Despite contrary belief, campus radio isn’t always an easy place to meet new people let alone a breeding ground for lifelong friendships — volunteers tend to come and go, and there’s actually lots to do during the duration of each song on air. Those of us who work at KALX can vouch that 2012 film Pitch Perfect was not too far off. That former KDVS DJs Anthony Leedom (&thony) and Lien Do (Elfboi) went from a casual working relationship to the masterminds behind Genuis makes the self-described dark tropical duo a sort of poster child for campus radio recruitment. Jelly? You should be.
Possibly the newest addition to San Francisco’s Popgang Records (Twin Steps, Religious Girls), Genuis tells us “they wanted to get more involved in the music scene” by using “Ableton, a Wii remote, and drums” in tandem with acoustic instruments.
Their crowdfunded debut record, .//wav was released November 11, 2014 and features charmingly possessed hymns “Flnnl” and “Polyxt,” runny lullaby “GØlden,” and percussive splicing experiment “Quebek.” The production ranges from a crackly minimalism (“//Strawberri”) to smooth jazz (“Hwaiian Wedding”); likewise, Elfboi’s vocals are both operatic and breathy throughout .//wav.
We exchanged a few words around the new year to learn more about the relatively new local outfit; read on after the following video for what Genuis has to say about their time in radio, their upcoming “soft release” / what sounds like an EP, and new year’s resolutions.
So, Genuis. “Dark tropical.” Is that category something you came up with?
It is something Elfboi came up with because everyone would categorize us into dreamy ambient electronic. I didn’t feel like that fit us at all but it was the easiest category to kind of put us in. I think the “dark” comes from the lush layers and manipulated harmonies. The “tropical” is because at the time &thony would use a lot of Hawaiian tracks to sample things from. Also one night we raided the music building at our college and just recorded a ton of string instruments which in turn kind of played into the “tropical” of the sound. Not saying all string instruments are tropical sounding, but rather it was easy to sound more coherent because of them.
Elfboi, you’re from Reykjavik? I’ve always wanted to visit. What brought you here?
Elfboi: I left there when I was really really little so I never really got to live there. But I have visited and will be going back in 2015! My parents immigrated to California when I was a small child. They aren’t Icelandic but they ended up there for a little because of war stuff in Vietnam.
Do you have a background in voice?
Elfboi: I actually have a background in percussion performance from Davis. I just did voice as a hobby and it helped that my first instrument was a piano. I wish I could sing like the people who do have a background in voice! That stuff is mega hard.
&thony, how long have you been producing?
&thony: About 3-4 years through Ableton; tried a few other programs but ultimately Ableton is the one I use. If I wasn’t producing I would probably be working as an engineer at a recording studio, or just traveling.
Who’s better at multi-tasking?
Elfboi: &thony is wayyy better at focusing on one thing for hours and hours. He will literally be sooooo focused and productive on something. He goes on a lot of walks but he is one of the most focused people I know. I kind of just do 100 things at once and am not as productive.
How has your time in radio benefitted you as musicians?
&thony: Personally, it benefitted us a lot because we met there. Also the radio station provided us with studio space to practice and work on things that would of been a lot harder elsewhere. KDVS had such a massive library that it was so easy to get lost and learn about so many different kinds of music that I would have never even knew existed otherwise. So I would say being in radio helped a whole lot educationally, through connections, and with many resources. I can’t think of much that didn’t benefit us from KDVS.
.//wav is your debut album? Which track took the longest and why?
[Yes,] .//wav is our debut album. The track that took the longest was probably either “SF” or “Hwaiian Wedding” because we kept on having to rearrange it and rerecord it. It was a 2 year long process for those songs to be somewhat solid. It is just more intricate than the rest on the album because they were one of the first songs that we made together.
How do you feel about “Mixed Feelings”?
Hahaha… definitely don’t feel mixed about “Mixed Feelings.” It is actually one of the tracks we are the most happy with because it was the first we ever made together. Also in the craziness of computer files, the original Ableton file was lost so we let that track just be itself. Like a growing romantic teenager.
That ROMANCE EXISTS! To put it plainly.
Tell me about this upcoming soft release.
The soft release is a ton of songs we made as we were putting out .//wav. By the time .//wav was finishing production and being sent off to various places, we already had performed it for a year. So this soft release of songs is everything new that we have been making and performing in the past year that isn’t cohesive to be an album. Just kind of like a “Here is a ton of stuff we did, enjoy!”, type deal. Some of the recordings we have put up on Bandcamp and Soundcloud just for fun but the real thing will come within a few months.
Care to give a shoutout to some fellow Bay Area artists?
Cool Bay Area artists: MANICS, Pregnant, Religious Girls, Twin Steps, S.B.S.M., Healing Potpourri, crush, Beast Nest, Santa Suicide Sleigh, Meat Market, GLSS… I know I am missing a ton; hmmm. Most of these are people we have gotten to become friends with or know who we think are really talented.
A release that disappointed you this past year.
Hate to say it but Kaki King’s The Neck is the Bridge to the Body and Phantogram’s Voices.
A release that surprised you this past year.
Kimbra’s The Golden Echo.
The best ice cream shop in the Bay.
The new year’s resolution you are most likely to achieve.
Elfboi: Watch less anime.
What are you looking forward to in the new year?
We are looking forward to traveling more and doing more adventure type things more. On a musical level, we are excited to start planning our next tour for the summer! A longer and farther one then the one we just went on. Also eager to see how the race relations in this country play out. Besides that, kind of just excited to see what the new year will be like without making too many goals that we probably will forget about later.
Article by Joanna Jiang