After a busy year of touring and international airplay, this hotly tipped DJ duo is ready to bring the bass back home.
Who: Toronto-based DJ/producers Sam KBz and Biz Davis have created a huge range of sounds together over the past half decade, but it’s with their bass-heavy project The Killabits that the two attracted international attention.
Both men started making beats while in their teens. Davis found his way to electronic music through industrial dance acts like Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM, while KBz was turned on by The Prodigy and drum ’n’ bass producers including Dillinja.
“A mutual friend thought we should meet as we were both kind of obsessed with d’n’b and hip-hop,” explains Sam by email. “Biz had just finished school for music, and had a little studio set-up to work out of. Once we started to share records and work on ideas, it just fell into place.”
Early experiments in d’n’b, hip-hop, and rock were released under a variety of project names. The Killabits surfaced in 2009 as the duo delved deep into dubstep and bass music. Original tracks and remixes were shared through an active Soundcloud page.
By 2011, The Killabits began to break out globally. They’ve released music and toured steadily ever since, also making waves locally and abroad via Bassmentality, a bass-music club night The Killabits run with friends including Zeds Dead.
What: While early dubstep originals like “Stray Bullet” received a push from media outlets including England’s NME, The Killabits quickly turned heads with remixes—both official and not—of songs by artists including Zeds Dead, Poirier, Major Lazer, and Aloe Blacc. The Killabits’ take on the latter’s “I Need a Dollar” demonstrated the duo’s ability to work with melodies and project a subtlety that contemporary dubstep is rarely known for. They followed that with a fantastically wobbly rethink of Kosheen’s “Hide U,” which earned The Killabits further praise and BBC radio play.
Remix work has, in fact, brought The Killabits much of their success. It’s also allowed them to further flex their versatility, as with their Beatport chart-topping moombahton remix of Jeuce’s “As We Move.” Now, the pair is able to be selective about the reworks they take on.
“We definitely came out of the gate doing a lot more remixes than we do now,” says Sam. “As you grow, you have different ideas about what you want be remixing. We need the song to work for our aesthetic. It should have good bones: a strong melody, something that grabs us, and something that we can put our own twist on. We’ve learned to hone in on parts of songs that we know can translate to our audience and stay true to our style.”
“You should never remix a song to just do it—you should always be working to improve the original in a way that fits your sound,” agrees Biz, sharing that one of his fave Killabits remixes to date is of Engine-Earz Experiment’s “Reach You.”
“It’s got the right blend of heaviness and melody to be both dancefloor-ready and more musical than a lot of what’s out there.”
Earlier this year, The Killabits signed to Figure’s DOOM Music imprint. Their We Have a Crisis EP for the label shows further growth.
“We have a much better idea of less being more, which can be a tough thing to learn when you have nearly unlimited options in creating sounds on a computer,” says Biz. “Starting with really solid melodies and vocals while avoiding trying to do too much in a song has been the hardest and most rewarding improvement to make.”
“Over the years, we’ve made a few changes to our sound, but we’ve always come back to the same thing after straying,” Sam adds. “We’re really going back to that ‘songs with moods’ format on the EP we’re currently working on.”
Why: As of this writing, The Killabits have gained more than 31,000 Facebook fans through constant touring. The past year has seen them playing high-profile festivals like Belgium’s Groove City, Montreal’s MEG, and Shambhala in Salmo, B.C. They’ve toured North America coast-to-coast, with increasingly rare hometown dates drawing excited capacity crowds.
The Killabits also received a great deal of radio play and support on Britain’s BBC throughout 2012, appearing on shows with hosts like Skream and Benga, and Kissy Sell-Out.
“We had a really good run this year on BBC,” enthuses Biz. “For several months, we were getting a few plays each week from different DJs, and that was kind of crazy for us.”
Much of this attention has come from The Killabits’ connection to Bassmentality, the Wednesday weekly that grew out of the basement of 751 Queen West to pack Wrongbar on a regular basis. The night has become one of North America’s premier bass music events, and constantly expands in sound and scope.
“Bassmentality is all about energy and discovering new music,” says Sam. “We book artists we want to see ourselves, and I think that the crowd feeds off that in the most direct way. No matter who’s headlining, you know the crowd will be ready to scream, dance, get crazy, crowd surf, you name it.
“We’ve had everyone from Nero, Netsky and Skrillex to Kode9, Hatcha, Birdy Nam Nam, and even stuff like Dam Funk goes off. We’ve never really been ones to follow trends, and since our crowd is so responsive to hearing new sounds, we’re always on the lookout for something different to keep the night fresh. We don’t see ourselves as ‘the dubstep party’—we’re a bass-music night so anything from drum ’n’ bass to house and hip-hop is fair game if it’s got the right attitude.”
That attitude is front and centre in “Bassmentality,” the night’s theme song crafted in a collabo by The Killabits and Zeds Dead. Originally released in September 2011, the song reached huge new audiences this year when featured in a marketing campaign for Microsoft’s Forza Horizon Xbox game.
What’s Next: “We’re planning on coming out hot in the new year,” says Sam. “We have a collaborative EP with Dr. Ozi out on DOOM in January, are trying to wrap up a second EP that has yet to be placed, and have a few remixes in the works.
“Things are bigger than they’ve ever been. In a very uncertain industry, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen next or how long this ride is going to last. We’re just trying to make good music that we love and can stand behind. We’re happy continuing to cross things off our bucket lists, and growing as artists at the same time. Being able to play regularly, and be immersed in the scene really shows you what’s out there. Seeing different audiences’ reaction to your own productions gives you a more broad vision of that song.”
When & Where: The Killabits return home to headline, with Ephixa, this Saturday (Dec. 1) at Moskito (423 College). Also on the bill are Montreal’s Botnek, and locals Hydee and Deebs. $10 advance tickets are available online.
Says Biz, “If people have yet to see us play at home, it’s always a thrill because we can really be ourselves and push the boundaries musically while still coming close to causing a riot with the energy that hometown crowds always bring for us. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.”
The Killabits also play a 9 p.m. set next on Dec. 5 at Steamwhistle Brewery (55 Bremner) as part of the This Guy, This Girl photo exhibit opening. The featured photographers are Dylan Leeder and Maria Jose Govea.
To get you in the mood, enjoy this brand-new Killabits mix created for Denver’s Hot 107.1 FM: