Charlie Yin started producing music under the name Giraffage while he was a student at UC Berkeley. In early 2011, he released his debut EP Pretty Things, which he quickly followed up with a full length album Comfort. Both his original productions and his remixes of popular R&B artists like The Dream, R. Kelly, and Janet Jackson caught a lot of attention and by 2012, he was touring Europe alongside fellow breakout producer XXYYXX. With a distinctly atmospheric and R&B influenced sound, the Bay-area native fits right in with his contemporaries in Los Angeles. His sampling of popular R&B stars like Keith Sweat and Jamie Foxx, and his use of hip-hop drums would put him right at home on a label like Soulection, Huh What And Where, or WEDIDIT alongside the likes of Ta-Ku, Kaytranada, and Shlohmo. But earlier this year, the bay-area native signed with A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold label, home to artists ranging from Danny Brown to Lil B to Onra. Now, after remixing The Dream’s entire album, touring with Phantogram and on the cusp of releasing his first project on Fool’s Gold, Giraffage is playing some of his biggest shows yet as an opener for Porter Robinson’s Worlds tour. But all this is treated with a unique sense of humility. We’re back stage at the House Of Blues in the green room and when I ask to take his picture, he stands against the wall, pita chip in hand, and confesses, “I still haven’t figured out how to smile for pictures.” Giraffage may be poised to be the next big producer in electronic music, but talking to him feels like talking to Charlie Yin, the UC Berkely senior who spends all day in his room producing on his laptop.
So hows the tour been going?
It’s been good dude. This is like my first really big bus tour and this is probably the biggest tour I’ve ever been on. The room’s i’ve been playing are just the biggest rooms i’ve ever played. In san francisco we played to like 7,000 people which is insane to me. But it’s been going great. I think like Porter’s new direction makes it very fitting for me to be on this bill. Like it’s more experimental than just what he used to be.
Yeah we actually talked to Porter last week over the phone and he said he’s putting a ton of time into the visuals
Yeah it’s literally one of the coolest shows I’ve ever seen, no bias at all.
It’s interesting I asked him where he sees the future of EDM going and he shouted out people like Odesza and that whole beat scene. It seemed like all those people coming out of LA like Soulection are next. Where do you see yourself fitting into that?
I definitely agree with that sentiment. A lot of the people I talk to that are really into EDM are starting to get more into the left-field producers. Like Cashmere Cat, Odesza, all those guys. I think people are starting to get kind of bored with EDM, or at least the EDM that’s popular now. I think people are starting to shift to something else and hopefully it’s more towards the experimental left-field type of stuff. We’ll see
What do you think is the main vehicle for bringing that different sounding stuff into the mainstream? Like I saw your Boiler Room set and they’ve been such a huge influence in giving these smaller artists a larger venue over the Internet.
Yeah, Boiler Room is one for sure. I think just the ease of sharing music these days has facilitated that kind of shift towards the more experimental stuff. Things like Soundcloud, it wasn’t around 5 years ago so it’s definitely a factor.
But now Soundcloud is catering more towards the majors with ads and a stricter take-down policy
It is and that kind of sucks. I think at this point it’s kind of hard to shift away from Soundcloud just because so many artists are on there. I know promoters will look at Soundcloud numbers in addition to Facebook numbers and all that stuff. It’s used as a metric for booking artists and in that sense it’s kind of hard to shift away from Soundcloud. I don’t see myself moving away. I would like to just stay on Soundcloud but the way it is kind of sucks. Like I did an R. Kelly Ignition remix and I uploaded that to Soundcloud and R. Kelly even retweeted it, it got a lot of plays, but in two days his label took it down. And that was probably on track to be my biggest remix that I’ve done. But I really don’t know what the future of music sharing is going to be like. There’s this thing called ToneDen that my friend helped developed it grabs Soundcloud but I know they’re trying to have a player of their own and make it so there are no restrictions at all.
But that’s so hard to do. It’s like once you get to a certain point, the majors are going to notice and want a piece.
Exactly, it’s hard to say what the future is going to be like. But my prediction is Soundcloud won’t be as prevalent as it is today in 5 years.
So before all this you were toured with XXYYXX way back when he was just getting started what was that like?
He’s really cool. The first tour I ever did with Europe was with him and he was 16 at the time. In the back of my mind I was like fuck I’m touring with this 16 year old this sucks. But he was one of the smartest, coolest guys I’ve ever met. He was super nice, super humble. You could tell he was just kind of taken aback by how big he was getting. He totally understands his positions which a lot of 16 year olds would not. There are so many young producers out there right now and everyone’s just getting younger and younger because it’s so much easier to make music these days.
I saw a tweet from someone that said something like kids on their laptops in their bedrooms is the new kids playing instruments in their garage
I totally agree with that. I feel like bedroom producing is just going to be more widespread as we go on. It’s a big thing already and I think it’s just going to get bigger. Especially with how easy it is to access music software. Anyone can just download an illegal copy and start going.
You’ve come out in favor of pirating before. How does that feel being on Fools Gold now?
[laughs] Yeah, I mean it’s not a major label but it’s still pretty popular. I was signed to Alpha Pup before but it wasn’t really a formal deal, I never put anything out officially on them. But dealing with Fools Gold, I have an EP coming out with them and we just went through all these official processes that I wouldn’t have gone through otherwise so it’s different for sure but it’s cool at the same time. They’re very understanding of how the 21st century is. It’s founded by a musician, A-Trak totally understands what’s going on and he’s very aware of trends and he’s a very good businessman. It’s a good choice for sure.
Is the new EP going to have fewer samples on it now that you’re signed?
Yeah, I have no samples on my EP. Which is crazy because Giraffage started as a sample-based project. So I was a little out of my element doing a whole project sample free but it’s gonna be good.
Will there be vocalists on it?
I have royalty free acapellas on there. So in that sense it’s not totally sample free but there’s not gonna be recognizable hooks or anything.
Would you ever work with R&B vocalists or something?
I have, yeah, I tried a few but unfortunately the songs were written without a singer in mind so when I sent it over they had a hard time writing vocals for it or the vocals they did lay down just didn’t really fit. So my new EP is all royalty free samples pretty much.
Would you ever do a project with a vocalist? I know you’re a big fan of The Dream.
Yeah I have worked with him in the studio. Unfortunately my time there was cut short but it was cool to build that connection and we’ve been talking and stuff. There’s future collaborations in the works. I did a remix for Tinashe I thought her voice fit really well with my production. I’m not opposed to it at all.
Would you ever work with rappers?
Yeah, if it was the right one. I’m really picky about rappers. I definitely like the more eccentric, melodic rap.
Yeah I love Future, I love T-Pain, I love Drake, Danny Brown. Just like weird, eccentric type rappers.
It’s funny you mention T-Pain because he’s coming out with some new stuff but he really got killed for the autotune stuff. People really scapegoated him for all the autotune that came into music.
Yeah, it’s crazy because he had so many hits. And I feel like it’s past the point where it’s cool to hate autotune and now it’s cool to like autotune again. Like Rich Gang, Future, all those guys are using it now.
What music are you really into right now?
I don’t know I’ve been listening to a lot of weird 80s stuff. I haven’t really had time to listen to new music because of tour life. I’m just very in my own head it’s hard for me to discover stuff while I’m on tour it’s hard to be productive in any way. So I’ve just been listening to stuff I’ve been listening to for the past few years. Some Japanese weird stuff, I don’t know.