Artist Photo

For the second installment of our Alumni Artist Series, we checked in with Bennett Kohler and Collin Burdick, two U of I graduates who have developed their own project of unique Electronic/Hip-Hop called Kyral x BankoCollin and Ben are both currently living in Chicago and crafting tunes daily.

UPC: What got you into music production?

Kyral: I got into music as a kid, I played saxophone from 6-12 grade and was in choir as well. I loved all type of music especially hip-hop because of the beats. I use to mess around a little with FL but nothing serious. When I discovered electronic music was when I really had an affinity to want to learn how to make it so I picked up Ableton at U of I and started teaching myself and learning from other friends that used it.

Banko: I was fortunate enough to have a pretty musical upbringing. I’ve been playing drums and piano for as long as I can remember, and am pretty much constantly thinking in rhythms. A distinct memory I have is taking a music class in sixth grade that introduced me to GarageBand, and was fascinated by the concept of composing music on a computer. Throughout high school, I would mess around with some hip hop projects with friends, entirely just for fun. Freshman year at U of I, I downloaded Ableton after reading an article about Skrillex and his techniques, and eventually became involved in the DJ scene on campus. I remember hearing songs and thinking, ‘I could probably make that.’ The rest is history.

UPC: Name a few artists that have influenced the music you produce.

K: I would say there’s a lot of artists who have influenced me TO produce such as UZ, Mayhem, Antiserum, Bro Safari, Skrill, KTN, Loudpvck, Carmack, Koan Sound and honestly just so many others that make amazing tracks.

B: A few artists that come to mind in terms of hip hop are RZA, DJ Premier, Cardo, Kanye, Lex Luger, Metro Boomin and Travi$ Scott. Electronically, I would definitely say Flosstradamus, Aryay (U of I alum), Oshi, Gravez, and Branchez. I could go on with this one, but I’ll stop the list there. I think it’s important to constantly stay up on new music and take inspiration from a melting pot of different styles.

UPC: Name your favorite artist, album, or song from before the year 2000.

K: Turn The Radio Off – Reel Big Fish 1996

B: Nas – Illmatic

UPC: Looking back, what was one of your favorite moments at U of I?

K: Getting to open for Feed Me and kickin it him was pretty tight. Also icing out cups of shots at Red Lion (station211) and the Staff Barcrawls

B: The first Kyral x Banko that we ever did together was opening for Flux Pavilion at a packed Canopy Club. That was pretty darn cool. I also remember when we put out our Bound 2 remix and I heard it playing in a random apartment as I walked by. Very humbling.

UPC: Describe the DJ/music culture on campus at U of I. How do you feel it helped you get to where you are now?

K: U of I was where I discovered electronic music. I remember when Skrillex’s albums came out and people would blast it everywhere. Since the campus is pretty much student-run, including all of the bars, you’d hear electronic music every night pretty much. It was awesome to have free reign to spin whatever we wanted. People were pretty open to all of the new sub-genres that started popping out and The Canopy Club started bringing out some amazing electronic artists which definitely helped the scene grow much more. It helped being around a bunch of people that were into the same music and that were interested in learning more.

B: I honestly attribute a large percentage of the progress that we’ve made so far to the DJ/music culture in Champaign-Urbana. It’s amazing having so many people grinding and pushing for a career in music and supporting one another, despite all the DJ battles and competition. It’s a breeding ground for talent. There was something really unique about making a tune during the day and then getting to test it out at Red Lion later that night.

UPC: How would you describe your musical style?

K: I love bass. I love aggressive/whiny/dark synths and samples. I shoot for hot snares, percussion, and samples. I like fast technical rhythms. I dig when the elements of a track are well spaced for optimal tension/release.

B: Electronic-influenced hip hop. I really can’t stand the word ‘trap’ being used to describe the music that we make, mostly because the concept of trap music is entirely based on being ‘trapped’ in a cycle of selling drugs to make it off the streets. Being from the suburbs of Chicago, it’s ignorant to say that the music we make has anything to do with ‘trap’. Branchez described it as ‘big room hip hop’ which I think works pretty well to describe what it is.

UPC: Are you currently working with any collectives?

K: We’ve done a good handful of releases with the EDM network, and they recently started their own label. We have another track under it coming out soon called Every Time. There’s another blog Trap Sounds that just started a label called Plenum Records that we’re also about to do some releases with. Proper Antics is also something that we’ve thrown around the past few years as a movement but we haven’t done anything serious with it yet.

UPC: What are some of the benefits of working together on tracks? What about shows?

K: It keeps things interesting. Sometimes when one of us have writers block, the other will come through and lay down a hot idea on a track, which is always helpful. Also just having two people writing music frequently, we always have new ideas coming in.  

K: When we’re on stage, it helps to have Ben on the mic because I try to keep the mixing fast so the energy is always up and he’ll hold down the hype game. Also Yung Banko’s gonna crank the bass to 11 when I’m not looking.

B: I always tell people that the best part of making music and playing shows as a duo is the fact that two brains are better than one. Almost all of our projects are started individually, and then we’ll sit down with it and toss ideas around. Most times, another perspective provides changes that you may or may not have ever thought about and makes the tune that much more refined. As far as live shows go, we definitely feed off each other with energy and transitions. I’m mostly on the mic during live shows doing some rapping and getting the crowd into it, and Collin handles a lot of the mixing. From what we’ve gathered, it’s a pretty unique experience adding live improvisational elements.

UPC: For what reasons  did you decide to keep your names separate?

K: We both have other styles and projects we work on, so It was more precautionary I guess in the beginning so that we would be able to still do our own things on the side. Plus Banko spits hot fiyah.

B: Both of us are constantly wrapped up in side projects with our individual monikers. We’ve definitely considered coming up with a universal name, but the brand has been doing pretty well as far as the ‘KxB’ logo goes, so I think it’s here to stay for quite a while. An definite advantage of having the name ‘Kyral x Banko’ is the implication of two artists combining styles and maintaining individual production.

UPC: What projects are you currently working on? Any upcoming shows you’re excited about?

K: Like mentioned above, we have a few releases coming out soon with EDM network and Plenum Records. I’ve personally been making an EP for this rapper on the west coast named Rexx Life Raj  that I’m almost done with. Real excited to get that out, very different style for me. We’re also coming back to Champaign to headline a show Sept. 17th called “Jams and the Giant Beats”. And then we have a festival coming up that we can’t announce yet.

B: I’ve been working on a solo mixtape to showcase some of the writing/rapping I’ve been doing over the past couple years at shows. Most people have no clue that I rap until they come to a show, so I’ve been working really hard to get some stuff recorded. On the KxB front, we are sitting on an absurd amount of unreleased music, and are sort of shopping tunes around to various blogs that we’ve been in contact with. Definitely starting to piece together a follow up EP after releasing our debut project ‘Proper via EDM Network this past Spring. We’ll be back down headlining at Canopy Club on September 17.

UPC: Any words of inspiration and/or advice for aspiring music makers out there?

K: With quantity comes quality. Keep learning new things and keep making music that you like and try and be unique. I’m equally as ‘aspiring’ as anyone else.

B: Don’t pigeonhole yourself. It’s really important to continue to evolve as a musician and not limit what you can and cannot do as an artist. Stick to what you think sounds good to you. Be willing to accept criticism constructively, but be true to yourself no matter what. Take the time to learn the ins and outs of the program that you choose to produce with. There’s a huge learning curve. I’ve been using Ableton for around 8 years and I continue to learn new things every day.

UPC: Aside from making music, what do you like to do in your free time?

K: Brew Beer, Brew Kombucha, Bartend, Snowboard/Wakeboard, and watch South Park.

B: Aside from music, I’m a freelance copywriter for an agency in Chicago and consider it to be a pretty awesome side gig that keeps my creativity alive. I was an Advertising major while at UIUC, so it worked out pretty nicely.

Tune back in tomorrow for UPC.FM Vol. 3 hosted by Kyral x Banko. In the meantime, listen to some of their work here: