Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.
House-leaning dance-pop acts like Rudimental, Gorgon City and Jess Glynne are proving that North London is a currently one of the hottest hotbeds of new music right now, and throwing his hat into the arena is 21-year old Lewis Jankel. Recording as Shift K3Y, he landed a Top 5 hit in his home country of the UK earlier this year with his soulful garage-pop single “Touch.” (It’s now been released in the States — grab the song here.) And, yes, that’s Lewis, not a separate, featured vocalist, doing the singing on the track — something that makes him unique among many of his contemporaries.
We had lunch in the Big Apple with this young new pop force earlier this month, and he proved to be just as candid and sharp as he is savvy about music-making. Head below to find out more about Shift K3Y.
NAME: Shift K3Y.
REAL NAME: Lewis Jankel.
WHERE HE’S FROM: North London. “Fortismere, the school I went to, does have this thing going on,” Jankel tells us. “Jess Glynne went to the same school as me, and so did Rudimental… The Kinks went there.”
HOW YOU KNOW HIM: Shift K3Y’s major label debut single “Touch” reached #3 on the UK chart in the spring. An EP for the soulful garage song featuring the original version and remixes was released in the States this summer.
Shift K3Y — ”Touch”
ON MAKING A LIVING AS A MUSICIAN: Hard work and dedication are high on Lewis’ priority list. “I kind of always felt that it would be a possible route because there has always been a lot of people around me that have been able to make a living off music — whereas [with] a lot of families and people that I meet, it’s not even a thing,” he explains. “It’s meant to be hobby. It’s not a realistic way to make money, but if anyone dedicates enough time to it, and has the right idea of what to do…if they actually genuinely have good taste then, they obviously will make money because there is a demand. When you think about how many absolutely terrible stuff there is out there, it makes you wonder. If ‘Hello Kitty’ by fucking Avril Lavigne could have 45 million views, then I can have at least…three.”
INSTRUMENTS HE PLAYS: Piano, bass, guitar and drums. Jankel says, “From about [age] 3 or 4, I was intensely practicing instruments every day. So, I think by about 7 or 8 [my parents] kind of were aware that this is what I wanted to do, and school was just…it ended up getting to the point where I was doing so little lessons and so much music that it was kind of pointless.”
HIS EARLY RELEASES: Beginning in 2011, Jankel began releasing EPs through British indie label Bullet Train. “[Bullet Train owner Marco Del Horno] also managed Asaf Borger,” he points out. “There were a few tracks that I was making that were a bit harder in tempo, so he sent me to Asaf, who really liked them, and so he kind of went with it straight away. From there, that picked up support from Columbia and all the majors.”
SHIFT K3Y RECORDED A SONG CALLED “LAUGHING AT YOU” WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND, RUBY FRANCIS: “She’s basically producer, singer, songwriter — everything. She does what I do, but just like the female version. We’d always talked about making stuff…so, we’d always meet up and try and write stuff, but it would just never worked. We would end up doing what a couple does, and not actually get anything done. Eventually, there was this track that I was making the instrumental for, and I was thinking about different vocalist to get on there, and Ruby had said she had a couple of ideas, so we met up and did it in a day.”
HE JUST FOLLOWED UP “TOUCH” WITH BRAND NEW SINGLE “I KNOW”: Lewis explains the origin of the song by noting, “I was hanging out with my friend Harris, and we started jamming an idea after like 20 or 30 minutes. He came up with the hook-line and a couple of other things, and we decided to change the production of it and mess around with it. It was interesting because originally I had written about 15 to 20 different songs that were meant to be the second single. I was trying to fight for each one to be the single, but the label just didn’t really care about any of those songs. I personally think some of my best material was written in that period.”
Shift K3Y — ”I Know”
SO, ABOUT THOSE OTHER SONGS THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT: “There is one called ‘Champagne Eyes’,” Lewis says. “There is one called ‘Alicia’ which is fucking ridiculous. There were such good songs.”
SHIFT K3Y ENJOYS THE COLLABORATIVE PROCESS: “As much as I can, I write on my own and do the whole thing, [but] it’s really educational and it’s really massively important to me to keep writing with other people because otherwise it’s the same tricks over and over and over again.”
Well said. Pick up Shift K3Y’s single “Touch” on iTunes.
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