Q&A: Trap Pioneer Lunice Draws Back the Curtain to Reveal the Inner Workings of ‘CCCLX’

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Whether you know him by name or not, chances are you're no stranger to Lunice's music. Half of the wildly successful trap duo, TNGHT, Lunice's music pervaded the mainstream conscious back in 2012 when TNGHT seemingly had a hand in everything. From the likes of Reese's and Adidas commercials to co-producing alongside Kanye West, TNGHT had undeniably taken the music world by storm overnight, yet as rapidly as they emerged, they vanished. In less than two years since their explosion onto the scene and with only a single EP to their name, TNGHT announced a sudden hiatus. The announcement left fans desperately clamoring for more from the duo, and while fans would have to wait, they surely would not be left disappointed.

More than four years would pass following TNGHT's hiatus before Lunice's debut album CCCLX would arrive, and it was well worth the wait. CCCLX served as a testament to the producer's maturation both sonically and conceptually, as Lunice presented a sonic theatrical showcase with a range of features present, from SOPHIE to CJ Flemings. We were lucky enough to speak with Lunice and speak about his full-length return to music and what the future holds for the pioneering artist. 

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OTW: Let me start by saying one thing: The first time I ever saw you in any capacity was back in 2013 as TNGHT at Coachella and that performance was a large part of what first introduced me to trap in any sense, so thank you very much for that.

Lunice: I thank you for giving your time at that moment to check out our set! We really just made this project from a place of happiness even though the whole thing sounded super wild and intense but I swear to you it was all smiles and laughter the whole time we were working on it.

OTW: So, I absolutely loved your debut album CCCLX. It feels restrained but in a very powerful and grand way, if that makes any sense. 

L: Amazing! Miles Davis is a huge influence to me and I absolutely love the way he introduced the whole concept of “cool” into jazz where he basically used minimal techniques and sounds to convey such confidence you can feel the restraint within the composition. So you’re spot on about it. Human feelings are so complex and just the idea of exploring beyond just the feeling you get from a “drop” is what fascinates me the most. It’s a challenge but I love challenges, can’t live without one.

OTW: How does it feel now that your debut album is finally out there?

L: It feels liberating and I somehow feel very zen at the moment. I took 5 years to not only work on music but to take the opportunity to understand myself and my place in this whole industry. It’s just in my personality to think and plan ahead of time to ensure some kind of longevity in anything I do. Whether it’s music, clothing, design, eating, etc. I’m always exploring ideas of what makes things timeless and permanent in our culture and so far I’ve come to realize that most things that last through time are very cyclical in nature hence the idea of 360.

OTW: CCCLX is meant to serve as a "theatrical showcase." Would you mind explaining this idea further and where the idea originated from?

L: The idea originated purely out of observing what is the most effective thing out of all my skill sets. I’m no musical genius however I know I have a unique sense of stage presence and so I zoned into it and decided to write a whole piece surrounding my physical performance. All the different changeups on the album and the song titles relate to how my showcase will unfold. "CCCLX-III (Costume)" means a wardrobe change which I will eventually do when I do the full tour. I really just want to have fun with all of this so I might as well have 2 outfits.

OTW: There are a host of features throughout CCCLX from CJ Flemings who appears on four tracks, in addition to J.K. the Reaper, LE1F, and Denzel Curry just to name a few. How did those collaborations come about?

L: I got introduced to CJ through his friend Shane Guenin who hit me up over twitter just as I got back from a Europe tour. He sent his SoundCloud and I was immediately hooked on his music but most importantly, I could tell he’s hyper-aware of his style and in full control of how he wants to portray himself publicly. So I brought him into my studio in Old Montreal and we talked for hours just to see where he’s at and the next thing you know I got him featured on most of the album. I’m really excited for the anglo rap scene in Montreal, there’s a lot of new talents popping up making a name for themselves and I’m fully in support of that.

Denzel actually was the last feature to be recorded. The song itself was already done and it was around the same time we’d cross each other at festivals in Australia. From what we’ve discussed I could tell he’s not just a rapper but a full on creative and sure enough, that’s when I discovered that he does all of his flyer designs and beyond. So I asked him for a feature, sent the song and he, J.K. The Reaper and Nell delivered one hell of a performance.

OTW: You and SOPHIE both helped to spearhead and popularize two very different genres in the electronic music scene, so I guess my question is how was it working with SOPHIE on "Drop Down," coming from simultaneously different yet similar backgrounds.

L: It was a complete surprise because he originally sent his parts in as a remix to the song because he liked the song in general. Being a huge fan of SOPHIE I quickly turned that into a feature.

OTW: A few of the tracks, "Distrust" and "Freeman" in particular, tackle some hard-hitting issues. How important do you feel like songs like those are, especially given the recent political climate?

I generally see things in a cyclical way so none of these songs were intentionally directed to today’s political climate because they were both made years ago at a time when things were just starting to bubble politically. I remember back in 2013 my ending message in interviews would be along the lines of; “I feel like the world is going to need a lot of love in the future”. These songs, in some way, were a feeling of what was about to come in the next few years and beyond. However "Freeman," for me, was more a way to express my gratitude to be at the point where I am today and still have full creative freedom over my work.

OTW: You use these synths or samples throughout CCCLX, like on "CCCLX III (Costume)" and "Mazerati," which give off a very melodic and sung-like quality even when no features are present. Where did the inspiration for this come about?

L: "CCCLX III (Costume)" came out of my love of film soundtracks. I studied in Cinema and design back in college and this album project was a way for me to go back to all those skills and work on them again. I think that’s why I also love shooting music videos, I could seriously spend 15 hours straight and still feel super energized. The CCCLX announcement video, "Mazerati" & "Tha Doorz" video were all shot in one day for example.

OTW: With CCCLX out there, what do you see as the next step forward for yourself as an artist?

L: TNGHT, solo album #2 (I’m already conceptualizing this) and a whole bunch of other projects in between those two and beyond.

OTW: Speaking of yourself as an artist, what originally inspired you to get into making music, particularly club and trap music?

L: Having a breakdance background really made me go deeper in how rhythms work to the point I would just find myself listening to music and always thinking about ways I could re-arrange a part and that’s when producing my own music came to mind. The club music aspect only came after I played my first gig ever which was also my first club experience ever haha. That’s when I got the sense of what makes people move in general and so I took what would influence me from the electronic world and brought it to my rap world. Similarly to how Jazz used to only be about brass instruments until someone brought the xylophone in and changed the whole sonics.

OTW: Any other projects we should be paying attention to?

L: I just released a really cool record with one of my idols The Alchemist.

OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch?

L: The two features on my album CJ Flemings and Speng Squire. Young creatives from my city, Montreal. And Montreal vocalist Syv de Blare, her voice is outstanding. We’ve known each other since college, but I’ve never felt that my music was up to par to her vocals, up until now that is. 

Listen to Lunice's CCCLX below and read our review of the dark theatrical showcase here.

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