Get Familiar: Kristian Hamilton
"Love is Hard” is the leading single for the collaborative project “18” by Patta & Tom Trago. A rueful dreamy song by LA-based artist Kristian Hamilton who undertook both the visual accompaniment as well as the vocals, making it distinctly his own. Ahead of next week's release, we caught up with the man himself to get familiar with where he has been and where he is going.
Hi Kris, please tell us a lil bit about yourself; where are you from? What do you do?
What’s up I’m KRISTIAN HAMILTON, a singer-songwriter from Naptown (Indianapolis, Indiana)!
Your track ‘Love Is Hard’ is the leading single for the Patta x Tom Trago project. Tell us how this came about
When I first heard the instrumental from Tom, I was taken aback by it cuz it was much quieter and darker than the rest of the tracks he sent. I gravitate towards darkness naturally, so it resonated with me. It felt like the beat wanted me to tell its story and the song wrote itself.
What’s ‘Love Is Hard’ about? Does it draw from personal experiences?
It’s about being toyed with emotionally by a free spirit. The song explores the notion of whether to stay in or leave a bad situation, even if it feels like love. In this song, I lean into my desires instead of following my head- a bad decision.
The video for ‘Love Is Hard’ really takes you on a journey thru the mind of someone. What’s the vision and how did it come to fruition?
That’s right, it’s a journey into the mind of someone in need of change and a love that’s concrete. I feel the video captures many of these conversations, from scenes with the alluring eyes of “Pleasure” (played by Henrietta) to the scene of the many faces that my character wears with the devil mask, representing him falling once again to her ways.
One of my favourite parts of the video is at 1:43 when “Pleasure's" eyes shut and it takes you to her, wondering, where he is and trying to lure him back for her.
Another part I really mess with in the video is the clips of footage and how they show my character on walks through his eyes- a trail of places and streets he’s walked through at night while burdened by his situation. The perspective really brings you into his world and leaves room for audience ambiguity.
Were you familiar with Trago's music before you were introduced thru Patta?
I wasn’t too familiar at the time, I had a lot to explore fo sho! But these days, "Lost in the streets of NYC (Actress remix)" is still on rotation!
Have you put the director's hat on before? Do you plan to direct more in the future?
Not many know this, but I co-directed the video for my Night Slugs release, “Liked You " by Hysterics, alongside my guy Patrick. I'm constantly thinking of new ways to tell stories through film! It’s definitely something I want to explore more of!
You’re featured on the introduction track ‘Leon’ of Theophilus London’s Bebey album from 2020. Tell us how that came about. You also collaborated with Theophilus and Giggs on the BIG BAD project in 2019. Was this your first release ever? How did this come about?
An introduction it was bro! All my stories are long bro but it was a crash course into the industry! I witnessed firsthand how to operate as an independent artist and what comes with that. Also, the experience stressed the importance of having a safe space to come to for refuge because shit gets heavy sometimes.
I’ll keep the story brief but one day I went to the gym and spotted someone I admired since high school but I didn’t say nothin’. We kept our worlds separate that day.
Next day I went back to the gym and Theo sat down on a stationary bike right by me. I was wondering what to say and how to say it but I knew I couldn’t let my opportunity pass again. I broke my silence and introduced myself, we worked out together, and exchanged information while talking about music and his upcoming release at the time ("Only You (feat. Tame Impala)").
He invited me to the studio the next day and I couldn't believe I was there! When Theo showed up, he ran his session as planned and toward the end let me play some of my tracks.
He liked the last track I was unsure of, which is one of my proudest moments as an artist. I’m glad I played it till this day! Changed everything! In those upcoming days he brought me onboard for recording “NIGHTS B4 BEBEY," pure energy!
The next day he performed the mixtape at Blind Dragon in Los Angeles. He made that shit look so easy bro. He brought me on to perform my song on the track from the mixtape "Love Me Forever (Feat. NY. Theo)".
After the mixtape, he asked me to be on his album Bebey! The whole experience was wild and I wouldn’t change it for nothin’! Theo taught me so many lessons in such a short time and I'm forever grateful for his guidance and trust with being apart of the creative process.
A few weeks go by and I’m back at the studio to record “Leon," the opening track of the Bebey album. Theo had other sessions going on at the same time, but would pop in and out periodically to check on me. I went and did my thing and the next day I get a call from Theo saying that Giggs liked the work I did on his track and the rest is history!
One of the biggest moments from those sessions was hearing Giggs himself on the phone. He's a legend and I’ll never forget the praise!
You’re featured on Hysterics’s ‘Liked You’ that came out on Bok Bok’s legendary Night Slugs label. Tell us something about your connection to Bok Bok and how this came about.
I was digging for beats on SoundCloud when I came across this instrumental by Hysterics, aka Girl Unit.
It was crazy to me that there was no one on this track, so I ripped the beat, sang over with my headphone mic, hit Bok’s DM crazy and eventually got his email. He thought the track was dope and sent it to Girl Unit.
The next month Bok had a show in DTLA and we met up for the first time IRL and had a conversation where we teased the idea of me heading to London to re-record the final version of “Liked You." Towards the end of the year, we made it happen!
There’s a certain magic over the city of London that I can’t describe- it definitely had an impact on the recording. It was a dope experience recording with Bok and Girl Unit, and I can’t wait to revisit! I’m blessed to call Night Slugs my family and I grateful for our dynamic.
The tracks you’re featured on are very versatile. You jump from straight rap (J Ghost the Conscious Hippy ‘Generational Curse’) to alternative (Nikita Kamenskiy ‘Shoeface’) to pop (Beringei ‘Adore Ya’’) to more electronic sonics (Divorced Dad ‘(Do You Want Me) Baby’). Where does your taste in music come from? What type of music was present in your household growing up?
I grew up listening to a plethora of different sounds and genres. My taste in music comes from my experiences growing up as a black kid in America in the 90s.
Most of my music taste came from riding around summer days with my Mum, windows down in our Geo Tracker convertible with sub-woofers banging loud through the streets haha!
My Mums early 80, 90s, and 2000s mixtapes range from Whoudini, The Sugarhill Gang, The Fat Boys, Biggie, Too $hort , Mary J Blige, Erykah Badu ,Kurt Franklin, Mississippi Mass choir, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Anita Baker, Chaka Khan,and Sade. There are definitely many more but these artist and sounds shaped me as an artist today.
What does the future hold for Kristian Hamilton? What can people expect? More music with Tom Trago? Other collaborations in the woodwork?
The future is looking bright with a couple more collaborations and my ep dropping early next year!! One of my next collaborations is with Funkineven, we have a track coming out, “Payn Me Mind” and I cant wait to share that one too! Yes definitely more music with Tom, cooking up now!
You dropped a solo release in 2021 called "prty ppl". Tell us about it. Who did the production?
Prtty Ppl was my official debut single- I'm really proud of that record! I cowrote it with my bro Aldo (aka Divorced Dad), who also handled the production. We were going thru an interesting patch of life and networking that led to the realization that looks don't always match the reality of situations and the song was born from there.
Once he sent the beat over- we KNEW it was special. It was a labor of love, but took our time with it and the reception from everyone lets us know it was worth it.
Me and Aldo have a running joke that it's an "everything song"- some songs are a night vibe, cookout classics, you feel what I'm saying?- but this one is an everything song that everyone can relate to at any point in their life while doing whatever. It goes with everything!
You’ve made a collage for Victor Crezée’s NTS show in the past. Do you dabble in other forms of art apart from music often?
Was one of my best collages I’ve done! Apart from music, I’m painting, sketching, taking photos, and designing clothes for video concepts. It’s important for me to constantly stay in a creating state of mind bc all of these things together strongly influence the music I make.
What are some of the more recent releases you’re into?
Lord Tusk - Don’t feel no way
BOKBOK - Ouais
Izzy Spears - FIST
Theo Croker - LOVE QUANTUM
What do you want people to know about Kristian Hamilton?
I’m rarely on there, but find me on twitter @baredow, my instagram is the same!