Premiere: Willow Beats' Narayana launches new project River Boy, shares I Never Knew
I Never Knew is the first taste of Willow Beats' Narayana Johnson in solo mode, arriving 18 months after the duo parted ways.
Header image by Kain Balzary.
Back in the first half of last decade, Willow Beats were seemingly teetering on the edge of becoming Australia's next electronic favourites. Since emerging with their self-titled debut EP in 2012, the duo - made up of producer Narayana Johnson and vocalist Kalyani Ellis - blossomed into a festival mainstay whose fairy-like beats and dreamy vocals seemingly helped define a 'golden age' of Australian electronica; slots at Beyond The Valley, Falls Festival and Splendour In The Grass encapsulating the duo's signature intricately-built lushness on a live stage, where Narayana and Kalyani seemingly were at their best.
Around 18 months ago, they officially parted ways (just after releasing their debut album Be Kind To Yourself in 2017), and although their absence still feels present all these months later, it hasn't been a total loss. Nowadays, they're both working on their own projects: Kalyani sharing an EP titled a leaf, a flower alongside her partner last year; and Narayana working as a go-to producer in Australia across a multitude of genres, with his imprint and touch feeling present across tracks by DRMNGNOW and more.
Today, however, we launch the new chapter of the duo's Narayana Johnson a few days early, announcing the launch of his new project River Boy with its long-awaited debut single, I Never Knew. Premiering today ahead of its official release this Thursday, I Never Knew is a swirling, low-end heavy take on shimmering R&B, taking the intricacies and detail of Narayana's long-time production touch and amplifying it in a new way; his vocal swirling and dancing amongst a dominating dark bassline and flourishes of playful melodies and samples that almost feels like a modern-day Yung Lean comparable.
Dive deeper, however, and you'll find quite a sobering - and inspiring - story that takes us into the lives of one of Australian electronic's long-time favourites. "I Never Knew is a fantasy in which my father (who passed away when I was six) had a great purpose for me," says Narayana on the track. "It’s a song about missing someone but letting them know you still feel their presence through the lessons and quest they’ve passed on. Sometimes that feeling is so strong you can hear them speaking back, telling you not to be afraid. It’s a song about following your heart and passion, about perseverance and strength even when things seem impossible.
"It’s an affirmation to myself and to anyone else who might need it."
Listen to the track below, and keep an eye on River Boy as the project grows and evolves into something special across the course of the year ahead.
Follow River Boy: INSTAGRAM