In a time where loud music, fireworks and immense crowds are go-to for many punters, a few artists pushing away from the noise to create something more subtle and emotive; something more human, in a more relaxed environment. It’s with this ideology that Cape Town electronica duo Floors have created their own experience for electronic music audiences, using their vast understanding of music theory and their intricately designed lighting display to create a performance like no other.
Made up of Greg Abrahams and Mikhaela Kruger, Floors provide a broad pallet of acoustic, experimental and electronic sounds to create an expansive and immersive listening experience, which stems from the use of vintage synthesisers and guitars, soulful vocals and a detailed production style. And with their in-depth lighting setup, they can elevate any venue to any mood they choose.
Mikhaela and Greg started writing and playing music together in 2015. Prior to Floors, Greg was producing and composing music for films, TV and video games, while Mikhaela was playing regular jazz gigs. That rare combination helped the duo to create a space for exploring ideas both sonically and lyrically, which didn’t have obvious commercial appeal and weren’t bound to a specific genre. It’s now been a two-year journey, resulting in a five track EP that was written, recorded, produced and mixed by the two musicians.
Their sonic identity explores the relationship between organic and inorganic elements, both lyrically and in their production style. “Our aim is to try and immerse the listener in an emotional state or a particular feel of a place, whether it be real or imaginary, through strong imagery and sonic textures,” Greg says. “We like to juxtapose synth textures and sound-design elements with guitars, basses and acoustic drums and try to keep Mikhaela’s vocal as sincere and raw as possible, even when it’s sliced up on a sampler.”
With such a layered and detailed sound, the idiosyncrasies of the sounds they create can potentially get lost in a club environment, so they keep the mixing of live and pre-recorded elements adaptable to different spaces through tweaking the graphic EQ, compression and FX in Ableton Live. This allows them to keep their sets as dynamic as possible. “We have a strong lighting and visual element to our performance, which is programmed to match and respond to the music and create a lot of movement and colour. Bad Weather and The_grrrl have done a great job at designing a lighting/visual show that is scalable to different spaces,” Greg says.
With this dynamic approach, Floors can utilise theatre style venues, which gives the audience a chance to really take it all in. And with their contained setup, they’re able to play in less traditional spaces without much extra effort. With that in mind, Greg says finding weird and wonderful places that will invite the listener to engage with the unfamiliarity of their space on a sensory level is something they’d both like to explore in the coming year: “Think underground parking lots, abandoned buildings, forests, museums—that kind of thing.”
“We really want to have an immersive and emotional live performance and connect with people in a meaningful way,” he continues. “Our goal is to push the envelope of what is expected from South African acts in terms of live show, and also grow our live show into something that isn’t purely a representation of our recorded music, but rather a living and breathing performance.”
The two cite the likes of James Blake, Frank Ocean, Radiohead, Jon Hopkins, and Bon Iver as heavy influences on their music, all of whom can be heard in one form or another on their latest EP, Fade.
A lush and inviting body of work—Fade has an instant replayability, which is something the band are proud of, but are also keen to grow from and expand on. It’s Floors being honest with where they are as musicians, as collaborators, as people and as artists. “It’s so easy, as a trained musician, to write music in order to ‘impress’ other musicians,” says Mikhaela. “It becomes a rabbit hole of technicalities and tricks where often the heart of what one is trying to say is lost. Making this EP became a space where Greg and I could explore what we really wanted to express without the frills and pretence. It is the most honest capturing of my voice and composing in my career thus far.”
Having both completed their Bachelor's degrees in music at the South African College of Music, the duo have a deep understanding of musical structure, and of how to combine their theoretical understandings with a versatile, tech-based setup that serves as an emotional extension of their music. “Having a strong foundation in theory gives us a larger variety of ideas to draw from and experiment with but also allows us to analyse both our music and other artists’ music more critically,” says Greg. “An overly analytical approach can also be crippling, however, so it’s important to be mindful of not becoming overly obsessed with what is ‘correct’ and to focus as much as possible on what is ‘good’ instead.”
Mikhaela agrees: “It’s a blessing and curse really. We can get so technical and in over our own heads with complex structures and conceptual harmonic/rhythmic/melodic ideas borne from listening to, playing and studying a vast array of jazz and classical music. We challenge one another to not fall into this trap almost every day because we feel it takes away from what we are trying to say. The bits that matter are ingrained in our ears and our hearts, they flow naturally through what we write and keep us hungry to challenge and explore those intuitive responses more and more through our music.”
Floors will be performing in Cape Town on June 29th at the House of Machines, and in Johannesburg and Pretoria in July and August, dates to be confirmed.
Images by Jonathan Ferreira