This year, Jake Carpenter, Mikul Wing, and Louis Kha, otherwise known as the Chicago-based trio Autograf, have become one of the the rising groups in EDM. They’ve been living up to their title as one of the “artists taking American dance music to the next level in 2016” as named by Mixmag. From releasing their first EP Future Soup to putting on their first headlining tour Metaphysical Tour, 2016 has been quite the year for the three, and they’re really setting the bar high for electronic music production. But leading up to this point, it seems as though they have gone through a journey to merge their passions of visual and performing arts and establishing a unique, musical experience for their fans. They’ve really come a long way since creating sculptures and remixing songs. Beyond their dreamy sounds and pop art, Autograf have redefined the expectations of being an artist.
At Euphoria Music Festival in Austin, TX, I got a chance to sit with Autograf and talk about their past experiences that helped to culminate their most recent imagery and artistry.
Having an art background, you started Autograf to do art. And now, you seem to combine two different art forms – visual arts and performing arts. At what point did your desires to produce visual art transition over to making music?
Jake: I think music was always there. We were looking more for a venue, a reason to bring people together to look at some art. And that’s how the shows started. They were just like little private parties.
Mikul: In general Autograf was an outlet for all things created by us via music or art. So it was always going hand in hand.
Louis: Basically, I think prior to starting Autograf, we were all doing music more. And I know these guys [Mikul and Jake] wanted to get back into art.
You incorporate live percussion instruments in your music. And I love that you incorporate the [vibraphone], but I have to ask how it first got involved and became a regular part of your music?
Jake: It was Louis’ idea.
Louis: I’ve known these guys now for 5, 6, 7 years. I knew that Jake played the piano and stuff like that. One day, we were having casual conversations, and we were already a year into the project. Jake mentioned off-hand that he played the vibraphone or marimba in high school. And I was like “Are you shittin’ me?” I thought that it was a pretty cool, unique instrument, so pretty much the next day, we went and bought one.
Jake: I hadn’t even thought about it because the vibraphone or marimba are huge heavy instruments. And you know, it’s just not something you could do. But then I looked it up and sure enough, there was an electronic one. So that’s what we did.
When you are on tour and performing live, do you all rotate with who does what for a set or do you have specific roles?
Mikul: For our live show, we all have our individual roles. But when we’re DJing, we kind of switch off.
You guys recently released your debut EP Future Soup. Can you tell us where exactly Future Soup originated from?
Louis: Future Soup was the very first creation we made as a group. Like we said, the group started initially as an art project, and the first thing we made was a sculpture called Future Soup.
Mikul: It was a really tall, 8 feet tall, 5 feet by 5 feet sculpture, weighs about 800 lbs. It was stored in my parents’ garage for a year and a half after we built it.
Louis: We had this idea to throw a party that was like Boiler Room-meets-art installation party. We transformed the whole stage at the House of Blues into an art installation. It was pop art themed – the concept. Future Soup was the first thing we made, so that kind of stuck with us. The imagery and the whole meaning behind it, all the way 2 years later, up to today when we decided what the EP would be and what the concept for it would be. So it seemed natural for us to go back to the reason why we started in the first place.
I know you had the Metaphysical tour this year, which you kicked off at Webster Hall in New York. What did you learn from that experience?
Jake: I think from that show, I learned that Four Loko is really, really sticky. I also realized that their green room, isn’t really a green room. It was packed in there, and I just remember being squished in there. But, that’s what made that night memorable — all the sticky Four Loko and the packed green room. It was an awesome night.
Louis: We probably learned that we should protect our gear better. We set up our gear inside, and then went to go out, and when we came back after the massive Four Loko party, our shit had Four Loko all over it. But we plugged it in, and it ended up working. So that being said, our equipment is sitting next to the river right now, and I hope it’s okay.
Before you became Autograf, did you attend festivals when you were younger?
Jake: I never went to any festivals… ever.
Louis: I was the same way. I grew up in Virginia where there aren’t really any festivals. Whereas Mikul…
Mikul: I grew up in Chicago. I went to Lollapalooza, I used to hop the fence. I got to see Daft Punk there.
So now that you’re on the other end of it, how does it feel?
Mikul: It’s really cool. If I could inspire people the way Daft Punk inspired me, that’d be amazing.