Interview: The Regrowth and Rise of Kauf - XLR8R

Interview: The Regrowth and Rise of Kauf

Grab a free download of Kauf's latest single 'Through The Yard.'
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Photo by: Daniel Trese

Photo by: Daniel Trese

The Los Angeles-based artist Ronald Kaufman (a.k.a Kauf) has been on XLR8R's radar for some time now, and his most recent musical escapades are gaining traction far and wide. After hosting his cavernous remix of Poliça's "Chain My Name," and his rework Moon's dreamy pop tune "Bloody Mouth" as XLR8R downloads in 2014, Kauf has been tirelessly constructing his upcoming debut album Regrowth. While this self-release LP still has no set date attached to it, a surge of hype surrounding the artist's sound has blitzed Los Angeles' airwaves as of late.

His swooning single "Through The Yard" has been causing a ruckus amongst music savvy individuals who recognize the artist's delectable sonic coalescence when it comes to brewing up deeply emotional lyricism and tidy electronic dance music. Another fine artist who treads a fine line between dreamland reverie and dancefloor efficacy is Fort Romeau, who just delivered a stunning remix of Kauf's album cut "Through The Yard" via the Munich-based record label Permanent Vacation. The remix can be streamed in full below.

Keen on getting to know more about Kauf's sound, story and inspirations, we decided to check in with the artist and ask a few questions. In addition, Kaufman has blessed us with a temporary download of "Through The Yard," which can be grabbed below for free via WeTransfer.

Download ends 06/18/2016:

Download: Poliça - "Chain My Name" (Kauf Remix)
Download: Moon - "Bloody Mouth" (Kauf Remix)

Is there a particular reason you've chosen to live in LA, and what are your thoughts on the city's music scene?
I came out to LA to be closer to the music industry and landed an internship at a small studio soon after. The main thing I learned there was that I absolutely did not want to be a recording engineer, but it was helpful for quickly checking that off the list of possible careers. Well that, and learning that convolution reverbs are far better for short "room" sounds than algorithmic.

Being near KCRW and meeting their DJ's, especially Valida who introduced me to my drummer and who has been hosting Desert Nights for four years—an intimate, weekly acoustic event I frequent—and Travis, who I've bounced ideas off of for a while, has been invaluable. Those and other friends I've made have helped me land some syncs through LA's vast network of music supervisors, which enabled me to quit my job over a year ago and finish my album. I don't go out to see dance music as much as I used to, but I did catch the David August set for Prototype last year and thought it was one of the best sets I've heard. I never thought it could sound so good to ride the high pass filter like that, over and over.

Tell us a bit about your forthcoming debut LP Regrowth. Did you approach the album with a particular aesthetic or theme in mind?
The overarching theme is relationships breaking down—all kinds, not only romantic ones—and then recovery. I don't necessarily want the songs to directly tell a story, but instead just present provocative bits and pieces like some worn, tattered treasure map. Electronic production appeals to me because of the amount of innovation going on in the genre, and dance music brings people together in a very primal, physical way, so the goal was to mix it with lyrics and ideas that go a little deeper.

I don't think you can really convince people of something new through a song, like you can through a film or novel, but you can reach down into their souls and create a movement for a generation if you're really successful. Coming to terms with how I was parented, while growing up closeted and coming out to a father who was not initially supportive, and how that's affected my adult relationships, was the most difficult part of my twenties, even though by current standards I had a "better childhood than most." Alice Miller's works were a helpful starting point and the album is me coming through to the other side of that. I started making music many years ago without knowing why; I was just innately drawn to it. And through the years I figured out how I could shape it into something worth pursuing for a lifetime.

What has the process been like crafting this album? What are your production methods?
The process for the LP has been crazy—really enjoyable and painstaking. I finished writing almost all of it over a year ago, but it took forever to get the mixing and song structures refined, as well as organizing all of the remixes on our own. The fun part was creating the countless loops and little ideas to find the inspiring ones worth finishing, but turning those ideas into full fledged songs does not come easily to me, especially the lyrics, which I tweak endlessly to get right. A couple of those fruitful ideas are five years old."

I do a tiny bit of sampling and use Ableton a lot, but I think what solidified my "sound" was getting into some key pieces of hardware: a couple Moog synths and a Roland Space Echo. It was important to me that the songs build and morph organically, sort of like a techno or house DJ set, instead of having jarring transitions for some dramatic effect. I want to ease the listener into a densely textured forest of sound like a soothing hypnotherapist's voice, populated with familiar species and alien ones, constantly mating with each other, spawning something akin to the unconscious.

What can we expect to hear and see from Kauf this Summer? 
The second single, "A Ruin," will be out very soon and there are remixes coming from Blue Hawaii, Man Power, Ambassadeurs, Thomaas Banks, The Big Pink, Jeffrey Brodsky, and Iamforest. I'll be performing at the Natural History Museum's First Fridays in LA on June 3. Advancing the live show, adding more members and creating more visuals for it, is next up on the priority list as well as a small tour through Europe later in the year.