Under the alias of FunkinEven, Steven Julien makes the dancefloor his musical mosaic, melding together funk and acid, jazzy explorations, pounding techno and smile-cracking house. So having built up a credible reputation with the alias, as well as the Funkinevil moniker for his pond-crossing collab with Detroit’s Kyle Hall, why’s he now chosen to step out under his given name?
“In the beginning, it was a rushed decision to use the name FunkinEven, but it was cool then,” he explains. “It made sense for me growing up, but now I’m getting a bit more mature in the music game, I wanted to get more personal as I emerge as a proper adult.” When I call him, he’s in LA, a few days away from his City of Angels debut, following a string of shows in Miami and Toronto. “You really understand hip-hop’s place in New York and funk in Cali when you’re out here among it,” he tells me.
But despite drinking in the culture of his US surroundings, the Acton boy’s home city is still integral to his identity. “I’m a Londoner through thick and thin,” he says, “I’m really proud of it.”
While feeling his way as a dancer and would-be rapper, Julien remembers joining a group called The Dungeoneers in his early youth. “We were kind of dark and gloomy cause we were from London, about 14, and really into Dungeons & Dragons.” While Julien has smoothly intersected his sound and style during adulthood, he admits that The Dungeoneers made some questionable style choices: “I’ve seen some pictures from friends of what we looked like. I’d hate for that to go on the internet. I look about 50-years-old, with greasy hair and whack glasses – not even sunglasses – glasses I didn’t need. And bad leather coats, bad jeans, everything. Bad,” he asserts. “Those fake gold chains and shit too.”
Pushing past the pleather and gloom-hop, Julien began experimenting with electronic music, and as a trained barber, he was slowly finding his own musical and visual aesthetic. “I was surrounded by boogie, reggae and soul,” he remembers. “The first things I made would just be recorded on drum machines and shit we got from Argos. My first two tracks were hip-hop and dance tracks, I’ve still got the cassettes. Maybe I’ll release them.”
His uprightness shines through from such a spectrum of aural influences, and manifests itself in his contemporary look. “My style’s kind of natural, and definitely more relaxed. I don’t really dress to see the logos and stuff, my preferred aesthetic is clean. At the moment, I like baggy white t-shirt, khaki trousers and a pair of Cons or a pair of Reebok Classics Workout. That’s my steez.”
Julien’s imprint, Apron Records, shares this sense of simplicity and realness, spelt out for us in the slogan: “honest electronic music”. It’s a label cresting the waves of cross-genre, releasing works from the likes of Seven Davis Jr, Delroy Edwards and his own industrial-inspired moniker St. Julien. Explaining the label’s aesthetic, Julien says: “It definitely can’t be polished and I hate anything with a drop. I call that seal music, ‘cause everyone’s like seals waiting for the drop. I don’t feel that. We’re all different style-wise. Some of us are more hip-hop: then that comes with the Jordans, baggy trousers and nice jackets.”
There’s a concept of duality that runs deep in his debut album, Fallen. Using his birth name is evidentially a declaration of a new stylistic era, he explores two parallel narratives of a fallen angel. The first half is ethereal, introspective electronic, the other more assertive and dark. He affirms that it’s not religious, nor a specific personal story, but a narrative that came out quite organically. “I just made the tunes and the story was there. I thought the first tracks had a nice progression and a mellow sound. And then another half is aggressive, more evil sounding. I like the yin and yang concept, light and dark. We all have two sides to us, and it’s a balance that everyone needs to explore.”
The album’s artwork features a sprawling view of the ocean, which was shot at Southend-on-Sea by Julien’s girlfriend, stylist India Rose – on film. The orange ember skyline cutting the blue sea, which then meets the grey concrete seaside. The other cover art is the exact opposite, more “bad boy”, with Julien blowing smoke rings in the studio.
“I don’t like albums that could easily be 10 separate singles. The story and the visuals are so important,” he explains. “Maybe my next one will have a whole new story, I just gotta keep moving.”
Photography: Theo Cottle
Styling: Luci Ellis
Words: Anna Cafolla