Their resume says a lot.
Los Angeles-based duo THEY. (producer Dante Jones and singer Drew Love) first met while the D.C.-born Love was writing, and the Denver-born Jones was producing, for artists like Chris Brown and Kelly Clarkson. With Timbaland as a mentor, the pair began recording together, released a hit single with Skrillex and Zhu, and toured with Bryson Tiller on his recent worldwide “TRAPSOUL” run.
But it’s their 14-track Warner Bros. debut album, “Nü Religion: Hyena” that says even more.
A cohesive collection of R&B and rap subtly flavored with an assortment of sub-genres, THEY. are happily breaking rules to create their own sound.
Tastemakers like The Guardian and FADER have temporarily coined the pair’s sound as “Grunge n’ B,” but if their stellar debut proves anything, it’s that these guys are more than happy to live outside of labels.
PACIFIC recently spoke with the duo by phone from a tour stop in San Francisco to preview their show here on Monday.
PACIFIC: How did you guys join forces?
Drew Love: I was songwriting and he was producing for other people in L.A. We met and clicked not only on a personal level - we share a sense of humor that is a lot different than most - but I was drawn to him because of the way he approached music and his understanding of my approach. After we met, we made song after song after song together. And pretty soon, it was like this well-oiled machine. And it ended up feeling like a seamless transition from songwriting and producing to becoming artists.
Dante Jones: The dynamic we have is dope because there’s never been a time when one of us had an idea and the other one wasn’t interested in trying it or didn’t have the skillset to see it through. And that’s encouraging. From the rap-driven “U-Rite” to “Dante’s Creek” where Drew is hitting a lot of notes, it was all a lot of fun. It was like a discovery process. And I think that’s what kept this album interesting while we were making it.
I heard things about you like “alt-rock-infused” and a “mash-up of Outkast and Nirvana” before I heard the record. Now that I’ve heard it, I think that’s a bit misleading...
Drew Love: It’s just one phase of it. We listen to so many different kinds of music. Dante delves so deep into so many different musical catalogs, and he encourages me to do the same. From growing up to now, our music base has become so extensive. They always say this, and Dante said it to me the other day - they say “you are what you eat.” But as an artist, you’re also what you listen to. It’s because Dante and I have listened to so many things that so many ideas spill out onto the table when we work together. And it’s amazing to have a producer that can take all of these ideas from different genres, and sub-genres, and still make it into a cohesive 14-track album. It’s incredible.
When: 7 p.m. April 3
Where: Voodoo Room at the House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave, downtown
Can you talk about the process of getting to a place where you could release a full-length album?
Dante Jones: At the end of the day, we just focus on creating songs. We’re always trying to tailor energy. And that is the initial goal before you take a step back and say, “boom,” we’ve got something that can be put together as a body of work. We dropped the EP, and we dropped three of these songs as a proper introduction, but it was never a fully completed thought. So, from there, we just wanted to create, create and create. And then came that time when we were able to actually see that we were closing in a full body of work. But I’ve always been a fan of the format of a complete album. I know that this is the singles era, and a lot of people don’t take the time to digest things, but I still have a lot of respect for the album as an art form.
Drew Love: When we first started, we had a static studio that we were always at before there was any kind of pressure or we had signed anything. We were infants to the whole idea of being artists. We were just in there creating. When the Bryson Tiller tour happened, we obviously had a lot less time to work like that. Then it became a thing where we’d take studio time whenever we could on the road. Now, we do a little bit of it all. Dante comes up with all kinds of sound ideas to start. We talk about what’s tight or not and go from there. Then I’ll take my melodies to him and he’ll help me write around that. And then he finishes the beat on his own. He likes to be insulated in his own world when he produces. And I respect that. He’s a mad scientist with the beats. But we take any chance we can to get into the studio and put it all together. That’s the most invigorating feeling ever for me. We’re excited every time we get a chance to make something new.
When you leave on a tour like this, are you always banking new ideas as you go from city to city?
Dante Jones: A big chunk of the ideas come from a quick voice memo or something like it. Sometimes we’ll pull it up a week later, and sometimes it could be six months later. The creativity doesn’t have any limitations. I didn’t love doing industry sessions all that much because you put this time frame on it - between these hours and these hours you’re going to be creative. It just doesn’t really work like that. Inspiration hits when inspiration hits and the studio is just a place where you have tools to put them down. It can be an ill-fated thing sometimes when you have an expectation that creativity is going to hit you. My approach has always been to take it when it comes. I never want to be put in a box.
Drew Love: We always have a little list of melody ideas, lyric ideas or title ideas. All artists that respect their craft have a small bank of stuff in case they hit that proverbial wall. But like Dante said, I think we just run with the inspiration when it hits us.
Dante Jones: I’m actually notorious for hoarding my music until the last minute. And I think that’s everyone - Drew included. But I love to press play on something new for someone. Especially Drew. He’s my favorite person to say, “Hey, check this out!” And at the end of the day, you want to make music that you like. We want to make music that inspires us first, that we want to listen to, and then give it to everyone else from there. That’s how we always create.
Drew Love: And that comes back to Dante and I clicking so well. I can feel fine leaving him to his own devices. You don’t always have that when you don’t click like we do. And I know 99.9 percent of what he comes back with is going to make me lose my mind. It helps when you know that someone is good at what they do and will always come with something that’s fire.