Louis Futon Takes Us Through the Kaleidoscopic 'Way Back When,' One Feature at a Time [Q&A]
Louis Futon is prepared to take the world by storm with his remarkable debut album, but before we dive in, let's back up a little first. Before the rising producer was releasing one of the, if not the, most impressive, feature-laden productions of 2019 thus far, he was an unassuming bedroom producer out of Philadelphia. Yet, the past few years have seen him hone his artistry to rise the ranks from bedroom producer to an artist poised for the main stage. With over 120-million streams across a series of singles and remixes and a newfound wealth of experience, Futon is ready to welcome us to the kaleidoscopic world of Way Back When.
The striking debut album sees Futon interweaving his hip-hop R&B leanings with a wholly refreshing electronic approach to deliver an album that would be of note at any stage in an artist's career, let alone their debut. Featuring a host of artists, from NoMBe, Ashe, to Duckwrth, Way Back When sees Futon painting with a wide sonic brush to present a project that is multi-faceted, complex, and an all-around feel-great time. We had the pleasure of chatting with Futon about Way Back When and just how he created the magnificent world of his feature-heavy debut album.
OTW: Is there an overall theme or message you want people to take from Way Back When?
Futon: I want this project to take people through a musical journey similar to what my journey has been in the past two years. The idea to make this album was originally born from a period in my life when I had to re-discover a lot of things that got lost inside of me, including why I fell in love with music in the first place. I wanted to use each collaborator's voice and skill set as a different color, in order to create vastly different pictures which make up the project. Ultimately, the listener can make any meaning they want out of this album, but I just want them to hear how much fun I had making it.
OTW: Can we talk about all the amazing features on Way Back When? There a ton. Is there a certain element about an artist or producer that makes you want to work with them?
Futon: Yes, I'm genuinely a fan of each artist that contributed to this project. When people ask who my dream collaborators are, I always say that I'm already working with them. I want to continue to work with artists who are willing to take risks and try something new.
OTW: First off, what was it like working with RKCB on "Surreal?"
Futon: Riley and Casey blow my mind with everything they put out in the world. This track was different than a lot of stuff we have ever made before but the fusion of our sounds made for a really special track that I hold very close to my heart.
OTW: Jumping from "Surreal" to enlisting Ashe and Armani White for "Rewind," "Rewind" has this amazing classic yet modern sound to it. How did this one come about?
Futon: I'll never forget the time I was walking down center city Philadelphia and heard a car passing by playing this crazy Motown song. I ran back to my apartment immediately and wrote "Rewind." I called Armani up and he came over and recorded his verse, but we wanted someone to fill out the rest and make it a classic so we eventually wrote the rest out with Ashe.
OTW: "Supposed To Be" sees you featuring the hip-hop stylings of Duckwrth and the ethereal voice of Baegod. Do you ever find it find it difficult balancing two distinctive voices on a single track?
Futon: Not if they're a good fit. Baegod and Duckwrth go together like PB&J on this track. I knew Duck would be a perfect match for this groove and I think he really compliments Baegod's mesmerizing voice.
OTW: So, on "Up and Smoke" you join forces with Reo Cragun for one of the album's notably stripped-back and sentimental moments. Could you share a little on the inspiration behind this one?
Futon: Honestly, I think I was subconsciously inspired by Drake's "From Time." There's something really beautiful about a track stripped down to just piano, a kick and a snare. Those elements combined with Reo's emotional performance gives you a very unique color that's important to this project.
OTW: You and Opia are both amazing electronic-minded acts with such a unique sound, so hearing you collaborate on "Restless Sea" was, without a doubt, a treat. What was it like crafting that track?
Futon: I had been a huge fan of their music and wanted to make something with them for a long time. I finally made this beat one day and called them up and was like, "YOU GUYS GOTTA GET ON THIS TRACK." We later wrote the whole song in a studio together and created something that we're both really proud of.
OTW: NoMBe and you create this wonderful fusion of brooding R&B, hip-hop, and soaring production on "Bad Habits." Can you walk us through how this one came together?
Futon: NoMBe's alternative/electronic style really appealed to me and when we finally lined up a session together I was excited to explore that sound and a side of my creativity I haven't previously explored. He hopped on the guitar and I took literally the first riff he played and ran with the idea. This song gives me stank face every time. I don't think I've ever made a song like this one, and wouldn't have been able to without NoMBe.
OTW: "Royal Blood" is this pulsating love song featuring Keiynan Lonsdale that is just overflowing with joy. What was it like bringing "Royal Blood" to life?
Futon: It came to life really fast. It was our first time meeting in the studio and I remember he just started humming some melodies and I wrote a chord progression around it. Next thing you know I was bouncing around the room screaming and dancing and the song was done in a couple hours. It's funny because Keiynan later told me he thought that I was a bit conceited after that meeting, but then realized that it was just my passion for music. Now we're best friends.
OTW: "Country Roads" is this wonderfully enveloping and evolving electronic jam session between you, Matt Zara, and Anomalie. Is it a slightly different experience working with producers than having an artist feature on your track?
Futon: The way my brain thinks about music is strange. Like I said before, I like to use each collaborators voice or skill set as a different color in order to paint a certain picture. In other words, it's not much different to work with a producer than it is to work with an artist. It was really fun to combine all of our sounds on this track and make something for all the music nerds to jam out to.
OTW: BXRBER features twice on Way Back When - alongside Bellah on "All My Life" and unaccompanied on the gospel-reminiscent closing track "Fall on Me." Did those two tracks come together in similar ways?
Futon: "Fall On Me" was the first track we made together, then later we worked on a beat flip I made of J. Cole's "Kevin's Heart". In that same session, we recorded "All My Life," which is also quoted in the song "Venice," earlier in the project. BXRBER is someone who I really believe in and want to continue to work with, not only for my stuff but for his artist project. He has such a unique twist on gospel music and his writing is some of the most unique writing I've ever heard. I can't say enough good things about him.