There is something to be said about making what many consider “genre-pushing” or “experimental” art as a rising act in today’s crowded Internet-based music scene. It is certainly a daring, yet worthwhile manner to begin one’s career with, as just the slightest diverging take on a given genre can allow for something of a “unique niche” to be carved within this very scene as it stands.
But since arriving to this landscape just a short time ago, Brevin Kim have proven to be leagues beyond that artistic outlook. The brothers out of Boston are a one-two punch full of nuance, novelty, and intuition — all under a blanket of unrelenting passion and willingness to create music completely of its own. The two have continuingly refused to conform to any tag they have been labelled with thus far in their still-brief time as prominent musicians, and despite being closely associated with such acts as Dylan Brady and others in the rapidly rising field of glitch-ridden hip-hop and pop, their music sets them apart from just about any other act in the history of music, let alone 2020 by itself.
Cal and Bren Paulhus had been separated by over 1,000 miles throughout a great deal of the past year. Cal had been pursuing additional career ventures in Florida while Bren was staying put in Boston, and the idea of pressing onward past this limitation to create the music they so desired might have been an obstacle not worth confronting in the hostile world that we live in today for the average creative looking to make it big.
But even though Cal and Bren are regular human beings in their own right, Brevin Kim as a working unit are certainly anything but. And thus, the two pressed onward despite all that had been placed in their way to develop their debut studio album No Less Than Three — a project that embodies the only two characteristics fitting for these creatives who are unlike anything the music world has ever seen before: timeless and oneness.
The album is a rollercoaster of sonic divergences that range from gritty and pounding industrial hip-hop, to soft and gliding pop-folk with the slightest twist of everything in-between thrown in for good measure. And as if the swift and sporadic sounds were not enough to mirror the all-too-hostile and anxiety-inducing environment that we as people are experiencing day in and day out, the brothers add strikingly timely lyrical motifs to this already perpetual melting pot of a musical experience to top off perhaps the most symbolic album to be released in 2020.
In an age where creative restrictions are dwindling more and more as each day passes in the public eye, Brevin Kim have convincingly taken the next step above that outlook with this album. The brothers were able to give some insight into what the journey was like in creating such a project, and what made up the basis for nearly all of its unreplicable aspects.
The release of No Less Than Three is easily the most pivotal moment in your guys’ young careers so far. Tell me about the details of the entire album process and what went into reaching this point?
Cal: It’s been such a long process. Some of these songs you’ll hear on the album have basically been done since before we even dropped our EP Cliff last September. Plans changed along the way and it allowed us to put more time into the music; from having conversations with people we admire, to seeking feedback from our team, we were able to take some of these songs from decent demos to full-blown concrete ideas with “single” potential. But tying everything together really happened during this pandemic, while we were like 1,000 miles apart. We’re trying to finish our “debut” album essentially and we’re not even under the same roof. But, something about feeling the pressure, knowing it would be difficult, made us work harder and made us want it even more.
Bren: Originally we had planned to make three EPs entitled Cliff, Air, and Grace, but then decided to put all our best work into one album so we could show who we are as a whole. We have a demo list of songs that have been continuously added to all the time. We’re always making music and pushing our own boundaries to the limit. So we decided to buckle down and select the best of the list — songs we want to show the world. Songs that best showcase who Brevin Kim is. Those songs are what make up this record.
LL: How did the title of the album come to be?
Bren: We went to NYC to meet some people for the label, and Cal and I were sitting in a Chipotle. We were thinking of logos we could use for Brevin Kim merch and we drew “no <3” and thought it looked sick. Then it hit us that the logo looks like it also says “no less than three,” and we’re like “yup that’s the album name.” It’s really not that deep but at the same time it’s cool as hell.
Cal: So this idea of “the number three” has been floating around for a while. We kept saying this term “three aliens” over and over. I think Bren came up with it. But our idea behind that was, we (Brevin Kim) are two aliens, and the third alien is the listener/audience. When I first typed “<3,” it just clicked and I knew that it had to be the album title. Not three aliens, but no less than three — meaning this is always a three person experience. us, and the audience as a whole.
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LL: Cliff has certainly been your guys’ biggest splash yet. Is there a specific link between the two projects, influence or otherwise?
Bren: I feel like there’s always links between our music in general — even when it’s subtle. But at the same time we love changing our sound constantly, even if it’s on the same album. It’s so huge to be able make such drastic changes in music style wise and sonically but be able to stay true to your “sound.” That also ties in to our inspirations. Our taste of music and inspirations are so vast. And I think that’s what Brevin Kim is really; such a wide vast variety of sounds all mixed into one.
Cal: It’s definitely like a second chapter to [Cliff]. The mindset has been the same, but we’ve just gotten better and even more experimental. That was the foundation, and this project is us starting to build the house. The main goal is always to just make shit that sounds good. Nothing has to sound one bit like the track before it. We just make things we like… there are absolutely no rules.
LL: A defining aspect of your work is its rapid and dynamic cast of sounds and styles. Just one single song of yours can feature a limitless amount of approaches and/or sonic features. How did this outlook come to be? Who, if anyone, inspired that outlook, especially on this album in particular?
Cal: [Speaking for both of us], I think what it all boils down to is… it’s like a bowl of music all mixed together that we subconsciously took inspiration from over the years. We’re inspired and influenced by so many different artists and genres. It starts with classic rock like Boston and Eric Clapton, to early 2000s hip-hop like Eminem and Lloyd Banks. We even go from modern indie stuff like Kings of Leon and Bon Iver, to classic XXXTentacion and Ski Mask the Slump God tracks. We try to be more inspired than influenced, because we want to keep our own sound. But without a doubt, everything we grew up listening to and everything we listen to now is the basis for this album.
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LL: So even though you constantly cycle through those inspirations throughout the album, the final product ends up sounding like something completely of its own — unique in every way imaginable. From your point of view, is there a certain factor that allows for this of-its-own feeling to occur? Or could it all just be natural?
Bren: I think it’s more natural than anything. I think it’s the way we approach the beat/vocals/mixing etc. For me, I’m always inspired by so many people at once. I even get super inspired by movies. I remember seeing Hereditary and got ideas off that. It’s more of a mindset and a mood. I feel like moods can’t make music. Sometimes the way I’m feeling subconsciously changes a song’s process. It sounds cliche, but most of the time the music just writes itself. I kind of go into a trance and I don’t even really feel like myself. It can actually be exhausting; it’s like I become a whole new person when making a song. It’s weird… but also really gratifying.
Cal: We don’t really try too hard to make unique sounding music; we’re just really into so many different sounds and we enjoy blending them together. Some things that sound weird or unique to other people probably sound normal to us. Like I was all worried that some of these songs on this album were too “pop” and not one other person has thought it sounded like pop. Honestly, we just black out and make our shit — literally whatever we’re feeling, and it becomes its own thing [because of that].
LL: Since the release of Cliff, have any newer rising acts inspired you to go above and beyond with this album in the way that you did? Or have the inspirations stayed relatively the same since then?
Cal: More so than ever before, acts like Phoebe Bridgers, Dijon, and Biv have come up since Cliff as our main sources for the new album.
Bren: I feel like we always try to go as above and beyond as we possibly can no matter what. Even if in that moment we’re not inspired for some reason, the idea of inspiration can come out of nowhere for us. Jean Dawson and Clairo come to mind for me since Cliff.
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LL: So much is talked about on the album from a conceptual view. Describe what went into constructing its lyrical and thematic aspects.
Bren: This album represents all the moods we as humans can go through in such a short period of time. People always talk about being happy and sad but there’s so much more than that. There’s nuance — it’s in the details. My mood can change within seconds and it can be scary as hell, but also reassuring knowing I’ll be fine in about two minutes.
Cal: We don’t wanna box ourselves into anything. I feel like a lot of artists put our one consistent theme and then that’s all people expect from them going forward. We try to just show all the emotions we feel and then that also allows us to tap into whatever world we choose to. We’ve both been going through random anxieties lately being away from each other and just feeling the pressure of trying to make it in music. Sometimes I get into depressive holes too that I either let myself stay in and create while I’m there, or dig myself out and then create something once I’m free from it. A lot of this album is about uncertainty — in life and relationships.
LL: This album seems to adhere to not a single time period in the history of music, let alone the one we’re currently living in. When you both look back on this album in a few years time, would you say that it will still feel as timeless as ever? Is this something you’d even want to occur?
Cal: We definitely want to make timeless music. A lot of music is good for like a month or a year, but the best shit lives on forever. It’s not something we think too much about while creating, but it’s always the end goal. At the same time, it’s really all up to the listener, so we can’t overthink that shit. Making the best music possible in our eyes is all we can do.
Bren: We try for our music to be timeless. That’s key, honestly. If I could describe our music in one word, or at least what I aspire our music to be, it’s simply “timeless.”
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LL: Listening to this album lets me know that you two are completely done feeling things out as rising artists and are ready to take on the world immediately. Was that a conscious mindset during the entire process leading up to its release?
Bren: I feel like while we are still rising artists, we have always been ready to take on the world. Our music was always meant to hit the masses — at least that’s how we try to make it. I feel like we are tapped in into what could change the music world forever.
Cal: We’ve always felt we’ve been a little ahead of the curve every year. Even though “pop music” might not be specifically what we’re creating right now, it’s closer than it’s ever been. As long as we stay one step ahead, we’ll be global. Even if it takes a year or two for people to catch on.
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LL: From a completely subjective perspective on your guys’ end, what should fans – and the rest of the world at that – think of Brevin Kim after hearing the album?
Bren: For both Cal and I all the same, we want to inspire people to be who they are, no matter what [anyone else] might think or feel. Humans can be complicated, and I want our music to encompass that feeling. To the rest of the world… I want them to know Brevin Kim will change music forever, that’s it.