"This album is a lot of new things for me."
That's not something you hear a lot from artists on their second records. There's a bit of conventional wisdom in the music industry. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and don't change your sound too much til at least the third record. But Robert DeLong
isn't your conventional artist, and with his second LP, In the Cards
, due out today, DeLong is banking on a major switch to his sound paying off in a big way.
"I...purposely wanted to steer away from...repeating myself [by]...doing a dance-y rave record...it's got some weird hipster slow jams and almost folk guitar [pieces] that turns into drum and bass breaks kind of track. And it's got sort of a ballad that ends the record. And a lot of stuff in between."
DeLong isn't abandoning his EDM roots. The dance/rave tracks return on the record, but he's committed to exploring traditional pop songwriting on this record as well.
"...the songs are a lot more song oriented than the previous record...kind of where I came from and what I grew up with in that sense...I think my biggest influence in songwriting is music I listened to growing up, in high school and stuff. Like indie pop...from Seattle...Modest Mouse, David Bazan, Death Cab For Cutie...that really informs the way I construct melodies and songwrite and combining it with modern electronic sounds that fascinate me and are fun to mess around with."
And if you've been listening to Robert DeLong from the beginning like we have, these admissions shouldn't be especially surprising. Although DeLong knows how to get a group of crazed Millennials in a dance-frenzy at the club or a concert hall or a festival, his music features genuine composition and melody and vocal hooks beyond the "four on the floor" bass and drums of typical dubstep or EDM acts. And DeLong doesn't simply differentiate himself from the absurdly packed EDM crowd with his studio recordings. His live performances are famous for their integration of live instrumentation and...unconventional tools.
"...I had video game controllers laying around [and] I saw people hacking them online, so I would just mess around...as I started performing my own music live, I was just poor and didn't have enough money to go buy expensive MIDI controllers so I just said 'cool I'll do this'"
As someone who's had the pleasure of seeing Robert DeLong play live, watching him create a universe of sound with WiiMotes and an old computer flightstick and seemingly remix Talking Heads' "Once In A Lifetime" live with an N64 controller into one of his own compositions was one of the most jaw-droppingly cool electronic music moments I'd ever witnessed. We also bonded over our shared love of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater
soundtracks and the score for the classic LucasArts adventure game The Secret of Monkey Island
"Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2...that was my jam right there. That's where I learned about skate punk and pop punk...it was an inspirational soundtrack for me at the time, introduced me to a lot of music."
DeLong also shared the average person's concern about how so many EDM performances are just a DJ with a laptop.
"I love a lot of electronic music, DJs' sets and stuff, but the idea that your attention is focused on the person curating music sometimes to me seems bizarre...I just want to see more interaction with the music so there's a direct relation between somebody's movements on stage and the sounds you're hearing. I obviously take it to a certain degree just because I'm a really active person. Also, I was initially a percussionist and I think that's why I do it that way...I miss the performance element of rock and roll, you know? You go and see a rock band suddenly you have this, I don't know, you just feel like something's happening...as opposed to watching a glorified DJ."
In the Cards
was released today, and although DeLong is convinced that he'll be touring til he's dead, he's also excited to be sharing his new stage show with everyone and the new tunes. "I have a headlining tour coming up in November, late October-November which is gonna be really cool. We're gonna have some new tunes, add some new visual elements to the show" and as someone who got a sneak preview of what all of that is going to look like at a show at Rough Trade this week, I can promise you won't want to miss it.