In 2010, his first single, "Say My Name," reached number one on Beatport's Electro House chart. In 2011, he signed to Skrillex’s label, and in 2012, his single “Language” skyrocketed to number one on the iTunes Dance Chart. Not to mention he’s toured around the globe, headlining major music festivals like Ultra, Electric Daisy Carnival, and Belgium’s Tomorrowland.
For being only 21, Porter Robinson has racked up quite the list of accomplishments. But lately, he’s been moving in a different direction, or what he describes as a “transition phase.” After spending several years djing, touring the world, and being enwrapped in the EDM circuit, Porter needed a break. He spent the past year crafting a new sound, the music that he was truly meant to make.
“I kept finding that if I would try to make a song danceable, make it energetic, and make it work for other DJs, I was really sacrificing the song. I just found that djing and EDM, for me, were really limiting,” said Porter. “There is not a lot of innovation going on [in EDM,] and about two years ago, I set out to try and write the most beautiful and personal and expressive album that I could.”
After casting off expectations, Porter did just that, and created an album that he’s truly passionate about. His debut studio album, Worlds, which he describes as “really big, beautiful, [with] vintage sounds,” won’t be out until August 12. But a few songs have been released already, including the ambient, anthemic single, “Sea of Voices,” reminiscent of artists like M83 and Sigur Rós. Though it is a change from his previous releases, for Porter, this transition was actually quite organic.
“I don’t know that there is something that really inspired me to bring on the change beyond the fact that I wanted to make the best music that I could possibly make,” he said. “I looked back into my history into my favorite albums and really analyzed what it was that was compelling to me about those, and that is how I landed on the current sound that I have found myself in.”
Porter describes his record with words like fast, fantastical, and nostalgic, but he also describes it as “very personal.” Other songs off of the album, like “Sad Machine” and “Lionhearted,” are testaments of this.
“I think [the album as a whole] is very dreamlike and very escapist,” he said. “’Lionhearted’ very much deals with the idea of fiction; it’s about this big triumphant battle,” he said.
Porter’s unconventional music style lends itself well to this album. He set out to craft a unique, artistic vision for Worlds, even enlisting a few unknown vocalists for a few tracks. “Sad Machine” features female vocals manipulated into a robot voice, and Porter lends his own voice to a few songs off the album as well.
“[The female vocal] is not meant to sound human; she sounds very kind of static and un-dynamic, and I emphasize the electronic-ness in her voice,” said Porter. “I thought that the notion of a robot/human duet was something that was quite beautiful.”
While he became prominent in the EDM world as a DJ, Porter did not really grow up listening to EDM. He never really involved himself in the EDM scene either until he began djing professionally. Porter’s roots in music stem from some of his favorite artists like Kanye West and Daft Punk, but the music that has truly inspired him the most is the Japanese video game music he listened to when he was around 12, particularly Dance Dance Revolution.
“The emotion in that stuff, and the core sensibilities and the way everything moves, it is all really inspiring to me,” he said.It seems unconventional to relate video games with Porter’s music, but for him, it was his introduction into music. Worlds may be video game-inspired, but it really encompasses much more than that.
“[Worlds] is not meant to deal with reality. The whole album I think is really about fiction and about the places we make in our heads,” he said.
Many of Porter’s fans discovered him during his days as a DJ. Changing one’s sound is common for many artists, but it’s only natural for Porter to wonder if his fan base would carry through to his new releases. Despite concerns, Porter had to stay true to himself, dismiss what anyone may think, and hope his fans would follow.
“I think in order to be able to sleep at night I have to make music honestly and sincerely and with integrity. If I was just writing s*** because I felt that it was expected of me, or felt that it was what I needed to do to keep the paychecks and the gigs coming in, I wouldn’t feel very good about myself,” he said. “It is the most favorite music I have ever done and hopefully that shines through.”
Turns out Porter’s fans aren’t going anywhere. “Sea of Voices” has already garnered over one million plays on Soundcloud, and his latest single “Sad Machine” has well over 200 thousand. Even Porter’s 10-hour long album teaser has over 70 thousand views on Youtube. Although his current sound no longer includes him djing, Porter’s ready take his album live.
“I’m super stoked to embark on the live aspect of this record,” he said. “[The music is] energetic and exciting in a way that I don’t think a lot of other people are doing.”
Since Porter hails from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, we had to inquire on some of his favorite local spots.
“Of course you have to see UNC campus; it is gorgeous. And you have to go Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen for a good, delicious southern biscuit,” he said.
They have opened for No Doubt at the Gibson Amphitheater, toured with Paramore, and performed at a women’s prison. And they are all under 21.
In just a few short years, LA band KITTEN has accomplished some pretty cool things. Opening for No Doubt, for one, was an unexpected but exciting accomplishment for the band. “Just to play at that size of a venue (The Gibson) and with a band with that kind of legacy is pretty cool,” said Chloe, the lead singer, who is still in her senior year of high school. “For me at least, I am a No Doubt fan,” added Bryan (keyboards). “They are a band I listened to a lot growing up, and to meet them and find out they are just regular people, as cliché as that sounds, it was really cool.”
The band also recently performed at a women’s prison, definitely something a lot of bands can’t say they’ve done before.
“The women’s prison probably takes the cake [as the most unique venue we have performed at],” said Bryan. “People were dancing and it went as well as it could have gone, better than our expectations.” “[It] was almost beautiful. I almost cried,” added Chloe. “I didn’t think that would happen. I was like, it’ll be cool, but they were just so genuinely into it and so excited, like, they got up and were dancing and we talked to them. All of them were people who normally would never listen to our music, I am pretty sure. They just loved it.”
KITTEN’s music, a mix of synth rock, electronic and instrumental harmonies, plus Chloe’s captivating vocals, induce a maturity that tends to comes from bands much older. And although Chloe’s still young, her musical influences range from classic rock to the ‘80s, not too typical of most girls her age.
“My dad was in an East LA punk band when he was younger so he played me a lot of punk music and a lot of classic rock,” said Chloe, “and when I got to be about 13, 14, I started to branch off and I listened to a lot of more electronic, ‘80s music that he didn’t really like. I was also a gymnast and I would have to drive an hour to my practice and we would listen to CMJ CDs, so that was cool.”
KITTEN released their first EP “Sunday School” when Chloe was just 15. Their polished rock sound, with hints of the 80s, caught the attention of local bars, venues and record labels. Currently, KITTEN is signed to Elektra Records, which includes major artists like Ed Sheeran, Cee Lo Green and more.
KITTEN has gained hometown fame over the years, playing shows at LA bars and venues, like a successful residency at The Bootleg last year. Yet with all of the members under 21, playing at bars can be frustrating.
“Any club that is not doing all ages shows, I just do not know what they are thinking,” said Bryan. “The clubs do not let us drink or anything, but a bunch of clubs make us wait outside until we play and go back outside after we are done playing. We haven’t really gotten to see the other bands we have played with.” “We are also a fairly tame band. I wish they could see what we are like in the van. We just sit around and read and snack,” said Zach (bass). “Ooh Taco Bell,” added Chloe. “Or when we see rare flavors of Arizona. “Oh, they got Peach Half and Half, oh man!”” joked Bryan.
Their latest EP “Cut it Out” has been gaining praise from countless blogs and magazines, including a feature in NYLON and Interview Magazine, and is receiving airplay on LA stations KROQ and 987 fm. They band also plans to release their debut record soon, with sounds even more grand than on their current EP.
“It is a little bit grander sounding while also being slightly more rhythmic and more beat oriented, but still maintaining that grand, live sound,” said Chloe. “We [also] spent like four hours sometimes just nailing a guitar sound and like six hours recording parts. So there is a lot of hard work put into the guitar parts for the record,” added Waylon. “I think the grooves also are, like, really sexy and steamy,” added Chloe. “It’s really a record that I think a lot of people are going to put on and dance and enjoy,” said Bryan.
Even with all of their success, the band remains humble. “For me, in my opinion, my goals are so much higher so it is like, this is just a step on the way to what i want to do, and what I think we are going to do. But at the same time, everything that has happened, I have to stop and be like, ‘Oh wait, I forgot, this was my goal a year ago, or this was my goal when I was five,’” said Chloe. “It is hard to ride that fine line between being really overwhelmed and accepting of what’s happened and what’s happening and still being excited and optimistic about the future and looking for more stuff,” added Lukas (drums). “But everything looks good now and everything continues to look like it will be looking good.”
As for the coming months, KITTEN’s heading out on tour with the Joy Formidable, another tour with Paramore, and has a stop at SXSW in Austin, TX.