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Melbourne, moves, and music theory: Oscar Key Sung and Silentjay have a chat

Oscar Key Sung and Silentjay are two Melbourne-based beatmakers and performers with their feet firmly set in a silky R&B headspace. Both craft tunes fit for the clouds above, and never fail to bring a heavy wash of lushness to their live shows.

Ahead of their performance tonight at The Night Cat in Melbourne for Southern Sounds, we hooked the two up for a chat.

oscar key sung silenthay southern sounds southern comfort

From past admirations to future predictions, Oscar Key Sung and Silentjay are two peas in a pod when it comes to crafting tunes they love.

OSCAR KEY SUNG: I remember one time while hanging out at your house with your housemates and hearing you improvising chords from your bedroom. You just played and played for ages in the background, was so nice! How do you like to write chord progressions? Do you ever sit around improvising like that and record it? Then cut it up or something?

SILENTJAY: Appreciate that man! I haven’t really chopped up my own chords before, I usually just improvise til something catches me. Kinda like looking for samples until something catches ur ear or hits u. If I like an idea, I’ll play it over and over and develop it, but sometimes I just run with the first thing I play if it feels good.

I’m curious to know what chord writing is like for you? You have a great ear for choosing chords that capture your melodies, do u come up with melodies first then find the chords to fit it?

OSCAR KEY SUNG: Interesting!! I think I would do that if I were as good at keys as you are ha. Like just fully being able to recall every shape would be cool. But for me, chords I stumble on while improvising are a bit hard to recreate, so personally I often chop up the first take and work with that piece of audio (like a sample). I guess part of it as well is I like when a process feels mysterious (as in not understanding the theory of why it works), so moving audio around not knowing what the chord shape is, using ear and feel gets me excited personally. I think more often I start with melody then the chords come second. Sort of like what you were saying about looking for a sample (searching for that moment that catches your ear), I try loads of different chords against the melody till I land on something that sets it off.

OSCAR KEY SUNG: You seem to know a lot about music theory, how do you think the music you make would be different if you were not trained?

SILENTJAY: Man, to be honest, I did not pay attention at school at all… music school was great for being around music all day and all the friends I made, but I knew from the start I didn’t wanna get caught in all the theory, cause I feel like it knowing rules can hinder creativity. Definitely the most creative musicians I know are self-trained or don’t know theory.

How bout urself? Did u go thru school? If not, how u feel about the theory side of things?

OSCAR KEY SUNG: Wow! Yeh I super feel you on that mentality. I guess I assumed you had just gone super deep on the theory at some point and then come out the other side into a more carefree attitude about it or something. And in that sense having been able to loosen up because of having a strong foundation.

For me it’s been a bit of a jumble, been studying music in various ways since I was a kid. Moved around A LOT, so very patchy though. But I went to art school, and ended up specialising in “sound art”. It was a lot of mincing up weird sounds, and bizarre 30 min improvised drone pieces and stuff like that. Kinda funny, but I loved it! Some of the classes consisted of things like being lead on “sound walks” blind folded and then discussing what we heard in the streets (heaven!). I think I would have struggled studying music formally, for similar reasons to why you intentionally didn’t go too deep on the theory side.

OSCAR KEY SUNG: Have you always had such an epic head popping style or did it develop over the years from making beats all day? Honestly it looks like you’re going to snap your neck sometimes ha.

SILENTJAY: Haha I dunno, it’s not something I really think about. If I feel something, it just happens. I used to do dance classes in High school, so maybe that has something with it. You pull out some crazy moves during ur sets too man! Did you ever go through dance school too?

OSCAR KEY SUNG: OK so the mystery remains! There is no way you were snapping your neck like that straight out the gate haha. But for the record: I am super into it. Definitely seems like you are feeling the beat the most in the room.

I’ve always liked dancing since I was a kid. Just like only child vibes of getting super, super into it as a way to kill time alone. Started with being obsessed with Michael Jackson (like heaps of people I’m sure) and then just getting a lot of joy out of it y’know. Do what makes you happy right. Never ever been something serious for me. Just for fun.

OSCAR KEY SUNG: Can you tell me about someone who was a powerful influence on your development as an artist? A mentor or a peer that pushed you and inspired you?

SILENTJAY: Oh man, I’ve been lucky to have so many mentors and friends… my cousin Chino was a big one, he got me into producing and DJing pretty early, and just the music he introduced me to has shaped everything I do. My grandma is an incredible piano player who taught everyone in the family, and most of my family either sing or play an instrument, so I guess it’s been a round my whole life. Also, had some really great mentors during high school then university, and all my friends who blow me away with all the crazy shit they make. Melbourne’s been killing it ATM.

How bout urself man? Seems like you have a great circle of artists around you who support and inspire what you do?

OSCAR KEY SUNG: Wow yeh actually I am just thinking how much Melbourne has going on right now! So. Much. Stuff. That family dynamic sounds so beautiful! I feel you on there just being an accumulation of people, offering great inspiration over time.

What do you plan to achieve in 2018? Is this a year for developing, or for stepping out for you?

SILENTJAY: I guess my goal is to always develop as an artist, but I’m excited bout letting go of some things this year and going on whatever journey that takes me.

SILENTJAY: And yourself? I know you’ve been on an epic journey traveling outside of Australia. How was that in terms of developing and inspiring your sound?

OSCAR KEY SUNG: That’s exciting! I am keen to see where the year takes you! Yeh totally last year was A LOT! I was living/working between Mexico City, Berlin, and Los Angeles. The three cities brought out such different ideas in me and each place I stayed was way like a different chapter with a whole new narrative of life experience. I feel like I drank it all up and have metabolised all my experiences into work that I am now super excited to share this year. For me, this year is about sharing what I made last year in the best way I can.


Catch Silentjay and Oscar Key Sung at Southern Sounds, a summer live music series inspired by the spirit of New Orleans visiting Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane this Summer.

Southern Sounds continues tonight with six events across each city, featuring performances from Oscar Key Sung, Silentjay, Mira Boru, Samsaruh, D’Arcy Spiller, The Slingers (Melbourne), Mike Who (Sydney) & The Steele Syndicate (Brisbane).

Entry to each event is on Southern Comfort, with a first come, first serve policy; so be sure to get down early.

Grab all the details here. 

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January 18, 2018