Robert DeLong is an EDM Artist on the Rise

Seattle-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter Robert DeLong has a flare for the alternative. In a good way. The 26 (soon to be 27)-year-old EDM mastermind, dubbed a Young Artist to Watch by MTV, has the music scene in his hands—quite literally. Indeed, among the myriad instruments he manages to maneuver during performances are Wiimotes and Joysticks, rigged like MIDIs and adding edge to his already memorable brand of booty movin’ tunes.

Seriously, though, this whiz kid’s got the chops and multitasks better than the best of us—in front of an audience, no less. He’s a one-man-band who sings, drums, and fiddles with game controllers and keyboards, sometimes going so far as to incorporate guitar, too. His live set is something to behold, a sweaty mid-twenties talent, hair slicked down in an exaggerated comb-over, putting every effort into churning out original numbers while keeping the beat.

“I’m always writing songs,” says DeLong, whose debut album, Just Movement, drops today. Makes sense, since he constantly rocked out in bands back in high school. Now he’s signed to Glassnote, label to the likes of Phoenix and Mumford & Sons.

Recently, DeLong released a video to accompany his catchy track “Global Concepts.” The visual rendition of this f-bomb laden rhythmic ditty features a foggy interior, warehouse-like, smoke somewhat obscuring the agile dancers in the background. Tube lights suspended from above flicker and flash whilst DeLong engages in various aspects of performing, most notably wandering around and gesticulating with Wiimote or drumsticks in hand, or hitting his steel drum to excellent tribal effect as he marches subtly in place. Towards the end, the space is overrun with revelers, morphing into an all-out party you wish you’d been invited to. (The platinum blonde mop you may glimpse amid the shadows belongs to talented dancer James Koroni, the individual responsible for my introduction to and fast fandom of DeLong.)

Another nuance unique to DeLong is his affinity for orange, which he wears with pride in the shape of an “x,” big and bold on a classic black tee, as well as painted with precision on his cheekbone in the shape of a lightening bolt. More on this defining aesthetic to follow.

New Yorkers can catch DeLong in action on February 15 when, as part of a greater tour, he plays The Studio at Webster Hall. Festivalgoers will have several opportunities to indulge as well, from SXSW to Coachella, Ultra to Governors Ball.

Not long ago I sat down with the confident up-and-comer at The Commons Chelsea, one of my favorite neighborhood haunts, where over iced tea we discussed the multi-instrumentalist’s inspiration, interest in hacking HIDs, and what it all means.

What’s it like being dubbed a Young Artist to Watch?
It’s great. I grew up watching MTV, so it’s cool. Wild ride. Exciting. Surreal.

How have people reacted? Any super fans?
Nothing too weird so far. But, it’s definitely getting weirder. After the video came out, all of a sudden friends from high school started reaching out, sending messages. It’s fun to hear from people I haven’t heard from in years. But, it’s just funny.

I bet. Did you always know you were going to go into music?
Near the end of high school I knew I was going to do music. I started out thinking I was going to be in science or something. But, I was better at [music]. I think people knew I was a musician, but I don’t know if people knew I was into electronic music and that I was going to go that route.

What would you be doing if not this?
Since college, all of my jobs have been music related. I taught drum lessons, so that was my thing. If it wasn’t music at all, I guess I’d be going to school.

To become a scientist.
Yeah, I guess. [Laughs]

So, tell me more about this Wiimote rewiring…
You can hack [a] human interface device, anything from Gamepads to Joysticks, and turn it into a MIDI. Basically, the idea is you’re just sending information to a computer and can turn it into whatever you want. It’s the same thing as having a knob, slider, drum pad. It’s all the same if you can hack it and make it work for you. I found out you could do it, it seemed interesting and it’s cheaper than buying a bunch of expensive musical equipment. And it’s fun, people like it.

How many instruments do you have up onstage with you?
Three different electronic things, two computers, game pad, Joystick, Wiimote, six pieces of percussion, drum set, keyboard. Like, 15-20 things. Sometimes I’ll have a guitar. Oh, and two microphones.

Wow. That’s a lot for one guy to keep track of. So, are all your shows like the last time you performed in New York? No pauses between songs, stuff like that?
The show is always continuous and flows together. When I do a longer set, there’s more drumming. I play guitar sometimes, too. It’s high-paced. Jumping around doing a lot of different things.

I’m getting that vibe. You sampled Moby when you last played live in NYC. Have you been a long time fan of his?
When his album Play came out, I was probably, like, 12. That was when I first started experimenting with making electronic music, because it was kind of accessible, mainstream electronic music for the time. It was kind of something I grew up with.

Aww, an audible homage. Thoughts on our fair city?
I love this city, but Manhattan is a little terrifying. And it’s a little colder here. Do prefer the warm. Other than that, it’s beautiful. It’s awesome. Good people.

Who else besides Moby inspired or inspires you?
The songs on the album especially are an amalgamation of a lot of songs over the last four years, so it’s a wide variety of things. I grew up in Seattle, so there’s the whole indie singer-songwriter vibe that I kind of grew up with, like Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, Modest Mouse. I think you can hear that whole Seattle sound in the way I write melodies. As far as things I’m listening to a lot right now, I’m listening to Lucy and Sports. I also grew up listening to a lot of Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Talking Heads. Those are some of my constant jams.

Can you tell me what inspired the lyrics behind “Just Movement”?
“Just Movement,” the first track, is sort of the thesis statement for the album. It was written right after college, a time of mental exploring. Just movement: the idea that, if you take this reductionist perspective, everything we do is just atoms moving around. It’s all meaningless. But, once you break it down, where do you go from there? Just movement, the double entendre. Dancing, philosophy. Take it or leave it.

Have you yourself always been into dancing? I’m thinking, too, of “Global Concepts”…
I go out dancing a lot. Do a lot of jumping around on stage. I think that’s an awesome thing. It’s the oldest response to music that human beings had, so it only makes sense to think about that. For a long time I was in the indie scene and no one dances. Everyone looks at their feet.

[Laughs] Shoegaze. How would you describe the music scene in L.A.?
It’s actually pretty cool. There’s definitely a burgeoning DIY electronic scene in Los Angeles. L.A.’s big. There’s always something happening. You can always see new music. It’s good stuff.

So, how did the face painting start?
The whole thing was a group of me and my friends called the Tribe of Orphans, a bunch of people who hang out and go to dance events and stuff. It kind of just evolved over time. My girlfriend Heidi face paint[s] at shows.

So she’s your professional face painter. Does she paint in real life?
Besides face painting she does studio painting and stuff, so it’s great.

Why orange?
Initially? That’s the color paint that shows up the best under black light. It glows the brightest.

Has anyone ever said something to you about your “x” symbol? How it very much resembles the “x” symbol of The xx?
Yeah, people have said that before.

Does it piss you off?
It does a little bit. It doesn’t really. I didn’t even know about them, that that was their symbol. The “x” just was kind of an organic development. My girlfriend had painted it on my headphones probably three years ago or something, so it was before that first The xx album came out. It was just kind of a simultaneous [thing]. We both did it. And then they became famous first. It’s just an “x.” It is what it is.

Emblem wars aside, what’s the greatest challenge of all this?
I think the greatest challenge is to not get sick all the time from running around. But, I have a lot of energy and this is what I wanted to do, so it’s all working out. So far. I get to do what I love. I love playing shows. That’s what it’s all about.

Photo by Miles Pettengell

MONDAY FUNDAY: Tonight’s Top NYC Events

So it’s the first day of the work week and there are four more days to go. We get it. But why ruminate when you can start to make Mondays the best night of the week? This weekly column is devoted to finding the best events across NYC hosted by individuals and places that are doing amazing, crazy, wild, sexy things on Monday nights. And we’re here to honor them. Here are tonight’s top events.

Eat something fried & delicious:
Celebrate the third night of Hanukkah by honoring that beautiful fried potato pancake at the Fourth Annual Latke Festival at BAM. Chefs from favorite Brooklyn and New York restaurants – like Blue Ribbon, The Vanderbilt, Balaboosta, Veselka, and A Voce – will fry up and compete for the coveted top latke award. For a $55 ticket, you get to eat the winning latkes and jelly doughnuts from Dough, and drink beer, wine, coffee from Brooklyn Roasting Company, and kombucha from Kombucha Brooklyn.  It’s Brooklyn, b%#%@. 6:30pm, $55 at BAM. For tickets, call BAM at 718-636-4100.

Hear something deep & brooding:
Get existential and transported to communist Russia at East Village red-swathed literary den KGB, where their longtime poetry night debuts aspiring and surprisingly prolific and lauded authors. Tonight marks the season finale of readings by Mark Strand, former Poet Laureate of the US, and published author Malachi Black. Damn. Grab one of KGB’s famous $7, big bottles of Baltika beer – that beloved Eastern European brand that’s hard to find anywhere but in this second-floor, Russian dive – and get ready for some brooding and wordy seduction. Poetry night starts at 7pm, every Monday. All the details here.

Watch something disturbing and sexual:
We all love a good confession, especially when it involves a half-naked, excessively good-looking human being confessing from the get-go that he’s, since the age of six, “enjoyed a rather delightful sexual relationship” with his father. Which brings us to tonight’s event: an autobiographical play by Cuban writer-director-producer Michelangelo Alasa called Confessions of a Cuban Sex Addict. But since tickets are free – and this show is riddled with actors, smoke, smoking-hot actors, and incest – reservations are highly required and tickets are scarce. Show runs tonight and next Monday, 8pm, at the Duo Multicultural Arts Center. All the details here.

Be on the radio & meet sexpert Dr. Ruth:
NPR’S most puzzling show Ask Me Another” comes to Brooklyn’s beloved and intimate events space The Bell House, where the show will be live-taped – and you can be too. Get quizzed by the trivia-and-brainteasers-centric show’s host Ophira Eisenberg, meet tonight’s special guest & sexpert Dr. Ruth , and maybe even end up in the contestant’s chair, facing trivia games customized specifically for you. This show is so intimate, it’ll trick you into thinking you’re at a game night in your friend’s cramped and messy living room – until your buddy tells you the next day, “Hey! I heard you mess up on the radio!” Show starts at 7:30pm, $10, at The Bell House. All the details here.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Cillian Murphy on His New One Man Show ‘Misterman’

He’s played an astronaut, a transvestite, a zombie-slayer, and a Scarecrow. But in Enda Walsh’s one-man-play, Mistermanat St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, a bearded Cillian Murphy is Thomas Magill, a proselytizing loner in a rural Irish village, who maniacally swings between heaven and hell, innocence and madness. With a little red notebook in hand and recordings of bygone conversations with family and villagers, Magill leads the audience on a guided tour of a day in his life—his judgement day. As he embodies six different neighbors—the lewd and flirtatious waitress, the lascivious garage worker among them—we meet the villain behind the angel. 

How did you first get involved with Misterman?
Enda gave me my first professional job with a movie called Disco Pigs, which started my career for me. And then we hadn’t worked together for a long time, but we remained pretty good friends. And I just had this idea that we should work together and do some theatre, and I knew Misterman was a play that he had written after Disco Pigs that hadn’t been performed in Britain and Ireland, had been done in odd places, but hadn’t been done in Europe much. Enda doesn’t really revisit plays generally, but I managed to persuade him to go back and look at this and he kind of re-wrote it quite a lot. And we just put it up in Galway in July, in Ireland.

I read that he actually performed in it first, in 1999.
Yeah, I never saw that so I’m kind of glad I didn’t. I had never seen a production of it and, like I said, it is quite significantly a different interpretation of it than what he did back in the day. It was lovely to work together, and I love working with friends and people that you know well because you call instantly to the work.
 
In the play, you embody six very different neighbors from Inishfree. What is that like, and where do you draw all of your nuances from?
I love doing silly voices and silly walks, so it was great to have a license to do it and get paid for it. What is great is that these characters are probably really normal, average people, but through Thomas’ demented prism, we’re allowed to exaggerate them. It was great to be given the license to play quite broad and quite big, which you never get to do in film acting, which calls for subtle and small, so it was great to be given something so broad.
 
Did you create your own backstory as to who Thomas was, and what his relationship was like with his mom and dad?
Yeah, we talked about that, and Enda is not prescriptive about stuff like that. He’s very much open to whatever ideas people have, but I think it’s pretty self-evident that the dad was an opposing figure and probably quite violent and Thomas is infantilized by his mother. I think that Tommy was considered harmless and a bit of an edgit and somebody who did his own thing and was mildly amusing, and he never had any friends. He just replays this one particular day for himself as some sort of catharsis or exorcism or way of dealing with this tremendous guilt he has.
 
How have audiences reacted to the show?
Really, really great. We were determined when we made it to make something that was quite risky and quite dangerous. Just putting one actor in a space that big is a little risky to begin with, so we really wanted to do something that was challenging, and people have responded to it, I think, in Ireland and America. I obviously was a little bit unsure how American audiences would react to it since it was so inherently Irish, but they have really been lovely and have really been concentrating. You get the sense that it’s not half observation; it’s active engagement from the audience, and I love that.
 
It was amazing.  You were running around, jumping. It’s such a mental, emotional, and physical workout.
Yeah, I did it twice yesterday. (Laughs). I love that stuff. I’ve always liked putting yourself through it, so you actually feel like you’ve gone to work. What we also felt in terms of the design of the piece itself was that the environment is transpiring against him. Not only is his mind unraveling, but the actual environment of the space is coming apart, and he’s trying to keep the whole thing together, emotionally and physically.
 
And what is it like trying to shake that off after the show?
Well, you get this sort of false energy, where you’re very excited and adrenalized. And then foolishly you go out and then you realize that you should actually be in bed. (Laughs). I do a lot of sleeping during the day.
 
I bet. How has it been adjusting to living in Brooklyn?
Great. I love Brooklyn. A lot of my friends who lived in Manhattan in their twenties are now sort of in a similar stage of life as us. They start to look for a slightly less intense-paced life, and they move to Brooklyn, and I really like the nature of it. It’s lovely.
 
Of the many characters you’ve played, who do you think your audience relates to the most?
Aw, I don’t know. I’ve been an astronaut, a transvestite. If you do it well, hopefully people believe it. And that’s all I want to do, to do it well, and so therefore people should come out going, “That’s the character. That’s not Cillian Murphy.” That’s all I hope to achieve. That you can portray a character honestly, and not be limited to transvestite-astronaut roles, which I think I’ve gotten over.
 
What projects lie ahead? I have a film in Sundance in January that’s coming out called Redlights. It’s directed by Rodrigo Cortes who did Buried, and it’s got Sigourney Weaver, and Robert DeNiro and Lizzie Olsen in it. And then I think I’ll probably just take a little holiday in January, and have a shave.