Laxcity is an ambiance curator, master manipulator of sound, and true sonic artist. His latest body of work, the Disconnect EP, breaks you out of the confines of genre into a seemingly limitless soundscape. This EP pulls us listeners into other worlds as each track smoothly transitions into the next. Laxcity, otherwise known as Joshua Mbewe, is truly gifted at opening the mind’s eye with his music. With each passing sound, we get pulled more into a cinematic universe that is unfolding within our ears.
The opening track, “Book” gets you acclimated to the sunshine-feeling and energetic BPM that shapes the rest of the EP. “Drive” is the pivotal moment in the plot line that a breakthrough happens. You can feel this through the progression of the chords of the song. A mounting feeling of hope and layers of sound get added. The evolution of the song serves as a perfect lead up to “Grateful.” “Grateful” begins with synths and effects familiar to video gamers out there. Mbewe pairs this with very bouncy, youthful vocals and one of the most unexpected drops I’ve ever heard.
“Falling For You” marks the beginning of the more downtempo, reverberating calm tones of the EP. With whispering vocals, hard drums and echoing layers of sound, this track feels like a rushing wind on a hot summer day. And the best way to end the EP, “The Way That I Do” with EMIA, pulls together the upbeat pop rhythms and vocals with his sunny sound design to produce a song that easily stays on repeat.
The way that Laxcity takes miniscule sound samples that he throws into the tracks and bleeds them out into the remainder of the song is absolutely genius.
Mbewe has dropped so many sound souvenirs in this track; pieces of familiar bites that will have you traveling through your own memories. Yet it stays dreamy in its nature, as his songs always are.
He always seems to get the perfect vocalists to blend with his production. It never fails. From his older work like “Good Morning” to the newest single from this EP, “The Way That I Do,” he perfectly mixes his production style with vocals that complete the song.
I have a personal connection to Mbewe’s music; not only is lofi and chillhop my musical safe haven, but I’ve always felt like his sound can touch my soul in a different way.
There’s something about the way that lofi can make you feel with all of its intricacies and layers. Of all of his songs, particularly “Focus” and “Cold” have been musical therapy for me. Both songs lulled me to sleep on nights when my eyes refused to close, times when I didn’t think I would make it to the next day. As I’ve navigated through the struggles of my nondescript early 20s, I had an audiobook of emotion through his music to get me through.
Flash forward to an eventful Monday in February and I find myself staring at a Zoom call to meet the person behind the sound. With jumbled thoughts, written notes, and a time limit, I embarked on a writer’s journey to ask all the right questions.
Joshua joined the call, and I began to sweat, mainly because I haven’t done a Zoom interview ever before. But I couldn’t let him think that, now could I?
We started with brief “hellos” followed by some basic notes about who I am and how excited I was to be there. He mentioned his In Unity stream set, noting, “It was really fun to put that mix together.” I nodded, thinking back to the stream and how absolutely ecstatic I was when I heard we were able to book him for the virtual festival. It never gets old when an artist you’ve loved for awhile is interacting with you, virtually or not.
I broke my reminiscing thought and continued on to ask the real questions:
Tate (Electric Hawk): I just wanted to start by asking how are you, how has your 2021 been so far? How are you doing?
Laxcity: I’m great in general. Honestly, I’m just really glad that I can finally put out music. It’s been a long time coming. I’m especially hyped today cause I just found out I’m on the cover of Dance Rising, the Spotify playlist. So that’s some good news that I got today, but in general, I’m pretty good. I’m just going though this lockdown and spending 95% of my time indoors just like everybody else, but still getting by.
T: I won’t talk too much about Corona, cause that’s all we talk about now, but more so just 2020.
What are some of the things you accomplished that you were proud of?
Laxcity: Something I accomplished?
T: It could be something small!
Laxcity: Okay, something I am definitely proud of was finally moving out of my parent’s place, cause um… throughout my whole life I never thought I’d actually get to that point. It’s difficult to get to that point, and I’m actually proud that I’ve been able to do that because of music. And it’s, you know, a massive step cause I can focus on other things now. I can define what I want my future to be cause I can work from home, make music, and just do what I love in general.
T: Did you have a part time or full time job before now? Were grinding and also doing music?
Laxcity: I was a student before I started doing music full time, but before that I’ve only had one part-time job. That was working at a Mexican-Carribbean restaurant and that’s the only thing I’ve done. Other than that, I’ve never had a lot of jobs or done anything outside of music. Going full time has been a big goal of mine. And it’s really great to finally do that now.
T: That’s a big accomplishment for sure, especially during everything that was happening in 2020.
As you’ve been making more music and getting deeper into the process, where do you find inspiration?
Laxcity: In terms of inspiration, the biggest one is listening to other artists music that I like. And I draw inspiration from life. I don’t know how to explain this, but there’s this kind of subconscious influence from doing normal things like being around your family, hanging around with friends, picking up a hobby that you’ve never done before – it’s just everyday life that subconsciously influences what your music is going to sound like.
Also, your mood plays a big part in that so I’m basically just saying inspiration for me comes everywhere. Other than that, I’m basically obsessed with computers, writing music, and I love to play the piano. I’m also inspired by other forms of art such as visual art. I love video games, I like drawing inspiration from video game soundtracks and incorporating elements of that into my music. Whether it be the emotion, the style, the genre – anything I can pull from anywhere inspires what I can write on a certain day.
T: One of the editorial playlists you have on Spotify is glitch genre, which is essentially a playlist for artists that are playing outside of the traditional boundaries of genre, that features a bunch of artists that seem to exist between genre, or transcend it all together.
What genre would you even consider your music to be?
Laxcity: Honestly it’s very tough to put what I make in a genre. At the start of writing music and doing music production, just getting the Laxcity project started, I leaned more towards the chill, lofi, hip-hop side of Soundcloud. You know, just the beatmaking side of Soundcloud. Until I branched out to Spotify. Now, I’m just in the mood to make everything.
There’s never a genre that I stick to, I’m just being very versatile these days and it’s very tough to put my sound into a genre. So for now, whenever someone asks me “What kind of stuff do you make?” I say, “I don’t know, it’s just melodic, vibey stuff, chill electronica I guess?” But now, these days, behind the scenes I’m going for an indie, rock, dream pop sound mixed with EDM song arrangement and also using organic and electronic sounds at the same time. I know the original question was what’s the genre but the answer is I can’t really put it anywhere, haha.
T: That is such a valid answer though, because even when I try to think of what genre your music is in, it really doesn’t fit anywhere. It’s almost like sensory memory in a way; you hear certain sounds and then it triggers your memory somewhere, and you’ll kind of move into a genre but then flow right out of it so it’s very evolutionary.
Laxcity: I’ve got a good taste for all sorts of music. I’m very genre-fluid, and that’s evident in my songs as well.
T: Going off of that, I know you were describing Disconnect and your creative process and you said you “embrace creating whatever you want however you want” which is super dope to hear in general.
Have you felt like your art was limited in anyway prior to now, and if so, how do you think you’ve broken out of that mold?
Laxcity: Through the years of growing and establishing a fan base, and seeing that more and more people are coming to discover me, my music and what I make, one of the things that’s held me back the most is the feeling that I have a standard to hit now that there’s new people coming on. I’m very in touch with the producer scene on Soundcloud and there is this subconscious need to impress other producers. So there’s that lowkey competitiveness, and there’s the trying-to-appeal-to-normal-people angle. Just the challenge of appealing to both of those groups at the same time has been difficult to me.
So because of that, I’ve just not been able to finish all my songs a lot. I was in this creative rut for months on end last year, and the only way to break out of that was to just forget trying to appeal to certain people, just make what you feel like making, don’t worry too much about what the song sounds like or the mix, or the master or the arrangement, the genre anything at all. Just flow just to create. But also, try to maintain a good standard. ‘Cause my perfectionism overrules the fun that I have making music. Sometimes it’s great cause I just like problem solving in my DAW and figuring out how I can progress with a song as well.
T: I’ve heard a lot of that recently, about producers creating for other producers, or for a particular crowd of people. But I think that’s what makes your work so special, is you do kind of push outside of all of those boundaries and expectations. Your latest work Disconnect really does show that you’ve settled into this unique signature.
What was the inspiration for Disconnect, was it you getting back to yourself or did you have a vision for this body of work?
Laxcity: I didn’t have any vision for this, just trying to not limit myself and stop perfectionism from making me finish songs less. It was more “make a bunch of tracks and see how I can put them in a coherent order that makes sense but also demonstrates what I’m capable of as an artist.” This project is like a way for me to show people that have been longtime listeners of my music where I am in terms of my production. You’ll notice if you listen to my older stuff it’s not mixed that well, compared to my new stuff now. It’s like an update of where my production skills are at right now.
T: For sure, you can hear the elevation of your skills and you’ve also brought in more layers to fill in the story of the tracks. Which is super cool for me to hear having listened to you for so long.
What is your process for creating music?
Laxcity: It’s very procedural these days. Starting from different methods. Sometimes, the song will start off as me just messing on some synthesizer in a DAW, or me just jamming on the piano and I come up with a really unique chord progression and I just branch off from there. Once I have the chords then I add the instrument or the synthesizer I want, drums, make a 16-bar loop, and then try to branch out all the intros, build ups, breakdowns etc. Whatever I want to put in the song.
Sometimes I’ll just take a sample and try to remix it. I remember a long time ago I made this Rihanna remix and it literally just started off with me jamming along to Rihanna and building up from there. It’s different all the time, so it either starts with drums, chords or a sample – one of those three. Then see what happens from there. My workflow is pretty fast, like if you tune into my streams on Twitch I’m pretty fast when I work on a track cause I’m just in a hurry to get it done. It’s very easy to get into the flow state. It’s almost like I’m not in control of the workflow, but I am at the same time ’cause I just do everything. I do think, but it’s not difficult to think, I just do? If you get what I mean.
T: Yeah, I think you described it perfectly by saying it’s a flow state – you’re in control but it still just comes to you and almost creates itself.
It’s like running; you might trip over at some point and fall, but then you get back up and keep going until you finish the race. Or sometimes you don’t finish the race. That’s what it’s like for me, if I was going to put it in a physical sense of how I do it. It comes to me as easy as running, but there’s some obstacles along the way. Sometimes I’ll finish something, sometimes I won’t.Laxcity
T: Well speaking in terms of obstacles, this is more of a personal reflection question, but being someone who is Pan-African, living in the UK, making electronic music that really has no genre…
What have been some of your biggest lessons, and what have been some of your biggest hurdles or obstacles?
Laxcity: As a person I am pretty introverted and sometimes I have trouble relating to people. I’m one of those people that prefers to be alone or prefers a one-to-one conversation than being in a group. So one of the biggest obstacles is networking in real life, I still need to get the hang of that. Just communicating my ideas to other people is difficult ’cause I have a system, and people work differently. So, collaboration has been one of those things. Communication and collaboration of ideas has been something that I struggle with. Especially since most of the “networking” that I do is over the Internet and it’s not really easy to work on a track if you’re just sending things back and forth.
“You can’t really be in the same room, you can’t read the other person’s reactions to whatever you’re making, you can’t gauge how they feel about the project, so collaborating through the Internet has been a challenge. ”
But sometimes it has been successful. But, most of the time it has been hard to adapt to how someone else works. Or, sometimes I have this problem where if someone sends me their project, I open it and I’m like “Oh- how are they doing all of their mixing and routing… okay” and I’m just afraid to touch anything in the project cause I just don’t want to ruin what they did. But the whole idea of a collaboration is to chime in your ideas and that’s one of those things I need to let go of, to just become better as an artist.
T: In terms of collabs, what is one collab that you were really excited about?
Laxcity: The most fun collaboration I’ve had would have to be – so I made this remix with my friend Rohaan. He was the very first “musical” person that I met up with in real life.
“I think that was a very big step for me cause I was in university in Preston in the UK (up north) and Rohaan was based in Manchester and that was the first time I had to go out, travel by myself and meet someone that I had never met in my life.”
He was like “Yo, come over we’ll work on some music.” That was a big step for me, cause obviously this was a stranger that I met on the Internet. But when we met up, he turned out to be one of the chillest guys ever and it was just a fun weekend of hanging out. We actually were going to someone’s gig, I don’t remember what the artist’s name was, but that was very fun for me; generally just going out and getting drinks, those kind of activities prior to actually collaborating on a track. That kind of thing set the foundation of the end result of the track ’cause we knew what we were both like. Along the way while hanging out we discussed what our workflows were like and had a genuine idea of how each other worked.
“I think that was the only collaboration where I adapted and all the ideas just came to us.”
After that, we became friends, so not only did I make a friend, but we made a track together and it is probably one of my most successful songs as well. It’s a remix of an artist called Valentine, and they were more than happy to let us on the remix pack. And we made something that was one of the best remixes of the pack. Rohaan went to a few shows and people were asking him “Where’s Laxcity?” ‘Cause I didn’t go with him, I was back in the UK. But just the fact that people approached him because of our collaboration made me go:
Wow. This is a body of work that I’m proud of, and not only that, but people resonate and like it.”
So it’s that connection to random people that made that collaboration special in the first place. There’s probably been other big artists that I’ve gotten to work with behind the scenes. I’d also say Medasin. Really been excited to work with Medasin, been a long time inspiration of mine. He’s basically been that artist that I look to for guidance on where to go with my sound in general. So that was a pretty big thing for me.
T: It’s so great to hear that you and Medasin have been connecting because both of you have such similarities in style, but are so unique in your own ways. If you could be on any lineup with an artist or artists, who would it be?
Laxcity: Ok, Mr. Carmack – that’s the top. Mr. Carmack is a G.
T: He’s SERIOUSLY the OG.
Laxcity: Second would have to be Medasin, again. Porter Robinson, Skrillex, Madeon… I wanted to work with Hex Cougar as well, he’s really cool. And actually a lot of my friends. Like Moore Kismet, I would be so happy to join them for a show or be on the same lineup. There’s probably some others I can’t think of right now, but yeah, those are the top few producers I would like to be on a lineup with.
T: I’ll go into rapid fire really soon, but I have a couple more questions that are just about you. So favorite festival you’ve been to? Have you been to one?
Laxcity: I’ve never been to a festival. I was supposed to actually go to my first one last year. It was Rampage in Berlin. It’s mostly dubstep and I was very excited about that. But of course, Coronavirus, so I couldn’t go.
T: Ah, but that’s ok! You’ll get your time!
Final question, what’s the one big piece of advice you would tell your former self?
Laxcity: I would tell my former self that your body is not a limitless resource, so keep that in mind, keep yourself healthy also keep doing the music thing, it’s going to be huge for you.
T: That is some solid advice for sure. Ok are you ready for rapid fire? Favorite British sweet/candy?
Laxcity: Hmm.. I don’t know if this one is British but I really like Maltesers.
T: Favorite drink; can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic?
Laxcity: It would have to be a tie between Sprite and Mango Rubicon.
T: Favorite producer right now?
Laxcity: It would have to be Dobi, very very underrated but he creates those kinds of songs that tell a story. One of those songs that are a journey of a song arrangement.
T: Favorite gaming console?
Laxcity: Oculus quest, second is Nintendo Switch. Everybody is sleeping on VR right now.
T: Favorite video game? Currently and all time!
Laxcity: Currently, favorite video game is Apex Legends, and my all time favorite has to be Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
T: Ableton or FL?
Laxcity: I am both, but mostly FL. I just recently picked up Ableton.
T: Favorite city you visited for music?
Laxcity: Portugal, definitely Portugal. Madeira, Portugal. It’s an island off of the mainland.
T: Favorite season?
Laxcity: Summer. Winter is depressing, man I hate winter. Cloudy sky and cold, it’s like what? Some people like that?
T: Haha, exactly. Not a fan of winter myself.
That’s my rapid fire, so I’m gonna wrap this up by saying what’s next for you?
Laxcity: A lot of self releasing. And I don’t know, if a good label opportunity comes up, I will take it. Live shows, I’ve been practicing djing. I’ve got a few virtual shows coming up. I finished a sample pack and it’s being reviewed by Splice right now. I’m definitely going to try and get Youtube up and running, I’m editing video of tutorials. And just a lot of extra things on the side such as Patreon, Twitch, more livestreams. All that stuff really. But there’s no big picture plan yet, just the basic stuff.
T: Well that is all of my questions! Thank you so much for your time, and your music. It’s definitely helped me through a lot, and thank you for taking the time to talk to me today!
I finished up the interview, clicked the dreaded “Leave Meeting” button, and smiled to myself. Being able to talk casually about music with Laxcity was honestly eye-opening. His down to earth nature, calming voice, and unique approach to creating his sound gave me so much context of the person behind the music.
Joshua Mbewe is a genre-defying powerhouse.
Looking through his discography, Mbewe shows how rewarding it can be to simply follow your sound, with no restrictions. If you love lofi, chillhop, and songs that evoke memories and emotions, his new EP Disconnect is for you. The EP brings together distinctive soundscapes, hard-hitting drums and beautifully arranged beats to transport you to other worlds with each track.
A big thanks to Joshua for the interview. Go follow him on his socials below and check out his newest EP, Disconnect!
And if you’re looking for new music, keep up with our weekly Spotify Playlist, Fresh Hunts, or follow us on Twitch. Whether it’s the newest drops from Laxcity, all your other favorite artists, some old school, or underground—we just want you to hear it.
February is Black History Month. A time to celebrate the triumphs and educate yourself of African Americans’ struggles in the United States. If you’re looking to support organizations that work to promote black health, education, rights, and community development you can do that here.