Ever since Autograf’s debut release ‘Dream’ in 2015 that hit the scene with massive synths and honeyed tropical beats, the Chicago-born, LA-based project has been capturing the times with their, now world-renowned, music while gathering inspiration from collaborating with the best and playing at festivals from EDC Las Vegas and Electric Forest to Groove Cruise and Coachella.
Having played their tropical tracks on the beaches since, ‘Don’t Worry’ and ‘You Might Be’, it was a pleasure to get a chance to sit down with Mikul and Louis to hear about their deeper album that is rolling out now, stories from their career and more intel about their release coming out tomorrow, ‘Over the Sea’ via Armada.
Find out about who Autograf is collaborating with next as they keep etching toward the darker side (with an artist from Solomun and Adriano Trolio’s Diynamic Music), “The Garage” in Venice and more juicy titbits. Sample ‘Over the Sea’ below and listen to their recent releases while you enjoy hearing from Autograf.
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Autograf on the Record
TD: Do you have any other art projects in the works that are beyond or in parallel with your music?
Mikul: Yeah! I am diving into the AR art stuff a bunch lately and utilizing that technology. Then we’re working on a new visual show right now as well.
TD: Okay, nice. Yeah, AI, how are you using it in your work or just in life? Can you share how your AI art looks?
Mikul: Yeah, we used it for our last song ‘Deep Down’. And yeah for art in general it’s been pretty useful, like in everyday life from ChatGPT to MidJourney for art stuff. I know it’s coming soon for music. They just released that like Drake x Weekend song. I’m excited to see where the AI stuff goes in the coming years.
TD: Oh okay so for the cover art of ‘Deep Down’, nice! Yeah, we’ll see… So ‘Deep Down’, can you share how that track developed?
Mikul: It’s a little harsher, like musically for us. We were trying to do a little bit of a darker song than some of our previous work, it just kind of going down this route of doing more club shows and things of that nature. And the song kind of came out of our love for playing those kinds of shows and fit that vibe a little more.
Louis: Southern California had the biggest rainstorm, literally was raining for weeks. And so that put us into a much, much more of a darker mood than normal.
TD: I can see that.
Louis: Yeah, it’s just grittier, edgier, deeper, darker. It’s like channeling the angry side of us.
TD: Ok ok. Yeah it seems like a fresh direction, more of a house tempo or even going into trance a little with ‘Inner Light’. How would you describe your current direction and how ‘Inner Light’ developed?
Mikul: For ‘Inner Light’, working with the singer, Dan Soleil, definitely inspired the deeper, Tulum-type stuff.
Louis: Yeah, the lyrical content had a nice message behind it, about showing your true self, your true inner light. We definitely try to embody a lot of positivity in our lives. And for us that stems from doing affirmations every day, (which is the name of our album). So I think ‘Inner Light’ just tied in with the concept of affirmations of how you can create your own story in your mind that you can turn into reality. But it all starts by speaking it into existence. And so, you know, for me, when I started doing affirmations, I realized like, “oh, wow!, the first step is to change the story in your head.” Because if you believe your whole life that I’m just some shy, quiet Asian kid, I’m just going to be that. But if I just want something else out of my life, then I can just start speaking to it by saying things like, I am confident. And I know that sounds very silly, but when I actually started doing it (not just reading about it) it’s like, okay, you probably don’t believe it, but it’s a habit. It’s a muscle you train.
And like any habit, if you do it every day, eventually after, let’s say, ten, 20 days, you start believing it because you say, you know what, “I am confident, I can fucking go at life. I can do anything I want.” Yeah, but if constantly your habit is the opposite of that and you’re constantly just saying what you can’t do, then, of course, you’re not going to be able to do it. So that’s how affirmations have really helped me, like in the last year or so, just tackle life and try to achieve and constantly be motivated to do more.
TD: Definitely. I like to include that kind of question in my interviews sometimes, so people can put something out there, put it on a page or say it. It might be the first step to getting something done.
So maybe you have something in particular on your mind today to put out into the ether or what would be the autograph that you would want to put on the world this year?
Louis: I want to get back to Coachella! So we played Coachella in 2017, and I hadn’t been back until a couple of days ago. I just went out there to party, have a good time. I mean we DJ’d the Geo Jam event as well, but mostly I was just out there just having the time of my life and it just made me feel hungry to get back there again. So perhaps that will be the next affirmation, but I think it’s going to take a lot of work.
TD: Fair enough.
Louis: It all starts with the music for us and the art. And I just started having a conversation with Mikul and was like, there’s so much we have to do. Like, how can we utilize AI to our benefit? Because right now there aren’t very good AI tools for music. Like we started using it for art because we make all our own art. And so that has saved a lot of time for us. We started doing that with ‘Lie’, which was two songs ago then ‘Deep Down’, and then we just submitted another track…
TD: Oh no we lost him… Anyway how about you, Mikul? What is a goal for the year?
Mikul: Yeah, just going off that, utilizing our time to the best of our ability right now is a big, big part of it. And you know, you can only have so many hours in the day and you have to maximize your time by working with tools and people in your life that can help you maximize your day and get you to that point you want to be. You can’t be like this lone island just working on things.
Even when we started Autograf, it was because we needed someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to work with, someone to motivate you, and now we are expanding that circle even bigger into working with other people on the project and bringing other writers, other singers, other top-line writers, even other producers. Even using AI in a lot of ways for future music.
You know, we haven’t really delved down that rabbit hole yet, but I think it’s coming and the ability to utilize some of that stuff moving forward. Look back at the evolution of music making, it started with all this crazy outboard analog gear to record, even to record a guitar or a drum. Then look back at some of the Beatles albums, some of the stuff they were doing were quote unquote, crazy. Like, honestly, just to reverse a track was crazy, like, play it backwards and now you can do that in one click on a DAW.
So there was like this evolution from the super analog gear into where we are now, everyone’s using DAWs, Digital Audio Workspaces to make music and that’s become the standard. And then even within DAWs there’s become smart AI-based plug-ins like Captain Chords, which helps you write melodies to Soothe, which can isolate frequencies. All these tools are continually being progressed in music and just utilizing them to the best of your ability.
I think there’s something to be said obviously about analog gear and that’s fun, but also utilizing what’s coming in the future for music.
TD: Well said, well you may have been joking, but I saw a Tweet about you guys working on a track at 150 BPMs. Were you kidding?
Mikul: It’s actually real. I was working on this remix of La Roux’ ‘In For The Kill’, which is at 150 BPM. We were playing some shows and we were playing some heavier techno type stuff and was just thinking of that stuff and yeah, the song La Roux ‘In for the Kill’ just happens to be 150 BPM and I started working on the remix of it, so we’ll see where that goes. But yeah, we are just experimenting more with music going forward and not pigeonholing ourselves into a particular style.
TD: That would be sick to hear, almost beyond techno.
Mikul: Haha Yeah, yeah. That’s like extreme techno creeping into hardstyle.
TD: I’d love to hear that. Will that be the next one out, or do you guys have something else in mind?
Mikul: Yeah, no, we have a bunch of originals that we’re working on. We have two more tracks that are done right now that’ll be coming out next.
We did ‘Vertigo’ with Burko in the past, so we have another track coming out together called, ‘Look More’. That one’s really good. And then we have another one called ‘Over the Sea’, another really fun track.
Louis: Yeah. So we have this all leading up to our album. We have two more singles and then our album drops in July.
TD: We’ll look forward to that! Have you guys played any of these other tracks out or what tracks have you guys been enjoying playing lately at Miami Music Week or Geo Jam?
Mikul: Yeah, I think it’s awesome playing out some of the unreleased stuff and just seeing people’s reactions to it because they don’t know the song yet and they don’t know it’s by us necessarily.
Louis: Yeah, that’s the ultimate test when you’re trying a new track out or you’re working on a new track, play it in a set. You don’t set it up properly, you don’t tell anyone, you just play it at the worst possible time in the set. And if it does well, then that’s a good sign. If it doesn’t do well, then you have to go back and tweak it a little bit.
TD: The ultimate stress test. Haha It must be a cool feeling. So which one did you drop during MMW?
Louis: Yeah so, we played the one that Mikul mentioned with Sian and Burko at Miami Music Week and it had way too much low-end, like it was just rumbling the whole stage, way too much bass, which is awesome, but I think we need to take that in a little bit. But other than that, the track sounded great, which they usually don’t always sound that great, at least the first time.
TD: So what are some other tracks you guys recommend, even beyond your own work?
Mikul: Yeah, it’s tough. I mean, I’ve been digging a lot of the melodic techno stuff that’s been coming out, even some of the faster stuff that’s out there right now.
Louis: I really like Sian and Burko. This is why we’re working with them.
Louis: So we did the track ‘Vertigo’ with Burko, then we have this next one with Sian and Burko and we have another one that’s in the works. It’s just like sometimes you just find a good flow with certain people because your skill sets just complement each other.
So I think in this scenario with Sian and Burko for whatever reason, it just really works and it’s probably because of that.
TD: Nice. How about between you two, how do you complement each other?
Louis: Um, I’d say Mikul has found my last two girlfriends, so he compliments me on getting girls.
Mikul: I’m always gonna look out for him.
Louis: I’m still single, so he’s got one more job to do. Then we’ll be fine until I can get married.
TD: Lol okay vice verse for you Mikul.
Mikul: Yeah. Louis gets very focused on things and that helps move the project along and figure out game plans and action plans for what we’re working on, which is really helpful.
Louis: Yeah. When it comes to complementary skills, Mikul’s skill is he’s creative. So not that I’m not creative. Hopefully, I have some creativity, but Mikul is creative. I definitely do approach music from a more technical standpoint, but Mikul is much more creative and you find with creatives, they’re just all over the place and I tend to be a little more organized. Mikul can just be him collecting, I don’t know where he is in his head sometimes but cool shit that comes out of there and it’s our job to like get it out.
Mikul: When it comes to DJing, just DJing with someone else is always just more fun I think, than DJing alone because it gives you a chance to vibe to the music more and enjoy, look out at the crowd, enjoy what you’re doing a little bit more, and not just have to focus in on just the straight DJing and also hearing someone else pick different music that you weren’t expecting, it just helps the flow of everything.
TD: I imagine your mind is not racing as much. So do you guys have a rhythm behind the decks or is it just freestyle?
Louis: It’s kind of evolved. Me and Mikul have been DJing for a long time and it just turned into taking turns on tracks. And sometimes we’ll just go off on a tangent and let that person go on a tangent.
TD: Cool. So I am sure, everyone wants to know, what is on your rider?
Louis: Bananas, lots of bananas!
TD: Lol that’ll do it. I know guys have some new art spaces in LA, Project Parallel and a new venue in Venice. Are there any developments there? I know Aura, one of the DJs from your Satellite NFT LA event was wondering if anything was coming up at the Venice space as well.
Mikul: Yeah, we did a bunch of free studio time at Project Parallel. It actually recently flooded really bad there. A pipe burst so it’s been pretty closed down for the last like month and a half.
And then, yeah, we have the space in Venice. We’ve actually shot some stuff here. We might do a little party here soon, hopefully. And yeah, keep on the lookout on our socials for that. Some invite-only parties coming up.
TD: Last time we chatted, I recall you mentioning something about doing a unique, more immersive set at the Venice space. Can you elaborate on that?
Louis: The Garage! That’s going with the cold, dark, vibe like ‘Deep Down’. We’re just into a little more industrial aesthetics as well as music. Just like grittier urban industrial, which is harder to find in Venice, California, but we’ve found our garage and just put a bunch of tough-looking equipment in there. Like there’s a chainsaw, well not a chainsaw, a saw, a wood saw!
So we’re thinking we wanted to do some live streams in there. We have recorded some things in there. And also doing just an exclusive 360 party in there. There’s probably only like 20, 30 people that can fit in there comfortably, but you could be one of the 30.
Mikul: We should start that old-school rave style. “Text this number. Go to this check-point. Get the invite.”
Louis: We don’t want the Feds to know. So technically it’s “under construction.”
TD: Lol Perfect. You think you’ll release any live-streamed sets?
Louis: Absolutely. They’re coming.
Mikul: They’re coming.
TD: Nice. Let’s see… Do you guys have any guilty pleasures?
Mikul: I’m watching this show from the early 2000s right now. It’s kind of my guilty pleasure, it’s called, Chuck. It’s kind of funny because it goes with some of the aesthetics of the art and the music that we’re making right now. It’s been like a weird inspiration to rewatch shows from that era that have inspired some of the music and artwork that we are making now.
TD: Yeah… TV shows are often guilty pleasures. So what about you Louis?
Louis: Guilty pleasures… There’s so many! Wow. I like making bad, inappropriate jokes for my own pleasure. I’m not doing any here because it’s a very professional setting we’re in here.
I like pizza, but I don’t eat pizza because I don’t eat gluten, but if I drink enough tequila, maybe pizza will get lucky.
Mikul: Lol Louis going off the deep end. Party boy eating pizza!
TD: LOL. Okay so I do want to touch on some music that I listened to when I first discovered you guys, like seven or eight years ago, with tracks like ‘Don’t Worry’ and ‘You Might Be’ with more tropical feels. Can you share a little about those songs? Any good memories while playing these songs?
Louis: So ‘You Might Be’ is an interesting one because we are from Chicago, we were living in Chicago, and we went out to LA, you know, big, exciting Hollywood and our manager set us up with this big-time writer, producer guy and singer, and we roll up to his house, this beautiful house in the Hollywood Hills. Huge!
And we go into the studio and he’s got like eight Gibson Pauls, just like all these instruments. He’s got a Wurlitzer, just all this sick analog gear. And I’m just intimidated. I’ve never really been in a studio like that before. I’m like, oh, shit, you know? Plus, I heard this guy had a lot of credentials. Apparently, he paid for his house from music, so he had some hits under his belt. And, you know, we were just coming in, we were freaking laptop producers and DJs like never used any of this gear before, super intimidated. And then the singer there was on The Voice, the singer for ‘You Might Be’, Lils. And I just remember being there super scared, honestly. And I was like, “Yeah, let’s make some music!” Trying to act all cool. Like I’m a big deal. We are Autograf. I’m the shit. But really, I was just like, damn, these guys are real musicians. And then, that was the start of that track and it ended up becoming one of our biggest tracks, kind of what put us on the map.
TD: Dude, that’s a moment. I am sure you felt inspired to create something great, like that track. What about you, Mikul? Any good memories around those particular releases?
Mikul: To this day, Lils is probably one of the best live singers I’ve ever experienced. She’s performed with us a few times, and when she sings that song, she just nails it every time.
Without doubt, she doesn’t have a sound check or anything, just comes in and crushes it every time she sings, which is really impressive because like, working a lot of singers, some singers need a lot of time to dial in their settings and everything and she just every time comes in and crushes it, she is such a good singer.
Louis: Oh, yeah, she’s awesome! So we did the Coachella Sahara Stage, it was fucking epic and we don’t really get a sound check because it’s Coachella and we’re not, Bruno Mars or anything like that. So we had a lot of singers and I just remember we had Lils. We invited her out to sing because I felt pretty confident in her, obviously, because you know, her credentials, having been on The Voice, she’s toured with Don Henley, done stadium tours so I’m sure our measly little set with only a couple thousand people at Coachella was no big deal for her. I remember she walked out there and just owned the crowd. It was crazy. Incredible. The confidence she has is amazing. To this day, like Mikul said, one of the top performers we’ve ever had.
TD: So she performed with you at Coachella, any other memories of her coming out to play?
Louis: Yeah, we had her in San Diego, for the CRSSD after party.
TD: I’ll have to look into more of her songs. I just listened to the one from you guys, but I remember playing it when I was traveling through Peru, in the beach areas and people loved it down there.
Louis: That’s amazing.
Mikul: Actually, this is funny. I didn’t even tell you this Louis, but yesterday the guy that was at Rebecca’s birthday, that was friends with Julia, he was out golfing and playing a bunch of Autograf songs. Guess who he was golfing with?
Louis: Yeah he told me! Harvey.
Louis: My friend Harvey. Yeah. It’s such a small world.
Mikul: He was playing all those songs for Harvey.
Louis: So we know this guy because Mikul’s girlfriend (now fiancée, Rebecca!) is a Spin Instructor, so she had a birthday Rave Ride is what she calls it. And she had a bunch of people there. And one of her good friend’s friends was this guy (who was playing golf with our friend Harvey).
Me and him were talking for about an hour, he was giving me the rundown because he’s single too, talking about all his “best date spots on the west side.” So I’m just taking notes because I’m still single. Whatever I’m doing isn’t working, apparently…
We exchanged contacts and we leave. And then all of a sudden, like Mikul said, he’s on the golf course playing Autograf. And the guy he’s with, is like, “That’s my boy, actually.” He’s like, “What!?” They sent a picture of them together. I was like, no, it’s such a small world!
These things happen. It’s kind of like when I was on a city bike in Miami during Miami Music Week just riding my bike. And these girls were rollerblading around with a boombox on their shoulder and they were playing our song ‘Move All Night’.
I was like, “Shit, that’s our song!” So I bike to her, and shout, “Hey, that’s my song!” And she totally didn’t understand me. She’s like, “Yeah, mine too!” Like, yeah, she really liked this song. She didn’t get it.
TD: Lol stupid, sounds like a Night at the Roxberry kind of moment. Probably 20 minutes later. She’s like, “wait a minute, that was him. Louis F’n Kha!”
Final Q is for you Mikul, this one is because our mutual friend, Sonny, pointed this out to me. Curious on how you got involved with NeoRen? Also, do you have any takeaways that you can share from those events?
Mikul: Yeah, I know they just recently did like a rebrand. I met them through some other events. Really cool circle of people that like doing cool stuff in LA. We are working on some events together coming up. More info on that hopefully soon as well.
Louis: Are you familiar with the NeoRen?
TD: Just got familiar with them through their socials because my friend.
Mikul: Yeah, he’s a cool guy. He did like a bunch of art for The Matrix, really cool guy.
TD: Yeah! Well, that’s all I had for now. I know it’s an eventful day. I appreciate your guy’s time and maybe we can align this interview with a new release or just in general.
Louis: Yeah, we just nailed down our next release date, May 26th!
TD: Oh nice! Are there any teasers to share?
Mikul: Go watch our fun time at Coachella. It’s debuting the song right on our Instagram post.
TD: Oh, hell yeah. That sounded good! Well hopefully catch you guys live soon enough.
Mikul: Yeah, let me know when you’re back in LA.
TD: Definitely! Okay guys have a good rest of the day.
Louis: All right, Bobby, Thanks a lot.
Mikul: Later, man. Bye, everyone.