Elias Abid and CHAI Move Together in Different Directions

Photos by Michael Salisbury

More than two years had passed since Elias Abid and Crystal Yi (CHAI) finished recording, but they still hadn’t released their joint EP re:set. Support for the project has grown steadily since the release of its first single, “About Me”, in October of 2015. The lead single burned slowly, but got brighter with time, currently charting on Spotify’s Viral 50. Spending the better part of the last two years at a crossroads of whether or not the EP represents who they currently are, Elias and CHAI recently decided it’d be selfish to withhold the EP from fans any longer, giving it a proper release this past May.

re:set tells an intimate story of Elias and CHAI forming a musical connection that grew beyond control. CHAI’s “smooth and sexy” vocals compliment Elias’ electronic soundscapes in a way that entangle us in a similar mix of emotions. When CHAI is not singing heartfelt lyrics, it’s the bouncy rhythms and luminous sounds of Elias’ advanced production that shares the feelings of their story.
 
Around the time they first met CHAI was bartering with her voice, exchanging hooks on rap songs for free studio time. The electronic foundation was new to her, but the instant synergy between CHAI and Elias made it easy to record ‘Dreamscape’ in the first day they met. The two are frighteningly similar in personality and they’re both extremely in touch with their emotions. Elias takes his time when he speaks, beautifully pairing words in a way that leaves no room for misinterpretation. CHAI’s lyrics show her immense care for others and ability to reflect on the way she feels. 

Since originally recording the EP in 2015, the two have developed in different ways as artists and as people. Elias has finished his Music Business degree at Columbia College and continued his steady progression as an artist and producer, reaching over 5 million cross platform streams and finding long-term collaborators such as Appleby. CHAI has finished her art degree at UIC, achieved first place in season 5 of Korea’s KPop Star, and secured a 7-year contract with an indie label in South Korea, where she will move in August. 

The two artists have recorded a few songs together since the EP, but it’s not likely that we will hear another joint project anytime soon. What they want to create and what they are capable of creating is much different from when they first met. Elias is focused on helping other artists develop their sound, and he is also eager to create his own content that he has complete control of. Elias is a perfectionist when it comes to his own brand, and he now has all the skills and knowledge necessary to bring his creative visions to fruition. 

“I want every release to feel like more than just music. Wanting to create an experience for the people to get a full idea of what the music represents to me. You have no control over when someone is listening to your music or how they’re listening to it or from what perspective. So by giving some visual aid to it it helps steer someone in the direction that you were hoping for”
 
This extreme care for his craft is present in the digital installation of re:set, and it’s something that we can expect to see more of from Elias.

Gifs by David Hughes

Gifs by David Hughes

As for CHAI, she has a long and exciting path planned out for her. Having chosen an indie label that genuinely cares about her music, she will spend a lot of time developing as an artist before releasing her debut album. Her neo-soul sound is very different from the barriers of KPop, and she brings in perspectives and experiences that will help her fill a gap in the South Korean music scene. She wants to involve herself in the underground and lesser known music communities, and she also plans to continue her experiences as a visual artist, including a goal to curate a gallery while in Korea.
 
Since originally meeting for the sole purpose of collaborating on a project, Elias and CHAI have developed a friendship that goes much further than music. They’ve grown and supported one another as artists and as people, and the EP reflects their ability to create something concrete while in a clutter of mixed emotions.

“The start of our friendship was a reset of our own personal lives, what we were going through as individuals. Meeting each other we reset. Throughout the span of our relationship I felt like we were resetting in so many different ways. And then towards the end, now that the EP is finally released we have this weight off our shoulders. And now we’re able to again reset” - Crystal

With the release of their EP comes a blank canvas for the two artists. They may not be working on the same art, but they’ve left an impression on one another that will forever influence their solo material. 
 
For Elias, the release of the EP offers “closure, without closing”. They are “moving together, but in different directions”.