By Jason Fontelieu
When Ayokay took the stage at Songbyrd Music House for his sold-out show this past Tuesday, his gratitude for the crowd was palpable.
“You guys look fucking beautiful,” he said.
Originally from the suburbs of Detroit, the 26-year-old up-and-coming electropop producer’s music career seemed inevitable. He began recording music for his brother and his friends, including hip-hop singer Quinn XCII, while in high school until he yearned for his own spotlight.
“I eventually decided I wanted to actually make music instead of just being behind the scenes,” he said in an interview before the show.
His stage name is based on his initials from his real name, Alex O’Neill. The D.C. show was O’Neill’s fourth stop on his first headlining tour in support of his debut album, “In the Shape of a Dream.”
“The album is about the memories that shape us, the ghosts that haunt us and the ways they all come back to us,” O’Neill said, adding that he aimed for the album to have a “dreamy, ethereal vibe.”
The ten-track effort is meant to be listened to a single sitting, according to O’Neill.
“It is all just in one sonic world,” he said.
In person, O’Neill’s immediate, unbreakable connection with his audience is unmistakable. Whether it was the muffled intensity of the kissoff “Half Past You,” or the emotionally evocative, infectious “Don’t Want to Be Your Friend,” O’Neill’s music somehow masterfully blends the airy bounce of dancehall-island music, the timely syncopation of indie-alternative and the musicality and momentum of modern electronica.
His style attempts to blend the influence of his inspirations like Odesza or Kygo, along with the likes indie, early-electronic bands like Passion Pit, Postal Service or MGMT.
“I try to make electronic music that doesn’t sound like it was made in a computer, made by people that were actually composing it and playing it live,” O’Neill said. “That’s my intention.”
In between his own tracks, O’Neill displayed his production prowess on remixes of bops like Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead” or Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Run Away With Me” to hype up the crowd of young D.C. socialites.
As O’Neill displays a promising bid to become a breakout star amongst the genre of underground electro-pop, he admitted he does have a pre-show ritual.
“Tequila shots,” he chuckled.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ayokay’s Facebook page.
Jason Fontelieu is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.