MusicUmpire Interview | MEEKA KATES

Meeka Kates is an artist who does it all:  He sings, writes, and produces his own music, which he describes as ‘acoustic electronic’, all while finishing up college in Philadelphia.  Kates has released two EP’s and two singles that showcase his knack for his craft.  From his first EP, Study Abroad, which introduced the world to his highly accessible brand of pop, to his latest, well-received release single, “Closure”, Kates’s progression as an artist is impressive.  He is set to graduate from college this spring after which he plans to pursue music full-time.  We caught up with Meeka to find out more about his music and what’s coming up next.

MU: How would you describe your music?

MEEKA: My project has been to find the intersection between the classic singer-songwriter style and a more modern day electronic aesthetic. I’ve called my music Acoustic Electronic in the past, or Acoustronic if I’m feelin frisky. Open to suggestions though. I’ve kinda given up defining a genre.

MU: Who has influenced you musically, and how have they inspired you?

MEEKA: Well, on the modern side, I think we can all agree James Blake is a baller. The complexity and intrigue he’s able to accomplish with such minimal layering is really impressive. I definitely try to implement that technique in my work. Frank Ocean takes a similar approach, but his songwriting is truly what stands out to me. His lyrics manage to be mature, imaginative, insightful, reflective and accessible often all at the same time. If I had to pick two modern musicians I’m most influenced by right now it’d have to be them. But I’ve also grown up on John Mayer, Little Dragon, Bon Iver, Say Anything, Van Morrison and obviously The Beatles.

MU: As a college senior, some may question the risk you are taking by pursuing music full-time.  What were the driving forces behind this decision?  Was there a specific point in time at which you made this decision?

MEEKA: I’ve spent a good amount of time at perhaps the most pre-professional Ivy League university there is, and each spring I’ve seen brilliantly talented and intelligent seniors forsake their passions in favor of more reliable careers. During my fall semester, while studying abroad in Cape Town, I realized the utter absurdity of that for the first time. So I started taking my music seriously. (But hey, for all the shit I give ‘em, those kids will probably end up a whole lot richer than me.)

MU: Is there a specific type of setting in which you envision people listening to your music?

MEEKA: Hard to say, I try to cover a lot of bases. Whether it’s with your friends or totally alone, I guess you’re either dancing to my music or chilling out to it. If you’re gifted, both at the same time.

MU: Many of your songs seamlessly incorporate acoustic elements into a mostly electronic production. How do you go about fusing these organic sounds with synthetic ones?  Can you briefly describe your creative process?

MEEKA: I don’t really have one consistent creative process. I try to start with inspiration in whatever form it may come in. “Home” started with a guitar progression, “I Can’t Stop” started with a bass line, and “Closure” started with a vocal loop. I go with whatever feels right at the time. From there I just fill in what’s missing until I start messing it up. Typically though my songs do end up featuring some sort of guitar riff or vocal melody, a strong kick drum and low piano or bass. The acoustic elements of my music come pretty naturally to me, but I’m definitely still feeling my way around the electronic soundscape.

MU: Your latest release, “Closure”, is distinctly different than anything off of your first EP, Study Abroad.  How would you say your music has progressed over this time?

MEEKA: Although it’s only been a year, I like to think my music’s matured a bit. With every song I gain a better understanding of what sounds work well together and what makes my music more effective. I’m still learning. You can rest assured my next tunes will sound distinctly different from “Closure” as well. The minute my music starts similar, I must have figured it out, or think I’ve figured it out. It’s probably time to call it quits either way.

MU: Do you have a specific direction that you want take your music in the future?

MEEKA: I’m still searching for that perfect harmony between classic singer-songwriting and electronic music. That guides my process, but I really don’t have a much more specific plan than that.

MU: What does the year ahead look like for you?  What do you hope to accomplish in this next year?

MEEKA: Well, I’m graduating in the spring, living in LA over the summer and then headed to France in September, working on music all the while. My next release is shaping up to be a compilation of five new tracks due out by summer. My hope and goal for this year is simply to keep getting better at making music. That’s priority number one.

MU: Favorite albums/artists of the moment?

MEEKA: Kygo and Sweater Beats have been releasing some really cool stuff recently. I guess it’s relatively old news at this point, but Gestaffelstein’s Aleph is also fantastic. I’ve still been listening to it non-stop. Let it Bleed has definitely been on the iPod a lot recently as well, along with Norah Jones’ Come Away with Me. And thanks a lot for interviewing me by the way. Pretty cool to think about and talk through this type of shit once in a while.

Check out Meeka’s latest release below!

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You can find out more about Meeka Kates in the links below.

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