If you’re a proponent of good ole fashioned rock ’n’ roll, you’ve probably already made up your mind about the world of electronic dance music. I know this because I am one of you, a stalwart believer in real instruments played by real people in real time. But I’m also a believer in admitting when you’re wrong.
This is where Robert DeLong comes in. The 29-year-old Seattle-bred songwriter is currently making waves in and out of the dance clubs, playing festivals, touring vigorously, and winning over tastemakers around the world. His music is, for all intents and purposes, electronic dance music. It’s made on computers, played live via MIDI controllers, and filled with all of the 8-bit bleeps, bloops, and bass drops that I’ve come to associate with a sweaty warehouse rave. All of this said, DeLong does really sing his songs, and they’re good, catchy, blast-beat-filled jams. He even reminds me a little bit of The Postal Service, albeit after five strong cups of coffee and maybe a tab of ecstasy. It’s all interesting and intriguing enough — until you see it live.
In real life, DeLong champions the kind of show that would leave most seasoned concertgoers’ mouths agape. He plays the drums and sings and generally runs amok, manually building his little sonic worlds into huge, room-shaking bangers, oftentimes with the help of video-game controllers he’s jerry-rigged into MIDI triggers. If you want to see this for yourself, YouTube does it some justice. Or, better still, you can head out to SOhO Restaurant & Music Club this Saturday, March 7, and catch DeLong live in the flesh. In anticipation, we played a little getting-to-know-you game with the man many are calling EDM’s newest game changer.
Name: Robert DeLong
Hometown: Just outside of Seattle, Washington.
When did you start playing music? Since I was really young. My dad is a drummer. We had a piano in the house, but I started taking lessons when I was 10 or 11.
First instrument you played: Drums.
What was your first band? We were called No Leaf Clover. It was a sad attempt at pop-punk.
First concert you attended: Pat Metheny when I was in 4th grade.
First EDM show you attended: It was a rave at the Pico Rivera amphitheater in 2009. It was totally dirty; the lineup was nobody anyone has ever heard of, and most of them are probably not still around.
What did you think? I had never really given the time of day to dance music until that day. I saw people having a good time in a large group, but I also realized there was a lot more going on in the music than I had ever thought there was. It changed my whole mind-set. I went home and started working on new songs right after that.
Tell me about the video-game controllers. That was something that I had been messing around with in college. Once I started performing live, it was kind of a fun thing I wanted to try, and then it really resonated with people.
Are you a big gamer? Not really. I played video games, but I wasn’t allowed to have a console or anything like that. I only had computers, which I think was sort of a blessing in disguise.
What did you play? My favorite games as a kid were like Monkey Island, Command and Conquer. The only game I ever got good at was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Finally, what do you think you like about making music? I think the biggest thing is that I feel like it’s something I’m good at, and I don’t feel like I’m good at that many other things. But I get to travel around the world, and I get to do something that millions of people dream of doing. I feel blessed. It’s pretty special.
Robert DeLong plays SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Saturday, March 7, at 10 p.m. For tickets and info, call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.