Galimatias Steps Behind The Booth and Into A New Chapter With Renaissance Boy
Danish electronic producer/artist discusses the journey of creating his debut solo album
Producers are well-known for being the mastermind behind music’s greatest hits. But what happens when they decide to switch gears and step in front of the microphone? For Galimatias, an electronic producer/musician who hails from Denmark, it was a risk. But he knew facing this challenge was necessary in order to propel his career. So the artist called up a vocal coach and perfected his tone nearly every day for a year straight.
“It was also just to develop technique and another scenario in which I was just incredibly humbled,” he tells SPIN of the vocal lessons. “I remember walking into the studio on the first day and she was like, “Alright, so what’s the sort of singer that you like?”
Now, Galimatias is officially ready to step into his own spotlight.
The artist is best known for 2015’s Urban Flora, his collaborative project with pop/R&B singer Alina Baraz. He’s released a few singles since then (including 2017’s solo single “Let Me Know”) and is now unleashing Renaissance Boy — his debut solo album.
“I like to take on these different tasks,” Galimatias explains. “But I’ll probably never get to a point where I’ll feel accomplished enough to call myself a ‘Renaissance Man’. So that’s why I’m just a ‘Renaissance Boy’. It’s that chasing of the challenge.”
Inspired by his longtime admiration for hip-hop and R&B, Renaissance Boy is a lush, seductive album that is best played within the confines of your room or on a late-night journey to a lover’s home. Singles like the woozy “Redeye” and the emotional tug of war of “Let Go,” the album reflects the many facets of a complicated relationship that one just cannot allow to end.
Below, SPIN caught up with the artist (who’s based in Los Angeles) over Zoom to discuss transforming into a solo artist, his love for French impressionism and why he prefers to remain genre-less.
SPIN: Why did you want to step behind the board and present yourself as a solo artist?
Galimatias: I had been working on a project for a while in 2016 with somebody else and it just came to a halt over some disagreements. I was in this position where there was just nothing really to work on. I thought, “I might as well start doing my own stuff.” The beginning of 2017 was perfect because I had all this time. It’s been a very arduous process, a lot of trial and error and just seeing what works and what didn’t. After three years, this was the end result.
Were you nervous about putting your voice at the forefront?
I was very nervous and I still am. But it’s a healthy challenge because I really enjoy it. As long as it’s fun, then that’s the right indication that it’s something worth pursuing. Even listening back to the vocals I did like three years ago, I see the progress and face-palm the old stuff now. (laughs) Back in 2016, I was getting a little bit bored with doing the same production-minded things. There were weeks where I just wouldn’t make music. It’s nice to sometimes introduce very new elements and be humbled by something that’s not your area of expertise.
I know you worked with a vocal coach over the past few years. Was that more for a confidence booster?
That was also just to develop technique and another scenario in which I was just incredibly humbled. I remember walking into the studio on the first day and she was like, “Alright, so what’s the sort of singer that you like?” I was like, “Um, I don’t know. I like Marvin Gaye.” I was sitting there trying to sing “Distant Lover” and it just sounded like the most horrendous thing ever. [Laughs.] I quickly realized how hard it actually is to sing. I was with her for like a year and made a lot of progress. Now I’ve just been finding different vocal coaches online. I try to do that every single day just to improve on the technique itself.
This is your most cohesive project to date. Did you purposefully try to make it flow as seamlessly as possible?
Yes, absolutely. But it was something that came later in the process. I imagined that I was going to do two EPS. But once I had all these songs, I started looking at [the themes] as a puzzle. Once I had all that, it became very clear to me that I should spend some time trying to make these transitions so that it became one long journey instead of like 11 different tracks. It’s very much a concept album.
It’s interesting that the album is coming during this pandemic because it’s something that you have to sit alone with. How would you like your fans to experience it?
That’s a really good question because I feel like that’s a prerequisite to enjoying this album. I was very much opposed to singles, but my team, my manager and the distributor were like, “You have to release singles nowadays.” But to me, you don’t get the proper experience unless you actually listen to it as a whole, because a lot of its quality lies within the fact that it’s an ongoing story. So I definitely hope that some people will have the patience — of course, that’s not something you can require — but I think the optimal experience is to listen to it from start to finish.
Did you record “Redeye” in the beginning stages? Because it sounds like it’s the foundation that the rest of the record is built around.
That’s a really good observation and very correct, because that was literally right when I got back from Costa Rica after getting my second visa. I had recorded some sounds in the jungle since I brought my field recorder. When I came back, I used that ambiance and started making the track right then and there.
The song is followed by “Boy Hachi.” I know the vocalist is singing in Italian, but what is the actual translation of that interlude?
That is actually [a response] to the essence of the track before. So “Redeye” is like this pompous attempt at regaining the attention of somebody who you may have wronged and now they’ve cut you off. “Boy Hachi” is her answer: “I’m done with you.” It’s severing the ties. At the end, she says, “It’s your turn to walk through the fire, it’s your turn to let go.” And then it goes into “Let Go.” All those four tracks are one coherent storyline.
A surprise moment is “Room 332” because it’s basically just an orchestral composition. I thought that was a bold move.
I was listening to a lot of French impressionism, like Eric Satie, Claude Debussy and other composers from that era. I had a period where I would wake up and read this biography on Debussy. At one point when I was sitting down to make music, I just felt like playing this very Eric Satie-inspired piano composition. After I recorded that, I was like, “Why not put this on the album?” Right after the track “Sinner,” it made sense to have a song that sounds like solitude or isolation.
When people think of electronic or dance music, there’s a certain sound that comes to mind. But we’re slowly getting to a place where dance is a bit more inclusive.
I feel like that’s exactly how music should be. I’m inspired by so many different things. We just talked about French impressionism. Bossa Nova is another [genre] I really adore and sometimes like to incorporate into my music. And then of course, American hip-hop and R&B. Whatever you’re drawn to, that should be manifested within the music. If you can map a genre onto it, then that’s fine. There’s so much great music out today that I feel is hard to put in a box and that’s probably a good thing. I can’t tell you how many Ubers I’ve been in where the driver asked me what I do. I say I make music and they’re like, “Oh, what genre?” I tell them electronic and he’s like, “I love EDM! So where are you DJing next?” [Laughs.] The Uber driver was automatically connecting electronic music to being an EDM DJ, whereas there are many subgenres to electronic music, and you can make electronic music without being a DJ, like I do.