Get Familiar: Full Crate
Interview by Passion Dzenga
Born to Armenian parents and having relocated to the Netherlands at a young age, Full Crate's multicultural upbringing has shaped his artistic journey and fueled his drive for success. As an independent artist and producer, he has been at the forefront of the underground music scene, constantly pushing boundaries and setting trends. With a background rooted in Hip Hop and Soul culture, Full Crate has seamlessly ventured into the realm of forward-thinking electronic music, exploring genres from RnB to Dancehall. His exceptional talent has garnered recognition, leading him to collaborate with renowned artists such as Beyoncé, Syd (The Internet), JoJo, Shakka, and even catching the attention of Rihanna, who featured his songs in her Savage Fenty show two years in a row.
Full Crate's releases have dominated the club circuit worldwide, receiving immense support from influential DJs like Diplo, Target, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and A-Trak, among others. In 2018, he unveiled his debut EP, 'Still Growing,' which served as a personal testament to embracing growth and navigating the challenges that accompany it. The EP featured his biggest hit to date, "A Storm On A Summer's Day," showcasing Full Crate's versatility as a songwriter, performer, and visual artist. Continuing his musical journey, Full Crate embarked on a new chapter with his latest EP, "In All Honesty," released in 2020. This project further explored his storytelling abilities and solidified his reputation as a multifaceted artist. Notably, the song "She Was Fly," created in collaboration with his long-time friend and collaborator Mar, was featured in the Netflix Original series 'When They See Us.'
Now, Full Crate is preparing to unveil his highly anticipated debut album, 'A Kid From Yerevan,' on June 2nd. This album serves as a platform for Full Crate to share his unique life story as a music artist, vocalist, writer, and producer. Drawing upon his dynamic background and family history, the project encapsulates his experiences in Armenia, Moscow, Amsterdam, and LA, allowing him to fully embrace his authentic self. Featuring 12 captivating tracks, Full Crate takes the helm as the singer, songwriter, and producer on each song, with an impressive lineup of featured artists including Lola Vialet & Uhmeer, Malia, Jordyn, Niyah Delenn, BJ The Chicago Kid, Qris Davis, Dende, and Siham. Leading up to the album release, Full Crate has gifted us with the enchanting single 'Show Her The Way,' featuring BJ The Chicago Kid, renowned for his collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Chance The Rapper. This romantic slow jam invites us to surrender to love and sets the tone for the introspective journey that awaits us in 'A Kid From Yerevan.'
As Full Crate delves into his roots on this debut album, he reflects on how his journey as an immigrant shaped him into the person he is today. Exploring themes of self-love, imposter syndrome, and acceptance, the project is a warm and soulful offering, showcasing the vast musical repertoire he possesses. This release also coincides with Full Crate's inaugural headline tour with a live band, featuring performances in Hamburg, London, Gent, and Amsterdam.
As he bares his soul through his music, Full Crate continues to evolve as an artist, demonstrating his proficiency across various artistic endeavours. Please join us in getting familiar with Full Crate as he shares his incredible story and treats us to his most personal work to date.
Can you tell us about your journey from being raised by Armenian parents to moving to the Netherlands at a young age? How did this exposure to different cultures shape your perspective and influence your music?
As an 8-year-old we left Yerevan, Armenia and moved to Moscow, Russia for my dad's work. It was a difficult time in Armenia at the time due to the war at the border and a nationwide crisis with challenges like not always having electricity or hot water. It wasn't much easier in Russia at the time, but my family always made sure that even in the toughest times we had a good time and saw the positive in life. At the age of, we moved to Amsterdam and that was a completely different cultural and social experience for me.
As a 13-year-old you have heard things about the Western world or seen them on TV, but still have a lot to take in, in a good way. Majority of the music I discovered by myself mainly started in Amsterdam! I got hooked on buying vinyl which is how I ended up with the name Full Crate and would always be at Fat Beats spending all my lunch money. Being in a country that had such a wide spectrum of music was truly incredible. I am a child of MTV and got to hear anything and everything. I think all those early musical journeys def influenced the artist I am today.
As an independent artist and producer, what challenges have you faced in the music industry, and how have you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges I have been navigating through is not always getting what you would hope for. Besides the financial challenges which can be a huge pressure on the independent artist, it is also dealing with the industry telling you what you can, and cannot do. Manoeuvring through those challenges, trying to climb one step at a time, can be very demotivating. But having good people around you and a great team makes the difference. I'd say the biggest overcome is just being patient and putting in the work and understanding that you can not achieve everything in one day.
Your music spans across different genres, from Hip Hop to RnB to Dancehall-inspired sounds. How do you navigate between these genres and incorporate them into your unique style?
I grew up listening to a lot of different music. Whether it was something that my parents were playing at an early age or me being a child of MTV. So all those genres are part of the musical DNA you hear in my music today. I subconsciously think I always take inspiration from everything I love and translate them into my music.
You've worked with a diverse range of artists, including Beyoncé, Syd, JoJo, and Shakka, and even had your songs featured in Rihanna's Savage Fenty show for two consecutive years. How did these collaborations come about, and what have been some of the highlights of working with such acclaimed artists?
As an independent artist, I’ve already had so many beautiful highlights in my career. All of them are equally special for different reasons. All of them are such incredible experiences and I just got to say that it’s a result of teamwork and dedication!
I remember waking up one day and hearing that somebody requested for me to make a remix for Beyoncé, which was teamwork! Then another day as I was about to go to sleep my Instagram was blowing up because people were tagging me saying ‘Your song is used in a Rihanna show!’ Shout out to Parris Goebel for that!
One of my favourites I would say would be having the first song I’ve ever made called "She was Fly", together with Mar and Eric Roberson, featured in one of the biggest Netflix shows in 2019 that ended up winning an Emmy. It felt like a full-circle moment. 10 years after release it still got recognized to be good enough for such a big show.
Your production skills have been highly regarded in the industry. Can you walk us through your creative process when producing a song or remix? How do you approach capturing the essence of an artist's vision while adding your touch?
Each session or collaboration is a completely new experience for me. I always try to have a conversation to find a connection. Something that we can go off to write and compose the record. I think it’s that connection that usually inspires me to start creating any type of sound. The process can be completely different every time. Sometimes I’ll start writing words down and then another time I just start with the musical components like the keys or the drums. Overall I would say I draw inspiration from a story or the emotions of life.
The underground music scene has been a significant part of your journey. How do you stay ahead of the curve and maintain your position at the forefront of forward-thinking electronic music?
I love being part of such a beautiful and vibrant and growing community. Electronic music is such a wide range of different musical elements from all over the globe that I feel very at home with. I just generally enjoy digging for new music and discovering contemporary artists. What also definitely has been helping is having so many friends that I’ve grown up with, or became friends along the way that are amazing at what they do. They always give me their unreleased songs that I can play. Discovering new music has always been and always will be a passion of mine alongside putting new dope people on to the world.
As an artist with diverse cultural influences, how do you use your platform to promote inclusivity and representation in the music industry? Are there any specific initiatives or causes that are important to you?
I think I always crave connecting with people that, like myself, are from different places and have different cultural backgrounds. In that connection, inclusivity has never necessarily been the goal. The focus has always been allowing myself and others to feel at home with what we are creating while being on this journey together as a cultural melting pot. But of course, the effect of bringing cultures and people together is a form of inclusivity and representation.
What advice do you have for aspiring musicians and producers who are looking to make their mark in the industry? Based on your experience, what key qualities or strategies have helped you succeed?
I would say the biggest advice I would want to give to anybody is to always trust your gut! That has gotten me where I am today. And not to give up no matter how hard things get. There have been plenty of moments in my career where I felt like I should’ve given up but something told me that I didn’t get this far just to get this far. So I just kept on pushing and step by step being patient and building. Believing in yourself, no matter how long something will take.
Your recent releases have gained significant attention and support from renowned DJs worldwide. How does it feel to have your music embraced by the club circuit and receive such recognition from influential DJs like Diplo, Target, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and A-Trak?
Honestly, that is still something that I’m trying to process! Having my musical heroes, the people that I grew up listening to and who inspired me to be the artist I am today support my music is just mind-blowing to me. It’s an incredible honour to not only collaborate with such great humans but also to call some of them my friends!
Your debut EP, 'Still Growing,' delves into personal growth and the challenges that come with it. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this project and how it reflects your journey as an artist and individual?
Still growing was the first project where I took a step back to look at who I am as a person. If it was the first body of work that I put together where I wrote from a new place of self-reflection. It was a period in my life where I was struggling with a lot of insecurities and had to remind myself that it was OK that I wasn't there yet and that I can still work on myself because just like everybody else I was and still am growing.
"A Storm On A Summer's Day" is one of your most popular songs to date. What was the creative process like for this track, and what do you think made it resonate with listeners on such a profound level?
It took & Gaidaa roughly about three hours to write the entire song. I remember sitting in my studio with her and after telling her about my girlfriend at the time how in love I was feeling and how I wanted to write a song and start it with "It’s been five years I still love everything about you". Even though that was the first time I met Gaidaa, she understood my feelings and the kind of song I wanted to write. To this day one of my fav songs I've made! I had the chords laying around with a basic version of the drums and we just started writing and laying the vocals down and before we knew it we had the song.
I think it’s a combination of how sweet the record sounds, the bounce of the precision which reminds me of Armenian rhythms, the message in the lyrics and Gaidaa’s voice that attracts people to this song. And outside of that, I think it’s a unique sounding record because, at the time when we created the song, there was nothing that we used as inspiration. I just created it from the heart.
In addition to your musical talents, you've also explored your skills as a songwriter, performer, and visual artist. How do these different creative outlets intertwine and contribute to your overall artistic expression?
I’ve always enjoyed creating in different artistic forms. Songwriting is something that I’ve always done as part of my musical journey. I just used to always do it in the background for other people. Recently when I decided to also sing and make the switch to a full-time artist I’ve been more focused on songwriting.
And my love for visuals has always been very strong ever since high school. I would always design all the flyers for the parties I used to play and also being a film graduate translated into creating and directing visuals for the music that I release. I just love creating! You can say I’m a child of YouTube University when it comes to learning to do it yourself.
Your EP "In All Honesty" continues the storytelling journey you embarked on with "Still Growing." Can you share some insights into the themes and narratives explored in this project, and how it builds upon your previous work?
"In All Honesty" was a therapeutic step in my life that allowed me to grow even more. It was time to look at myself in the mirror and accept myself for who I truly was. Which presented itself with difficult challenges to open up like that and look at yourself and all your flaws and start working on them. That project was part of not only my growth as a musician but also my growth as an individual. Around that time I started going to therapy and it helped me understand myself better! And the music was one of the biggest outlets I’ve had and still have where I just pour my emotions, feelings and experiences into.
Your collaboration with Mar on the track "She Was Fly" was featured in the Netflix Original series 'When They See Us.' How did this opportunity come about, and what was it like to have your music showcased in such a critically acclaimed production?
This was honestly one of my favourite moments in my career so far. "She Was Fly" was one of the first songs I've ever made and released. So to have that song featured in such an important big show 10 years after it’s released is just incredible. A friend of ours from way back, who works at the radio station in California, that supported the song when it came out originally, had hit us up about pitching this song for a Netflix show. At the time we had no idea what show this was and we didn’t think much of it because the chances are always low for your song to be chosen, but we sent him all the files and to be honest, forgot about it.
Sometime later, we got an email from him saying that our song had been chosen and the show was gonna drop a few days after and that’s when we realized what show this was. I remember watching the episode and seeing my name spelt out in the subtitles with the song title and just losing my shit! The definite career highlight!
You recently sold out your debut shows in Amsterdam and London with a full live band. How does performing with a live band enhance your music and connect with your audience differently compared to a solo performance?
I think I can tell a different story with a live show. My musical journey started as a DJ, which I will always be. But I’ve noticed that as a DJ I don’t always have enough possibilities to express myself which a live format does give me. It’s a new territory that is scary yet so exciting. It’s a different level of trust. I have to have faith in my team and it’s an experience that I can only describe as absolutely euphoric. I’ve always been a fan of live concerts and shows, especially when somebody has an incredible band. It’s a different musical muscle to be able to perform in front of a crowd with a band behind you and I can’t wait to play even more shows around the world.
You have a performance scheduled at Melkweg on June 8th. How do you prepare for live performances, and what can fans expect from your upcoming show?
I’ve been working on putting together a high-energy show filled with a lot of emotions and honesty. I am beyond excited about this entire tour, and the show in Amsterdam is going to be the cherry on top. The band and I are going to rehearse for a couple of days, I’ve been putting the show together for some time now. Thinking about what songs are we going to play, are we going to change anything about the songs for the live version? What instruments do we choose? It’s going to be the biggest show to date. I and the band are going to give it 110%!
Congratulations on the upcoming release of your debut album, 'A Kid From Yerevan.' Can you share with us the significance of the title and how it represents your unique life story as an artist and individual?
The one thing that connected all of those records for me is realizing that home is not a place for me, it's a feeling and a connection with people. While working on this album, there have been different themes that I have been writing about and the majority of the album has been created in different places around the world as I was travelling from my shows.
And no matter where I go, I will always be that kid from Yerevan trying my best to fit in, working on my insecurities and dealing with the world in my way! Not only am I dedicating this album to my younger self but I also want to dedicate this album to my entire family and my grandparents for always being there for me and for showing me how to deal with the world while not always being able to fit in while being an immigrant.
The album promises to delve deeper into your experiences and background, weaving together your dynamic upbringing in Armenia, Moscow, Amsterdam, and LA. How did these diverse environments influence your musical journey, and how have they shaped your identity as an artist?
Each of the four places mentioned is so different culturally, structurally and overall in the dynamic, but all of them have left an impression on me and are part of me and my creative process. Armenia and Moscow are a heavy part of my childhood, which are the earlier memories which are very warm and beautiful. Amsterdam is the most dominant influence in my life because when I moved here as a teenager, that was around the time that I started discovering art on my own and being a rebel with it. My first DJ gig, my first concert by myself, my first kiss etc All of that happened in Amsterdam. Now living in LA is a completely new chapter as a professional and as a person. It’s a huge challenge completely outside of my comfort zone, but it’s a challenge that I needed and loved.
I’ve been blessed with being able to experience so many different places around the globe and connect and take in so many different cultures. I think in every record that I write, composed and produced, you can hear a combination of different backgrounds from all those places that have raised me. And it’s a constant journey to understand myself and truly hear the influences each place has given me.
'A Kid From Yerevan' explores themes of self-love, imposter syndrome, and acceptance. Can you elaborate on how these themes resonate with your personal experiences, and how they manifest within the musical and lyrical content of the album?
Growing up in a new environment where you feel like you don’t belong because you’re an outsider creates imposter syndrome. Even when I was invited my insecurities would still get the best of me. Realizing that not everyone thinks bad of you, even if they do, it's their loss.
With that came the realization of a lack of self-love. Other people see something in me that I don't see, so why can't I love myself like others do?
It took time, effort and therapy to understand that I am good enough and that even if I don’t know something that is OK I can always learn. I think to be accepted by others or loved and respected by others, I need to understand that I have to accept, respect and love myself as who I am. I’ve noticed that ever since I started doing that in the past years, this is the happiest I’ve ever been.
The album features collaborations with an impressive selection of artists, including Lola Vialet & Uhmeer, Malia, Jordyn, Niyah Delenn, BJ The Chicago Kid, Qris Davis, Dende, and Siham. Can you share any insights into these collaborations and how they enhance the overall narrative and sonic landscape of the album?
Going into writing and creating this entire album I was in a space where I had a lot to say and I just wanted to get it off my chest. I wasn't specifically trying to add features, everybody on the album happened to be a friend or a cool collaborator that was on my list of artists I've been wanting to work with that just happened to be there at the right time and place.
The focus was never to stack the album with features just to get people featured on it. I have made over 60 songs for this album which I chose 12 and all of those collaborations were incredible humans that I connected with. I am so grateful that all of them were down to be part of my journey.
All of these collaborations gave me a boost, because all of these incredible artists that I truly look up to believe in my journey, and my abilities as an artist and a vocalist, and I’ve learned so much by working with so many incredible, talented people.
Your latest single, "Show Her The Way," featuring BJ The Chicago Kid, is described as a romantic slow jam about surrendering to love. What inspired this particular track, and how does it fit within the broader context of the album?
"Show Her The Way" the song that I wrote about a personal experience of being in an open relationship. It’s a level of honesty that I have never experienced in my life before and having so much trust and fearless openness has shown me new ways of a romantic relationship. It is a truly amazing feeling of surrendering yourself to love. To be able to love someone unconditionally and trust that person no matter what and have someone accept you for who you are. And that feeling of openness, and accepting yourself is part of the journey that is described throughout the entire album.
As an artist who takes pride in his Armenian heritage, how does 'A Kid From Yerevan' pay homage to your roots and reflect your cultural identity? Are there any specific moments or songs on the album that directly draw upon your Armenian heritage?
I’ve always felt a strong connection with my roots not only because I’m from there, but because growing up in a different country where you’re not from you tend to hold on to the little that you have, which is your household and your family that feels like a safe space. I think many people around the world can connect to those who are not from that particular place they live in.
One of the songs on the album called "City of Yerevan" is a homage to my culture not only because of the Armenian instruments and soundscape that I used but also because of the direct connection of me missing my home and describing that feeling of not being there while dreaming of my home.
And like I’ve mentioned before this entire album is a dedication to my grandparents and my entire family from Armenia because they have been a huge part of who I am as a person and I want to give them something back in artistic form.
Alongside the album release, you will embark on your first-ever headline tour with a live band. What can fans expect from your live performances, and how do you plan to bring the essence of the album to life on stage?
What makes this tour very exciting for me, outside of truly enjoying performing live with a band in front of an incredible audience, is the fact that I get to play so many new songs that are not only composed, written, and produced, but that I also sing! People can expect a high-energy show, filled with a lot of honesty. I love to tell stories in my music, which I always translate into a live format as well. I want to create a family-like energy between myself, the band and the audience.
Compared to my previous releases this album really lends itself well for a live performance with a band because of all the real musical instruments that I’ve used in the process of composing it and I’ve been working hard on a live show where I can combine my older releases with the new songs from the album to make up one big story of my journey and share that feeling in the live setting.
As you prepare to share your most personal work to date, what message or feeling do you hope listeners take away from 'A Kid From Yerevan'? How do you envision this album resonating with your audience and leaving a lasting impact?
I’ve made this record for the world and everybody to know that it is OK to be yourself no matter where you are from, no matter who you are it’s never too late to rediscover yourself. To accept yourself, to build and work, to fall and get up again and truly be yourself because that’s what I’ve been doing and this is the happiest I’ve ever been knowing that I’m just a kid from Yerevan who now gets to travel the world and do what he loves! So If I can do it, then you can do it too!