ayokay is the man behind “Kings of Summer” one of the ubiquitous tracks of summer 2016. The producer from Grosse Point, Michigan has been met with rare success when stepping from production booth to artist’s chair.
With a new collection of tunes on his EP, 4ft to Infinity, ayokay is establishing himself as an artist of note, creating organic sounding electronica that inspires reflection as much as movement, and is as thoughtful as it is danceable.
ARTISTdirect caught up with ayokay to get the low down on his roots, his process, and his ambitions for the future in music.
Where are you right now?
I currently live in Los Angeles, California.
Tell us about your new project…
I have been working on this project for the past year. It all started with the track “Kings of Summer,” which was the launching point for my artist project. After releasing the song, I began working on some follow-up content which eventually formed into what is my debut EP, 4ft to Infinity. For the project, I collaborated with Quinn XCII for two of the five songs, in addition to an amazing female artist, Mafalda, and a college buddy of mine, Nick Fowler (under the artist name Straight Face).
The concept of the EP is inspired by one extremely memorable summer I spent in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I bought an old polaroid camera at a thrift shop and something about its retro feel absolutely fascinated me. On the front of the camera, there were two focus settings: 2 – 4ft, and 4ft – infinity. This is where the EP title comes from. I am really excited to see what my fans think of the sound.
How do you describe your music to friends?
My music is highly influenced by electronic artists such as ODESZA and Tycho. It has a very pretty (almost “delicate”) melodic structure, contrasted against heavy hitting tribal drums and bass. It is dreamy and ambient, yet upbeat and dancey as well. I wanted to have retro vinyl textures on top with a very new age electronic feel underneath. My favorite types of music are hybrids that draw from all different influences. It is a really exciting time in music where the genre walls are collapsing, and I think my music is a great example of this.
What should your hometown be known for?
My hometown is a really beautiful suburb of Detroit. It is a lake town, and much of our lives are based around the water, and Michigan summers. I think the natural beauty of where I come from had a really big impact on my music.
Who is the most significant person to you at the moment?
One of my current roommates, Jack, has been a really big influence on me. He is the one that got me into electronic music when we lived together in college together at the University of Michigan. He has always been a muse of sorts, and is often who I look to for new music/art.
What first inspired you to pursue a music?
I had always been interested in music, but the turning point was when I was introduced to electronic music. When I first heard ODESZA and Kygo, I was absolutely blown away. I had always been really into hip-hop, but I never listened to the lyrics. I just liked the instrumentals. My impression of electronic music at the time (this was in 2013) was that it was all very heavy, synth driven house music. It felt like music with an intensity that I could never reproduce.
Around the time when ODESZA emerged, it felt like there was a paradigm shift in the genre. It started to slow down a bit, and chill out — ODESZA and Kygo’s music was very melodic and pretty, yet still with a hard hitting beat. This new sound inspired me beyond anything else, and for the first time I saw a lane open up in the music industry for me to follow.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever had in regard to a music career?
My older brother, who taught me how to play music growing up, once wrote a song named “Stay the Course.” Although a bit cliche, it honestly always stuck with me. He almost definitely had no intention of it serving as advice, but I interpreted it as just believing in the end goal and chugging along till you get there.
Anyone, living or dead, who would you like to ride in your tour van?
I could probably spend an entire year talking to Elon Musk about space, philosophy, and if he thinks Leonardo DiCaprio was still dreaming at the end of Inception. But I’d settle for a car ride.
What song best describes your life at the moment?
After spending far too long thinking about this one, I’m just gonna say “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood, since I just moved to California two months ago, and Fall is approaching. Plus, it’s just an unreal song.
What’s the best reaction to your music so far?
Quinn XCII and I went down to Arlington, Texas to catch a Rangers game, and to meet their center fielder, Ian Desmond, who uses our song “Kings of Summer” as his walk up song. Seeing the response in the stadium as they played the song over the loud speakers was surreal. We also performed the song live during the game. Being able to witness the song come to life in that big of a setting, in such an unfamiliar place was truly humbling.
Where do you hope to be in a year?
In a year I hope to be touring the country, have a few European shows under my belt, and to have been in a session with at least one of the producers/musicians that I grew up admiring.
What’s your next step toward realizing that dream?
I will be on the road with Quinn XCII and Louis the Child for most of October/November. I am super excited to hit some new markets, see a bunch of new cities, and play our first hometown show in Detroit. Working on a ton of new music right now as well – for my own project and for Quinn’s. I already have a good idea of my next few follow up songs to the EP.
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