Do you ever feel like life is a movie and we’re all just trying to find the perfect song for the important moments? Khai Dreams’ discography has the songs you want on your life’s closing credits. Though from Oregon, the singer-songwriter is based in Los Angeles and it shows. Khai’s songs are like laying in the leaves of palm trees and just smiling at the clouds because this is one of the best parts of the movie. Khai is quick to pick up the ukulele and strum listeners to a happy place like the beach or a picnic in the park or the arms of your soulmate. Their lyrics ooze of love and not the kind of love that makes you cringe. Khai makes pure love songs that put the vibes of Valentine’s Day in a song.
In their latest single Good Advice, Khai stays true to their acoustic sincerity, adding vulnerable lyrics we all can relate to and an animated video to match. In the video, a 3d animated Khai swims away to a happy place while their house is on fire. Khai vibes as everything burns to ashes and I can’t think of a better way to describe 2020. Everything is on fire yet music could be the thing to float us to a sea of sparkles. The house burns and there seems to be nothing left but Khai’s smile. I suppose they’re smiling because after the fire comes the best part of the movie.
FRONTRUNNER spoke with Khai Dreams about what inspires them musically, their favorite love songs, how they got their stage name, and maintaining a good relationship with music when it’s your career.
In the video for Good Advice, there’s an interesting juxtaposition between the house being on fire and this oceanic realm the character swims to. What’s the meaning of that and the other aspects of the video?
It’s the vibe of finding a happy place and finding solace despite your circumstances. That was an important thing about that song. In the video, the character is just in the bathtub and the whole house is burning down. It’s accepting that sometimes things go to shit and you can’t really do anything about it, but you can make the best of the situation. Obviously that’s a super hyperbolic situation but I think that was a fun thing to figure out so that the video compliments the song itself. It’s not claymation but the artist who did the design and animation is Joe Melhuish. He has a really cool style. The way he uses texture is kind of like this realistic clay look but it’s 3D animated.
We have to talk about anime. What are your favorite anime and how do they inspire you?
I love Ouran Highschool Host Club. It was one of the first anime I watched on Netflix when I was younger. I also love Mob Psycho 100. I love Attack on Titan. I grew up watching anime. Obviously a lot of Studio Ghibli movies like Spirited Away. I just love cartoons and anime. I just love animation. I love the way that they move in these weird and cool ways. I think it’s such an awesome form of expression. I’m always excited when I can mix it in with my music. Anything with animation is super super cool to me.
I love how you make love songs that are lyrically refreshing. What inspires you lyrically? What are some of your favorite love songs?
Memories. I’ll have a memory in my head or a very precious moment with someone that calls back images. That’s usually when I start to have fun with this. When I start thinking of a scene in my head and putting it down in my writing. As far as love songs that I like to listen to, I love Frank Ocean. I love his love songs. I love the vulnerability of it. I love any love song where the relationship being portrayed isn’t perfect. I just really adore those ones because that’s real. So I really love that kind of stuff. I really love Frank Ocean’s stuff.
Your song Sunkissed has a lot of remixes. What’s it like hearing your songs be reinterpreted?
It’s really cool. It’s crazy. Usually when I release a song, I’m kind of done with it. I’ve probably listened to it a million times. In many ways, it can be pretty exhausting. I know obviously that a song could be remixed and remade in many ways but by the time that I release the song, I can’t really imagine that. When Sunkissed was remixed again and again by different artists, it was like hearing the song with a whole different vibe which is so cool. Not in a “Why didn’t I think of that?” way but in a “I would have never thought of that.” way. It’s just such a good take. It was so cool to see how people remade it and it’s so impressive to me. It’s so awesome to me that they can transform songs like that. They really made it their own. It’s so cool.
You’ve been playing the ukulele since the 6th grade. What made you choose that instrument and is it the first thing you pick up when making a song?
I picked it up because in the sixth grade, my older sister’s friend brought a ukulele to our house one time when she came over. She was doing a bunch of covers of all of her favorite songs. I just remember us being in the living room, looking up songs on a laptop. I was just like “Damn, this is so cool.” We had a toy ukulele in the house that no one ever used and I just started playing that and learning chords and songs on it. I just really fell in love with it. A lot of times it is the first thing I pick up when I’m about to write a song. If it’s just me writing a song? Absolutely. I’ll pick up my ukulele and I’ll just start playing it or whatever comes. A chord progression or I’ll just start humming melodies and singing gibberish until something sticks.
Since we’re walking down Memory Lane, do you remember the first song you wrote? How does it compare to your music now?
I think I was in preschool and I remember it because I went to my mom and I was like “Please write down these lyrics.” Somewhere in my childhood home is a piece of paper of this random gibberish and lyrics that my mom wrote down. So I guess that was my first song but the first song I remember writing, using my ukulele, I honestly don’t know. I would try a bunch of different things to try to write a song and then I just slowly and slowly got more comfortable and confident instead of deleting the lyrics or trashing the paper after I wrote it. I definitely remember the first song I released online which was my junior year of high school. It’s called Medicine. But that was over a beat my friend made that he just let me use. That was really cool.
Are you the type of person who likes to reminisce on your music or is it like you said earlier, you’re kind of done with it because you’ve listened to it so many times?
Usually, I don’t want to hear it because it’s like you work on it so much. I definitely would overdo it. I definitely struggle with trying to be a perfectionist with some things and I exhaust myself. I don’t know but I do appreciate it. There are times where I can appreciate my older songs and go back and listen to them and after all is said and done, I can be proud of it. But it can be really hard at times.
I was reading an interview you did and you said the advice you’d give to artists is to put yourself before music because you don’t want to develop a bad relationship with music. What do you do to accomplish that?
It’s something I’m still trying to figure out. I’m working that out with my therapist on how I can build a better relationship with myself and my music. I definitely think perfectionism is a very dangerous thing which always leads to a burnout. When music is your career, there’s a lot of writing and it’s very creative but you can’t divorce the fact that it’s your career and it’s also the thing that’s keeping you alive and fed. As someone who gets pretty anxious over things and words, I’m learning how to manage that and being okay with when I don’t feel like necessarily working. Just knowing that it’s not the end of the world and I’ll still be able to do this. That’s something that I’ve been trying to work at more and being more kind to myself when I can’t always keep up with everything.
I’m curious to know the story behind your name, Khai Dreams?
I wanted a cool name. Originally I just went by Khai but there was someone who was already going by that and they were pretty big. Like I said before I love Frank Ocean. I love the name and how Ocean is the last name so I just tried to think of something like that. I just watched the documentary of Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It’s about this sushi chef in Japan who is super duper good and he was very enigmatic. Just super mysterious and weird and eccentric. I thought he was super cool. I was like “What about Khai Dreams?” So I just went with Khai Dreams. I feel like watching movies and TV shows definitely will get me inspired if it really touches me emotionally and makes me nostalgic. Seeing a big thing that can inspire me and get me in the mood to make things. Just consuming a piece of media and being emotionally moved by it makes me want to make something that does the same thing to other people. So definitely that’s a drive of mine.
Being based in Los Angeles, has your environment ever played a role in your music making process?
Absolutely. Growing up in Oregon you can see how the rainy weather of the winter is reflected in my songs. Also when it started to get more positive, I was getting cabin fever for my hometown. Thinking about the Southern and West Coast and the sunny vibes, you can definitely hear it. It definitely inspires me. When I make sadder music, sometimes it feels like the content inside but there’s this upbeat attitude which I find fun because you get that contrast. But I am affected by living in LA with the palm trees and it being sunny.
Your music is super comforting. Is this intentional and if so, why?
When I first started making music, it was pretty sad and then I got to this place where I wanted to have a more optimistic outlook. So I started to write songs that were sad but they had more of an optimistic outlook to them. Now it’s what it comes to me. I don’t think I intend to have a particular emotion that’s in any of my songs. I write a lot of songs and they’ll be sad but the ones I finish are usually when I’m in a better mood so I think the optimism comes through because that’s when I’m feeling the most optimistic. As much as I do enjoy the optimism, I do want to share more of the less optimistic songs that I make and probably will soon. I don’t think it’s intentional but just the way that my creative process goes.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in