Kiefer is a constant in Mndsgn's live trio, has shared the stage with Moses Sumney and Terrace Martin, and has lent production talents to the likes of Kaytranada and Anderson .Paak. He began playing piano as a child and producing beats at around age 12, moving from San Diego to L.A. to study under renowned jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell at UCLA's Jazz Studies program. There, he started thinking about the synergy between the jazz piano he studied and the beats he created outside of school. While his peers were performing over live instrumentation, Kiefer produced electronic beats free from sampled melodies or drum breaks. He released his debut album Kickinit Alone on Leaving Records in 2017, earning a Best Jazz Album nomination from A2IM.
Whereas Kiefer describes Kickinit Alone as "90% focused on all types of sadness," Happysad is more complex. He says it's "my emotional journal of the last year. I struggle emotionally a lot, and yet I feel pretty damn good much of the time. This album is focused on both joy and sadness, and how they are always intertwined." The track titles are deliberately left open to interpretation; opening on a confident, blissful note, then segueing into a more dynamic mood before entering a deeper, darker and more ethereal place.
Inspirations for Happysad and Kiefer's music in general include jazz titans Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans, as well as label mates Karriem Riggins and Knxwledge. "I've loved the sense of responsibility that comes with being a jazz musician," he says, "The responsibility to study and understand its history, to respect the discipline of an instrument, and to dedicate your career to positively changing the direction of the music."