Dance-pop music producers Kode PinK, aka Kenan Nadar and Calvin Htet, released their new single, “Bad Decisions,” featuring Dani King, a few days ago. “Bad Decisions” is all about flipping the script of double standards for the sake of female empowerment.
Kode PinK explains, “We wrote this song as a middle finger to the double standard that women face regularly in society across the world. Guys so often talk about having side chicks in their music yet cling on to close-minded traditional mindsets and shame women for speaking in the same manner of promiscuity. The song is more symbolic in nature rather than advocacy for infidelity and I think we got our point across. The funniest part is that the topline was written by 3 dudes!”
By day, Kenan Nadar is a pediatrician, and Calvin Htet is an IT Specialist. The pair use music as their creative outlet, a way to encourage others to not hold back and utilize their creativity.
Since forming Kode PinK, the duo has collaborated with artists such as JVNA, Megan Lee, Dani King, and DYSON.
Originally from Chicago, Dani King began vocal lessons when she was 12 years old, followed by performing in local venues in high school. She studied voice and music at Belmont University and then moved to Los Angeles to begin her career.
Along with performing at Electric Zoo and Lost Lands, Dani has worked with Bear Grillz, Rebel Scum, IVORY, Swarm, JAGO, Highlnd, and OMAS, and released via Dim Mak, Subsidia, Monstercat, and NCS.
CelebMix spoke with Kode PinK to discover how they got together, how they balance music with their professional careers, and their advice to others looking to embrace their creativity.
Thanks for joining us, guys! How’s everything going?
Kode PinK: It’s going well. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us!
Before we dive into the music, would love to share a little bit more about you guys. How and when did the two of you get together and begin making music?
Kode PinK: We met each other through an online production masterclass back in February 2020. Through our weekly homework assignments, we naturally started gravitating toward each other’s styles. After that class, we collaborated together on remix competitions and other projects, and it was apparent that we worked extremely well together. Where one of us lacked in skill or knowledge, the other filled that missing piece. Both of us were really into producing heavier, bass-driven music so it’s still hard to believe that combining both of our musical tastes gave birth to a dance-pop duo. But you know what they say, If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
What’s the most difficult aspect of balancing your demanding day jobs with your musical activities?
Calvin: For me, it’s my mental capacity. As an IT specialist, I’m troubleshooting computer and network issues daily, actively assisting over 1000 end-users with a small team of 10 people to make sure the company is staying afloat. My brain is always running at a million miles per hour and coming home after a possible 10-hour work day to sit in the studio and be creative is difficult. I experience brain fog quite often because of my 7 AM-4 PM work schedule. Trying to fit in going to the gym, cooking, taking care of my pets, and social gatherings, my “free time” really starts around 8 pm and it’s hard to find any time to focus and work on music. The dream is to eventually turn this passion into a full-time career so that I could allocate 100% of my mental capacity toward music. If Kode PinK has come this far with both of us at 50%, who knows where we would have been by now if we went all in?
Kenan: There aren’t many stories of physicians chasing after creative pursuits alongside their careers and for good reason. Being a doctor isn’t just a job you go to for 9 hours then go home and forget about. It’s a responsibility with people’s lives on the line. We’re constantly worrying about what we could have done better. We’re very often sleep-deprived. And we’re frequently at the receiving end of society’s misconceptions about us. But the truth is, the majority of us went into this career for the sake of altruistic fulfillment. With that being said, the most difficult aspect of balancing my career with our music is time and a state of mental readiness. It isn’t easy to come home after a 16-hour night shift in the hospital, then go on set to film a music video for 12 hours, but we’ve done it and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
Any tips on how to deal with burnout?
Calvin: I used to feel guilty for taking an R&R day to play video games or watch my favorite shows. My conscience is always screaming at me to stop being lazy. If Zedd or Porter Robinson were lazy and spent their evenings watching Breaking Bad for the 3rd time, they wouldn’t be where they are today ha-ha. But I began to realize how important it is to take a mental health day to decompress. For me, taking a break means doing something that does not deplete my mental capacity. Whether it be relaxing by playing games and watching tv, or busy work such as running errands or cleaning the house, they are all mindless activities that allow my creativity to replenish. Doing so usually helps me in the studio the next day as my ideas just flow out more naturally rather than throwing ideas at a wall until something sticks.
Kenan: One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years to help with burnout is to take a step away from technology and to get good sleep. Social media, tv, video games, and everything else that we find ourselves immersed in often leads to dopamine burnout. Every time we lock eyes on our phones, we get little bursts of dopamine release due to instant gratification and our bodies try to counterbalance that by decreasing dopamine production or down-regulating dopamine receptors so that we stay balanced. This consequently leads to apathy towards things we once enjoyed. I know, I know, what a doctor-like answer. But it’s true! I think we all need a little digital detox every now and again to regain a healthy balance for our minds.
You’ve worked with the incredible Dani King for your next single. What specifically drew you to her?
Kode PinK: When we first wrote the topline for this song, we imagined an Alto-Tenor-type vocalist encompassing the depth of a Dua Lipa-type vocal to carry the song. Kenan had heard several of Dani’s songs from his friend and fellow producer, Omas, and he reached out to see if she would be interested. Initially, we weren’t sure she would be down for the song because it was a lot more pop than her usual style, but she loved what we wrote and was enthusiastic about getting started!
Dani is such a sweetheart. The moment we saw her in person for the first time at the music video shoot for Bad Decisions, it was like we had known each other for years. Her bubbly nature meshed well with our goofy personalities, and we hit it off right from the start. She took our feedback well and was able to adjust and adapt to meet our expectations for the track, bringing it to new heights that we could have never imagined.
Tell us more about the message behind your new single.
Kode PinK: Since the start of this project, our main goal has been to tell stories in a manner that our fans can relate to. Stories that are genuine to our experiences in life so that we can convey a meaning that can touch our listeners. We live in a time that many may call revolutionary. Social changes are happening every day and we’re here for it.
We wrote this song as a middle finger to the double standard that women face regularly in society across the world. Guys so often talk about having side chicks in their music yet cling on to close-minded traditional mindsets and shame women who might speak in the same manner of promiscuity. The song is more symbolic in nature rather than advocacy for infidelity and I think we got our point across.
If you had to explain your sound to the uninitiated, what would you say?
Kode PinK: We are still very young in our career as a duo and since officially teaming up a little over a year ago, our sound has already evolved 2-3 times. We’ve gone from purely pop music to heavier EDM with a pop flare and are settling somewhere in between. We have both decided that ‘Bad Decisions’ is going to set the stage for the style of music we want to create going forward. So if you enjoy ‘Bad Decisions,’ we have many more tracks that are in the same ballpark for you all to dance to!
Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a certain direction?
Kode PinK: It was definitely a bit of both. Coming from our bass-driven production backgrounds and our mutual love for pop, our sound naturally evolved into pop-inspired EDM. We felt that there was a strong market for what we were doing because pop is often frowned upon as too generic or soft in the EDM community. We wanted to break that misconception and bring a flavor of EDM that was accommodating to non-EDM listeners yet still fun and punchy enough for even the most loyal of EDM fans. Both of our styles complemented each other perfectly to achieve that goal and we’ve ended up with a final product that we are both extremely happy with.
How and where do you find inspiration for your music?
Kode PinK: Inspiration strikes in so many shapes and forms for us. While we both have many similar interests, we also have an abundance of differences. Aside from the 7-year age gap, Calvin is an avid gamer and technology enthusiast, while Kenan is more into outdoor activities like wakeboarding and rock climbing as well as studying languages and traveling internationally. For Kenan, his inspirations often come from hearing stories from his patients, from his travels around the world, and from scores in television shows he loves (especially anime). For Calvin, he often finds inspiration from things he hears and experiences in his day-to-day life whether it be in the mall, at the gym, or in a video game.
What advice would you give to others looking to pursue their creative passions in tandem with their day jobs?
Kode PinK: There have been numerous success stories of people leaving their day jobs, taking a leap of faith, and going full force towards their passions. Those stories have been all over the media and have been somewhat of a “guideline” for what it took to be famous and successful. We commend those who have made such a sacrifice for the sake of their passions, but we think there are other options to achieve your dreams. We believe stability is extremely beneficial in both mental and physical health. We just don’t see a way to hit the ground running in the music industry and be able to have a competitive standing in today’s times without ample financial support from both members. We both went to college and got our degrees for a reason, and we are so fortunate to be able to live comfortably and support this crazy and expensive venture. All the vocalists we work with, the studio that we rent, the plugins and software we use, and the press shots and music videos we shoot are all possible because we both work extremely hard in our careers.
We both truly believe that life is about balance. Our day jobs give us professional fulfillment, but due to our creative backgrounds, we both yearned for so much more. Music gave us an outlet to express ourselves in a way that we were never able to in our careers. This crazy balance makes us who we are, and we love that about us.