From working with Skrillex and Flowdan to releasing a 14-track album stacked with bangers, 2023 has been going hard for PEEKABOO. Eyes Wide Open tells the story of his musical journey and how he dares to take on a different route, bending the mainstream. Being brought up in Detroit, he grew up in a home echoing with his father’s trumpet melodies and eventually found his way to the underground scene. On this debut album, PEEKABOO brings these two stories together.
And that’s not the only story he is weaving together in this album. Ranging from hard-hitting 140 tracks to groovy UK garage, on Eyes Wide Open PEEKABOO shows us range, bringing the classic UK style and loud US style together. With a lot of things moving in the music scene nowadays, he is firmly positioning himself as an artist who’s here to stay.
We called PEEKABOO and asked him about the album, the massive collaborations on there, and what else we can expect from him.
Congratulations on your album! There are a lot of collaborations to be found on there, can you tell us a bit more about those?
Yes absolutely! The collaborations on this album are some of my favourites I’ve ever done. One of the biggest ones on there is ‘Like Dat’ with my boy LYNY. When I started this track I was in a hotel and we were talking over the internet when he sent me a minimal beat. We kept sending it back and forth and we finished it over the internet. It turned out to be one of the bigger tracks on the album, and I really love it.
Another collaboration that I loved doing is with Grabbitz. He’s an amazing vocalist and that song in particular I made in a greenroom on tour about 3 years on tour. It had a Rihanna vocal over it at first, I sat on it for a long time. The day of my first Red Rocks where I was supposed to headline, the gig got taken away from me by the weather which was really sad. I was really upset that day because I had worked hard for everything. I was sitting on the couch and my girlfriend told me “Why don’t you head into the studio and work on some music to clear your head?” That’s what I did, and that’s how ‘Going Insane’ was made. He crushed the vocals, and also gave me some instruments with his voice to work with. It went flawlessly.
Probably my favourite collaboration on the album, although I might be a bit biased with that one, is ‘You Got Me’, which is a collaboration with my father. He’s a trumpet player and he’s been playing for over 30 years. As a kid he taught me about jazz, big orchestral music, and he’s an immense inspiration to me. I asked my dad to record the initial version of the track and he absolutely crushed it. It’s such an emotional song. We were supposed to play it live at Red Rocks, but for the second time in a row it got cancelled by the weather. It was a bummer, but honestly, we made up for it. We moved the gig to The Mission Ballroom, which is one of my favourite venues in Denver, and we ended up playing it live there. It was such a moment.
That’s really cool! So basically this album is bringing together all of your favourite things.
I would say the whole album is a giant body of work with all the stuff that’s inspired me over the years. I’ve grown as an artist since the beginning of all of this and I’ve learned what I really want to make, what sounds I enjoy, and also at the same time I want to come back to my roots a little bit. I want to tap into the sound of my first EP again as well. Like ‘Music Box’ for example, I started that song almost four and a half years ago and I recently found it again and finished it.
And then another collaboration on the album is one with Zeds Dead. How was it to work with them?
Yes, that’s another really cool track! I love Zeds Dead, they always support me with Deadbeats, and everytime I go to shows with them it’s been great hangs. We did ‘POWA’ a couple of years back and that one was a ripper too. I had this idea for the track which was kidna eerie and the intro reminds me of a Halloween, Michael Myers kind of vibe, maybe a little more uplifting than that, but still. Then with the vocal as well, I just wanted it to give a spooky vibe.
There’s also a lot of genres to be found in your album, why is that?
I’m really glad you said that, because that was definitely a goal for this album. I kind of wanted to explore different sounds and genres that I’m not usually comfortable with when making music. Some of the genres I’ve been really inspired by lately, especially the UK Garage, there’s also a House song in there. I guess I want to show people what else I can do with production and instead of doing just dubstep, I’m opening myself up to new genres and creating new ways.
I did the ‘Hide & Seek Tour’ last summer, and it was an opportunity for me to try out a lot of the underground music. As I was looking for music to play out on that tour I got really into more of the UK culture and just that whole scene. There’s so many talented artists that are making music in the underground scene. I also did a trip to London where I was with Skrillex all week and getting around that city, connecting with a lot of new people, it gave me new inspiration to change my production and explore different things. There’s a huge movement of music going on right now, a lot of people do not conform to one genre or one style anymore, and I guess that’s what I’m doing too.
How do you feel about this movement in music that is happening?
I love where things are going right now, I feel like a big thing right now are 360 sets. I see them pop up a lot more now. I think that’s inspiring people to go into the underground culture a lot more, looking up what the older Boiler Room sets were like, and people are starting to care more about the art than the lights and the fancy stuff around it. It’s more about the vibe and the moment that we can create with these 360 shows.
Even with the music. Skrillex has been pushing this new sound, especially after ‘Rumble’ a lot more minimal stuff has been coming out. That proves to me that not all music has to be this big bad sound, it doesn’t always have to be this headbanger. I still love that culture, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like it’s more about making a fun track that people can dance to rather than just making a loud track.
There’s a lot of those fun tracks in your album…
Yes, the songs on my album all are about the groove. Songs you can play at a festival but also when you’re hanging with your friends at home. It gives me a little more room to play around with in the music. I wanted to create music for all kinds of places, and after I made ‘Badders’ it really unlocked something in me. I was like “This is the vibe I want to create with the album,” and it really set the tone going forward. I wanted to take this whole UK vibe and blend it with my US sound, so that it’s still a familiar thing to the US but at the same time a new thing that they’re hearing.
One of the tracks, ‘Don’t Wanna’, that one’s got some UK influences in them, especially with the drums. I’ve been into my Garage lately and the breakbeat influences. The same with ‘Badders’, it sets the tone for the album and it’s doing really well in both the US and the UK. I want these songs to reach a broader audience, not only the US but around the world. After being in Europe this Summer and meeting so many cool people and getting to know the music scene I’m convinced that there’s room for this kind of genre there. They really care about the artform, and it’s so inspiring. I want to bring that same kind of feeling back to the US. I’m not saying it’s not great here, because there is still a lot of amazing stuff happening here for sure. Like Ternion Sound, one of my favourite producers, they just put out a 26 track album. That’s crazy and it’s one of my favourite stuff I’ve heard in a while because they also put the UK style in their music. It’s really unique and interesting.
The track we have to talk about is ‘Badders’, the collaboration with Skrillex, Flowdan, and G-Rex. Can you tell me the story behind that one?
The story behind ‘Badders’ is so cool. G-Rex is one of my best friends and he was going through some rough stuff, was really down. I wanted to cheer him up so I told him to work together on something. We go way back, so everytime we’re in the studio it goes flawless. There’s no butting heads, we always make something really cool. We just get each other. That day we laid the foundation of ‘Badders’, but there were no vocals yet. We then posted the track on our socials and that’s when Flowdan saw it, this was short after I had worked with him for ‘Hydrate’. He immediately was in on the track and wanted to record on it, and ofcourse I didn’t say no to that. He went in the studio and an hour later we had our vocals. He did such an amazing job.
Shortly after that, Skrillex heard the song. The thing you have to know about him is he’s so about helping other people and making other artists grow without getting anything in return, with no intention about it. He asked to work on ‘Badders’ and really just help me with some arrangements and stuff. That’s basically how Skrillex got to work on the track. He added some new sounds, did some arrangements, added the second drop… He really went in on it, he perfected it. The rest is history. It’s a great track, it’s been doing really well, and it’s really fun to play. It’s just surreal to be working with Skrillex, it’s such a blessing. Just to think that Jake (G-Rex) came over one day, and that turned into this whole ‘Badders’ track, I’m very grateful for that.
So you worked with Flowdan and Skrillex on ‘Hydrate’ before, how did that happen?
I was laying in bed one day when I got a DM from Skrillex asking me to work with him, I think this was right before ‘Rumble’ came out. He said he’d love to do some stuff with him and Flowdan, which I of course was very happy to say to. We got something going, Flowdan recorded his vocals and that track became ‘Hydrate’. I remember having some shows in Hawaii at that point, and I remember sitting out on the balcony watching the sunset thinking to myself: “Damn, I work with Skrillex now.” It was so surreal, such a full circle moment. We wrapped the song up, like a week before ‘Quest For Fire’ came out. That’s when he hit me up on Facetime telling me ‘Hydrate’ would be on the album. I’m telling you, I cried a little bit when I got to tell my managers this news. This track really goes to show that you can follow your dreams and work with the people you look up to the most. Anything is possible when you work hard enough.
Another impressive thing about the album is the artwork. How did you come up with the concept?
The album cover, the ‘Sleepwalking’ cover and the Zeds Dead collab are all from a photoshoot we did in LA for two days. I’ve been doing this cartoony, visual aspect since the beginning and I still enjoy it, but I wanted something new, a bit more mature. I wanted something that is still PEEKABOO, still playful, but with a bit more of a realistic aspect to it. For the photoshoot we hired some dancers, people who know how to move their body and know how to make it look good on camera. The colour palette was a big thing for me. I went for neon green, limegreen, because I want people to recognise this colour wherever they see a post. Like when I post something on social media and people see this green colour, they will go “Right, it’s a post from PEEKABOO.” I even gave my logo a mature refresh. Now it’s paint strokes simulating the classic logo. It feels nice, a little more underground, a bit more classier, like an art show.
So you’re inspired by art shows and the underground, where else does your inspiration and motivation come from?
I’m so glad you asked that. I think travelling is something that inspires me the most, going to different cities every weekend, meeting new people, seeing old friends. Getting out of home and out of my comfort zone, it’s something that really inspires me. This past summer I went to visit Skrillex in London for a week, and he showed me around, it was so nice. He also had a studio rented out for a whole week and I could use it, very generous. I had this amazing studio, every day, so I would be there from 10AM to midnight basically. I got so inspired by this all. It unlocked this whole new work method for me. I work a lot when I’m travelling and out on the road, because when I’m home, I’m chilling, I’m with my girlfriend and my cats.
And where I keep getting my motivation from? I feel like we as musicians, we beat ourselves up when we can’t write anything. It’s hard, right? Sometimes when we open up our computer and want to start writing there’s just nothing there, no inspiration whatsoever. That’s okay, but I honestly think writer’s block is a bit of a myth. I used to feel like that all the time, but actually I was convincing myself and limiting myself from creating. Then I think about all the tracks I created on days when I thought I wasn’t going to create anything. I think to myself, if I did it then, I can do it every day. Every artist needs to have that perspective when making music. It also needs to be fun, it needs to get the stress out as well. When you beat yourself up because you can’t create anything, then you are never going to make anything. You have to be positive in the studio. I think that is the ultimate key to success when it comes to writing music. That’s how I’ve been pumping tracks out these past few months. This advice goes for anything, really. Whether you’re an artist, a painter, a dancer, whatever your passion is, it applies to everything.
That’s some great advice. One last question for you: what’s next for PEEKABOO?
I’ve got some amazing shows lined up, we’re doing some really cool production for the dates for the rest of this year. I’ve got so much music coming up. I’m still working on some new stuff with Flowdan and Skrillex, some new collabs too *hint hint*. So basically, expect more new music, and be on the lookout for some really cool shows.