Wonderland have nice old chat with Indie-Pop Electronic-Rock newcomer Robert DeLong and discuss the crossover hit ‘Long Way Down’.
Robert DeLong is not one to be pigeonholed. Raised in Seattle and now based in Los Angeles, his music is almost impossible to succinctly describe; he himself calls it “indie pop songwriter meets electronic dance music styles with modern electronic sounds.” However, Wonderland just knows that it’s good. His music may be pulling from a plethora of different genres and influences, but it’s DeLong’s incredible songwriting talent and voice that tie it all together.
However, songwriting and singing isn’t DeLong’s only talent; he has been famed for his use of amazingly random equipment in his one-man live show. To watch DeLong play live is to watch a truly innovative creative genius doing something completely unique; think wii-remotes, joysticks and other video game controllers alongside drums, keyboards and live samplers. In fact the gaming theme has been continued with latest single ‘Long Way Down’, with a brand new (and Wonderland can confirm, addictive!) online video game made to celebrate the release. With new single ‘Long Way Down’ having made waves this summer and album ‘In The Cards’ just released, DeLong has been blowing up big time in the US. Crowds flock to catch his wild one-man party at festivals including Coachella and Lollapalooza, and a Jimmy Kimmel performance has led to mainstream traction that shows no signs of abating.
It’s time the UK got in on the action, so Wonderland chatted to DeLong about face painting, writing songs at 3 years-old and making music with a steering wheel.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your single ‘Long Way Down’? What’s it about?
I guess Long Way Down is about the sense of morality of life and you’re gonna die at some point but why not have a good time on the way down and sort of the other side of it touches on hypocrisy and the trappings of that. I grew up in a pretty conservative environment in the States and so I think a lot of my songs echo that sentiment and touch on that because that was a major component if my early life.
2. You’ve done something new and exciting for the track by creating an original video game for it. We’ve spent a good few afternoons trying to beat our highscore (and failing), which made us wonder, what’s yours?
My highest score is basically nothing, I can’t make it past about 5 seconds before dying on the game but it is kind of fun to watch myself die about 15 times.
3. When did you start making music and what was it that drew you in?
I started making music and made my first song when I was about 3 called Dancing In The Moon. It was a little bit derivative so I don’t think I could get away with putting that out now. I was about 10 when I really started getting Into it and I took piano lessons but really it started with drums and I played drums pretty much from there on out.
4. You used to be a drummer for indie rock bands – what was the catalyst for adding the eclectic electronic elements you’re now known for?
I started doing electronic production just fiddling around with it in high school and for my final high school project I made a little album of electronic music but at the time I wasn’t really even aware of dance music. I was listening to things like Boards Of Canada and Moom and kind of just a little more atmospheric stuff and ambient and some trip hop stuff. When I was playing drums for a lot of bands, at some point I guess because I was a computer nerd and I was working with audio production it was just a fun thing to mess about with on the side and then my girlfriend took me to a rave and it changed my mind about dance music. It was kind of just a side project until it started taking over my life and now I only play drums for myself!
5. Talk us through your process of creating music; it seems like with all the layers and instruments that it would be a wildly creative process! Is there something you always start out with as the base of every track?
The songwriting process if different for each song but I’d say probably 70% base idea and then I build of that as I go. Ideas often change and can be scrapped half way through so the song can change completely as the process goes on.
6. When you’re making music what’s the perfect place you envisage people listening to it?
I think it’s different for everybody you know. I’ve listened to music by other artists and It takes me to a completely different place than the next man. I feel like its personal to every listener so not necessarily a specific place.
7. You’re famous for your unusual music gadgets; laptops, wii-motes, joysticks, keyboards and video game controllers all make up your live set. Do you have a favourite creation that you have an extra special soft spot for?
I really love the steering wheel I adapted. It’s a huge amount of fun to play with whilst making the music and on stage during live gigs. Keeps it fun.
8. Talking of your live set… you’re often seen with different patterns or shapes painted on your cheeks while performing. What’s the reason behind this?
I wanted that festival feel to the gigs, no matter how small they were or however intimate. I feel like it gives it an atmosphere where you can create and be who you want to me. My girlfriend actually comes to the gigs with me and offers to face paint anyone who is willing. It’s pretty cool. Has a tribe like atmosphere.
9. Do you prefer making the music or getting out and performing it?
I mean, I love performing and I love making music. They’re both different / fun in their own ways – making it draws from a different part of the creative process and it means you can experiment with it in its entirety from the get go. Performing is like an added bonus so I couldn’t really decide.
10. Tell us a bit about the upcoming album. Did you set out with a specific sound or message in mind or was it a natural progression?
There’s definitely a progression and I experiment with a greater range of sounds. It’s exciting – something I think the new and the old fans with love.
11. Do you have a favourite track from it?
I don’t think I do have a specific favourite to be honest. It’s one of those projects where you have to listen to it in its entirety. Every track is different.
Robert will be touring the US with Charli XCX and Bleachers, and his own headline tour starting on October 28th. Further European dates will be announced for October. New album ‘In The Cards’ out now.
Words: Milly Stockton