Time to get your day started with some eclectic rock, courtesy of New York’s Blak Emoji and the exclusive premiere of their debut full-length album, KUMI, out tomorrow, February 22nd (find pre-order links and more right here). What you’re about to hear is some pretty original stuff, tunes you’re unlikely to have ever really experienced before, but, then again, that’s exactly what the band are intending.

Backed by bass and synth player Bryan Percivall, drummer Max Tholenaar-Maples and keyboardist Sylvana Joyce, Blak Emoji is led by singer and songwriter Kelsey Warren, a highly accomplished musician capable of many styles as a result of his upbringing studying jazz guitar, classical vocals, and music theory at the University of Miami.

Despite filling many roles over the years, including leading bands, playing as a sideman or just a hired gun around New York City, Warren finally found his own musical footing with Blak Emoji where he could focus all of his creativity on one project. He is an intelligent and complex songwriter, highly focused on synth sounds and Blak Emoji songs are rarely simple, but also not your typically repetitive, droning electronic music. Warren kicked off the Blak Emoji project in 2015 releasing INTRO, the debut EP, in January of 2017, which saw two singles (“Poison To Medicine” and “Velvet Ropes & Dive Bars”) licensed for the ABC TV series Quantico that same year.

Blak Emoji performing “Poison to Medicine” on BalconyTV.

With a detailed comment on Kumi, Warren shared the following: “Early 2017, a few weeks before our first EP release ‘Intro’, I was at an airport in Copenhagen. After a massively delayed flight, I was stuck, alone, and began to create beats on my iPhone. This experience has become the blueprint for me to create more music any time, any place, whatever situation. I started writing and recording a lot of songs on my phone then.

‘Kumi’ means ‘10’ in Swahili. After the success of ‘Intro,’ I wanted to create a proper ten song album that tells a cohesive story, both musically and lyrically. Ninety percent of ‘Kumi’ was recorded on my MacBook Pro at my apartment, on subways, as well as in late-night diners and cafes. Towards the end of recording the album, I went to a few studios to flesh out some songs and sound. Max Maples provided drums for ‘Another Club Night’ and ‘Rats’ and also programs for ‘Alone,’ which gave those songs the touch they needed. I purposely kept my voice auto-tuned free, only adding a vocal effect on a song or two.

I’ve produced and played the instruments for my albums in the past, but this one was the most introspective recording process I have released as a body of work. I had a blast going to my job for hours and then leaving to go to a diner at 3 am to eat alone and record or mix songs. This consumed the greater part of a year but it was extremely enjoyable to conceive… lonely, but enjoyable. I just wanted to create a fun playful, clever piece of work, lyrically and sonically. You can shake your ass, bob your head to it, or get deep with it. With ‘Kumi,’ I accomplished that. The album begins with lust, goes through the ride of pleasure, then how to cope with challenging life situations, and finishes with love.”

Upcoming Show Dates:

03/24 – Rockwood Music Hall 1 – New York, NY (Kelsey Solo)
04/19 – NUBLU – New York, NY (Full Band)