Leo Soyfer is a Westfield-based rapper and producer specializing in punk rap and hardcore hip-hop. The son of Ukranian immigrants, Leo has been producing music for digital platforms since 2018, and has since released two EPs and a series of singles. His upcoming EP, No Need to Vilify, will be released in early fall, along with the artist’s first music video. When he’s not creating music, Leo is a photography intern at PATTERN, a student at the University of Indianapolis, and the founder and creative director of KPACOTA magazine.
Tune into a playlist curated by Leo and learn more about his background and current and future projects below!
1.) Tell us about your musical background.
My first experience with music was when I was, like, four. I started playing piano, like all Russian kids were forced to do, and for some reason, I stuck with it. I’ve been playing piano since then. I’ve also done musical theatre and played violin, but piano is my main instrument.
As far as rap music itself, I would always be listening to what my brother would be listening to, and eventually, I would just ask him for his iPod. He would load all the songs onto it, and then when I was going to school, riding the bus or waiting for people to pick me up, I would listen to what was on there. I have this distinct memory of listening to this Travis Scott album, Days Before Rodeo, when I was leaving work one day. I was just sitting, waiting for my dad to come pick me up, and I was just listening to it and I thought, “this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard, I want to make something exactly like this.” I always liked making music, but I never really knew what I wanted to make until I listened to that album. It was just, the way the songs transition between each other and the way the instruments were used, it made me want to start making something like that. That’s when I started doing it, trying to produce things myself using random pieces of software.
2.) Tell us about the mix that you curated. Does it give off a type of mood? What should we be doing while listening in?
For most of the songs on there, a lot of the music I listen to is very aggressive, angry and dark. It motivates me more than most happy music does. Recently, I’ve been looking into music that isn’t so aggressive, since that stuff affects my mood. It sets this tone that everything is like that in life, when it isn’t. There’s some things in the mix that are a little bit happier, but most of the time, it’s stuff that’s pretty dark, aggressive, and hard with the message. Even if there isn’t a message, it’s hard with the music, like you’re trapped in a movie. Not a horror movie, but dark, everything’s going crazy, that sort of thing.
I don’t make a lot of happy music. In most of the music I’m making, it’s a lot of minor chord progressions, really deep tones, and heavy bass. I always focus a lot on the drums and keys, and sometimes I’ll just mess around until I come up with a good melody. I usually don’t sample melodies unless it’s something really interesting. I’ve been experimenting for the past couple of years, just trying to come up with new sounds. I listen to mainstream artists and say, “okay, how can I incorporate that into my own work? What sort of new ideas can I come up with that are unique to me?” Every year, I’ve always been able to find stuff that comes out and still fits that theme of mine, and produces that I really like, like Travis Scott and Ronny J. They always tend to make more of the stuff that I like, and keep evolving it, so it influences what I’m doing.
3.) What groups/artists are killing the game right now?
That’s a good question. What’s rough is that the artists I like to listen to, they really take their time with their music and don’t release things very often. There’s $uicideboy$ and Playboi Carti. In the past year, their songs have been the ones that have been inspiring me a bit. I’ve been listening to more rock music lately. There’s one band in Indy called Mad Lollypop, and they’ve released a song called “The Oceanside” that’s super good. They have this crazy psych-punk style to them. Other than that, LoRd Lu C N, he’s a producer and he just released an album [Tworaw4albumz] in the last couple of months. There was another rapper on there, PlayThatBoiZay. They make a really great duo and make really good music. I’ve listened to it so much because they worked with one of my favorite artists, Denzel Curry, so I found them through him. Another type of music I liked that came out was the Kid Cudi album [Man on the Moon III: The Chosen]. There was, you know, regular Kid Cudi songs, but there were more calm songs, there was drill music on there as well. And of course the Young Thug album [Slime Language 2].
4.) Tell us about your past and current music projects.
The first mixtape I ever released was literally a bunch of mixing stuff, because I didn’t know how to make my own music and beats. I knew how to write rap music, that wasn’t too hard for me to do. I would just grab songs that I really liked and find the instrumentals for them, then I’d rap over them. I did that for my first EP as well. There were only, like, four songs. The next EP after that, which is called Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder, was the first one where I produced the whole thing myself. I wouldn’t say it’s my best work. Even though I really liked the songs I made for it, there are some songs that, when they come up, I’m just like, “skip.” Sometimes when I sit back and listen to it, I like that it shows a different time in my life. There’s some songs on there that people really liked, and that really set off the idea that I could make music, that I could make the beats myself, write the lyrics, and put the time into mixing and recording it. I’m still learning in that sense.
The next project I released last September was On Borrowed Time. It was a continuation of making more advanced beats. When I make the instrumentals, I want people to really listen to the music. Sometimes I don’t even really care about what’s said— sometimes there’s a message, sometimes there isn’t— but the instrumentals are the most important piece to me. Those are the things that are going to really move you to listen to it and get the message. The problem with that was I didn’t always know what I was doing when it came to mixing and was asking friends to do it for me.
With the new project that I’m working on now, my goal is to be fully in charge of everything and have control over the process so that when I do release it this summer, it will sound exactly how it sounds when I’m listening to it in the studio. I want the same thing to transfer over to how people listen, which is really hard to do. When you finally fix one part and go and listen to it in other places, you think “oh, I did this all wrong, I have to go back.” It’s a lot of back and forth, and it takes a long time for me to come up with the ideas, write, and record. I’m trying to switch it up a bit and not have the same thing over and over again, write something different each time. I want to have a little more variety there. Outside of that, I’ve never tried to shoot a music video before. It just never worked. I have a friend, Nikki Vasil (website link), who’s great with visuals and does videography, photography and graphic design, and I knew I really wanted to work with someone who had that vision. The easiest part of it is having the ideas, but translating them into a video, getting the equipment, getting in front of the camera, and editing it is so tough. She’s done some artwork for me before, and we decided to work on a video together. It’s such a rare occasion to have this physical manifestation of the way I make my music, and to show it to people will be really interesting. I’m hoping they’ll really like it.
5.) What are your interests outside of music?
It’s funny you should ask, I’m actually a photography intern at PATTERN Magazine. Photography is my other way of interpreting the outside world into art. I produce a magazine called KPACOTA, which is the Russian word for beauty. When I take pictures, it’s a form of inner expression that music can’t do sometimes, and music is the form of expression that I can’t get from photography sometimes. They balance each other out. I’m also studying marketing and finance in school right now, so those are my main goals: to finish school, but to keep making art, and share that.