Hopscotch Music Festival Preview: An Interview with Contour's Khari Lucas

Khari Lucas of Contour at Charleston Music Hall. Photo by Meredith Wohl.

Khari Lucas of Contour at Charleston Music Hall. Photo by Meredith Wohl.

Summer may be coming to an end, but festival season is nowhere near over for Capitol Sound. We're hitting the road for Raleigh, North Carolina's Hopscotch Music Festival from September 6-8, to cover this Southern festival's incredibly stacked line-up and killer street style. We'll be reporting live throughout the weekend, sharing shots in real time from headlining sets like Miguel, The Flaming Lips, Nile Rogers & Chic, Thundercat, and Grizzly Bear, among a long list of pop-out shows in Raleigh's coolest venues.

Among the acts we're most excited to see is Contour, a jazz-outfitted, genre-defying band from Charleston, S.C. Fronted by multi-instrumentalist producer Khari Lucas, Contour is making their music festival debut during their set at The Basement on Sept. 7. In anticipation of their performance at Hopscotch, Khari chatted with us about new collaborations, his creative process, and who he's happy to share space with on this year's line-up. 

When I saw y’all on the line up, I was so excited, because this festival seems like the perfect fit for Contour. What are you most looking forward to at your upcoming set in Raleigh?

Khari Lucas: I agree on the fit. I’ve just started doing my dive through all of the booked artists this week and the festival is so well curated. I’m looking forward more to getting to see artists I didn’t know about or haven’t gotten to see live yet (I’m particularly very excited to see Combo Chimbita). Also, the number of artists that I’m friends with playing is really tight. I do think this will probably be the biggest venue we’ve played at technically, so that’s an exciting element as well.

Is this the first festival you’ve played? How might this show be different than the ones you’ve played on tour?

KL: This is the first festival I’ve played, although we’ve got a couple more lined up in the fall. I feel like with festival shows you get to reach a wider range of people, like from multiple cities or regions all at once rather than just whatever specific place you’re playing, and I think that’s really cool. On the same coin, because of the scope of what’s going on you get a lot less individual attention on the part of the organizers.

Khari Lucas of Contour at Charleston Music Hall. Photo by Meredith Wohl.

Khari Lucas of Contour at Charleston Music Hall. Photo by Meredith Wohl.

I see you just dropped some new music with Garrott Odom. Tell us about the context of the “Interim Report,” and what new production techniques you may have used, your highlights of the project, and anything else you might want to share.

KL: Garrott and I met in the fall of 2015 shortly after I moved back to Charleston from Houston. We recorded our single “Canopy” that weekend and both recognized the potential for a really interesting collaboration. I sent him a lot of beats over the course of the next two years and eventually we condensed the best things that came out of those into "Interim Report." I got much more heavily into microchipping in my production of those beats, which means I was taking samples and rearranging them in a very surgical way when I was producing. Doing it that way made it so that I had to make more intentional decisions with how I was sampling and also get to know the music I was choosing a lot better. "Frames" is the best example of that. Just trying to really glue everything together. Garrott is one of the best rappers I’ve ever met, and I felt like I really needed to bring my best to the table for that. I think we both grew a lot through the process.

When you dropped “Softer” back in 2017, that visual album experience was one of the most immersive and beautiful projects I’ve ever seen. What was it like putting your album to a visual component, and do you have any hopes to do another project like that or with another visual medium in the future?

KL: What a compliment! I’m really flattered by that. It was one of the most fun, most frustrating things I’ve ever done, but I think it really opened up the way I look at composition and writing. It’s a very resource and time demanding undertaking, though. I don’t think I’ll be able to do something on that scale again for a while, although I’ve done my best to continue to push myself with the music videos I have worked on both conceptually and as far as the quality. John Peters, the co-director of "Softer" and now lead director of "Tantrum in Azure" and another video that’s yet to be released, is really vital to that process. He pushes me to be as thorough as possible but also not to limit myself in my ideas. I really appreciate him. One day we’ll make something big and crazy, but for now it’s just music vids.

Through the years, I’ve seen you play all kinds of shows in Charleston and around the country. You moonlight as a DJ, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and likely so much more than we could ever guess — what has it been like bringing your music to life with a full band, and how does that influence the new projects you’ve been working on?

KL: Working with a band has forced me out of just writing everything with only myself in mind, which I think is valuable. It’s also been a learning experience in relinquishing control. A lot of artists who primarily write solo just kind of approach assembling a band as having side musicians to learn and play the parts, which works great sometimes, but I really like to get the input of the guys in the band wherever I can. They’re all very talented and have very well developed tastes/influences and I think that’s what makes the kind of back and forth we have possible. Also getting to play shows with other bands, something less likely when I was using a solely electronic setup, has been very inspiring for a number of reasons.

What artists (musical or otherwise) have you creatively energized right now?

KL: Oooh. Here’s a short not-so-short-list: Crumb, OG Lullabies, Vinyl Williams, Ravyn Lenae, Frank Ocean, Shirley Nanette, Pacific Yew, Dakota O, Deem Spencer, Kelsey Lu, Moses Sumney, Floating Points, Jon Bap, Jaala, Charlotte Day Wilson, Liv.e, and Kadhja Bonet.

Any other new collaborations or projects we should keep an eye out for?

KL: Niecy Blues and I have been working on stuff for her next project for a while. I’m also polishing up a couple of personal projects. Hopefully we’ll see all of those or at least the beginnings of them in the next year.

Joining us at Hopscotch Music Festival this year? Catch Contour at The Basement on Friday, Sept. 7 starting at 9:30 p.m.