Melbourne electronic duo, Narayana Johnson and Kalyani Mumtaz a.k.a. Willow Beats have just dropped their third EP, Water, and are currently on a hefty Australia-wide tour. If you’ve missed them on their solo voyage, they’ll also be hitting up Phillip Island this New Years for Beyond the Valley. Matt Derody had a chance to catch up with the uncle/niece duo and ask them a few questions about their journey so far.
Where did Willow Beats come from?
Narayana Johnson: Originally we wanted to be called Willow, which is a really cool name with magical and powerful connotations: I like the image that it brings to mind. My dad, who passed away when I was six years old, always used to take me down to this willow tree down the road. We’d play with the branches, making bows and arrows and stuff like that. But after I thought of calling ourselves Willow, the next day we saw that Willow Smith girl – you know the “I whip my hair back and forth” – and we realised that if we called ourselves Willow, there’d just be no way to find us on the internet… and also the soundcloud.com was taken, so we signed up to that as willow beats, and we played this show, and someone put us on the poster as willow beats so we went with it from there.
How would you describe your sound?
Kalyani Mumtaz: It’s eclectic. It changes a lot. Sometimes it’s more chilled out or really heavy. I guess it’s wood nymph electronic or forest electronic. Everyone these days is inventing their own genres.
NJ: It’s kind of just part of that big beat stuff. It’s hard to put a label on it, but I guess we’re part of that beat movement that’s happening at the moment in Australia.
How has your sound changed from the self-titled EP to Water (your third EP)?
NJ: I feel like we’ve really found our sound. The first EP was a little bit all over the shop. We had some really heavy songs and some really chill songs – it was a bit more eclectic. But now, well it’s still eclectic, but there’s something with every song that you can definitely say “It’s Willow Beats.” We’ve definitely found us now. There’s more organic elements too. I’ve been recording a lot of sounds with my hand-held microphone, and we’ve used a lot of those sounds.
Where are you finding them?
NJ: All over the place. I’m recording things like rivers and rain and streams. The other day I found this cicada that was passing away. I recorded him and got his last song which was really special. Also things like shattering glass and plates and just everything I can get my hands on really.
What sort of influences do you have?
KM: I just draw inspiration from vocalists that are super emotion-driven like Billy Holliday and Bjork. Also a lot of Indian music: I find that super interesting. Being in nature and feeling tranquillity and the re-birth you get from swimming in the ocean or a river or something someone says – anything can give me inspiration or spark something off.
NJ: Fantasy books for me are quite inspirational. I have a little notepad that I use when I read something interesting. For me, there’s a lot of electronic music as well. There’s a guy called Sorrow. He’s a really mellow dubstep guy that I really like. 123 MRK is really cool. Chrome Sparks as well. Of course, The Knife. Earlier Mt Kimbie were one of the biggest production influences for me overall.
What can audiences expect from your show this summer?
NJ: It’s going to be really fun. We’ve remixed a lot of our older tracks and made like dancier versions so you can expect a lot of unheard edits. We’ve also added a lot of new stuff in that wasn’t there before.
KM: We’ve narrowed down our set, with the new songs that we’ve never played before and are super excited about, so it’s just our favourites. It’s awesome.
Willow Beats are performing in Perth on 11/12 and Adelaide on 12/12. Tickets are available here.