Earlier this year, EXO continued their string of pristine pop hits with the hard-hitting electro-pop cut "Monster" and disco dazzler "Lucky One"—very different tracks that were only strung together by their innovative production and undeniable choruses. Both were the work of production duo LDN Noise.
The British producers have helmed the K-pop phenom's just-announced new single "Lotto," too, but are more or less at a loss for words when it comes to describing it to Fuse over the phone, when they call from their home base in London
"Expect the unexpected," says LDN Noise—a.k.a. songwriter Greg Bonnick and DJ Hayden Chapman—when they're talking about EXO's next song, out on Aug. 18. "It's completely different to 'Monster,' completely different to 'Lucky One.' It's nothing like they've done previously."
LDN Noise brought their shape-shifting pop sound to a slew of K-pop releases after UK producer Andrew Jackson (who worked on Shinhwa's 2012 comeback single "Venus," plus 2013's "This Love") brought them to a writing camp in Sweden. Their first placement was Shinhwa's "Sniper," and it led to a year creating tracks for SHINee—2015 single "View" was their breakout K-pop moment—Taeyeon, Sistar, f(x), Boys Republic, Red Velvet and more.
“I'd like to think we've changed the sound of K-pop with the stuff we've been doing.”
And after working with the likes of Chris Brown (they co-wrote 2012's "Turn Up the Music"), Nick Jonas (they produced and co-wrote Last Year Was Complicated bonus track "Testify") and Nathan Sykes (they produced the singer's debut single "Kiss Me Quick," which was written initially in Korea), the duo bring a refreshing element to the K-pop scene and considerably up the chance of appealing to a Western audience.
"I don't think we consciously try to make crossover music," Bonnick reflects on their process that melds sounds from American and England, and wind up as collaborations with English and Korean songwriters producers. "We just look to our influences: London's obviously a massive dance-music culture, all types of sub-genres, and we've grown up listening to all pirate radio stations and now all types of Internet stations...We would hope if you had a playlist of LDN Noise songs that you'd still hear the sound within it.
"I'd like to think we've changed the sound of K-pop with the stuff we've been doing. We've made it a bit more Western and we use a lot of our EDM and London-dance influences. Prior to that, it felt more like a throwback vibe; it all seemed to be a bit like *NSYNC. We weren't really sure how we'd fit in and the first couple of demos we tried to do a 'throwback sound,' early Neptunes, and those songs didn't get placed! Not at all! [Laughs]"
The guys add that sometimes the best songs come unexpectedly, as what happened with EXO's most recent singles.
"We were originally thinking SHINee, we didn't consider EXO for 'Lucky One,'" Bonnick says, adding that they don't decide which act get which songs. "The A&R guys who do EXO, they came down to us like, 'Look, we need a single during the two days we were writing with Kenzie (BoA's "My Name," Girls' Generation's "Oh")...The 'Monster' track wasn't even meant for EXO [either], and we were like, 'What about this track?' We started it a few months ago' prior to this trip. We didn't consider it. We pulled it up, we adapted it, and played it for the A&R. He went red in the face with happiness, and was like 'Yes! This one! Do this one!' and he came over and gave Hayden a hug."
And sometimes the artists themselves offer a few surprises: "We did a ballad for Tayeon's first EP, it's called 'Gemini,'" Bonnick recalls. "We went down to the studio where she was recording it with an engineer. She played it to us, and we were like, 'That sounds amazing! You killed it.' She doesn't speak that much English and the engineer was like, 'Yeah, she's going to scrap this and record it all again. She's just laying it down roughly because she's still learning it.' We were like 'Really? You're going to recut it all?' It sounded banging to us. That was quite cool to see how much of a perfectionist she is."
Before "Lotto" is released on Aug. 18, fans of LDN Noise can enjoy f(x)'s "All Mine," which was released as a special one-off single on July 22. "It was a lot more EDM than what it actually is now," Chapman reveals. "We scaled it back it and added an organ bass line. Originally that song was more of a heavy, progressive house song, then we sort of remixed it like a month or two ago, and put more of a feel-good, summer kind of feeling to it with an organ sound"
Plus, fans digging LDN Noise's sound can check out their personal, artistic output, most recently heard in "Tears" featuring L.A. singer-songwriter Pretty Sister. The garage-house track is the latest release from the duo who say they're making a "more conscious decision now" of pitching mainstream tracks to other artists while keeping the more underground tracks for themselves now that they've established themselves as pop producers and songwriters. LDN Noise have a "fusion-dance" collaboration single with Kate Nash coming soon, a collab with Aston Merrygold, formerly of British boy band JLS, all in an effort to "build up the brand" to land more artist features and tour as DJs in the future. They add they're enjoying experimenting with NCT, the new boy band under SM Entertainment and add the Korean super-label may be preparing music from a new, rookie "female unit" later this year.
So, is producing K-pop a viable career path?
"For sure! Although you'll have to ask in a years time because it takes so long for royalties to come in," Bonnick cracks. "Honestly, I don't know the answer at the moment but It's a great market because the fans are so loyal and supportive. It's a lot of fun and creative. It just opens your mind to a different approach."
Check out K-pop stars explaining their favorite summer songs below: