Gear Talks: AKA Lui

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Gear Talks: AKA Lui

Words by Isabella Venutti

AKA Lui is a Byron Bay-based artist who is doing things his own way. He's a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who carves melodies and layers them over groove-laden bass and guitars.

AKA Lui puts his own spin on things, bringing influence from the 80s in synths and more modern influences. He combines all of this into a melting pot of groove, funk, soul and disco, for a smooth and easy listening experience.

His new single “Kick It” is out today, and ahead of the release we had a chat about his music making process!

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

To start things off, I’d love to ask whether you made a conscious effort to expand your sound when approaching the writing and production of “Kick It” – what kind of sonic/thematic palette you were working from?

The most impactful decision in the expansion of my sound was the decision to bring people into the process, to experience making music with people once again. To keep the inspiration flowing means you’re enjoying being in the studio, and that translates into the work. 

What inspired you? What was the vision?

I naturally lean in to writing more reflective and melancholic music, so I decided I’d write something euphoric & fun. & oddly enough the process was euphoric & fun!

Tell me about your songwriting process – is it a collaborative affair, do you tend to tinker alone and build from those skeletons, or is it a combination of both? 

I demo alone at home, if I land on a vibe I’ll continue to flesh it out. I throw as much into it over a few days and then I’ll send it to friends to offer any input & ideas. Maybe it needs a new section that I’m stuck on & they can help, maybe they will just tell me it’s a vibe and to keep going. I love being able to collaborate while the song is fresh and new, it’s amazing to have outside input on the song while you’re feeling so excited about it. I tend not to collaborate on melody’s and lyrics as I usually hear them very clearly, but the arrangement, instrumentation and production I love to collaborate on. 

Talk me through your recording workflow from demo to track completion. Do you begin in the bedroom or head straight to the studio? Any preference of DAW/special or demo setup that goes the extra mile?

In the early phases for me a smooth workflow is really important, to be able to lay things out quickly. I have a preset default set up in Ableton where everything can be armed to record very quickly, and all sound nice off that bat. That way I don’t spend time on anything too technical and I can remain in the creative flow. You won’t catch me tweaking that Kick for hours.

Which pieces of equipment are the most integral to you when it comes to translating your project’s essence from a recorded to a live context? Are you trying to replicate your studio sound when you perform, or do you prefer to let the songs breathe and find their own live groove? How do you work to bring it all to life?

One day soon I’ll have a full band where we can jam the songs and interpret them in their own live way. At the moment I am more reliant on loops and tracks to bring the show to life. Currently the drums & bass are repurposed for a live setting, and the vocals, guitars and synths are performed over the rhythm section. The set is reworks of the recordings, more dance orientated, using more repetition & faster tempos. 

Are there any pieces of gear you’ve acquired, be it something cheap that punches massively above its weight, or a less-wallet friendly splurge, that have tangibly influenced the way you write and record music to this day?

I went through an electronic phase of producing music where everything was programmed and manipulated in the box. I got really bored of just having my fingers on the computer most of the day, so I’ve been utilising a lot more live instrumentation, and hardware synthesisers. My recent favourite is the Korg Minilogue, a very versatile and fun modern synth. 

What are the visual mediums that you find best allow you to express yourself as an artist outside of music – is it important for you to be able to display your creativity in every aspect of this project’s output? 

I am very inspired by films. I end up conceptualising all these grand ideas to visual accompany my music after watching a movie, and then realise I’m on a limited budget. It can be a fun challenge trying to implement these grandiose ideas inspired by big budget movies, with a handycam and a willing friend.

How do you recharge your creative batteries? What in your life inspires your music that isn’t music? It could be as logical as watching a film or listening to records, or as obscure as gardening or taking a long walk.

I used to be in the studio for 12 hours all day everyday, barely stopping to eat and rarely going outside. I felt like I was getting a lot done and prided myself on how many hours I spent in the studio, but these days I much prefer to work in smaller increments, and take time to be in the sun, go for a swim, lay in the hammock, cook a nice breakfast. Not only because I love to relax and recharge, but at this point I’m convinced it actually helps the final product and gives me greater perspective on the work. One of my favourite things is to bounce out the idea I’m working on and take a walk or a drive and put it on, hear it outside the context of the studio. I hear it so differently, and can approach it from a new angle. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in recent years is that time away from music and taking rest from music really helps the music. 

What’s on the horizon? What exciting things can we expect from you for the remainder of the year?

This is my first solo release in 2 years and a big progression in my sound. I’m not looking to the horizon just yet because I want to enjoy this moment and all the work I’ve put in to arrive at this place sonically. But there will be more new music to come over the summer!

Keep up with AKA Lui here.