The nature of the beat scene in Orange County doesn't lend itself to being seen in public very often. For prolific local producers such as Kalva Won, the art of flipping open a laptop in his bedroom and composing kaleidoscopic soundscapes injected with hip-hop DNA doesn't require a ton of live performance. And club nights such as LA's Low End Theory–where producers are often the star of the show–are basically nonexistent in OC. So if you're not satisfied with being a prolific presence on such file-sharing sites as Sound Cloud or Dat Piff, where does a local, avant-garde producer go to get some attention from the real world?
Kalva Won's answer to that question evolves. Currently, the Huntington Beach producer is working on a three-pronged attack of dropping a new album, strengthening his residency at Avalon Bar in Costa Mesa and taking good notes as an intern for LA's Alpha Pup Records. And his nomination for the OC Music Award for Best Electronic Artist this year is proof that galvanizing local producers (including his own music collective, GRN+GLD) and giving them a place to perform every second Friday of the month is having a positive effect on the strength of his chops and the possibility he'll make it to a bigger stage one day.
At first, Kalva Won (a.k.a. Keith Alvarez), was like many producers who had no intention of performing live. An expatriate of various prog and math-rock bands, he learned in 2011 the simple joys of creating music on his own in a makeshift studio with nothing but a computer screen, cheap sound insulation and a blinking arsenal of synth loops. When an Internet fan from Jerusalem emailed him asking the producer to create a one-hour set for a live, streaming DJ podcast, it forced the young rookie to step his game up to a more challenging, improvisational level.
The ability to pull it off online eventually led to his need to re-create tracks live. Sitting in his bedroom with a rolling computer chair, Kalva Won points out which instruments are utilized for every performance and which are only suited for recording sessions. Though his work targets the relaxed, downtempo crowd, the moody, dark vibe he puts out on the Paper Cuts EP is expertly interrupted at times by harsh, heavy bass and industrial sounds. At his bedroom work station, he picks up a KOAS Pad, a black, handheld square object with a built-in grid and an array of buttons. As he has progressed, this has become his favorite tool for painting songs.
It's interesting to think that a guy who started out as an artist making neon-slathered cartoon murals and graphic designs traded one set of brushes for another. Around his bedroom studio are glossy show posters and T-shirt designs he has used to market himself. Occasionally, his dual talent manifests in such inventive video projects as his short film "Kalva Won Canvas Time Lapse," in which he compresses a full day of painting into a stop-motion extravaganza that lands in time with a beat created by him and San Francisco producer Tadashi.
When it comes to his aspirations for his live set, Kalva Won cites inspirations such as Bonobo and James Blake on the path to eventually creating a full backing band to bolster the material from his forthcoming album (out in April).
Next page: Hear Kalva Won's new single, "Alice"
As he charts his course, Kalva Won is looking at artists such as Daedelus and Nosaj Thing in LA, two who've re-defined the genre over the past year. As an intern, watching the moves of Alpha Pup founder and producer Daddy Kev, as well as being surrounded by so many original, daring artists, has already started to rub off on him. And these days, instead of fetching coffee and taking out the trash, Kalva Won's responsibilities include contacting prospective artists and, in some cases, even making pitches for Kev, as he spotlights some of the better talent he comes across.
One day, of course, Kalva Won hopes to make his own way to a record deal, but for now, the ability to be seen and heard in his own community is enough to get him excited about turning on his laptop every day and getting to work.
Ahead of his April release, Kalva Won is dropping his first single, "Alice" today on Heard Mentality. Listen below.