, who is one of Dawson’s biggest musical influences.
“It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do, so the inspiration is very organic for us,” Dawson said in reference to the record’s sound. “That’s what we grew up on — that’s our first love. It felt right to draw from that.”
Dawson likes to refer to the record as the band’s new “mission statement” — a change of direction and a set of goals going forward. But the statement doesn’t just pertain to the recorded material: the group hit the reset button on its live performances too.
“One of the things we were thinking about along the way too was how we wanted to reshape our show and make it more of a concert and less of a DJ set,” Dawson said. “Although it’s still a dance party, it feels now more like you’re going to see a band.”
Reshaping a band’s live show is no easy feat, especially after a decade of crafting a successful performance style. In order to go through such an upheaval, Keys N Krates enlisted the help of Ben Dalgleish, one of the industry’s best professional stage show designers. Dalgleish helped design the stage production for Drake’s Boy Meets World Tour in 2017 and many other popular tours.
Dalgleish agreed to design the stage production for Keys N Krates’ 2018 CURA tour. Days of collaboration went into creating the exact vibe that fits the tone of the record, but Dawson says the results speak for themselves.
“This is the craziest our show has ever been. The way we present the music, I’m super proud of,” Dawson said.
In addition to a state-of-the-art lighting show, the band also added a host of live instruments to its live set, including guitars, wind chimes and cymbals.
Since the release of the record, the trio has had time to reflect on its achievement. And Dawson, for one, is happy with the way everything has turned out.
“It’s a stepping stone for us to get better. There are things that I would do differently and I’m sure the other [band members] feel the same way, but I think we’re all really happy with it. It’s almost like a mixtape, like this is what we are trying to do going forward.”
Keys N Krates will perform at McDonald Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 28. Doors will open at 7 p.m., and the show will start at 8 p.m. with Promnite and Jubilee opening. Tickets are $25 online, $29 at the box office.