Benjamin Falik is ambivalent about the idea of personal fame. That's one reason the producer, songwriter and beatmaker chose the name Julia Lewis as a professional pseudonym: "It's little bit of smoke and mirrors," admits Falik, a Berkeley native. "I like playing with people's expectations."
That drive to upend the expected is a through line in Falik's work, as his reputation for making soulful dance music -- emotional, human productions and remixes that blend hip-hop and electronic elements with a shot of his first love, jazz -- has spread throughout the Bay Area and beyond.
Falik grew up in a house full of music. His mother was a violinist and classical pianist; her father had been a violinist as well; and both of his sisters picked up the piano as children. Their younger brother soaked up the sounds and rewards of rigorous practice. There was, he says, a lot of Chopin.
Falik, for his part, studied jazz as a young teen, playing saxophone, bass, guitar and piano. Branching out into classic funk and R&B, the young musician eventually gravitated toward the experimentation of electronic dance music and the urgency of hip-hop, insistent that he shouldn’t have to choose between Miles Davis and Mobb Deep.
The result is an impressive range: a drive for beats that are both soothing and surprising; a playful approach to blending the electronic and analog; an ear for obscure samples, digital synths and warm, old-school horns. It’s a confident style all his own, one that’s made him the go-to producer/remixer for experimental hip-hop vocalists like Duckwrth, Caleborate and Rexx Life Raj -- young artists who embody the sound of the Bay. "Handheld GPS," which he produced for Raj's debut LP Father Figure, has racked up 3.9 million plays on Spotify in the year since its release. Falik's talents as a live performer and DJ are equally diverse and in demand: In 2016 alone he opened for Too $hort, Dam Funk and Tennyson.
The next year sees Julia Lewis poised to become a household name -- ambivalence, smoke and mirrors be damned. “On the Regular,” the first of a forthcoming series of releases with Oakland rapper Elujay, is a laid-back, bouncy new track for the waning days of summer. True to his collaborative nature, Falik created the initial beat with fellow DJ-producers Mr. Carmack and Mikos Da Gawd: “It had a distinctly island vibe, and it made us all dance,” says Falik of the song’s easy feel. “Elujay heard it a week later and wrote a melody on the spot."
Other upcoming projects include releases with Atlanta singer-songwriter Bosco (Fools Gold Records), a Lil B and Rexx Life Raj collaboration, and more production work with Mr. Carmack as well as Ryan Hemsworth.