After years of creating some of electronic music’s more refreshing funky beats and flips, Louis Futon finally released his long-awaited debut album, Way Back When, on February 22. A project two years in the making, his first LP received scores of praise in the early days after its release. Fans and blogs alike are loving the Los Angeles-by-Philadelphia artist’s combination of future funk, pop, hip-hop and much more on his own original tracks.
In moving to the West Coast, the producer has changed his approach to cannabis as well. Including it in his creative approach now more than ever, he has found a staple for his creative process while discovering a new level of confidence in his work. Just days before his debut album dropped, Futon spoke with PRØHBTD about the sonic landscape he sought to create on Way Back When and why living in Los Angeles still feels like a honeymoon even after two years.
How did coming up in the Philly music scene shape you as an artist?
My friends were always telling about some weird music that nobody else knew about. We sort of developed our own little pocket of music tastes that no one else was listening to at the time. I was also in and out of bands in high school and would book shows all around the area, book studio time for us to record, print CDs, etc. I was always trying to get our shit heard.
How is life living out in LA compared to Philly?
Philly will always have a special place in my heart, but damn, LA is like paradise. It feels like I’m still in my honeymoon phase even two years after moving. Like I said before, the culture is different. You stockpile a bunch of creatives in every industry who are willing to collaborate, and the result is LA. The other side of that equation is stories that you’ve probably heard before about people being fake and chasing fame, but I don’t really see much of that, at least with the people whom I associate myself with.
Tell us a bit about your cannabis and other drug use over the years.
To be honest, I’ve never been much of a smoker until I moved out to LA. I think the culture played a big part in that. I always found it really hard to be productive whenever I was high, but when I moved out here and started to smoke more, I think I naturally cracked that code. Now it’s a staple of my creative process.
How does cannabis play into your creative process? Going off your Anderson .Paak Beat Challenge post on Instagram, it looks like it may play a bit of a part.
I actually don’t think I smoked during that one. (Laughs.) Cannabis takes my brain to places that I’m sometimes afraid to explore. Sometimes I get intimidated by an idea in its early stages, and in my head, I say something along the lines of, “Oh, I don’t know… this doesn’t sound very good.” Cannabis has helped me see those ideas out in full and be confident in my creative choices. In turn, it’s definitely helped me on a personal level by being more confident in myself in whatever I choose to do.
Speaking of the Beat Challenge, what inspired you to get it started?
That’s just my creative process. I make stupid little beats and flips all the time, and it was actually my management’s idea to film it and show people. People get too caught up on the technical aspect of making music when really it’s all about energy and what feels good. My process lends itself to that mentality. While the videos don’t show you how I made certain sounds or how I came up with different parts, it shows what I think is most important—the flow of the song and having fun with it.
What's been some of the most difficult challenges you've taken on?
I find it’s really hard to flip songs that are already a masterpiece in my mind. The Anderson .Paak “Oxnard” flip was really tough because when I was scrolling through the album looking for a song to flip, I just kept thinking, “Nah, there’s no way I could do something with this.” The easiest ones are the ones that have a lot of potential and have stripped down parts that I can reimagine, like Frank Ocean’s “Solo” and James Blake’s “Retrograde.”
Tell us about the new album. What can we expect with your latest offering?
I wanted to create a sonic landscape that strikes some nostalgia and familiarity in the listener but at the same time sounds fresh as fuck. I think there’s something for everyone in this album because each song paints a unique color. “Bad Habits” and “Restless Sea” venture more into a fusion of alternative rock, which I’ve never explored before, but then you get something like “Country Roads” that is heavily jazz influenced. I love each and every song on this project equally, and I’m extremely proud of the project as a whole.
You've mentioned changing as an artist in other interviews. Is this a conscious decision you make, or is it more organic?
Definitely organic. I think as an artist you have to allow yourself to change. If you get too caught up in your head about trying to impress your fans, or staying on brand, you stop making music for yourself and cut off your growth. I was caught up in that whirlwind for a while, and a lot of self-doubts stemmed from being in it. I’m at a point now where I could make a jazz ballad one day and a dubstep banger the next. You never know. It’s important to allow your brain to create whatever comes to mind, and naturally, those things change over time.
You are putting out Way Back When as an independent artist. What inspired you to do so?
I’m not in it for the money and don’t really care how many streams I get or if my music gets on the radio. I’m just doing this shit because it’s fun.
You performed at the Far Out Factory in Denver this past fall. What was it like taking part in a cannabis-inspired festival? Do you see more events like this popping up for you?
Yeah, for sure! The way they combined art with music to create a really immersive environment was inspiring, and I would love to play any festival that takes the same strides. My girlfriend throws events in LA called Space Party that combine art, music and comedy all in one, and I play each time because I love the marriage of those three things all in one space.
The floor is yours! What else should we know about Louis Futon?
I’m debuting my new live show soon, which is going to be bigger and better than any other show I’ve ever done times a million! I’m really excited about everything I’m doing right now. I’m going to be creating a lot more video content this year and start a new series, so be on the lookout for that. I think ultimately I’m just going to be collaborating, exploring my creativity and doing more stuff this year. So, if you’re just coming along for the ride now, buckle up.
Photo credit: Jake Southard.