Last week, we exclusively released the new remix EP of “Early Riser” by New York singer/songwriter KYOSi. We also had a chance to ask her a few questions about the EP, her creative process, and making music in the Big Apple.
Sensible Reason: KYOSi is a unique name, what does it mean and why do you spell it the way you do?
KYOSi: About 6 years ago I was living in Ithaca, New York and going through an intense period of self-reflection and personal development. During that time I was teaching electronic music production to inner city youth and young men in a maximum-security juvenile detention facility. My life revolved around teaching young people to make music with the hope it would save a part of them. I was also seeing a hypnotherapist at the time trying to make sense of it all. During this time, my dreams were the most vivid I’ve ever had. One night I remember waking up frantically spelling the word k-y-o-s-i. No context. It was as though an envelope dropped from the sky with my name on it. I scribbled the word down, went back to sleep and in the days afterward started to research. I found a Japanese mathematician named Ito Kyoshi who was known for blending music and math. Then one rainy afternoon I was working a shift at West Haven Farm to fill my CSA work requirement. I was working with a lovely woman who had moved from Japan a few years prior. I asked her what the word meant and she paused and looked at me and said “Teacher. It’s a word that means teacher.” To me, it was a sign I was on the right path. When I decided to pursue music scene like a natural choice.
What got you into music, is it something you knew you would pursue?
KYOSi: Music always was, for me. I just don’t know how else to describe it. There was no moment when I decided to pursue music it was a part of me or rather it has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I remember being a child and writing songs as I fell asleep. I remember holding tapes, beat up cassette tapes Miles Davis and Quincy Jones Live at Montreaux. I always held the cases so delicately, memorizing the liner notes and pressing my head up to the speaker to hear every last note.
Do you have any specific goals as an artist?
KYOSi:My goal is to keep learning new technical techniques, what makes me tick, to evolve my performance, and to remain authentically in touch with why I love music. Also, I wouldn’t mind touring with Kid Cudi, Empress Of or TV On The Radio!
KYOSi: My family is always inspiring to me. They’re just regular old people from the outside but to me they are everything. I’m also deeply inspired and moved by the injustices of the world. If you’re asking what’s inspiring, like what subjects few of my creativity, then, at least lately, I do have to say injustice sadness pursuit of becoming a whole. Turning to those concepts always helps something bubble up. Sadly, there is no shortage of injustice in the world.
How has your city and its scene affected your music? Do you think your music would change if you headed to another coast/area of the country?
KYOSi: New York City is fast. I don’t know how else to put it. I’ve lived other places, very, sloooow places. Living slow is beautiful but I always craved movement and action. The New York music scene is as varied as the city itself. I chose to seek out electronic musicians with a focus on experimental and technological aspects of the medium. But, I was at a bar in Red Hook the other day and it was a gathering of incredible bluegrass musicians. So to answer your question, I think the city does have an effect on my sound but mostly because I decided the sound first.
How did you link up with the artists in your remix EP?
KYOSi: The remix EP is comprised of three tracks. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. As I mentioned before I used to run a nonprofit recording studio in the inner city of Ithaca, New York. When I left they hired a great new person named Dave Brown. He still runs the studio to this day. When I wanted to start putting a remix EP together I reached out to him to see if you had anyone coming in that he would suggest. That’s where the Audio Geometry connection came from. It turns out he is studying music at Cornell and from time to time visits that studio. This remix was the first to come in, and I cried when I listened to it. It meant so much to me that he had so carefully meticulously rearranged the original work.
KYOSi: I met DiiSiiMO last year at the first Ableton Loop conference. He is such an impressive artist and overall great dude. It was a great pleasure and honor to work with him. He turned this tune into a dancehall, Soca banger. The first time I heard it I danced around my apartment like a crazy lady. The energy is at 100 the whole time. Theosyn is an old homie. He’s a rapper and I had admired his work years prior to this collaboration. In fact, it wasn’t until very recently I learned that he had engineering, mixing and mastering and not to mention production chops. It’s so fun when your friends are dope! I love the treatment he gave this tune and my voice.
Do you think each remix on the EP stays true to your vision of “Early Riser?”
KYOSi: They’re even better than what I originally envisioned! Seriously, they sound so beautiful to my ears. The original track was produced by myself and Richie Beretta. I don’t think either of us could have predicted where this track would go.
What do you find is the biggest challenge as an artist? Is it more of a challenge as a female?
KYOSi: The biggest challenge for me as an artist is making time for art. Separately, there are plenty of issues that are compounded by being female. I’m tempted to give you a laundry list now, but it’s late and I just came from rehearsal. I’m working on a piece that’s documented my experiences at various festivals and events in the last year. I’m looking forward to adding my experience to the many other experiences that my sisters in music have had. It is not easy.
What do you have planned for 2017?
KYOSi: Going to release some new music. I’ve been writing and I am in the final stages of sketches. I’m doing a show in New York this winter, 1 in LA, and hopefully, I’ll be back in Berlin next summer.
What city or venue do you want to visit the most?
KYOSi: I just went to Berghain in Berlin, it was amazing. The sound was beautiful. There is a lot of Europe left to explore so I’d say London, Barcelona, Paris. When I was in college I studied abroad in Ghana, so it would be great to get back there one of these days. I was also in Osaka a few years ago and loved every second of it.
Last question: If you could have a studio session with any artist (currently living), who would it be and what style of a song would you create?
KYOSi: Just one?! Not fair! I am still into Kid Cudi. Who knew, right? I just love the timbre of that dude’s voice, the content of the lyrics, the soundscapes he chooses… it goes on. I’d love to create a meandering, electronic, layered, thoughtful, house track with him.