Blending electronica with R&B vibes, KUBA hit his stride with debut single Pablo, released in 2019, along with 2021’s Neu – the latter of which saw a new direction for the Manchester-based artist.
His latest single, NY2003, was released on Pete Tong’s Three Six Zero Recordings on 18 November, and showcases the extroverted yet intimate style that has become his hallmark. You can download/stream it here.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi KUBA, thanks for talking to us. Tell us about the meaning behind your latest single, NY2003?
I like giving my tracks titles that encapsulate a vibe for me, sometimes an association. Sometimes there’s no conscious reason at all, just intuition. In any case it’s like an inside joke for myself, I enjoy not giving it all away in the title.
You are a relatively new producer, so congrats on signing to Pete Tong‘s label. How did you form this relationship? Can you offer advice to others trying to do the same with big labels?
It happened fairly organically after my previous release. I released the track Neu in October 2021 and it received some attention, made it onto Spotify editorials and got some radio play. There were a few cool press features and that seems to have done it.
I used to spend a lot of time hitting up labels and managers and never get a reply, barely anyone would even listen. After that song appeared in the right places, offers started coming in and conversations started happening.
It felt natural, I had other tracks lined up to be released and my own plan to follow which gave me self-confidence, I didn’t feel like I need to sign unless I’m vibing with the people wanting to sign me.
In terms of advice I’d say it’s important to realise the goal is not to be signed, the goal is whatever it is you dream of, a label might aid in getting there but the vision and the music must come from you. As long as you’re doing that, once you get a mini-break – like a good Spotify editorial or whatever – the right people will come to you, and you will feel like it’s a cool extra but not a prerequisite for your journey.
I think energy is better spent focusing on making it with your music and when people reach out, be ready – they’re mostly interested in signing your tracks, not ‘you’ per se, so make sure you have music to offer.
You have always self-released until now. Why have you made the change?
A good offer from a great label, with people that seemed to be excited about what I’m doing. It’s super nice to be working with amazing people that share responsibilities and a goal with you. I’ve always wanted that, so when the opportunity came, the decision was easy.
Your debut single Pablo caused some heads to turn, which you followed with quite a different sounding single Neu. Do you feel the pressure to follow this up with another landmark track?
There’s an artist I fell in love with recently, called ‘ones’. He signed to Ministry of Sound and released a single titled ‘changes’. The track is beautiful, fresh, catchy and yet it didn’t seem to receive as much attention as you’d expect so far.
I know these things can happen, even when the music’s great and the backing is there. I try to not focus on the expectation, just aim to do my best at the moment to retain a sense of integrity and even if it doesn’t hit the target, I’ll be like ‘yeah, me and ones had that experience, it happens’.
Deep down I know the trajectory for me is upwards, regardless of short-term pullbacks.
You were dubbed the ‘male version of Lana Del Rey to Lorde’ by the BBC. That’s quite a statement. Do you always use your own vocals on your tracks?
I always have, it’s a kind of trademark of mine. It’s also my greatest challenge to be both the producer and the vocalist, yet the work I produce this way has a unique spark that doesn’t come with only one of those roles.
I recently had an opportunity to make a track around someone else’s vocals, or more so spoken word, and the process of focusing solely on the instrumental was seamless and clear-minded. At the end of the day, though, I will always be a singer, it’s the most direct way to people’s hearts for me.
How do you find inspiration for your vocals and music – as you have said that these are normally quite emotionally charged?
The first inspiration is usually musical, designing a sound on my synth and a harmony emerges or finding new music that’s fresh to my ears and inspires me to use a similar sound palette. That part comes with a degree of control and deliberateness; choosing the tempo, the sounds, etc.
Once there’s a base, I’ll loop it and start writing vocal melodies, which is totally subconscious – my job is to listen and let melodies come through.
Sometimes a song will come out and it’s gonna reveal a truth I’ve been feeling lately and sometimes I’d consciously re-visit a place or a situation that I felt connection to and let the music further my understanding of that experience.
In any case, the magic part always comes from beyond. I can set things up for it to happen, but how it’s gonna manifest itself is bigger than what I can foresee.
Finally, what’s next for you?
I have tracks that are building on the vibe I’ve been trying to establish with the latest releases, I’m excited to have most of them released in 2023, hopefully.
I’m also constructing a live set, I used to perform with live musicians but for the music I’m making now that set-up doesn’t feel right.
Finally, I’m also in the process of making a new EP, a kind of parallel project with a different sound and direction, giving myself permission to follow an inspiration that doesn’t concern itself with genres and BPM, seeing where that will take me. That’s been long overdue for me. Oh, and to make binaural version of those tracks too.
Check out KUBA’s single NY2003 here.