PREMIERE: Lando Chill ‘Early In the Morning’
This laid-back jam signals the beginning of summer
While he was born and raised it in Chicago, it wasn’t until Lando moved to Tucson for college that he caught the music bug. After being cast as a musician in a peer’s short film, he was asked to write a rap for it. The short verse ended up being the highlight of the film, which lead to another song and video with the same director, who was eager to capture more of this dreadlocked, red-eyed master of ceremony’s magic. The outcome was “Stay Gold,” a cut with intricate wordplay and a cinematic video that garnered industry attention and put him on the radar of Mello of Mello Music Group. After signing with the prolific label, Lando dropped “Coroner”, a song that reaffirms that this guy is really onto something.
Today, Mass Appeal is premiering Lando Chill’s new jazzy single, “Early In the Morning.” The sparse piano, slinky guitar, and Lando’s crooning make for the perfect chilled-out backdrop for summer.
We are also proud to announce Lando’s debut album, For Mark, Your Son. The 12-song opus is a tribute to Lando’s father, who passed away when he was just three years-old, and includes the dope singles “Coroner” and “Early In the Morning.” The album drops on August 12, 2016, but you can preorder it now via Bandcamp or iTunes.
Below, we pick Lando’s brain about his Star Wars based name, where his unique sound stems from, the super catchy hook from “Coroner,” and much more.
Mass Appeal: Let’s start by clarifying the name. I know you got a band. So, is that the name of the band or your name or both? And what’s behind the name? Are you a big Star Wars fan?
Lando Chill: Lando Chill is my name. Last summer, I started working with my bassist and guitarist and our first drummer, and I really wanted us to have an identity. But they weren’t really about that, they were kinda like, “This is your thing. We just want to help you create your sound and help you move along this live aspect.” Adding a live band onto any live show, whether you’re a rapper or an R&B singer, elevates the performance. I mean, look at D’Angelo, look at Oddisee, they are elevated by their bands. I wanted to give them recognition, and so we tried some things, but settled with just going with my name. I am a huge Star Wars fan actually. My real name is Lance Washington, but Lando came about from one of my old roommates. He called me Lando. It was like, “Okay, that’s dope. Did you know I like Star Wars that much?”
You haven’t been rapping for that long. Talk about how you got into music.
Music as a career is extremely new to me. It’s been two odd years now since I took it seriously. That being said, music has always been in my life. My mother was the Chicago Children’s Choir director. We always sang when we were kids. She had instruments around the house. [We] always played music. So, it was a constant in our lives growing up. But I never actually pursued it until college. It was moreso a hobby, and then I was asked to write music for this short film that my friend Ben Montemayor put on. It was called The Usual Mess Inc. It was pretty interesting. One of the coolest parts about the shoot was the song I wrote. So he said, “Hey, I want to do an aspect of that short that everyone liked, let’s make a song together.” I was like, “Okay cool, I have never actually written a song before.” That was like 2013. I’m sitting there with my rhyme book, my poem book and I’m like, “Wow, am I really about to do this? Can I actually write a song?” When the video [for “Stay Gold”] came out a year later, that was my first foray into the music business. I was such a…not a whimper but such a weird step into it. You release a music video with one song and no mixtape, and shop it out to local kids here in Tucson and hope they dig it. It was pretty haphazard, but luckily I had people who believed in me and my music. So, here I am today.
You’re born and raised in Chicago but now reside in Tucson. What’s the story there?
I lived my whole life in Chicago, from when I was born until I was 18. I love and cherish that city. But as far as me being able to grow and move, it had to be somewhere where I couldn’t come home on the weekends. And that’s what my mom said: “I don’t want you to go to a college where you can come home on the weekends and feel safe. I want you to challenge yourself. I want you to grow. I want you to feel some adversity.” So, one of the first places that accepted me was the University of Arizona.
I came out here for film, switched to journalism, and then moved over to anthropology and minored in Africana studies. I came here with all the fun ideas and artistic dreams in the world, and then you get to college and you realize how much money it costs and how much you need to want it. And I didn’t want certain things necessarily. So, coming out here to Tucson and dealing with adversary—having to change majors, move houses every year, and go through some crazy things—I can honestly say, I’ve grown exponentially more than my first 18 years in Chicago. So, I’m always thankful for my time in Tucson; especially for who it made me and for who I’ve become. Without the city and without its people, I would not be who I am today. But I can also say the same for Chicago because I’m Chi-Town ’till I die. Ain’t no question about that.
Your sound is hard for me to put my finger on. Who are some of your influences?
I didn’t grow up on hip hop. My mom played a lot of funk, a lot of Motown, a lot of jazz, a lot of classical music, a lot of folk, and a lot of movie scores. And so I came from this background that was heavily melodic. My mom would like have me listen to certain things and try to pick out what instruments were playing at certain times. That is one of the games we played in the car. I grew up on R&B…I mean, Luther Vandross is my mom’s number one. So, that background, I think, is what heavily influenced me, and the fact that I got into hip hop kinda late. I listened to a lot of Nelly growing up, a lot of Murphy Lee, a lot of Kanye, a lot of Lupe. I came up in that backpack era.
Basically, from 2005–2010 was my come up into hip hop. A lot of Outkast. St. Lunatics, that whole squad, I don’t know why I dug them so much, but they were a heavy influence. When you have that era and that metamorphosis of what hip hop was, and what it came to be, and who’s its pushers and big players are now, those are my influences. A lot of Kid Cudi. I mean, I played Kid Cudi constantly, bro. So, imagine funk, folk, classical music, with 2005–2010 hip hop, and then you’ll get me.
Speaking of playing songs constantly, I’ve been listening to “Coroner” on repeat.
I wrote that on tour, funny enough, last year and I was a really interesting place. I saw the underground hip hop scene around the U.S. and how many people were really trying to make it for good intentions, but the capitalistic way. Just grabbing the trends. It wasn’t even like they were practicing their craft. It wasn’t a craft to them, it was a way to make money. Just to see them chase that blue check mark next to their name. Just to see people give up so much to not make anything in craft where, when you put your soul into it, that’s when it pays back. It was kinda jarring to see all that. I remember when I wrote that song, that was completely what was on my mind. I’m happy that people really resonate with that because I think that’s what’s wrong with a lot of the music industry right now. The fact that everyone is pushing for that dollar bill, everyone wants to pay their bills, but you have to understand that with art, you have to sacrifice everything to get everything back. No one wants to sacrifice everything. No one wants to be shit poor and paying all these bills while grinding on two jobs and then trying to hustle your music on the side. No one really wants to do it. They want to hear about it though. They want to listen to it. They want to be motivated by it. But they don’t want to do it. I don’t know, its interesting.
Also, lots of people tend to misinterpret lyrics, and until someone points it out, they’re singing their own version of the song. I sing along to “Coroner,” but I don’t know if I’m singing the correct lyrics. So, maybe break down the hook for us.
For sure. The chorus is: “The coroner comes along / autopsy done / but still my body prays / there’s no more to say / no more to pay / no world to save.” So, it’s funny, that hook is me, at the end of the day. At the end of the day, we sacrifice so much to get so little. In the end, we’re killing ourselves despite where we want to be in life. So, “the coroner comes along / autopsy done,” that is the dead body of our arts or of our soul. “But still my body prays,” but there’s still some hope because I guess I believe that with my music, and a lot of music coming out today, it has the potential to really change society and the world, not just the music industry. I feel as though as musicians we have lost touch with our true influence and our true purpose. So, that’s what that line means. “There’s no more to say / no more to pay / no world to save” —that really harkens back to the capitalistic side and how it is so us versus them driven. How it’s so poor versus rich. How it’s so 1 percent versus 99 percent. Half of the song is really about the personal side of this loss of art, and then the second verse is about that societal shift that’s been about social media and the internet, and how that is our success.
Okay, but what is the part where you say something like “up topsy done”?
It’s “autopsy done”; you know, like an autopsy.
I thought maybe it was some cockney slang.
I was really into Harry Potter as a kid. So, listening this British guy for like half your life, I developed a really fucking good British accent. I like to employ it in a few things because I think of my voice as an instrument. So, as an instrument you can tune, you can change it, you can use certain effects. With that (British accent), I wanted to use it in a song to give it a different tone but also give it a different voice. I sing like that naturally. As a kid, I used to think I sung better with a British accent.
Lando Chill’s Top 5 Singers
1. Marvin Gaye
2. Luther Vandross
3. Nat King Cole
4. Freddy Mercury
5. James Taylor
Honourable mention: Otis Redding