By Maitreya Ravenstar

A 20-year-old German sits across from me on the somewhat unkempt floor of his room, a space that features a dissembled drum kit, uncombed stacks of vinyl records, and posters for DJ sets and listening parties displaying the latest trends in graphic design: liquid silver fonts and ombre swirls. I first met Leevi when we were 15. He had traveled from his small hometown situated at the edge of The Black Forest in Southern Germany to Upstate New York for a three-month foreign exchange experience in my class. We bonded over a love of music then, and that hasn’t gone away four years later, now maintaining a close friendship between New York and Berlin. Leevi is a drummer, having played in jazz bands since his adolescence, and a beat-maker, collaborating with rappers mainly from the Capital Region thanks to connections he made as a teenager. He has spent the last year interning at the Berlin-based label Kommerz Records for his gap year and is now working there as a part-time employee while starting at Berlin’s Universität der Künste (University for Art) this fall. He has made music the defining gesture of his life, so I wanted to sit with him to discuss being a musician across genres, Berlin’s scene, and the transition to industry-based work.

Maitreya: I remember when I first visited you in the suburbs of Freiburg you excitedly showed me the vintage jukebox your father had in your living room. How did growing up with a parent so involved in the Berlin DJ scene affect your relationship with music?

Leevi: My dad gave me the foundation for my musical knowledge and taste. When I was little, like seven or eight, and I got into playing drums and listening to music, my dad gave me a lot of his stuff he listened to when he was younger, so like a lot of rock music, and that was my base. When I got older and discovered hip-hop on my own, he gave me a little bit of 90s jazzy hip-hop stuff like Guru’s Jazzmatazz or EPMD.

M: When thinking of your identity within music, which feels more prevalent, your drumming or beat-making?

L: Mmm, I think they both rely on each other in some kind of way. Drumming is always gonna be my number one thing, but sitting in my room and working on beats on my own has some quality to it, so I think they benefit each other. If I’m stuck with one, then I can be more focused on the other.

M: Will you describe for me what the jazz jam sessions you attend in Berlin look like?

L: It’s a really cool place at Film Kunst Bar in Kreuzberg, where every Wednesday there are concerts and jams happening. First, it’s a small gig in the basement, and after that, it’s like an open jam session until 2 a.m. All the people who are interested in the jazz and RnB scene are showing up, whether they’re playing or not. Sometimes people just show up who are fans that don’t even make music, they just like to be there to catch the vibe. It’s a really open community, and you don’t have to be good, you can just have fun. It’s a really inspiring place. And a place where you can meet a lot of people and exchange thoughts about music.

M: Can you talk about your band Kitch, and how it has evolved since your move to Berlin?

L: Kitch makes jazz-inspired music with a lot of different musical influences. I would say our biggest influence is the UK jazz scene, but also a lot of hip-hop and beat-focused music like J Dilla and Madlib, and then a lot of RNB. It’s a mix of a lot of new school genres. But Kitch is kinda on a break right now because Freddy, our pianist, and Kim, our bass player are both still in Freiburg. And Candra, our vocalist, and I moved to Berlin a year ago. I think the last time we made music was last Christmas when we came home for the holidays. But we’re excited to get back together when the two from Freiburg move to Berlin this fall. That’s the plan, to get the music going again!

M: Your upcoming mixtape is being released very soon. What’s been your process in creating that?

L: Last year I graduated from high school, since we have an extra 13th year here in Germany just for exams, so the last two years have been really busy and I didn’t really get to my beats, because I use drumming as a way to release stress after school. So, I just really wanted to work on a project again and my biggest inspiration was Knxwledge. The goal was to create a cool, instrumental, alternative hip-hop album. And now we have two vocal features on that which is cool. So that just happened, I guess!

M: You go by the name LOUSELV for your mixtapes. Where did that come from?

L: Um, it’s not that exciting, actually, cuz I just thought the name was cool. Like the name KAYTRANADA. That was the inspiration. It kind of reminds me of “yourself” which I used for my first EP mixtape, “be yourself,” “be louselv,” like that.

M: In the past, you’ve collaborated with a Saratoga local rapper who goes by Scrambled. What is your process in collaboration, and does the beat or the verse come first?

L: Scrambled and I just really, like, appreciate each other on a personal level and appreciate each other’s work, so we keep sending stuff to each other. For the intro for my upcoming mixtape/album, I was like, “Man I really want her to be on that and find some words, she’s really good with words.” So, I had the idea to focus on the topic of home, like “What is home, where is home,” stuff like that, and I explained that to her via text and we had a call and she was like, “Oh I already have an idea,” and then she sent me the verse in the next few days.

M: How did your connection form?

L: My host family in Saratoga is really connected with Scrambled’s mom, and my host mom was like, “You should really hit up Scrambled, she’s a cool rapper,” and I was like, “Okay! Ima do that!” And that happened before I went to America, actually, at the end of 2018, I think. And then I made some Scrambled inspired beats and I think she really liked that, and then we just met when I came to America and since then we’ve been, like chatting, hanging out, when we see each other. I really love her she’s a great human being.

Listen to one of their collaboration here

M: Who’s your other collaborator from the Capital Region?

L: His name is Rhakim Ali, he’s really cool. He’s a young rapper from Albany, and I met him also when I did my exchange four years ago through an open mic session in Saratoga, and I’ve been a fan. I just asked him if he could do a verse for me, and he did!

M: You are currently working at Kommerz Records. What does your typical workday look like there?

L: That’s really hard to describe cuz there’s no typical workday. I really love it there. Basically, I just do a lot of working on press sheets and pitching music to playlists and just hanging out with the boys! It’s really chill, it doesn’t feel like work because I’m really interested in that.

M: How has it been being involved in a workplace environment full of others who are as passionate about music as you?

L: It’s really fun. I definitely get a different perspective cuz it’s like the management, industry side of music, but Kommerz Records isn’t too big so it’s still local and they still do it because they love it, and not because of the money. Also, the two brothers I work for don’t make music, like they’re just fans, they don’t play any instruments. So that’s cool, to work closely with people who are related to music but don’t actually make music. It’s been great, it’s been really inspiring, and I learn a lot.

M: As a final note, will you tell me your album of the summer?

L: The new Zach Fox ep is really good.

Leevi’s (LOUSELV) upcoming project, “haven’t been home for days – a colleague of beats, sounds and feelings,” comes out November 17 on Kommerz Records and will be available on all streaming platforms. The album’s description reads, “”home” is such a relative term. it can be anything. a place, a feeling, a person or yourself/louselv. we are always looking for this one thing – especially at the age of becoming an adult. disoriented & self-confident over the past year, 22 sample heavy tracks have emerged from this feeling. i still have not arrived.” You can check out his bandcamp here and his spotify here. The first four singles, featuring Scrambled and Rhakim Ali, are already out.








Nov 8 2023

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