Earlier this year, LA-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Hanni El Khatib announced his upcoming album, FLIGHT, which he wrote mostly in the wake of a life-changing car accident. The record (out 15 May on Innovative Leisure) is evidence not only of El Khatib’s ability to evolve and experiment as a musician, but also his dramatically shifted perspective—something that he says manifested in various ways creatively and personally. Today, we’re delighted to premiere the single “DUMB,” a song that he and his collaborator Leon Michels (frontman for El Michels Affair who has worked with Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Lana Del Rey and others) based on an 808 bass sound and a vocal sample. We also spoke with El Khatib about writing music, and how it’s changed for him.
Tell us about writing “DUMB.” Was there a mood or message you wanted to create for the listener or was it something for yourself?
Musically I had been searching for the right track to explore minimalism. The whole song was built off of an 808 bass tone and a vocal sample we created, and I just wanted it to have some tension and to feel unresolved but at the same time feel dense and complex.
It’s pretty different from the previous releases from the record. Can you tell us a little about the flow of the new album?
The whole record is pretty impulsive. I wanted to work very intuitively and truly make songs that felt good to me at the time. That was the whole point of it. No idea was off the table. I really just wanted this album to feel like a mixtape or playlist I would actually listen to. Of course there is a common theme and vibe to this record, but I wanted it to feel more like a collage of sounds, not bound to one genre or style in particular. It was all about the sonic textures and creating a mood.
The whole experience gave me that much needed push to really embrace all aspects of myself in order to create freely
You said about “ALIVE” that your perspective had shifted since the accident. Did that manifest in that particular song or in your overall approach to making music?
Well… around the time of the accident I still hadn’t given myself a deadline for the record. I was operating in the mindset of endless exploration and still was unsure if what I was working on would become the album. Leon Michels and I had been sending demo ideas back and forth and recording together whenever we were in the same city, but it was all a bit loose and there was no sense of urgency. However, after I got in that car wreck, I instantly felt the need to finish these songs and ideas that we had started. I think I hit Leon up the next day and was like… “I need to book a flight to NY today so we can wrap this record up!” I think it’s safe to say that the story manifested itself in “ALIVE,” but the whole experience gave me that much needed push to really embrace all aspects of myself in order to create freely. Strangely, it feels like a blessing.
Considering the distance you have from the writing the album now, and perhaps also the current climate, do you find yourself listening to the record in a different way?
In a way these songs have found themselves in a new context given the state of the world at the moment. It’s so weird that songs like “ALIVE” and “STRESSY” lyrically and sonically somehow seem like they were written and recorded in quarantine. I love how music can morph with its environment and to people’s emotions.
Images courtesy of Dustin Aksland