2018 looks ready to be a banner year for Knightstown (real name Michael Aston) with both an EP and debut album released on Fat Cat Records. His music occupies that grey space which pulps modern soul and pop we at The 405 can never get enough of. Get to know him before all the cool kids do.

2018’s quite the hectic year for you, an EP and an album, how you feeling about the next few months?

Emotions and thoughts varying a lot these days. Whatever happens 2018 will be an interesting year and I look forward to watching it unfold. There are a lot of creative projects going on behind the scenes to keep me on my toes while the Knightstown campaign moves forward. Of course I hope the EP and LP touch people and garner support. I really appreciate the positive responses to the singles so far.

The singles you’ve released so far have been quite sparse and minimalistic, is this reflective of your aesthetic or will the releases spring some surprises?

The ‘sparse and minimalistic’ aesthetic certainly features a lot on the upcoming Knightstown EP/LPs. But the next two singles actually reveal another side of my personality that which is more from the world of pop, albeit a darker and more introspective kind. A strong melody has always been important to me in whatever style I’m writing for. Often once you have a good tune other things start falling into place.

Is there a throughline with both releases, whether thematically or in sound, or both?

Yes, overall. All of the tracks for both the EP and the LP I wrote (and Tom [his cousin] produced) were completed in the same time-period, so almost inevitably we developed a unified soundworld - which was satisfying. That said I find each song always has it’s own self-contained theme, so less so with the lyrics I guess.

Have to say, your sound is very on brand for The 405! That malleable void between disparate pop and soulful R&B. What space, musically, do you consider yourself occupying, or is that too trite an idea?

Glad to hear it! ‘Malleable’ is a really good word to use for that space you’re talking about between those subgenres. Like most artists I suppose I’d like to occupy my own space, but given that comparisons are fun - I guess I’d like to place my appeal somewhere between James Blake and Laura Mvula.

It’s a cliché, though a useful one, to consider your voice as arguably your most emotive instrument at your disposal. I think that cliché is relevant with your music. Can you dive into how you use your voice in this way?

I like the purity you can achieve with a falsetto vocal with no vibrato on it. It lets the melody speak for itself and draws the listener’s attention to the notes, which really matters to me because I am first and foremost a composer/songwriter. Performing can be exciting, but you are singing a tune that already exists, rather than creating something new.

You’re classically trained in music working in the dynamic world of electronic minimalism; how does that background inform your work, or doesn’t inform it?

It’s amazing how the various ‘tools’ in the songwriter’s ‘tool box’ can be used across nearly all genres of music. I find in writing electronic pop I use the same techniques that I use writing for orchestras, but in a different way. There is a lot more common ground than some people realise. Of course there are differences in approach, especially when software gets mixed up with the pencil and paper method. But at the end of the day music is music, and I think both the electronic and acoustic worlds have a lot to learn from each another. I have never understood why there needs to be such a rift between classical and pop. Fortunately these days we are witnessing gaps being bridged in subgenres like Neo-Soul, Indietronica, Indie R&B, Freak Folk, Chamber Pop, Neo-Psychedelic… artists like Sampha, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors and my friend C Duncan for example are all pushing boundaries.

Fat Cat have artists similar to yourself, such as Ian William Craig, how have they enabled or expanded that sound since signing to them?

Tough question! Not sure I have an answer to it actually. Some of William Craig’s stuff is very beautiful and contemplative. I guess with Chris’s second album and my first one coming up there seems to be a few shared musical characteristics that started off with the sub-label’s 130701 artists and have seeped onto the FatCat roster. I would not call myself an ambient composer though. Whenever I try and write ambient music I end up swimming around in a sea of atmosphere with no musical content. Perhaps I’ll hit on something one day.