Memphis LK is Having Too Much Fun
“I feel like my whole mindset while making music recently has just been to have fun, and I want other people to have fun when they hear it.”
Fun is one of many words that spring to mind when listening to the upbeat, melodic electronic pop of Memphis LK, so the fact her new EP is titled Too Much Fun couldn’t seem any more appropriate for the self-taught producer, DJ and vocalist. Bursting onto the scene as one half of SAATSUMA back in 2016, a few years later Memphis stepped out in solo mode and has been honing her unique brand of underground dance music melding productions with a pop injection, and LK’s angelic, playful vocals soaring on top.
Dropping her first EP 1 back in early 2021, a release that featured singles Green Light and Letters In Concrete (as well as Memphis’ take on Tame’s iconic The Less I Know The Better), LK has gone from strength to strength since both in the studio and on the stage. A constant fixture in the clubs and on festival stages, this year saw LK playing Splendour In The Grass and Listen Out as well as national support slots for Tove Lo and Hayden James, and just over summer having played in New Zealand, as well as the Wild Lands and Beyond The Valley festivals.
Last year also saw the release of a number of singles in the lead up to her new EP, with Too Much Fun dropping on January 13. Ahead of the release, we jumped on the line with Memphis to talk DJing and how it feeds into her production, creative process, an album in future and of course the new EP. We kicked off with a bit of a production origin story.
Let’s go back to the start if you don’t mind, I’m curious as a self taught producer and DJ, which came first - making beats or matching beats on the decks?
I started making beats first, but it was very basic, like GarageBand loop-type beats. That was my entry into electronic music, I guess. Then I eventually discovered Ableton and that just opened up a whole new world of music production and sound design, which was so exciting. Then kind of simultaneously at the same time as figuring out Ableton, I was getting into DJing. It was something that I had always wanted to learn because my older brother is a DJ, and I just always thought it was so cool, I was like, “Oh my God, I wish I could do that!”. Then I saved up, because I wanted to learn how to DJ mixing vinyl, I didn’t use CDJs for ages because they intimidated me.
So I saved up for two turntables and a mixer for ages, and then I bought a bulk box of just like house and disco records from the 90s on Ebay. I didn’t know what any of them were, but I was just like “I’m just gonna buy this box of random records”, so I taught myself how to mix using those, kind of at the same time as learning how to use Ableton. So yeah, it all kind of happened simultaneously, but the entry point was GarageBand.
So then what was the inspiration for that, what made you go “hey GarageBand looks sick, let’s do this”?
I was in bands as a teenager, but I was kind of listening to more electronic and experimental music and felt like the music I was playing in the band wasn’t really me, if that makes sense. I was listening to artists like Four Tet and Burial, Nicolas Jaar and stuff like that, the more organic experimental electronic music, and I was really inspired by it. That’s kind of what made me think I could maybe try something similar, and those artists are still some of my biggest influences today.
I love it, and we could have a whole discussion about just those artists you mentioned, like what era of Four Tet and stuff…. But let’s not do that, let’s talk about the jump from GarageBand to Ableton to then releasing music as Memphis LK?
Well I first started releasing music in a duo called SAATSUMA, a few years before I did the solo Memphis LK thing. The first release from Memphis LK was 2019, so right before COVID, I think I put out one or two songs and then we were in lockdown. At the time, I was like “Nooo, I’m just getting started” and it felt like I was being robbed of something. But looking back on that time, I think it was so important to me to have all of that introspective time to just figure stuff out, because before I didn’t really know what my sound was, I was sort of throwing things out there and just seeing what happened, but the time spent in lockdown just helped me to really solidify what my sound was. So it was actually really good for me.
What about in terms of your workflow, your creative process - did you already have that down, or did you kind of hone in on that during lockdown too?
Kind of. I got pretty into my routine in 2019, like I was going to commit to this routine and be a bit more serious about it, because before that, I was just not really taking it that seriously, and not prioritizing it enough. So making my routine a priority, instead of just waiting to feel creative or inspired, being diligent with it. So I carried that through the whole time as well.
So if you could go back to Memphis first opening GarageBand is that some advice maybe you’d give yourself, like to get a routine and get a bit more serious about it?
Yeah, I think… I don’t know. I mean, I guess everyone’s workflow is different, but for me, I definitely find if you just sort of get into a repetition of things, then your body and your brain knows what to expect, then you can sort of like, allow it to be more creative. Rather than just sort of randomly doing it, it's like, “okay, this is the time that I sit down to create”, and maybe something will happen, and maybe something won't, but just sort of creating that routine, for me, is really helpful to just get shit done.
So broadly speaking, what does it look like when you sit down to start an idea?
It’s pretty random. I used to always start with drums, I would make a beat and then I would add on top of it, but now it can start with anything. Sometimes it’ll start with a melody idea, or a lyric idea, or some nice melodic loop that I then build upon. It’s just sort of whatever is an inspiring element, I’ll start with that and build on that. My whole process and setup at the moment is really simple, it’s just usually me sitting on the couch or in my room with my laptop and my headphones and that’s it.
What more do you need? So at the time of us chatting, you’ve just been nominated for Best DJ at thee Music Victoria Awards, so I’m curious how DJing ties into your productions and how the two kind of live together?
It ties in because my DJ sets are all the music that I love to listen to and to dance to, and it’s also the music that I’m the most inspired by. So all of that music influences my production and everything, like it all works so simultaneously. I also think being a DJ, you have to figure out how to construct a narrative in your sets and move with the energy of the crowd, or maybe dictating the energy of the crowd as well. I think that has also really influenced how I make music, because I’m thinking a lot of the time about how I want the audience to feel. So yeah, I think it’s a pretty cool way that they can influence each other.
And what about your live sets?
Well, it's actually currently a hybrid DJ-set/live-set, because I haven't put out that much music yet. I will soon but because of that, I was like, “well, how do I fill up an hour set, I don't have enough music out to do that yet?”. So I decided to join the two together, so basically what I’ve been doing is like a DJ set, and then mixing in my own songs within that set, and then singing live and playing the saxophone sometimes. It's really fun, because I kind of get to be my own hype person, like, you know how some people will just bring their DJ out, and they'll play a few tracks, and then the artist comes out, instead I’m my own hype person. It’s fun, I feel it gives context to me and to my music as well, because it sort of creates an energy and then I can put my songs in within that, and it gives context to the songs.
I love that. And you said you’ll have more music out, most immediately your next EP Too Much Fun. I love that title, it seems very appropriate for your music, can you tell us a bit more about the EP?
It’s basically five tracks, three of which are already out, and I’ve been working on it for the past year. So the title track of the EP is called Too Much Fun, and I decided to call the EP that because I feel like my whole mindset while making music recently has just been to have fun, and I want other people to have fun when they hear it, I want people to have fun at my shows, and it just felt like an appropriate name.
I couldn’t agree more.
It was fun to make as well!
So I guess finally, what about albums, like is an artist album something that you’re interested in, is that format important to you?
Yeah, yeah, definitely keen. I'm working on the album at the moment. So I'm definitely excited. I felt like I wasn't quite ready for an album at this early stage of my music life, but I feel like once this EP comes out I will be, and I’ve got so much music that I’ve been working on, so it just feels like the right time to do it.
That is very exciting news! Can’t wait for a Memphis LK LP, but in the meantime we’ve got Too Much Fun and hopefully people can catch you playing live sometime soon. Memphis, thanks so much for chatting!
Thank you so much.