Bestfriend is a Canadian Indie-Pop duo who met on Instagram. Members of this group include Stacy Kim and Kaelan Lupton, who just so happen to live on opposite sides of the country. On this second volume of The Show Must Go On series, Upswing’s founder Marla Milano interviews Kim and discusses how the duo has worked remotely, their future plans and more.

MM: How long have each of you been making music, and what about your individual styles do you think blend well together?

SK: I’ve been making music for around 6 years now, and Kaelan’s been making music since early high school — so probably around a decade for him. I think we both find that we have aspects of our individual tastes in music and our songwriting styles that compliment each other really well. We’re both perfectionists, which is about as inconvenient as it sounds, but I think our biggest strength as a duo is that we’re not afraid to yell our bad ideas at each other until we have good ideas. We’ve made some songs together that we both absolutely hate, looked at it, shrugged, and then just moved on to the next.

MM: Tell me a little about how you guys met. For a little context, Stacy lives in Vancouver and Kaelan Toronto. 

SK: We sort-of met through a mutual friend a really long time ago, over the Internet, as you do. I followed him on Instagram and Twitter through this mutual friend because I thought he seemed like a pretty funny and cool guy. We didn’t really speak much, it was just your average “let’s like each others’ Instagram posts and tweets but not interact” acquaintance-ship, and it wasn’t until I think – almost two years ago now? – that the mutual friend invited me to grab a drink with the two of them while he was visiting his other friend in Vancouver. A couple weeks after, I posted a video of my new AKAI MPK keyboard. He asked what DAW I use, what I’m working on, and that culminated into a conversation about making music in general — I’d been working on a really bare-bones cover of Phoebe Bridgers’ Smoke Signals, and I sent the Logic file over to him, he added to it, we loved it and worked really well together — and voila, a band was born.

What’s it like to collaborate remotely?

SK: Collaborating remotely is a pretty huge learning curve to take, which I think applies to pretty much everything. It was a lot of trial and error, a lot of trying to figure out what, exactly, was the best way to collaborate. I would honestly say that it took us about half a year to fully master it, if we’ve even mastered it at all. We’ve got distance and time zone differences working against us. There was a bit of a running joke for a while that we’ve now outgrown at this point, but Kaelan and I were never excited at the same time about music. Like, as an example, Kaelan would be yelling at me and blowing my phone up and I’d wake up it would be 7AM my time, so I’m half asleep and grumpy, but it’s 10AM and he’s a freak who enjoys being productive in the mornings. Vice versa for me, but it’d be 10PM my time and 1AM his time.

MM: Do you ever get the chance to meet in person?

SK: We do get the chance to meet in person when our wallets and schedules permit. We’ve met three times now in person, two times in Vancouver, once in Los Angeles.

MM: Both of you are well-versed in online tools like Slack. What other software do you like to use to produce music? 

SK: We both use Logic Pro X, lots of plug-ins, Google Drive, Dropbox and a ridiculous number of Zoom sessions to write music together.

MM: You’re clearly used to working remotely, but social distancing has more than likely had some sort of impact on your creative processes. What has that been like for each of you? In what ways, if any, have you had to adapt?

SK: To be totally honest with you, and I’m definitely speaking from a place of privilege here, but social distancing has had way more of a positive impact than not for us. I work a full-time job currently and he’s generally quite busy with school and a thousand other non-related projects. So on a normal day, we’re both pretty occupied, then we’ve got our social lives / other hobbies that take up a lot of the last few hours of the day. Now, with all of this happening, Kaelan’s not in school, I’m working from home, and neither of us have a social life right now (at least not one where we have to leave our houses to do things), which means we both have more hours than ever to just hustle and work on music. 

MM: Do you see a trend of musicians continuing to collaborate remotely even after our stay at home orders are lifted? 

SK: Yeah, absolutely. It’s been so, so cool seeing musicians we know use this time to connect with other people, whether it’s via Instagram Live chats or just remote sessions in general. I think people are really starting to embrace collaborating remotely, and it’s such a convenient way to do things that I can definitely see it continuing past all of this. 

MM: What’s your favorite song you’ve released together and why?

SK: We have not yet released our favourite song we’ve ever written, but after saying that I think that’s a bit of a cheat answer. We’ve got three original songs out right now. For me so far, personally, it’s Television ’99. It was this super spacey, stripped back song for the longest time that Kaelan had written, only the first half of it existed really, and I eventually convinced him to add that “drop” that happens around the 1:30 mark. I would say that right now, it’s the best representation of our general theme as a band, the idea of childhood, memories, all of that fun stuff. Also, I like cool drops.

MM: Who inspires you? 

SK: Literally anyone we have worked with so far, but if we’re talking in a more abstract sense, I’ve found inspiration in a lot of alt-pop and pop artists; Bleachers, Lorde, Lauv, Clairo, Dua Lipa, Troye Sivan, the 1975. All that good stuff. They’re all so good at finding such a solid place in such specific but all-encompassing themes in their production and songwriting. For songwriting specifically, I’ve been listening to a lot of Slaughter Beach, Dog (that’s one band name), Ryan Beatty, Big Thief, Local Natives and Rex Orange County. 

MM: When it comes to making music, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

SK: Oh man. Hands down, it’s to make ugly things. I think creatives (read: me, I’m creatives) spend a lot of time trying to make whatever they’re making look perfect because of some weird preconceived notion of perfection. It stopped me from writing anything or making anything for the longest time, and I still have a lot of trouble grasping it, but the realization that I’m allowed to make and write ugly and bad songs was super empowering for me. 

MM: What are your plans after social distancing becomes a thing of the past?

SK: I am going to hug my friends VERY hard. As for music, Kaelan had a trip here planned for us to have some writing and recording sessions, but we booked that back when we were still naively optimistic about the state of the world and COVID-19. Once this is all over, I think we’re going to meet up in Toronto, hole up somewhere and write. We’ve got a release that I am not allowed to tell much about yet coming up in June, so for now, we’ll be working hard towards that.

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