Riton and Kah-Lo: how they went from Twitter DMs to the Grammys

Sometimes things are better in pairs: bangers and mash, Batman and Robin, and a new addition to the list: Riton and Kah-Lo. For the past two years DJ and producer Riton, and vocalist Kah-Lo have been releasing a steady flow of house-laced hits. There was the thumping, Grammy Nominated ‘Rinse & Repeat’, the ode to underage drinking ‘Fake ID’ and this year’s outrageously catchy ‘Ginger’; and now they’ve added Mr Eazi to their crew for the fizzing ‘Catching Feelings’.

But although their collaboration has brought the duo into the public eye (and onto every club playlist up and down the UK), they’ve both been plugging away at their own music for years. Riton is a legendary DJ and producer in his own right, having been releasing tunes for almost two decades; meanwhile although Kah-Lo is closer to the beginning of her career, she’s also had her own success as a solo artist.

So how did this collaboration start? “The Twitters and New York” Kah-Lo tells us over sandwiches in a North London coffee shop.

“Yeah, we both used to live in New York and that’s where we met.” Riton adds, “she [Kah-Lo] got in touch with me on Twitter, sent me some demos and I really liked them. Then, we just ended up meeting up, going out for some drinks and the next day did our first track, which got Grammy nominated, did it in about half an hour.”

Now, after two years of releasing music, they’re getting ready to drop an album ‘Foreign Ororo’, and have a handful of joint live dates booked in. We catch up with both of them on a rare day off, to talk the new album, dream collaborators and the maddest place they’ve heard one of their tunes.

When you dropped ‘Ginger,’ when you were recording it did you realise that’d you’d written a total winner?

Riton: “No, because it’s not the first version. The first version was quite slow!”

Kah-Lo: “And vibey and quite like, more for the car ride to the club. It wasn’t really a beat club song. So this one, I don’t know what had happened because I just got sent a track and it was a party track. I was, woah!”

R: “Like ‘Fake ID’ was written over a completely different beat. Kah-Lo would go away and I’d like, play around for ages and mess around with it and then hey presto, there’s a song. It’s more a case of, a lot of the time the tracks aren’t manipulated, the vocals, I always pitch them up a little bit, make it a more poppy and fun sound.”

Which songs are you most excited to share from the album?

K: “Mine would be [current single] ‘Catching Feelings’ because it’s more my vibe. I wrote it and it shows a different side of me that I’d like to show more I’m excited for that.”

R: “We’ve got like five songs on the album, that are all a bit more afro-beat with real instruments like guitars and things like that. It’s less ‘Rinse and Repeat’ style tracks. So that’s what we’ve been waiting for as well, the label are more like “give us the radio bangers” where as we’ve got a bit more chilled stuff on the album too which I think actually people will be more surprised to hear and like it.”

And what was it like working with Mr Eazi on the record?

K: “Oh I love him; his creative process is really cool because he just freestyles melodies. I’m a pretty good writer so I fill in his melodies with words. There’s one where it’s just him and Riton and he wrote that so that should be exciting for people to hear.”

R: “That’s quite a hilarious track called immigration; it’s all about him getting chased around London by immigration police. It’s all based on this Nigerian film.” 

When you wrote the album was there any major influences you had or people you were trying to channel or were you just making the music that you wanted to?

R: “I mean for me musically I like a lot of old afrobeat stuff, so there’s hints towards that, the more house stuff is influenced by old Chicago stuff and acid house and it’s done on all the 80’s machines so it has that sound. “

K: “My influence is just my life, ’90s house records are as far as I would listen to before I met Riton. You know how they rap on the house tracks!”

Obviously the singles have come out and blitzed on the radio, where is the maddest place you’ve heard one so far?

R: “Well we heard one in Byron Bay! In a bed and breakfast!”

K: “We were getting breakfast and we were just casually sitting outside and this car drove by and they were playing ‘Ginger’ just blasting it really loud and I was like “hmm that’s funny that’s really weird” and then literally like less than two minutes later after the first car, another drove past and they were blaring “Fake ID” and I was just like “what the hell?!””

Kah-Lo I read you grew up listening to alt rock, stuff like Fall out Boy, is that music you still listen to?

K: “Once, in a while I’ll dabble into the rock world, I really like Twenty One Pilots right now.”

How did you go from that to house and dance?

K: “I was making what sounded like what The Weeknd was making at the time, then once in a while I’d pause and do the talk-rap thing and put it over house music and the kaboom! It’s all born.”

As a duo is there anyone else you’d love to collaborate with?

R: “Selena Gomez! We just did a remix for her! I can’t off the top of my head but I’m sure there’s a million people.”

K: “For me Kanye, I’d love for that to happen at some point in my life.”

Is there one thing you really want to achieve in your career?

R: “I’ve done so many things that I thought I’d be pleased about but I’m still not happy, I’d say keeping my expectations low would be my advice to the world!”

K: “I have a lot, I’m just starting so there’s a lot to be accomplished.”

R: “You’ll never stop feeling like that, that’s what I’m saying!”

K: “Yeah but let me get some of them off of the list first then I’ll feel like that, and then cry myself to sleep on the kingsize!”

Riton and Kah-Lo will play Birthdays on 29th September. ‘Catching Feelings’ featuring Mr Eazi is out now.