Following the release of their new collaborative project Nice Colors, we sat down with Atwood and Khai Dreams to hear a bit about their history and their creative process. Ambitious collaborations like this don’t often see the light of day, and here we get a taste of what it was like to put all the pieces together, and exactly how everyone played their part.
How did all of this get started? Who found who first and how did you become friends?
Atwood: I think Khai found me first, we had a song with afternoon called Month and a Half and I saw his name, I didn’t know who he was at all though. And then months later joined Dream Easy, that was around the time he released Through and Through, and I really fell in love with the song. He was in chat and I was tryna play games with him and be his friend, then we played games and won our first game of fortnite and then, you know the rest was destiny.
Khai: Yeah, I had my eye on OTJ (Off The Jump), like all the OTJ members, for like a pretty long time before yall I guess knew about me. I thought OTJ was so cool, compared to every other collective and label that I had seen because it really felt like a cohesive piece, a cohesive group of people. I remember when I did that song with afternoon I was like ‘damn does he like know who I am?’ There wasn’t really any engagement I literally just sent over my shit, but I was hoping it would lead to something.
When did the idea of a collaboration tape emerge and what was the initial concept like?
Khai: Gee-whiz, well Austin did my Through and Through remix and we were like ‘wow this is really cool.’ And I think Austin came up with the idea, didn’t you?
Atwood: *whispering* It was me.
Khai: Yeah it was Austin who came up with the idea, and he approached me and was like ‘so I was thinking we could like, do a little collaboration tape with Wizard Island as the producer and I was like ‘bro there’s no need to be shy bro, of course I’ll do the tape with you’. And so we did that, and what was it?
Atwood: About halfway through, we had like 5 songs, three of which were spacey travels and nice colors, and Matt and Evan (Wizard Island) were like ‘can we get biskwiq to do mixing or production on it?’ And I hit my boy Timmy’s line and seconds later he was added to the group chat. Tim came through with an incredible amount of prowess and ideas.
What did biskwiq do to the sound of the project that made you guys so happy with it?
Khai: He added the bounce, all the bells and whistles to every beat. Wizard Island they, they…
Atwood: Wizard Island laid down a lot of skeletons, and had a lot of ideas, and then Tim went through and repolished and just gave everything a real thick umph in post-production basically.
Khai: Yeah he post-produced the shit out of this album, this whole thing, like it was crazy. Because you know Wizard Island was in school, they were on their CS grind…
Atwood: Computer science not Counter Strike.
Khai: Yeah computer science, they were on their computer science grind, and they were also doing this side project for this startup and they had no time.
How did you meet Wizard Island and when did you know they were the right producers for you?
Khai: Wizard Island is comprised of a guy named Matt and a guy named Evan. I’ve known Matt since elementary school, we’ve always had mutual friends and we’ve always known about each other. I didn’t know he made music forever, like we would just see each other and hang out with friends sometimes. In high school, yeah the last year of high school I got to know him really well, because a mutual of ours, Stu, who’s coming to Houston with us. And he was just like, ‘yeah I play the piano’ and he’s super good at playing the piano and yeah we just starting working on music together, just for fun, and then it really turned into something big. And then Evan also went to school with us, I didn’t know him really well, but him and Matt did robotics team together and worked on music together, then they went to OSU together with a dorm and they just made Wizard Island. It was a very natural thing, I didn’t discover him, we just sort of discovered each other. There’s no one I trust more with my music than Matt, just cause we’re in it you know?
Where did the name Nice Colors come from, and how did you know that was the one?
Atwood: Originally Wizard Island sent us through like five beats, and one of them was named Nice Colors, that track being the Nice Colors track. And I had named it something other than Nice Colors as a demo, just from something that I said…
Khai: What did you call it? Do you remember?
Atwood: I think I called it Full Swing. And then after awhile Khai was like ‘we should just call the song Nice Colors’. And I was like that’s tight.
Khai: Because I dropped the verse that name dropped it, I said ‘nice colors in the rearview.’
Atwood: I think a week or so after that when we were trying to think of project titles, I think Wizard Island was like ‘what if we just called it Nice Colors?’ And we were like yes, easy. If it weren’t for Wizard Island naming that beat Nice Colors who knows what would have happened.
For Atwood: One of my favorite moments from you on Nice Colors comes during Questions. It’s a very honest, personal reflection on this current stage of your life. How did this verse come about and what moments did you pull the inspiration from?
Atwood: It probably came a week or two before the tape. We needed an instrumental interlude for the tape so we could have seven tracks, because I had tweeted we had seven tracks, and we may or may not have had seven tracks ready. And Tim sent through a fifty second loop of just that first part of Questions, and I was eventually convinced to just do lyrics for the whole thing and turn it into a song. And on my way to class I was writing the verse, and then in class I finished writing the verse, because my class is just a music class. It was just me and Kevmo basically sitting in there on the speakers, so I just put the beat on and finished it. A lot of the writing from Questions just comes from this period in my life, where it’s waiting to do something that i’ve never done and questioning like, am I doing the right thing. Just looking at myself and seeing the rights or wrongs.
Khai: I think it’s my favorite performance by austin on the tape.
For Khai Dreams: This project really offered you a lot of opportunity to express yourself in new ways. Do you feel like you pushed the boundaries a bit with what you felt comfortable doing in your solo music? Will we see more of this Khai in the future?
Khai: Oh man, yeah I pushed the boundaries hella. Ask Austin it was so frustrating, because Nice Colors was the first one we had completely drafted out, and I was just like, I hate the way I sound in this, i’m not bringing enough energy, this fucking sucks I don’t want to do this song. I dreaded it, the first part of making the whole thing, I dreaded it just because it was so different and I didn’t know how to do anything. I didn’t know how to do any backing vocals, I didn’t know how to rap like that, I didn’t know how to sing like that.
Atwood: Or so he thought.
Khai: So yeah I was really going out of my comfort zone for this one, and it was dope, it was for the better. I learned so much about where I can go and what I can do. As far as if there will be more, I don’t know man. I don’t know what i’m trying to do next, that’s the big thing i’ve been thinking about often, what exactly I want to do next. I definitely want to do more fun and hype stuff, like very bouncy, high energy, because that stuff’s fun to do. I was doing some practicing with my vocal instructor and performing Travels and Find My Way was so much fun, I can not wait to do that live if we get the chance to.
Did you consider any features for the project? What made you shy away from the idea?
Khai: We did consider many features, well a few features.
Atwood: We mainly considered two features for the project, and it was very much near the end, and that’s what made us shy away. It was like, we’ve already come this far with just us, why add a feature. And the feature choices were you, Chris [Wright], and Abhi the Nomad.
Atwood: Could you see yourself venturing more into the indie pop sound on future collaborations with Khai?
Atwood: Oh 100%, whether Khai or not, in general I fuck with pop and I fuck with indie music. And I’ve talked to friends that have made indie music before like ‘get me in on this, let’s make something that’s not just rap and more singing based and melodic.’ But yeah 100%. I’d like to delve into that more, but rap is the one that pulls me the most at the moment.
For Khai Dreams: The hook on Find My Way is probably my favorite hook on the whole project. The melody, the lyrics, and the modulated background vocals; all of it feels so passionate and I can’t help but picture myself watching the sunset over Seattle when it comes on. What was your inspiration behind it?
Khai: That whole song, I think that was my favorite song to write, because, I can’t even remember why exactly, like the chorus came out so easy. I heard the beat and I had that ‘duh duh, duh duh, duh duh,’ and was like yeah that’s gonna bop. I just heard it, ‘I see the sun it sets’, that shit just came to me, it was like a miracle. It’s probably one my favorite melodies that i’ve laid down.
What’s the reception been like? How are people reacting and what were you expecting before the release?
Khai: Man, right before we released it I was stressed, like it’s not ready, it’s not done yet. And part of me is like, damn it still could be better, but it could always be better right? But people really seem to like it, people really fuck with it. It’s the perfect time of the year for it to be released and we’ve gotten a lot of love.
Is there anything about Nice Colors that, looking back, you wish you had done a little differently?
Khai: I don’t like to say… Well I don’t know… Yes, but also, you gotta go there to get to here, it’s all part of the process. Mainly I wish we had more time to work on the mix honestly, and I wish I could have done a little more on Questions. Besides that I think we really did a good job.
Atwood: My only thing, in terms of completed songs and the songs we have and the idea of each, I think the seven songs we have are totally complete. My only changes would either be in the order of the track listing or maybe more polished mixes. I think the mixes are great but there’s one that’s a little unsettling to me at times, depending on which speakers I listen to it on.
Will we be seeing more of the Nice Colors team in the future?
Khai: Nah bro we’re done, it was fun while it lasted. I don’t wanna do that shit again. *Long awkward pause* No of course, of course, of course! We’re always in touch and stuff, we still talk in that group chat. It’s hard to get away from them you know, they’re everywhere!
Atwood: Probably not anytime soon there’d be more, but I especially would love to make large, longer length projects under Nice Colors as just like the name and group because it’s just good music. It’s so fun to make, and it’s not very hard to make either. It all feels natural and falls into place whenever we make the songs. Like Sunshine was made in like a day, biskwiq made the beat as soon as Matt sent him the sample and then I wrote my verse and hook and Khai sent his in the evening time and it was done.
Anything else you’d like to say and get out into the world?
Atwood: Nice Colors is out now, when we make merch buy it.
Khai: I’m in the incubation period so I don’t have anything coming out for a little bit. But wait up for that Nice Colors merch, wait up for the Nice Colors music videos, and thanks for watching.