By: Vanessa Tam
VANCOUVER – Now just a few years into their careers at THEY., Dante Jones and Drew Love first met back in 2013 after they moved to Los Angeles to work in the music industry from Denver and Washington, D.C., respectively. Connecting at a core level in regards to music, the two quickly became thick as thieves and later released their first project as a duo: an EP dubbed Nü Religion.
Creating truly genreless music anchored by contemporary R&B, Jones and Love grew up on a steady diet of everything from punk to rock, pop, ‘80s R&B and soul. In addition to cosigns received from major artists like Bryson Tiller and Timbaland, THEY. are positioned to be one of the most versatile projects of our generation.
The strength of their said versatility cannot be better demonstrated than with their first official collaboration with EDM heavyweights ZHU and Skrillex on the track “Working For It.” As unlikely as the partnership looked on paper, the track came together perfectly and drew core parallels between the seemingly opposite genres of modern EDM and hip hop.
“I feel like this generation kind of split off into one set of people who really like EDM and the people who like hip hop,” Jones says over the phone, thinking out loud. “But I think now you can go to a rap show or a rap festival and [see that] they’re reacting and jumping and bouncing around like it’s an EDM festival. I think [both genres] take a lot from each other and that the lines are getting a little bit blurred at this point. Whether it’s EDM bass or 808 trap music, you’re gonna see the same reaction.”
With the obvious nods to punk and rock in THEY.’s music, many would assume that the duo is trying to revive an arguably dying genre. “I think that the term ‘rock ‘n’ roll is dead’ has been thrown around numerous times throughout history,” Jones laments. “But it’s not necessarily like we’re trying to revive rock; it’s just that we have so many influences that incorporating a lot of that stuff was a natural development for us. You know, I’ve been making guitar-driven music for as long as I can remember, so I think it was just a natural thing for us.”
Transitioning to the current oversaturation of the North American EDM scene, Love adds, “I think what EDM did [for music] was that it kind of changed people’s expectations for song structure. Where, you know, back in the day it was all about the hook. But now it’s more about creating a moment, whether it’s like a vocal hook or if it’s more like a drop. That’s something that we always kind of have in our approach, whether it’s a song like ‘Back It Up’ where the actual hook is really more like an EDM drop. So I think while the [EDM] scene itself may be dying out, some of the influences as far as song structure and the way people listen to music are still gonna be carried over into wherever the next wave of music is.”
With a new album titled Nü Religion: Hyena just released on Mind of a Genius Records, the duo is looking towards empowering likeminded artists with the Nü Religion movement. “I know a lot of people, when they first heard the EP, were definitely thinking that they had an idea for what our sound was gonna be,” Love says. “But each song is [going to be] different on the album from start to finish. Each song has its own unique flair to it and I think [while the album] follows a story and follows a sonic path, each song will still be different.”
“In addition to releasing our album and doing our tour, I’m [also] really excited to be trying our best to create opportunities to empower other people that are trying to do the same thing [we are],” adds Jones. “The Nü Religion is an empowerment movement and all we’re trying to do is embrace other musicians.”
“I think we’re in a really interesting place,” says Love. “[With] urban music’s position in the world and also how we’re kind of in a transitional place as far as what’s going on in the world politics-wise and with racial tension and everything. I definitely feel like there’s room for a different voice, and really that’s what we’re trying to do is fill the void and give an alternative to the music that’s out right now.”
THEY. perform at Alexander Gastown March 8The Alexander, THEY