Coldbrew is a chillhop/lo-fi producer, founder of Kindbrew Records, multi-instrumentalist, and last, but not least, storyteller. He has already drawn significant attention with his 2020 releases childhood and late night drive. A name not to be missed, he talked with us about his creative process, his split roles as an artist and label manager, live instruments in modern music, childhood, and some other interesting topics.
coldbrew - okc 00:00
green tee - Deluge 01:15
Oatmello - Gyokuro 03:20
Kurt Stewart - Oak 05:22
coldbrew - hot wheels 07:16
Houch - cherry pickin’ 09:04
Adagio - Hibiscus 10:58
coldbrew & Quist - Dazed 12:20
steezy prime & Cammie - bring the rain 14:01
Sxmniak & coldbrew - constellations 16:12
coldbrew - Polar 18:36
Linearwave - Inner Peace 20:35
coldbrew - a breath of fresh air 22:34
Nick Wolf & sundaynightcoffee - Finding Hope 24:31
coldbrew - ice cream stop 26:35
Ayzic & Jfbm - Orange Sunset 28:40
Kicktracks & coldbrew - cosmogyral 31:00
Cammie & Greenface - Moonlight 33:00
coldbrew & Jfbm - A Drop of Water 35:24
Pleasure to do be doing this! You never know where a cool story might come up from, so I’ll begin with the most basic of questions: Why coldbrew?
I was brainstorming ideas for my moniker, I knew I wanted something with an even number of letters, and something that would look cool lowercase. I also wanted it to be one word that could accurately describe how the music sounded. Like I wanted people to see the name and instantly be able to assume what vibe the music sounded like.
At this point I already had a dozen or so beats made that I had made back in 2017 but had never released. I just had them on a private soundcloud playlist because I didn’t know that anyone even cared about instrumental music, then someone showed me bootleg boy on youtube and I was like “omg this is what I have been making for the past couple years!”. So I decided to narrow my beats down to my best beats at the time and released the welcome to my mind ep in 2019.
But I digress, basically I came up with coldbrew because I was thinking my music could fit the environment of a coffee shop so I was trying to think of things coffee related, and I love cold brew, so I wrote it out on my notes then realized the “d” and the “b” would like up nicely right in the middle and would look super cool as one word and all lowercase.
I texted my girlfriend Gabbie and asked her what she thought, and she thought it sounded sick. so boom. That was that.
“Childhood” was awesome, but I really want to know about “late night drive.” Two nights ago I actually went cruising on a late night while listening to the tape. First of all, it’s a perfect title. It couldn’t be better given the music. More than that, is sounds really coherent, the tracks seem to flow into one another and all in all, it seems like a fully conceptual record. Did you approach it as such beforehand, or was it something that just came together as you were working on it?
Yes, it was fully conceptualized. I knew I wanted to make a late night vibes type record and so I started jotting down things that evoke emotions from late night drives, because driving at night with music blasting truly is an incredible feeling. As with almost all of my solo releases, I came up with all the titles for the record before I actually made any of the music.
I want the album to tell a story with the titles. Doing mostly instrumental music, the titles are really the only way of communication with the listener. It also makes it a lot more fun for me when I am crafting songs to fit a specific title. It forces me to think about what a phrase sounds like, what colors would this phrase/word look like etc
I love your cover art! In both “childhood” and “late night drive” it is in such a beautiful unison with the tracks and the atmosphere and emotion they invoke. Also, it feels like part of the records themselves, like it is a visual picture of the music inside. Do you put extra effort in it?
Cover art is extremely important to me. The cover art and titles are the first thing the listener sees before they even listen and so I want it to be intriguing, thought provoking, or just trigger a memory that you had thought you lost.
I always work closely with cover artists to create the visuals that match the sound of the music. There are so many talented artists I have worked with and I am grateful to have worked with them all.
Speaking of “childhood”, what about the speech in 12/01/1999? It’s really powerful stuff! Did you write it? It really sets the mood for what’s about to come in such a fascinating manner!
Yes, I wrote and recorded the monolog on my voice memos on my phone. I spent a few hours jotting the monolog down in my notes because
I knew I wanted to start the record off with a monolog and the title being my birthday (as that is the day when childhood begins), and ending the record with “moving out” (as that is when childhood ends).
When I wrote this monolog I had just moved out of my parents house pursuing music full-time so it was very raw and real, and scary I should add. I have been playing music since my first guitar at age 3 and have wanted to do music full time for my entire life, without music I literally don’t know what else I would do.
Lots of emotions when leaving childhood behind. I wanted to create an album that had everything I enjoyed from childhood as somewhat of an auditory diary that I could look back on for as long as I live. Something to mark this period in time so that the memories aren’t lost. And as I mentioned earlier, all the song titles were brainstormed and written out before I started the songwriting process. So when I created each song it was very intentional to sound like the title of said song.
More on setting the mood for what’s about to happen, to what extent does Above the Sky indicate what can we expect from you in terms of future releases?
As for my future music and future sound, I always want to keep it chill but expect to see some things from me this year that are more in the chillhop genre and less so in the lofi genre. I am slowly moving away from using samples, and writing more all original compositions. While late night drive [side b] (coming out Fall 2021) is very much sample based, most of my single/EP releases this year are collaborations, and 100% original material.
Your Spotify bio described your music as creating a “warm, yet melancholic feel” and it couldn’t be truer! Is that something you are consciously searching for, or does it go beyond that?
This is something that I am not actively searching for/trying to achieve. It just kind of happens. I just make music that I think sounds nice, the way it sounds is more important to me than anything else. I guess it’s that way with everyone. Everyone has preferences on how they like things to sound, and that is really what makes up “your sound”.
I was just listening to stovetop popcorn, one of my favorite beats of yours, and I want to ask: do you do your own mixing and mastering? The production is just awesome and in complete service to the mood of the music.
Yes! I have always done my own mixing and mastering, I have tried having other people master tracks for me but I am extremely particular on how my music sounds and at the end of the day I am the only one who knows exactly what I am looking to hear.
And I believe in the instrumental music scene your mixes and masters are kind of a part of your sound. How things sit in the mix, what frequencies you push in your masters etc. it is all just as important as your phrasing and composition. Of course that is just my opinion though.
What music instruments do you play? I’m asking this question because the role of live musicianship seems to be a hot topic in any conversation regarding the future of music in general. Do you think live instruments and the value of being able to play them is going to become a thing of the past?
I play guitar, drums, uke, and I am learning keys. I use a komplete kontrol s88 for my keys and it has a feature that has lights above the keys that light up on the correct notes in whatever key you select. So I am teaching myself piano using that. Just building chords with the notes that are available in a certain key.
As for live instruments in production I think it comes down to the individual song. There are so many great VSTs out there now that sound like a live instrument, but you can’t recreate the expression you get from playing a live instrument. So for instance, there are great guitar VSTs out there but someone who has never played real guitar before probably won’t be able to create the dynamics and phrasing as someone who has played guitar. The hammer-ons, pull offs, glides, string bending etc. of course as with anything someone who practices and plays piano really well could pull off some nice guitar licks with a VST but even then it is because they know how to play piano which in itself is a live instrument.
It is all about emotion and trying to create the sound that you hear in your head. I would consider the ableton push a live instrument, I would consider sp404 a live instrument.
I think that live instruments are just changing and evolving into something different but the vessel and concept will always exist, it is the person using it that makes the difference. But I do think that having experience with music theory, and traditional live instruments gives you an upper hand when it comes to producing. That is of course just my personal opinion.
Is music for you a matter of meticulous routine and self-discipline, or bursts of spontaneous moments of inspiration?
I pretty much always have a project in the works so I work on music just about every day. It really is more of a part of my routine than just waiting for inspiration to hit but in the same aspect if I don’t feel like creating that day then I won’t. Most of the time I just feel like working on something.
You are a busy person. Besides making awesome music, you are also running a label – Kindbrew Records. Firstly, how do you juggle between your role as an artist and musician on the one hand, and the responsibility of taking care of other people’s music on the other?
Oh yes, I stay busy haha. Fortunately this is my full-time job, I don’t think I could do both otherwise. I usually work on all label stuff in the mornings, then work on my own music in the afternoons on weekdays, then on the weekend usually I just work on my own music unless it is something urgent with the label.
As far as my role as an artist vs my role as a label owner the artists on my label always come first before me. They are trusting me with their art which is not something I take lightly at all. I want to make sure the artists are happy at all times and that I am doing everything I can to get their music to as many ears as possible.
And what do we have to look out for from Kindbrew Records in the near future?
We have a new release every single week day up until the end of May! We are closing out May with “Kindbrew Vol. 3” the third compilation from Kindbrew. Then for the second half of 2021 we will be releasing mostly EPs and Albums (and singles from those projects) on Mon, Wed, Fri.
When you listen to music, are you able to switch off from listening as a producer, composer and instrumentalist? Can you play an album and listen to it purely as a fan, without putting the coldbrew glasses on?
My answer to this is… somewhat. So typically aside from chillhop/lofi I listen to bass music being dubstep, hybrid trap, riddim, hybrid house and also listen to a lot of hip hop, folk music, and bedroom pop. When I am listening to music I am more so feeling it than listening. But when I am listening to something and it makes me feel a certain type of way then I put my coldbrew glasses on so to speak, and have to figure out why it is making me feel that way… is it the chords, the drums, the bass, the progression, the frequency response etc.
So yes, I can listen purely as a fan, but I also dissect the songs as least once on my first listen. But after the first listen then I understand it and am able to just enjoy
Finally, could you give us the top 5 desert island albums (EPs or LPs, it doesn’t matter)? Also, why them?
Let’s see here…. Tricky one. In no particular order I would choose, Swimming by Mac Miller, Fantasy by Whethan, Feel Something by Movements, Inner Ocean Sessions Ep. 2 by G Mills, Live and Unplugged by Sleeping With Sirens.
I would just like to add that last question was so fucking hard geez. I like so many singles but if I am on an island I would prefer to have as many songs as possible so I had to choose albums (aside from the G Mills one). I hope I am never put in a situation where I have too choose albums to take with me to an island haha.