If there’s one thing Zachary Takayuki Zanghi, aka TK the Architect, has learned over the years — either in his personal life, music career or creative process — it’s how to strike the right balance. In the last four years, working as a solo artist and producer, TK has refined the act of stitching together disparate elements and concepts in such a way that’s helped him to deal his own hand, most notably on his forthcoming release, Blue Season.
“This is the first time where I really feel like I’m making decisions and putting things in the right place where it can actually be something tangible, beyond just me making music,” TK noted.
Long before performing as the Architect — a nickname he earned after founding the New York-based creative collective CON TEMPLATE — TK’s early life was punctuated by wildly different influences drawing him to music. (He credits Linkin Park for inspiring him to start a band, but admits he was first drawn to music as a child after watching one of the Three Little Pigs play violin in Laurel and Hardy’s Babes in Toyland.)
Throughout his teenage years, the Long Island native played in numerous bands as part of the local emo scene while acting as lead guitarist and lyricist. Over time, TK felt some disconnect between the instinctive message he wrote on paper and its delivery by his groups’ vocalists, which ultimately factored into his move towards a solo career.
“No matter how hard you try to explain to someone how you felt when you wrote that lyric, they’re not you, so they’ll never fully understand it,” he explained. “For me, it was important that I get to say something with my voice that I wrote and meant a lot to me.”
In 2009, with a guitar in hand, TK embarked on a new frontier by way of hip-hop to deliver his own material while preserving his alternative roots. For inspiration, he listened to some of his favorite acts in old school rap — namely KRS-One, RUN DMC, and Public Enemy — but felt he couldn’t emulate that aggressive style. It wasn’t until revisiting Kanye West’s 2004 debut, The College Dropout, that he discovered a more poignant route for his new direction.
“The modern rap that was going on at the time was very flashy and ‘blingy,’ and that’s not me at all. But Kanye came out and, at the time, was this slightly nerdy hip hop head who was making this awesome music,” TK noted. “He wasn’t gruff or hood or anything, you know, so I thought maybe I could rap [as well].”
“I’m not into any kind of boxing, or anything that limits what someone can be or do because of someone else’s preconceived notion of who that person is… To put it bluntly, fuck that, I’m not into that at all.”
While recording two early EPs and a full-length mixtape, Life In Stereo (2013), TK soon discovered a signature sound that he classifies as “indie hop,” comprising 90’s hip-hop era beats with more indie instrumentation.
Aside from testing sonic boundaries through his music, TK has indirectly contributed to the growing fluidity of hip-hop’s racial landscape. Raised in a bilingual household — his mother is Japanese and his father is half Italian American — TK looks to his multicultural background as a way to inform and enrich his music, but doesn’t allow it to define his career by any means.
“I’m not into any kind of boxing, or anything that limits what someone can be or do because of someone else’s preconceived notion of who that person is,” he said. “To put it bluntly, fuck that, I’m not into that at all. I just want to be me and for people to accept me for that.”
One could argue that sense of eclecticism is carved into the bones of Blue Season, which is slated for release later this week. While working on this record, TK gleaned from a range of indie, soul and hip-hop influences for the perfect mélange of sharp lyricism, hypnotic beats and guitar virtuosity: St. Vincent, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Vacationer, and Corinne Bailey Rae, the last of whom he believes is his biggest (and most unlikely) inspiration.
According to TK, the title of Blue Season loosely derives from the phenomenon known as synesthesia — a neurological condition in which some people can hear color — as a way to directly illustrate the cool mood behind the record’s arrangement.
“The record’s not sad, but it’s not crazy and bright and sunny and happy,” TK noted. “It’s more like a mellow record and the tonality is very blue. Where Life in Stereo was a taste of all these different color palettes, I think Blue Season is different shades of one color, different shades of blue.”
Written just before TK graduated college, when he began experiencing a number of anxieties about his future, the record is rooted in the notion of “being a young person in this world that is changing rapidly as hell and trying to figure out how to navigate it all.”
“In the past, I’ve had all these conflicting influences and I refused to bridge them, but I finally feel like this is raw me.”
The record’s first single, “Wait Up Slow Down,” embodies this concept well with the help of The Get Back Kids, a group of local musicians that have played with TK on several other projects. The song thrives on a frenzy of strong harmonies, bouncing multiple vocal textures off one another to accentuate notes of fear, anxiety and ultimate solace.
In sync with Blue Season’s main narrative, TK believes this record has helped him to reach new heights as an artist, reconciling the various dimensions of his persona to produce a singular and distinctive work.
“As a human being making music, I feel more comfortable in my own skin; I feel like I’m who I’m supposed to be musically for the first time,” he said. “In the past, I’ve had all these conflicting influences and I refused to bridge them, but I finally feel like this is raw me. I don’t think anyone can make what I’m making but me and that’s the best possible feeling in the world.”
Following the release of Blue Season on April 29, TK the Architect will embark on a string of shows in New York next month in support of the record. To learn more about TK and his new record, visit his website at www.tkthearchitect.com.
Top Tracks: “Water,” “Current Passing,” “If You Can,” “Wait Up Slow Down”