Robert DeLong started his musical journey as a drummer for indie rock bands. Had you told him he'd be one of 2013's most anticipated breakthrough artists singled out by the likes of MTV, Vibe, and Billboard with heavily synched electronic music in those days, he may not have believed you unless you were the first one to drag him to a rave. His story is a testament to how far some of us must come to hit our stride.
Growing up in the Seattle-area suburb of Bothell, DeLong was immersed in a steady environment of syncopation. His father was a drummer, and in turn, he became a drummer; studying the craft at Azusa Pacific University on a partial scholarship. His commitment to beats and measures are a heavy influence in his music, and the dub and bass of his songs are legendary at getting a club moving, literally.
The orange "X" often marked on his equipment, clothing, and even the faces of himself and his fans, has been a mainstay since early in his career, as has his distinctive habit of using video game parts such as Wii Controllers, MIDI interfaces, a full drum set, guitar, drum pads, keyboards, laptops and game controllers, while looping his music live and fusing electronic dance beats, striking melodies, and lyrics with emotional heart. What can I say? This guy is an artist for the wired generation.
DeLong released his first album Just Movement on Wired Records in February and since then has been has been working hard on promotion and performances. If you're into charismatic stage shows full of surprises and innovative sounds, be sure to look for the orange "X' when making your way through The Experience. DeLong's performance will kick-off Sunday, Novemeber 3rd at 2:10 on the Le Plur Stage.
Where Y'at: For someone who may not be familiar with your music, how would you describe it to them?
Robert DeLong: Well, I guess I'd kind of describe it as "indie songwriter meets electronic music." I have a wild performance in which I use a drum set, Wii Remotes, an array of electronics, and a whole host of other stuff.
WYAT: So what drove you to using those devices and pioneering such different types of sounds? Do you have any inspiration?
RD: Yeah! I grew up listening to all kinds of music, you know? Everything from Pink Floyd to dance music and indie rock; I've always had eclectic tastes and I want my music to reflect that.
WYAT: I understand you grew up around drums, with your father being and drummer and you picking up the craft. What made you stray away from beats and into the realm of synthesizers?
RD: I guess I was just playing drums for a lot of bands and recording with people and at the same time I was just working on music on my own with my side projects. At some point I realized I had this cool collection of songs so I decided to start performing them. Then it just eventually evolved into what it is today.
WYAT: What about your trademark orange "X"?
RD: It sort of just happened. My girlfriend took my headphones at one point and painted on them and then a friend formalized it and turned it into something we could recreate. I've always been into lines, angles, and geometric stuff like that.
WYAT: That's awesome. It's become almost your trademark now and fans around the world adorn themselves with it. It seems you didn't think it would become as big as it has.
RD: No, I didn't. It just started out the way it did and people started identifying it as my trademark.
WYAT: Your music has really grown and progressed since your indie-rock days. Where do you see your music going in the future?
RD: Well it's hard to tell, really. At this point I'll definitely keep making electronic music but I have no idea what direction it's going to go. Right now it's all very dance oriented and I mean, who knows? Perhaps I'll have some rock songs on the next album or maybe some wild out there house stuff. I like stuff that's written on acoustic guitars right up to electronic synthesizer; my sound is really a mash up of sorts.
WYAT: What is it like to tour and do shows as Robert DeLong.
RD: I've been touring for about six months straight. Right now I'm on North Carolina, after that I go to South Africa and then Europe.
WYAT: With such a crazy road schedule like that, how do you keep your shows as fresh and spontaneous as they're known to be?
RD: Playing shows are is always fun; challenging, but exciting. There's a lot going on, so you know, I'm always tweaking things here and there. I also have a few improvisational sections where I get to develop something on the fly for each show so it's never quite the same. I use the drum sets sometimes during those parts so it keeps it interesting for me.
WYAT: When hopping from place to place like you do, from country to country, do you have to adjust your shows or are people pretty receptive everywhere you go?
RD: With me people generally know what they're getting into. It is interesting though. Like in Europe people tend to respond better to the Housey stuff. Here in the States people are more drawn to the drum and bass, sort of Dubsteppy stuff. So it's interesting to see how different tastes exist around the world and different audiences respond.
WYAT: Tell me a little about your album Just Movement. Where'd it come from and what's its inspiration?
RD: The album was written over about four years. It was a lot of reflection and songs I've been writing. You know I have a whole bunch of songs that have been lying around and recorded in different styles, and I just picked and chose the ones that fit together and then kind of let them evolve into something more dance oriented. Then I went back into the studio and formalized them into what they are now. It was actually a pretty long process; it wasn't intentional until about a year ago when I realized I was working on an album this whole time.
WYAT: So tell me what it is about dance music that makes you want to keep creating in that vein?
RD: I grew up more in the rock world, punk music, and stuff like that. The first time I was at a rave, or an electronic event, I was just struck by the power of loud music with bass to help people get together and have a good time. So I focused on making things that aren't depressing and try to make music that makes people happy and is fun.
WYAT: So what do you have planned for Voodoo Fest?
RD: Well the set-up is usually the same. Me on stage with a microphone, a drum set, Wii remotes, joysticks, gamepads, midi controllers and maybe some other stuff. But I'll be on stage jumping around and moving, and I suspect it's going to be Halloween so I'm looking to have something fun in there for the holiday.
WYAT: Sounds good. So have you been to New Orleans before?
RD: Actually, I haven't. It's on the bucket list. I'm glad I'm getting the chance to come down there. Especially since I heard it's a cool time of year to be there.
WYAT: Oh yeah, man. New Orleans is crazy during Halloween. So what else do you have going on?
RD: Well, besides touring I've got a couple of remixes coming up which I have to release with the artists so those come every so often. I'm always working on new music; every month, I release a new free song as a free download to my fans so there's always fresh stuff going on.
WYAT: That's pretty cool. So where can people find the music?
RD: Well the easiest way is to go to my website Robertdelong.com. I have links, there's also Soundcloud and other places like that.