Young Fyre on producing Kehlani’s “Too Deep”

“Too Deep” is the second track off Kehlani’s acclaimed While We Wait.

The track is a downtempo love song with layers and layers of R&B-twinged electronic ear candy, featuring string plucks, spring reverbs, water-like foley, and more. It seamlessly blends new and old influences – Kehlani’s vocal delivery evokes the best of 90s R&B, but the production has all the hallmarks of modern pop with its warm compression, healthy amount of 808s, and eclectic percussive layers.

Young Fyre (alias of Tramaine Winfrey) is the producer behind the track. He’s also one third of Audeobox (a top sample label that he runs with Sean Davis and Grammy-winning producer Infinity), which just released their latest future bass and R&B pack called “Resonance.”

“The key is subtlety,” Young Fyre tells us, “and catering to the song.” In “Too Deep,” elements like the string plucks call to mind the likes of Kelly Rowland or Destiny’s Child, but he managed to also give them a modern flair. “I am aware of how corny plucks can be so I ran them through all kinds of destruction plugins and reverbed them out,” he explains. “I also layered them with two other sounds, plus a synth layer on top, so it takes away that ‘plucky’ sound a little. It’s one of those things that’s a classic sound people are familiar with.” Other sounds, like foley, found their way into the mix to introduce a bit of variety. “I like awkward sounds that don’t necessarily fit in the landscape being blended with stuff that does… Signature sounds and things that make people go, ‘Was that a raindrop?’” The track clearly resonated with Kehlani. “Because they loved the song,” he explains, “there weren’t a lot of challenges. The only thing is that she did cut a lot of songs… So it very well could have not made it.”

Read on for more insights on Young Fyre’s sound design techniques, his studio setup, and working with Kehlani.

How did you decide what sounds to use for “Too Deep?”

Most of the time I’m running through sounds and just feeling things out. For example, the mandolin or guitar thing that you’re hearing in “Too Deep” is a chop from something random that I pitched and reverbed out. I could have easily played it because it was super simple, but the feel of it being something that was already played (and then cut and destroyed) gave it a totally different sound than playing it from the VST or straight from a plugin.

I also force myself into other limitations to create something different, because if I play it, there are certain things my mind is going to think of. I like to go to different sounds and packs to just find random shit that’s ambient that will just fill the track without doing what’s expected, because otherwise you’re almost always going to just do the ‘normal’ thing that’s in your head. I would have never picked the mandolin – I would have chosen a different instrument and it probably wouldn’t have happened the same way. I literally make the sound choice that works while I’m going through shit, finding random things and pasting them.

My sessions look crazy. There are some sessions where I don’t have any samples and it’s all MIDI, but there are others where there are ten different folders of sounds that I have – it’s all art, so it can be anything.

Do you think there’s a stigma around producers using loops? Should producers be crafting melodies from scratch rather than exclusively using samples?

If a loop is a good loop, you shouldn’t need to do too much to it – in the case of [the “Two Deep”] loop (from Capsun ProAudio’s pack), I heard it and it was amazing. I thought about messing with it and changing it and warping it, but at the end of the day, the melody is the most important thing, and the melody was incredible and it didn’t need to be changed. So for me, it was a matter of building around something that was already great, because it’s a dope melody but it’s not anything by itself. You have to make it a cool thing, and not just a somber melody, so we had to take it from that cool somber mood to an actual production.

I don’t have ill feelings towards producing with loops because music is an art. It’s like putting a painting together, and a loop is a tool. There are people who are really great at certain things; when you’re building a house, you call a plumber because he’s excellent at plumbing. You don’t want to try to do the plumbing – you allow that person to do what they do. To me, if someone’s playing a melody and they’re really great at it, I’m going to use that and build around that. A melodic loop is just a tool like a drum or a snare, and no one gets upset at any of the other tools that are used in production – this only matters to other producers. Consumers are never gonna research it, and they’re never gonna care; it’s either “I love this” or “I hate this,” so that’s a big thing to think about. I don’t produce for producers – I produce for the artist.

What does your studio setup currently look like?

I have an Antelope Orion 2017, Yamaha HS10s, and an Antelope mic. I produce in FL Studio, and I’ve got a Mac and PC so that I can take the beat from FL and record vocals in Pro Tools. Everything’s connected to the same screen, so it’s pretty easy. The studio itself is pretty awesome because we’ve got a cool arcade situation over here with Rampage. There’s a basketball hoop outside for creative breaks, and the lights in the room are triggered by the music. I’ve got a bunch of trinkets – a lot of horror and retro 90s characters and toys that all set the vibe and keep the room from getting boring. They make the artists that come in feel like they’re in a homier place, and that vibe is just the type of person I am. It’s not extra professional, which helps people really get creative.

What can we expect from Young Fyre in the future?

Look out for me and Trinidad’s project, Black Filter. Look out for ERYS, Jaden’s project. Look out for Tyler Cole – his project’s going to be insane.

What advice would you give to your past self?

I would say, “Go hard as hell right now more than ever and be fearless; do not give a shit about people’s opinions.” I would say, “Align with the energies that work for you, and do not force yourself into circles that aren’t for you.”

April 17, 2019