I feel it all the time: Throughout FKJ’s recent new album V I N C E N T, a calming breeze blows. The name commonly assigned to this sensation is ‘chill’ and its effects are usually thought to be ‘vibey’. The music is certainly both those things, but when you can feel a potent incandescence, a palpable resplendence that emanates its force, a higher power over and above the sonic information received by your eardrums, you must acknowledge that the chill and vibes have been amply transcended.
Like Prince and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, FKJ harnesses his multi-instrumental veneer to be a conduit for virtuosity. This time, his vision unfolds meditatively, melting house, funk, soul, blues and a sepia-illumined, pastel-hued beatscape, into a superlatively serene sound bath as richly therapeutic as it is endlessly explorable.
Here, he gets into how music can radiate outward in spellbinding ways – if we shut out the noise and allow it to.
Congrats on the album. It’s new but it’s done some good things for me, emotionally. My fascination with it begins at the artwork. What’s the significance of bubbles/droplets to the project?
Thank you. It’s from a memory I had when I started composing music, around age 13. Music’s always been a safe space for me – my bubble. I’m often alone, voluntarily. It’s a lonely journey because I love going there alone. Now, I’ve way more toys to play with but I’m still playing alone. I enjoy just gathering with the music in the space I’m in. It’s a feeling I can’t get anywhere else. That’s what the artwork symbolises.
Also, bubbles represent youth and childhood. We all played with bubbles when we were kids. It’s important because this album is about childhood.
You’re most renowned for being a multi-instrumentalist. That kind of mastery has always impressed and inspired me.
Well, it wasn’t really planned. It was never a goal to be a multi-instrumentalist. It happened naturally. I started with my sister’s guitar just because it was there. After that, from sitting with it, listening to my favourite records and learning new things from the Internet, I started making my own little recipes with it. Once I started recording, I wanted more texture, so I got a keyboard, and so on and so on. By doing this over and over every day, I learned how to play these instruments. One day, my friends were over and they heard me on the keys and they said they didn’t know that I could play. That’s when I realised I could play the keys and not just mess around with them.
This also the most personal and spiritual music you've made. It definitely benefits from the seclusion you imposed on yourself. How was the experience of making music without social media?
Social media is something we're all addicted to, but when I take a break from it, I can see the benefits. When I cut social media, the difference is massive. It's mostly about time. Social media sucks all your time. It's so easy to get lost for an hour on your phone, to get distracted and to compare yourself to other people. It's so much better to use it for practical things.
But sometimes, I catch myself getting tangled up in it, and I'm like, 'Why am I here? Why am I not creating things? Why am I not using my time more wisely?'
What does music do for you, physically?
I'd say that music is a friend, a very good friend I like to hang out with. But it's also a therapist and a remedy. It's harmony that heals, that makes you feel a certain way. The same can be said about rhythm. How these two forces can heal is a mystery on the level of brainwaves and stuff like that. When I feel down or negative, I'll just sit at an instrument, the piano, for example, and it works almost every single time. Something happens when certain chords are played at a certain volume and harmony. And, usually, the more beautiful it is, the more efficient it is for me.
My personal favourite is "IHM". The piano parts are so utterly beautiful. How has your relationship with the instrument changed over the years?
It became my favourite instrument to play. The range is full; you have the eight octaves; you have so many nuances. You have all these harmonics vibrating behind the notes that you play. It's really the instrument I can best express myself with. There's so much I can do with it. I love playing the saxophone and the guitar but with the piano, I can press the sustain peddle and play 35 notes at once. It gives me more possibilities and it's one of the most beautiful instruments ever created.
Your music is so often described as 'vibey'. What's a vibe to you?
A vibe is a mood. It's one of the things by which I know I've created something worth it. When there's a mood to it, when there's a scene to it, that's when I know. When I hear the song, I must be able to 'see' the scene. It doesn't even need to have a verse, but it must have a mood. If I'm creating something and it has a strong vibe or mood, then I think it's worth sharing. It's the soundtrack of something. It's something that can match a particular moment in someone's life.
Lastly, we're very clearly living in a different world now. What's changed the most for you since the pandemic?
I became a father. But I'm always changing. I'm kind of a sponge for my environment. From that, the music comes out. The reason this album is so contemplative, floaty and calm is because I made it when there was no one around us and we were isolated in this space.
But now that we're in a new era, my music is going to change. The music is going to sponge off my new environment, which, right now, is London.