The Pio talks gaming, genres with Robert DeLong

Tyler Warren


Tywen Kelly

Photo by Tywen Kelly

The Pioneer sat down with EDM artist Robert DeLong before his performance in Reid Campus Center last Thursday. DeLong was brought to perform at Whitman by Whitman Events Board along with openers Chrome Sparks and Colours. His newest album “In the Cards” was released last September.

How would you describe the sound of your new album?

I would say that from the previous record I released, “Just Movement,” which came out in 2013, it’s sort of a progression; the focus is more on songwriting and it’s cool, it kind of covers quite a bit of genre territory, everything from weird drum and bass stuff to house music, but it’s all pop songs. It’s a riot.

What is your favorite song right now?

Right now I’m really digging “Queen” by Perfume Genius.

Photo by Tywen Kelly

Can you explain how you use gaming controllers in your performances?

A main element of my performance apparatus is I use a joystick, a Wii remote, a steering wheel. These are all things that you would use to play video games. I guess I hacked them so they are used in different ways to perform different parts of the tune, like some things will control the pitch on the synthesizer or another thing will be samples I’m controlling with a game pad. I use the Wii remote to glitch out my vocals and make them sound all strange. It’s kinda fun. I started messing around with the idea as long ago as 2007, when I was still in college. Then as I started performing, I had these things laying around, so I used them, and it ended up being pretty cool. It makes a lot of sense aesthetically with the music I’m making, and then, you know, everyone loves video games.

What made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?

I think I wanted to pursue a career in music mostly because I didn’t know how to do anything else. [Laughs]. No, maybe that’s not true, it’s just when I was in high school, I realized that 90 percent of free time was taken up doing music. It was something I loved and I never got sick of and I was able to find the intersection of my interests there. Songwriting involves thinking about things in a literary sense and music involves engineering and production and computer stuff I’ve always been really into.

How have you evolved musically?

In high school I was kind of all over the place. I played drums in a lot of bands, I played in some really bad pop punk bands. They were terrible. And then I also played a lot of jazz, and all the while I was recording stuff – initially just to record my bands, but that led to me getting into electronic music. By the time I graduated college I was playing in a dozen bands, all different genres, and I was also producing atmospheric electronic music. And then I got into dance music, and here we are today.

You talked about your new album having multiple genre influences. What groups have influenced you musically?

Photo by Tywen Kelly

That’s interesting, you know, I don’t really ever think of… as far as songwriting I’ve always been interested in. This record early on I was listening to a lot of Prince and Paul Simon and Talking Heads. I don’t know how much of that stuff comes through in the production or the songwriting but some of that stuff exists around the edges. And certainly, I grew up listening to a lot of Seattle bands because that’s where I grew up, so everything from Death Cab and Modest Mouse to Jeremy Enigk and that stuff perpetually influences the way I write melodies. But then, as far as this record’s electronic elements, it’s kind of all over the place, everything from East Colors to Lucy and Boards of Canada. These things are just pieces of influence – I listen to a lot of music, especially at festivals, and I end up kind of ingesting that and it comes out later when I’m writing music. It’s hard to really say where it all comes from, though.

If you had to describe your music in one word…what would it be?

Can it be a hyphenated word? Okay, let’s do that. I choose “sick-bro” with a hyphen.

Do you have any rituals before you go onstage to perform a set?

I mean, the basic things. I do vocal warm up and warm up my hands for drumming. I jump up and down. Nothing too crazy. You know, I feel like I get asked this question a lot, and I should make up a weird ritual, like, I like, pour tea on a flower and chant the lyrics from “Hail to the Thief” or something. Actually, yeah, that’s what I’m gonna do. That’s my ritual.

Do you have a favorite performance you’ve ever done?

My favorite performance from last year that floats to mind was the Greek in Berkeley. It was an amazing day and an amazing setting. That was one of my favorite moments from last summer. Another show that comes to mind is another Bay Area performance, which was last year’s Outside Lands festival.

What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to growing old and dying eventually. [Laughs]. I don’t know, I’m looking forward to a lot, especially touring more and getting some more new music out there. It’s only been like 6 months since I released my album, but I’m already on to the next thing, writing tunes, and I’m excited to go new directions. Also I’m really looking forward to Coachella this year. It will be “dope,” as they say.

This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.