In the evolutionary age of electronic music, his funk, jazz and and 80’s soulful influences have provided a unique canvas for the former dance pop Ella Riot guitarist.
Originally from Michigan, Lux has been in Brooklyn for about two years now, playing for growing crowds at venues like Brooklyn Bowl, Best Buy Theater, Hudson Terrace, and Marquee NY, to name a few.
Today, he is working on his first solo EP, “That New,” and is continuing to play several shows a month. Lux’s next performance is scheduled for the Aug. 30 at the Crown Vic Bar, located at 60 S. 2nd St. in Williamsburg.
I sat down with Lux at Swallow Café in Bushwick to discuss his new album and his involvement in the ever-changing genre of electronic music.
Can you explain the kind of music that you do?
I guess I make pop-tinged house music, or house-tinged pop music and other types of electronic music, rooted in house, but I’ve experimented in other tempos.
What kind of influences did you have growing up?
I had a lot of disco and Michael Jackson growing up. That was something that my parents would listen to occasionally, and my dad listened to a lot of classical music, and I grew up playing a lot of classical and jazz double bass and guitar. That stuff is somewhere inside my interests now, which have a lot more electronic overtones, and typically most of the music that I listen to is very, very electronic and synthesized.
What kind of music do you listen to now?
I listen to a lot of this group Disclosure, who’s really popping off right now. They’ve been pretty inspiring, but a lot of other deep house coming out of Europe and North America, too. Producers like Darius Syrossian, would be one; Shadow Child would be one I’m really liking.
What do you see happening right now in this genre?
I think a couple things have happened quite recently that have affected it a lot. One is it has become a lot more ubiquitous in general. I think that’s because the technology required to make this music has become a lot more accessible. The cost of entry is lower than its ever been, and its also just become much more popular, in terms of events. There’s a lot more of a culture surrounding this stuff, where you can go, experience this type of electronic music in a space, with people, and that kind of gives you a lot more of a grounding sense of what it is, as opposed to even when I was first getting into it. It wasn’t really until I started coming out to the East Coast where I’d even really found out about events where people were doing a lot of house music, and when you see a whole night of people doing it well, you understand it very differently than when you’re just accessing through the internet.
What drove you to making that kind of music?
I think it’s because I’ve always had a fascination with tambour, and I think when I started getting into making electronic music when I was 15, I was listening to a lot of it, and for some reason I was really attracted to synthetic sounds. I kind of came at it through this band called Enon, which was a punky Indie-rock group, but they had synthesizers sometimes on some of their tunes, and those were always my favorite tunes. I got into figuring out how they did that, so I started downloading software and doing this stuff.
I think I just loved programming drums. I’m not a drummer, I can’t really play it well, but to be able to create rhythms just compliments my process. I can enjoy the programy-ness of it. I like working with synthesizers and actual instruments as well.
Did you start playing shows when you were that young, or was that hard to break into?
Never any electronic performances or anything like that until I was in college (University of Michigan), and I started getting into experimental shows, typically like art gallery stuff. It kind of led into me DJ-ing.
What can you say about living in Bushwick and its influence on your creativity?
I think some people get kind of weirdly competitive about it, and I think there’s this inherent introversion that comes with being a creative person. I think sometimes it can be hard to put yourself against a whole bunch of creative energies. I feel that happens very constantly here, which I do think has that subtle effect of encouraging you to raise your game.
Would you say artists are a little pretentious around here?
It can be that way, but I think though it is a very positive thing to live in this neighborhood. I’ve constantly run into people who have been sources of inspiration for me, or become that by finding out about all of their talents. Also, I’m networking across disciplines and networking with people who can do album artwork or great photography. I think a lot of the people making stuff in this community; it’s not necessarily like their work is field tested by art music industries yet, in the way that if you were operating in a space in Chelsea, you’ve got to be doing something right in order to cover your overhead. Bushwick is a relatively cheap place to live by New York standards.
Is it affordable here anymore?
I live in this neighborhood. I manage to make it work.
Do you do other things for income?
Not really. I guess if I have a day job, I do studio work.
I work out of my own loft and also out of the Cutting Room Studios, and I do freelance production and mixing work. I recently also started getting into writing for ad music, but then that stuff I make on my own hours. They sort of go project by project. I still have a lot of time to work on my own music, and I DJ pretty regularly.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on this EP, which is very near completion. We’ve got the single that is going to be coming out very shortly called, “I Feel New.” That was a collaboration with a singer called Charlotte Sometimes.
Where’s she from?
She’s from Jersey, but she’s in New York frequently, which is how we started getting together to do songwriting projects. Originally we started doing stuff that was going to be pitched at major label artists and that led us into just writing for our own projects and see what came of that. This song is the first completed some production that we’ve done together.
So tell me about the EP.
It’s called “That New,” and it’s actually the first EP I’ve put out as a solo artist. It’s kind of nerve-wracking to think about. I’ve been making a living making music with other groups for a while and I’ve contributed and produced with groups that I’m a part of, but I’ve never put something out saying this is something I’ve done. I’ve done, pretty much all the work. I’ve had some collaborators, but at the end of the day, its been my vision.
I’m trying not to make this a thing of self-definition, just making it myself; right here and right now. I think part of my tendency to think of it as defining has prevented me of releasing more music, because I get really anxious of releasing something that’s all on me.
What group were you in before?
I was in a group called Ella Riot. That group I played with for about five years and kind of ran the group with two other members. We just went on a hiatus about a year and a half ago. We kind of wanted to take space because it’s really fatiguing to be in a band.
What did you do in the band?
I played guitar and I did a lot of the writing too, which involved making a lot of the synth sounds.
What kind of band was it?
It was kind of like a dance-pop band, with like a, Stevie Wonder/Maroon 5 kind of edge. It was interesting. We all met studying jazz.
How is it different releasing an album as a group versus doing it solo?
The benefit of release an album as a band or as a group is that the burden, the spiritual and psychological burden of it, is distributed across the other members.
What kind of samples are you using with the new album?
I’m not actually doing a ton of sampling. There are some samples on a lot of the tracks that tend to be drawing from older funk and soul stuff. I tend to listen to a lot of that, but I grab little snippets of it. I’m definitely drawn to those types of sounds and that type of expression and I like to juxtapose that to the more digitized electronic stuff that I like to create.
I think using samples like that can bring more warmth for character, and a little more vulnerability really. It’s hard to be vulnerable with machines, but samples can happen that way. I don’t use a ton since there are some complicating factors
To hear music from Robert Lux, visit his Facebook page (facebook.com/robertluxmusic) or his website (robertlux.com) and look for “That New” this October.