We had the opportunity to sit down with Luca Lush at Treefort Music Festival a few weeks ago in Boise, Idaho. This conversation is short but wide-ranging, including how Luca Lush played in emo bands in New York, how getting rejected by a biology professor made him start making electronic music, and what he has in store for all of us.
Enter: Luca Lush
Luca Lush at Treefort Music Festival, Boise, Idaho. (Credit: Mattie Danner)
Pariah Reign (PR): Where are you from? What was it like growing up?
Luca Lush: I’m from Brooklyn. It was fun growing up there, very different from the West Coast. People in Brooklyn are really blunt. I like that. In L.A., people are nice--there are a lot of genuinely nice people--but also there’s a lot of shallow, fake niceness that goes on. They’re different strokes, but I like them both.
PR: Is it true that you’re a fan of emo music?
LL: Dude, I love emo music. I did this live stream where I listened to a bunch of peoples’ demos and shot the shit with some people. Josh Pan was on there for some reason and popped in. I played a few of my unreleased songs, one of which is a tune I have with QUIX where we have a vocal that was Oliver Heldens’ “Overdrive” version of “Gecko”. We had the vocal pitched down four semitones, but we were trying to get it replaced. After talking to a few kinda flaky vocalists, Josh was like, “Yo, dude, I’ll do it today. Come over after you’re done with this.”
So I went over and he just tracked it. It sounded great. But then there was this build part with the Whoo there it is vocal. It sounded good but it would cost a lot of money to clear that sample, so Josh said I should do some screamo stuff on it. So I did it! There’s this break that’s very aggressive screamo.
I played in metal/emo/screamo bands, scene bands in high school. I still have a soft spot for that. Josh knew I did singing and screaming back then and suggested it. I don’t know if the screams will make the final cut, but we’ll see. It’s pretty much done--vocals are tracked, I just need to mix them in.
PR: That’s awesome. It seems more artists are embracing that metalcore influence, like Sam Lamar and SVDDEN DEATH, to an extent.
LL: Someone just pitched me SVDDEN DEATH the other day. I’m not a fan of straight riddim stuff, but I like the way that he has a melodic contour to the track that leads into itself. That’s what I try to do with my heavy music. I just gravitate to songs where there’s a bit of a story, a bit of a feeling to it to sandwich the heavy bit. Because you need that bit!
PR: Definitely. There’s something to combining melody with heavy music. Sometimes when people first start producing they don’t know how to put together a melody, and just slap together some Serum and OTT until it sounds half-decent.
LL: Not to knock that either, though, because there are some tracks that are just ignorant as hell, and that’s probably why they work. They’re very to the point. Simple’s not bad.
PR: That’s a good point. Big Room [house] was big for me before starting Pariah Reign.
LL: Big room is very simple, but because there are so few elements going on, it's impactful. The big room song I heard first I think was “Epic” [Sandro Silva and Quintino]. I just said “yo, this is fresh”--and at the time, it was fresh. Then it was kinda beaten to death very quickly.
PR: Tell us the story of how you played in emo bands growing up.
LL: I just sucked, man. Nothing ever really took off -- just local things, like playing at the BFW and things like that. But it was fun.
I was a teenager angry over nothing, really, looking back at it. I didn’t have anything to be angry about. I was like, “Oh no, Mom and Dad won’t let me go out to this party,” and shit like that. “I’m so angry. Nobody understands me.” But then I was also playing technical math-rock, metal-inspired stuff. It was really misplaced, but you’re just really angry at that age. You have so many hormones going on.
PR: What what made you quit bands to produce electronic music?
LL: When I went to college I couldn’t bring my drum set and all my mics. It’s a pain in the ass to fit them in the dorm room, and that first year, you have to live in the dorms. So it wasn’t gonna fly. So, I just got into making beats. My buddy told me you can make shit on a computer, and I did.
At the time, I was studying biology and was not going to do music at all. I went to a career fair at the college and talked with the person running the biology department. I asked her about testing out of some classes, trying to save money. She was like, “No way! All you people want to test out.” I was like, “What… please! I need the money.” So that didn’t go well.
But there was some guy at the career fair who ran a really tiny electronic music department I had no idea about out. I talked to him and he told me there are all these programs I could use to make music. He said, “torrent one, see how you like it, and if you like it, just buy it.” Half of them had demos too, so do I could also do that.
So, I picked up the demo of FL Studio and was instantly hooked. It was so dope! I didn’t need anyone to record or track anything to make a song. I wrote really, really shitty music for three years. I wanted to be like Flying Lotus, Washed Out, and Giraffage. Now I’m homies with Giraffage, but at the time I just wanted to make music like his early stuff. I wanted chill-oriented, bass music, but not the aggressive kind of bass music. Obviously, I loved Skrillex and all that early dubstep and electro stuff, but when I first started, I didn’t have anywhere near the technical knowledge to approach that music.
I was finishing up college I started Luca Lush. I felt that I had a handle on making beats that were not shit. My original idea for the project was a more melodic take on the midtempo sounds that were floating around from 2012 to 2014, like Dillon Francis--who’s a huge influence--but with a more Rustie feel. So, right before future bass became a thing, I was trying to make that sound before it had an exact terminology.
I wasn’t doing this alone. There was a huge community that I was a part of and I had tons of friends in Facebook chats and Twitter chats that were a huge help and inspiration. Tons of those dudes are doing really well now--KRANE, Ekali, Josh Pan, Y2K, Young Bae, Flamingosis, Misogi. Everyone was super fresh; nobody had over 5,000 followers on any platform. Everyone was super excited. It was a huge, exciting time. Everyone was broke. I was broke, quit my job was like, “I want to do this full-time!” It was sink or swim, basically.
I was pretty broke for the first two years I was doing this. It was not sunshine and roses, but I was really happy. It was really fun even though, when I first started, I was making like a hundred bucks a month. I had saved up a money, but not much. By the first four months or so I had gotten management and agent and my girlfriend at the time, bless her soul.
I eventually I moved out of New York and moved to L.A., and have been touring and making shit since then! That’s the long and the short of it.
PR: That’s awesome! When we interviewed Ray Volpe he shared that he too had a close group of friends who were all making music. Is that important for growth as a producer and musician?
LL: I think it’s really important to have a community of people who are making like you are. Our group was pretty eclectic. We had people making future funk, then people like Madeaux, who was making more EDM-oriented stuff like I was. But even then, on the spectrum, our music was not even close to EDM.
When I first started playing shows, people were not feeling my music. The music that you think pops at home or in your head doesn’t necessarily translate when played live. That’s okay; it’s important to make that stuff as well. But you need to consider the environment where your music is going to be performed, and not catering--but understanding--the dynamics of the energy of your track and affect the dancefloor.
That was important for me. I was really into the crazy math stuff, like weird time signatures and all that. I wanted to make that at first but I couldn’t figure out how to do that in FL Studio. I realized that after I changed the time signature out of 4/4, most people aren’t going to my play my songs live. People get confused.
PR: Do you have a music theory background?
LL: No, I just studied it myself in my free time. I never really took any music classes. All the stuff I see like, “Yo, come to this production school!” seems a little silly to me because you can get all of the resources online. If you’re really interested in something, your own momentum and the restrictions you put on yourself determine where you go. Whether it’s this job that takes up your time, or this cat that you have to take care of, or your girlfriend or wife or kids, making it work is just about taking up all of this extra free time that you have and say that you want to do it 100 percent. If you believe that, all the resources are easy to find.
PR: A few of your recent releases--like “Ambrosia”--have been heavier than the typical Luca Lush tune. Why is that?
LL: I started doing that after I started touring. I kinda got heavier, but I still put out obviously future stuff. I definitely started making a bunch of heavy stuff. The “Cinema” remix is a very heavy track. I was just seeing what tracks that I was throwing in that worked and people really responded to. It appealed to my initial sentimentality of heavy music that I enjoyed when I was a kid.
But I also like a wider range of music now that isn’t necessarily turn-up or super aggressive.I really like the aggressive stuff in its context. I don’t really listen to it outside of clubs, but in a club I’m like, “Oh yeah!” So that’s why I make that kind of stuff; I’m kind of a chameleon. That’s good and bad. I have terrible ADD, which really fuels it. I’ll get bored of this and do something else. I feel very blessed to have a fanbase that is receptive to that and is open to my experimenting quite often. I've never felt pigeonholed.
PR: You’ve had a very distinct visual style since your first release. How did you think about creating this brand?
LL: I think a lot of people take this all too seriously. That’s not to say that there are not artists that are very serious about an artistic vision that works out wonderfully and speaks to fans, but I also think that branding is fun. It’s all entertainment. Visual brand isn’t something that you should get worked up over. My visual style is reflective of that.
It’s just fun. I make a lot of jokes about this whole thing on Twitter because it’s funny to me. It’s very funny that we can make a living doing dance music. It’s hilarious, but it’s great. I take a few inspirations from the more troll-y people like Dillon Francis.
When I first started, the art was just me throwing fuckin’ purple filters on stuff. Everyone was like, “Oh yo, that’s Luca” because it was a circle with a purple filter on it. Purple was just my favorite color and I just thought it fit the sounds I was making. The sounds I was making just sounded purple to me, not in the Southern trill way, but just in an aesthetic way, like synesthesia. I don’t have full synesthesia, but maybe to a degree. Subs and stuff to me sound blue and purple, and midrange stuff and chords are like magenta.
So that’s what I was putting into it. I was putting in fast basses, fast 808 lines, and these big, jazzy chords--7ths, 9ths, all these weird chords. I was writing them but I didn’t even know I what exactly they were. I just knew I was throwing additional notes in the chords. Then after working with Brasstracks--Ivan [Jackson] and Connor [Rayne]-- they said, “Woah you’re doing this and that. That’s cool!”
And I was like, “I don’t know. I just do it.” So I picked up a little music theory from them. Jazz is dope, but I don’t have a big knowledge of it. I just do what sounds good to me.
PR: What do you have coming next?
LL: I can’t even say it right now, but maybe by the time this comes out, I can say that I’m playing Coachella. I’m playing the Do-Lab, second weekend. I’m also going to Asia--playing three dates in China, one in Thailand, one in Tokyo--and then releasing a bunch of music. I have this cover of Post Malone’s “Psycho” with these guys Synchronice that’s coming out. I have a track with Quix--now with Josh Pan on it--that’s coming out sometime hopefully soon. Also a track with MYRNE, “Arbiter”.
PR: Awesome. Thank you for your time!
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