South London pop/RnB artist KOATES imbues the push and pull of really wanting to make a relationship work on his latest track Japanese Trees, which combines catchy pop-noir melodies with personable songwriting to showcase his growth as an artist.
With a mature message that fixates on tackling problems head on instead of indulging in escapism.
Co-written and produced by Gary Go (Rihanna, Harry Styles) with ‘Mix Engineer of the Year’ Dan Grech, the track marks a new era of stardom for the rising act who has found himself steadily developing a signature sound built on anthemic yet minimal soundscapes and conversational lyricism. Working towards making honesty the trademark of his artistry, KOATES’ weaves sonic journeys that draw us in with unique flair that speaks of simplicity and intricacy equally.
Speaking to 1883, KOATES delves into the message behind the track, the 24-hour journey to film the music video, how he hopes for his sound to evolve going forward and much more.
What is the inspiration/message behind Japanese Trees? What prompted you to travel from London to Berlin for the music video?
Being naive and running away from your problems is never the answer. I wish it was because that would make life easy. No matter how much you try and candy coat something that’s not working, the problem will still be there until you deal with it. That’s the underlying message in Japanese Trees. It’s about the romantic idea of let’s fix what’s not working by covering it up with something hollow like a holiday, but really you should be content together having beans on toast, at home, on your sofa. Rather than trying to fill a void. The music video represents the escapism, getting on trains, ferry’s, planes in desperation to run away and feel better.
In terms of the music video, what was the most memorable moment during the filming process?
The most memorable part would probably be on the train from Amsterdam to Berlin. Firstly I’ve never really been on a cross country train journey before, so to sit and look at the world go by was pretty special. However we must’ve stopped at about five stations going through Germany and every time, some immigration officer/police would enter the carriage and make a beeline for me. It must’ve been my outfit that screamed menace. I think it was the pearl necklace that they must’ve been like, yep, this guy is definitely the next Pablo Escobar.
On the flip side, what was the most challenging part of it?
The most challenging part was having to film myself. It’s something that I don’t usually do. I’m not a selfie guy. Running around European cities with a selfie stick and lighting rig. A look I would usually put down to extreme vanity. There’s a part of the video where I sprint through some massive crowds in Berlin, crashing into people. They must’ve loved me.
How would you say your sound has evolved over time?
My lyric writing used to be pure fiction. Now it’s all about my personal experiences that have triggered an emotion. That comes with getting older I think. Actually being ok with talking about what’s up, rather than making stuff up because you’re too scared of being judged.
How do you hope it grows going forward?
I think going forward I’ll try to keep that honest pattern. To let those words come through more I think I’m aiming to keep the music fairly minimal and not aim for stadium sounds like I used to when I was younger. It used to be like how many guitars could I possibly put on one song. Now I’m starting to listen to artist like Holly Humberstone for example. Her production is fairly minimal and sounds so damn good. That’s what I think I’m going to start shooting for.
If listeners could take away one message from your music in general what would you want it to be?
It’s ok to say it how it is and not make everything out to be Hollywood perfect. I think the definition of perfect is changing for the better.
Who inspires you both professionally but also on a personal level?
Professionally, I work with an amazing artist/songwriter called Gary Go. We’ve written hundreds of songs together. I look up to him a lot. On a personal level, my close friendship group are all incredibly driven people. I get inspired by seeing my friends put in the hours to achieve crazy results. For example my mate Ted spent 18 months getting up at 4 am most mornings training for an Ironman and raised 6K for the charity Mind. The sacrifices taken to achieve that are immense. I live for that kind of inspiration, I’m very lucky to be surrounded by it.
If you could describe your artistry in three words what would they be and why?
Reminiscent, because most of my writing is. Movement, because I always envisage listening to my songs whilst on some sort of journey for some reason. That’s why most of music videos are me running or on the move in some way. Honest, at least I’m trying to be.
‘Japanese Trees’ is out now, follow KOATES via @iamkoates
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