Giraffage’s career can be split evenly into two parts.
The first, which began around 2012, saw the emergence of an exciting new producer from the Bay Area with a talent for sampling existing material, which he then proceeds to craft into amorphous electronic music capable of coolly drifting from blitzing heavy synths to sugary Zapp-style R&B instrumentals. That period’s output included two well-received LPs and gigs at the Boiler Room and LA’s Low End Theory, inviting comparisons to the likes of Shlohmo and sometime-collaborator XXYXX.
The second phase of his career, which began with the release of the EP No Reason in November, is just getting underway, but the boundaries are already starkly defined: No uncleared samples beyond this point.
“Giraffage started as a sample-based project, so it was kind of weird to just not sample altogether,” says the producer, born Charlie Yin, on the phone as his tour bus passes through Texas. No Reason marks his first foray into sample-free original productions. “When I say “no samples on my album,” that’s actually not completely true. A lot of them are royalty-free sample packs that I’m using. I’m still manipulating samples, but I have to make sure they are royalty-free and OK to be used and released.”
It should be noted that the change isn’t completely voluntary: In signing with indie powerhouse Fool’s Gold Records, Giraffage essentially conceded that making another album flush with dozens of uncleared samples, like his 2012 debut Comfort, was no longer a realistic possibility without a massive budget.
“Honestly, I feel like sampling laws are kind of wack,” he explains. “I know on [baauer’s] ‘Harlem Shake,’ for example, one guy says one line in the song and he got paid an insane amount. I don’t think it’s proportionate to the amount of work that he did for the song. So for an album like Comfort to be made in 2015, it would take a shitload of money, which I do not have. It definitely would not be feasible at this point in the traditional, clearing-all-the-samples type way.”
The irony is that in restricting some of his familiar creative instincts, No Reason has freed Giraffage to discover new ones. The opening cut “Hello” feels like a distant relative of “Computer Love,” interjecting dial tones and text message alerts amidst the electronic warbling. “Be With You,” meanwhile, adorns the bedroom-pop vocal with glittering chimes and warm synth pulsations.
Of his reconfigured creative process, Giraffage says, “On this record I became more collaborative. I hit up a lot of my friends who sing and got stems from them, just to chop up those things without having to worry about clearing anything. I also would record a lot more than I used to. I would make my own snares and claps and things like that, just from banging on a desk or clapping into a mike.”
He still throws uncleared samples around in his live sets, but by tuning them out for No Reason, he suggests that his inner artist could be heard a little clearer.
“I think [not using samples] may have made it more personal and more truthful,” he says. “It’s more original than ever.”
GIRAFFAGE with Spazzkid, ROBOKID & DJ Carbo. Thurs 1.29. Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave., Allston. 617.779.0140. 8pm/18+/$15. giraffage.com