2:29 pm - 08/10/2017

Korean Flavors: An Interview with Songwriting/Production Duo Caesar & Loui

Daniel Caesar and Ludwig Lindell have been making music together since they were six years old. Decades later, they're still working together but under the joint name Caesar & Loui. They're currently signed to The Kennel, a music publishing, production, and management company based in Sweden. As with other songwriters and producers on The Kennel, Caesar & Loui write songs for pop stars all over the world. Recently, they wrote and produced new singles from LOONA, Red Velvet, and Girls' Generation. They touch on the process of writing those songs and more below.

How would you describe the Korean/Japanese market, and how would you say it differs from others you write for? And similarly, what keeps you interested in writing songs for this market?

What we’ve always thought was really interesting and fun with the K-pop/J-pop market was the variety of styles and sounds in the music. It feels like the labels are always looking for something fresh and new; they're not afraid of taking chances. If we compare this to writing for the Western market (US, UK, etc.), it feels like a music style will stay longer on the top charts and the leads (leads = what the labels are looking for) for artists refer back to the same songs for a longer period of time.

Also, what we really love about the K-pop/J-pop market is the effort put into the songs' videos and choreographies. It was the first thing that we really fell in love with when we heard/watched our first K-pop song!

It feels like the K-pop market especially has a really global and viral spread right now. And every year it grows a little bit more. We feel like it’s a cool journey to be a part of and also, of course, it gives us a lot of opportunities to get our music out. Since we have both the K-pop/J-pop world and the US/UK market to write for, we tend to always find a home for our songs!

You two wrote Girls' Generation-TTS' "Stay" as well as f(x)'s "Spit It Out". Like many other songs you've written, those definitely felt like they were chosen for the perfect artists. Did you have these artists in mind when writing these particular songs? And do you recall what the influences and inspirations were for them? And more broadly speaking, when writing songs for Korean artists, how often would you say you're taking influence from other K-pop versus pop that comes out of America or Europe?

Both of those songs were written specifically for SM Entertainment and their artists! We had the girl bands in mind of course when we wrote those songs. SM are really good at picking songs for the right artists and making them their own. But we thought—let’s just write good songs for the girl-groups at SM. We have to mention that both of these songs were written as D3O, so Ollipop is a writer/producer on the songs as well!

For "Stay" we had the idea of making a future disco beat with a big chorus. We wrote it with Kennel writer Hayley Aitken, who has an amazing voice, so we were really able to get the vibe right for the song! We thought it would be fun to make a disco type of drop after the second chorus. We kept the piano in focus with typical disco chords and had an R&B-ish melody on top of that. It feels like the song has a really special vibe with those elements put together.

”Spit It Out” was actually one of the first songs we wrote together as D3O. Our inspiration for the song came from hearing Girls' Generation's ”I Got A Boy” for the first time—we thought the sounds and the melodies were so special and cool.

Inspiration comes from all different genres for us. Especially for tracks, we have a lot of producers that we follow and listen to. For example we love productions from The Struts (Tove Lo, etc.), Skrillex (Justin Bieber), Mura Masa, Diplo, etc. And of course we follow the latest K-pop trends for inspiration. But basically we just take inspiration from any great music we hear.

More recently, you two wrote "Singing in the Rain" for JinSoul of LOONA. Blockberry Creative is a rather new label so I'm interested if they were the ones who first got in touch with The Kennel. Its release seemed perfectly timed too, coming after the moody electropop of Kim Lip's "Eclipse". I know you stated that you'll have songs written that won't be used until later but how much time was there between writing this song and its eventual release? And how much time, on average, would you say there is between any song being written and its release?

We came in contact with them when they said they wanted the song. We don’t know the whole story about how The Kennel came in contact with them!

The song was written during one of our own camps called "Camp Awesome". We had it together with our dear friends Ollipop, Cage (producer/writer at The Kennel) and Oneye (producer/writer at The Kennel). The idea of the camp is to write great songs together during a whole week and end it with a listening party. It’s a really fun and creative way of writing songs and all of us can come in and give feedback during the process of the song-making. This song was found rather fast by LOONA, it took only a few months until they wanted to record the song.

On average we would say it takes about six months to up to a year before a song gets cut. But it varies a lot, we’ve had songs laying around for two to three years before finding its home and sometimes it happens right away!

I find the song super exciting because it seems to take sounds from the post-dubstep scene of the early 2010s but also feels right at home in the landscape of K-pop today considering the more contemporary dance music sounds that have existed since 2015. I'm thinking of stuff like LDN Noise's work with SM as well as last year's "Promise (I'll Be)" and "Think About You" from 2PM and Jun. K, respectively. Can you discuss what you two were aiming for with this song?

Actually the song is a mashup of two different productions. The drop part was made by us like 2-3 years ago. We actually re-produced the idea right before the camp! The other part of the production (verse-beat and the part before the drop) was made by Oneye right before the camp. During the session of making the song we thought, let’s put the productions together, and it worked! After that we top-lined the track and came up with the title "Singing In The Rain". I think the main idea of the song was to create something groovy and danceable. It felt like LOONA really understood that, the video and the dance moves looks great.

Red Velvet's "Red Flavor" is a massive hit and it is, in my opinion, the K-pop song of the summer. I feel like you don't really get a sense of how propulsive and joyful the song really is until the song slows down with Wendy's final line. Even then, there are a lot of details in the song that I feel like are easy to miss. What was the process like for writing this song?

This one we wrote by ourselves. It was actually aimed for the UK band Little Mix since we had a meeting with one of their A&Rs at the time. But we felt like it could work for the K-pop market as well! The song started with the track and the low voice you can hear in the intro and during the chorus. After that we just wrote the melodies and played around with the track. The result was the song "Dance With Nobody". It was the original title before the lyrics were translated into Korean. We hired our good friend and great singer Ylva Dimberg (writer; f(x), Girls' Generation, Taemin, etc.) to sing the demo of the song and you can actually still hear her background vocals in the pre-chorus! Finishing this song actually took a little bit longer than usual. We took a break from the song for a few months before finishing it just to listen to it with fresh ears. We’re really happy with how the song turned out. Red Velvet and SM did a really good job with the song!

You two helped produce "All Night", one of Girls' Generation's brand new singles. It's especially exciting because the song and album were released 10 years after they debuted with "Into The New World". To further commemorate this anniversary, SM released a "Documentary Version" of "All Night" that finds the girls reminiscing on their time together. The girls also handpicked some songs from their discography for an Apple Music playlist. What significance does Girls' Generation have to you two specifically? And if you had to choose one or two songs that hold special significance to you, be it from their Korean or Japanese releases, what would they be and why?

Girls' Generation was one of the first K-pop acts we listened to. So they kind of introduced us to the K-pop style. We thought it was really cool how they could have such a big group but still make it work. The choreographies and the harmonies in the vocals were really new to us.

If we had to pick two songs we would pick "I Got A Boy" and "The Boys". "The Boys" was probably one of the first K-pop songs we heard and we were really amazed by the cool production and the well-made video for the song. We also really loved the harmonies in the vocals! Especially in the intro of the song when the vocals are alone.

"I Got A Boy" was written by one of our Kennel writers "Sarah Lundbäck Bell" so we got to hear the song in its early stages. We thought the style and the tempo transition were really cool! The song really inspired us to think outside the box and, as mentioned before, we wrote the song "Spit It Out" after we heard it.

Was "All Night" another song that you had specifically written for SM? Tiffany's rap in the second verse and the synth ornamentation in the bridge bring to mind "Stay", funny enough.

We wrote the song together with our friend Olof Lindskog a.k.a. Ollipop! We thought it would be fun to bring back the old team (D3O) so we sat down and wrote the song "All Night" specifically for SM Entertainment. The song came to us pretty fast and we had a really fun time making it. The idea of the song was to mix two styles together. We have the 80s analogue synth bass line in the verses with playful melodies on top. It leads into the chorus that has more of a trap sound to it and a powerful melody that leads into the hook "All Night". This gives the song a special vibe we think. For the demo vocals, we asked the amazing Hayley Aitken (Kennel writer). She really took the song to another level!

We think we subconsciously took some inspiration from "Stay" when we wrote the rap. Usually when we write the rap parts we just freestyle and sometimes we maybe use the same rhythms as another song we've made. For the instrumental part we also just freestyled the lines in the synths. And yeah, it reminds us a bit of "Stay" as well!

Both "Red Flavor" and "All Night" feature lyrics that were written by Kim Yeon Jung aka Kenzie. Were you ever in contact with her during the process of writing/producing the song or afterwards? Or was it more so that you had the song sold to SM and then she essentially took over and changed the lyrics? You stated that "Red Flavor" originally had a different title—did "All Night" have a significantly different title/lyrical themes beforehand as well?

She's a really good writer and a wonderful person. For these two songs we didn't have any contact with her during the process. We just sent the tracks and she took over with the lyrics! However, we have worked with Kenzie in South Korea once before! "All Night" was actually the title we had for the demo version. So in this case they kept the title.

You two have visited South Korea multiple times. Do you have any memorable stories of meeting and working with any of the artists there?

We have met a few artists while being in Seoul! One of the strongest memories was when we were writing songs at SM entertainment and we were told that Girls' Generation had a meeting outside the studio. We were supposed to wait until the meeting was finished. But after a few minutes we were told to go out to the meeting room and we were introduced to the whole group. It was a really special moment since it was our first time in Seoul. We also met EXO at a TV performance (when the song "Growl" was big). It was really cool since we really love EXO!

Are there any artists, be it Korean or not, that you still haven't worked with but would love to in the future? And any particular reasons why?

In Korea we would love to have a song with EXO someday. Just because we love the songs they are releasing and their skills in both dancing and singing are just flawless. Our dream is also to release big songs in the US. We don’t have any specific dream artists in mind, more so collaborations with writers/producers. One of our biggest dreams is to work with Max Martin and Shellback!

Caesar & Loui
K-pop/J-pop Production Discography


4minute - Whatever
VIXX - Hyde Shinhwa - Scarface
Boys Republic - What Up
WA$$UP - Nom Nom Nom
4minute - Wait A Minute
Super Junior - Swing
f(x) - Spit It Out
C-Clown - Let's Love
Girls' Generation-TTS - Stay
Taemin - Pretty Boy
Zhou Mi - Why (Color Blind)
TVXQ - Special One
Boys Republic - Pump
BTOB - Giddy Up
SHINee - Wishful Thinking
Pentagon - Pretty Pretty
Shinhwa - Super Power
EXO-CBX - Girl Problems
EXO-CBX - Diamond Crystal
LOONA/JinSoul - Singing In The Rain
Red Velvet - Red Flavor
Girls' Generation - All Night

source: toneglow

i omitted some parts that had nothing to do with kpop
timetobegin 10th-Aug-2017 01:30 pm (UTC)
'Spit it Out' is awesome - it has the right build ups and breaks troughout the entire song. The Red Light album gets a little ignored because people are so hung up on PT/4W, but I always loved how gritty and dark it is. In general, I think SM Entertainment makes alot of good choices when it comes to the musical direction of their artists'. It's resulted in alot of quality pop music releases and I'm not afraid to say that.

Red Flavour was for Little Mix lmfao I can hear it? Fairly certain they would have made an already explosive song unbareble with their shouty vocals though.

One of our biggest dreams is to work with Max Martin and Shellback!

Who can blame them when Max Martin is literally god???

Edited at 2017-08-10 01:32 pm (UTC)
theharleyquinn 10th-Aug-2017 05:18 pm (UTC)
I think PT has a lot of filler. Red Light was a more consistent experience for me.
giriboy 10th-Aug-2017 10:00 pm (UTC)
ia. i could split pink tape into two mini album-sized playlists and i think i'd enjoy it better that way. most of the time when i listen to it, i end up skipping the songs that would've been better on a diff f(x) album, etc. (like i love “signal” and “step” but they aren't so much of a departure from their pre-pink tape material and i think they're more of an extension of f(x)'s over-arching concept than their pink tape one...) and red light was def more of, like, naturally maturing their songs and the content they put out, imo. but a lot of newer f(x) stans believe pink tape is (again, imo) because of the whole... aesthetic of the concept. which was a glorified high school concept, with an art film, if you go by the whole art film/photobook/etc deal

but i also just. really, really love red light & i only ever skip a song or two on it. maybe i'm just biased, tbh. (woah, this is longer than i meant it to be)
hitthoselightz 10th-Aug-2017 06:10 pm (UTC)
"shouty vocals"

sis
mil_lay 10th-Aug-2017 01:46 pm (UTC)
Oh wow!! I've been obsessed with 'get you' by Daniel Caesar and never did I think that I would see his name in conjunction with kpop lol

Since the only band I really keep up with is EXO, I'm here for this: "In Korea we would love to have a song with EXO someday." I would love to hear something like get you-ish from them!!

Otherwise this was still a p interesting read. Ty for sharing op!
kyokomurasaki 10th-Aug-2017 02:06 pm (UTC)
They wrote Wait a Minute and Why? Yas

This was an interesting interview; I know Dean said he was a fan of Daniel Caesar's music too.
mil_lay 10th-Aug-2017 02:10 pm (UTC)
Dean did a cover of 'get you' as well - it was a nice one all things considered.
mc1a 10th-Aug-2017 02:46 pm (UTC)
Well I'll be damned. Daniel Caesar.
1of1girl 10th-Aug-2017 03:51 pm (UTC)
they've written some great songs, it was interesting to read about their writing process etc. it feels so weird now that red flavor was intended for little mix though i could imagine it.
theweebdream 10th-Aug-2017 04:20 pm (UTC)
Oooooh I wanna hear the demo of Red Flavor!
scionofawhisper 10th-Aug-2017 08:15 pm (UTC)
There were so many exclamation marks in the answers.. x_x
seulgibear 10th-Aug-2017 09:21 pm (UTC)
wow they did girl problems and diamond crystal aka 2 of my fav cbx songs :o
red flavour is amazing. i've never listened to little mix but this really is the song of the summer for me
giriboy 10th-Aug-2017 10:04 pm (UTC)
how??? how have you never listened to little mix?
seulgibear 10th-Aug-2017 10:44 pm (UTC)
i used to listen to wings (?) or something with a telephone number i dont remember but that doesn't really qualify as me listening to them lol i was never much into the western pop scene so idk them
giriboy 10th-Aug-2017 11:12 pm (UTC)
yeah, wings is one of theirs. i was never a stan (they're not interesting enough, like i'd even jokingly call myself a 5h stan because they're so messy i pay attention to them). but their catalog is really good, even if you're not into their personalities... or even, like, their songs. their covers r my faves (and below are my two most faves)

[some faves! unofficial primer]








mostly new songs. their vocals are just like... iconic
goshipgurl 10th-Aug-2017 10:19 pm (UTC)
sis you're from the UK and have never heard a little mix song on the radio or TV?
seulgibear 10th-Aug-2017 10:42 pm (UTC)
i mean i heard like 2 songs my entire life but yep pretty much lol. i don't watch tv, and we have the radio on at work but i don't remember hearing any song of theirs on their radio for the past 2-3 months. maybe they're too busy playing despacito or they just haven't released anything idk
goshipgurl 10th-Aug-2017 11:31 pm (UTC)
Wasn't shout out to my ex huge in the uk
mamamoos 11th-Aug-2017 04:57 pm (UTC)
i'm from the UK and i haven't either asfgfs i know they r big but if u don't listen to the top 40..
soyogi 11th-Aug-2017 09:17 pm (UTC)
I don't think this is the same Daniel Caesar from Toronto, lol. both of these guys are Swedish.

it's always been interesting to see so many European producers in k-pop
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