Residing in the humble streets of Brisbane, Keelan Mak is one of Australia’s future indie-pop stars. With the release of his debut singles ‘Weigh You Down’ and ‘Flicker’ last year, he introduced himself to listeners as a even moodier answer to Troye Sivan meets Rufus. Soaked in dark synths, these tracks showed an immediate maturity that had him immediately connecting with people from straight out of the gate. With a massive support from Triple J and Unearthed he’s already received massive national rotation and has got the Spotify and Apple Music streaming data peaking too. With the release of his new single ‘Warm Blooded’ he introduced a heavier DIY sound that hears him stepping up his production game and getting a little grittier.
I recently chatted to Keelan Mak about the DIY approach that he’s taken with ‘Warm Blooded’, how vulnerability and opening up emotionally has impacted his songwriting and discuss the growth he’s had as an artist after doing his first year of shows. Check it out HERE;
TB: Your new single ‘Warm Blooded’ is a moody track that weaves itself through an indie-pop structure whilst addressing people who are constantly hurting you in your life. So with a very DIY approach what came first to you for this song sonically; The lyrics or the beats and how did you decide to explore this angsty and moody vibe?
KM: The song started when I was jamming with my friend Shoota whose a drummer about 3 years ago. We focused on making a really wonky, heavy beat and from there came the bass stabs you hear in the verses. We continued to work on the beat and eventually I started to write over the top. The angsty vibe has always just been a go-to. If anything, I struggle not to go there haha.
TB: Vulnerability is something that has always been relevant and important in music. And it’s something you haven’t be shy from touching on through the release of your first three singles. So what would you say has been your most vulnerable moment as a songwriter so far?
KM: I’d say the majority of my most vulnerable songwriter moments are yet to be released. The three singles were written about past experiences so there was never a lot of vulnerability with them, more introspection. I’ve gone through a fair few major life changes over the last year that’s really influenced my writing currently, so there’s a lot of moments to come.
TB: When you’re opening up to people through music are you hyper-aware of how it may be perceived and nervous how someone who the lyrics or concept might be about, take it? Or are you more focused on the artistic delivery and the therapeutic release it has for you?
KM: There’s definitely a bit of both. I’m less stressed about how it’s perceived because not everyone is lyrically driven and even if they are, It’s all a matter of interpretation. I try to not be too specific when writing, I don’t want the people I write about to know because I personally would hate to listen to a sad love song knowing it was written about me.
TB: Later this year you will be finally releasing your highly anticipated debut EP. So what can people expect from this collection of tracks? And what has been inspiring you sonically recently in the studio?
KM: This E.P will be a mixed bag of thing. Each song has its own point to make, both songwriting and production wise. Sonically, I’ve always taken influence from pop music but I’ve found an in-between of pop and something close to garage house. It’s got a left-leaning pop energy with interesting textures. A lot of Rüfüs Du Sol, Kllo, Matt Corby and a bunch of others have gone into the listen pile for influences on the E.P.
TB: The support of Triple J has already been so amazing for your releases. So is that still surreal for you and seeing those streaming numbers on Spotify clicking over 160,000 and the 230,000 mark must be pretty insane?
KM: It’s hard to register because there’s such a juxtaposition between online and the real world. Seeing play counts like 230,000 on Spotify make my head hurt but then I go and play to a crowd of 50 people and it levels me out *laughs*. Triple J have been unreal, especially Unearthed! They’ve supported me from the get go.
TB: You spent the majority of last year introducing yourself to audiences by opening for people and performing at events like Bigsound. And it’s no secret that support slots or Festival shows can be sometimes quite hard, so what is the biggest thing you’ve learnt about yourself as an artist from playing those sets?
KM: Playing those shows has been a huge learning curve. I’m still figuring out how I want to present the project live and I look up to all the artists I’ve supported, so these shows have really helped me with how I should approach my own live shows. As a career stand point it’s also been great, I’ve got to meet so many amazing artists and make some great industry connections.
TB: From playing these introductory shows, what has been one of the funniest or weirdest touring/live performance experience you’ve had so far?
KM: Probably the Twilight series at Taronga Zoo with Vera Blue. It was the most relaxed crowd, yet also the most hyped *laughs*. Everyone was sitting down on mats just enjoying their afternoon but they were the most vocal and the most responsive crowed I’ve played to so far. Not funniest show story but I loved it.
TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind.
TB: Pineapple on pizza is…
KM: Great, do it all the time!
TB: If I could have any superpower it would be…
KM: Flight because how efficient…
TB: If I could have written any song, it would’ve been…
KM: hmmm, ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay
TB: The emoji that best describes my new single is…
KM: The red wine glass for sure!
TB: My morning pump up song is…
KM: Anything by Amy Winehouse
Keelan Mak’s new single ‘Warm Blooded’ is out now!