THEY. Talks Touring with Bryson Tiller, Their Upcoming Album, and Working with Timbaland in Exclusive Interview – by Aria Bell
Los Angeles-based music duo THEY. are emerging to the forefront of upcoming artists to lookout for. This year proved to be a rewarding one after the release of their debut EP Nu Religion earned them an opening spot on tour with R&B singer-songwriter Bryson Tiller and Canadian hit maker PartyNextDoor. This three-track project infuses the sounds of various artists like New Jack Swing, Kurt Cobain, Nirvana and Boyz II Men, creating a revitalizing sound that established they can’t be categorized. Another special treat is expected with their debut album, Nu Religion Hyena, set to release in February of 2017.
THEY. consists of two friends, Denver, CO producer/songwriter Dante and Washington, D.C. producer/singer/songwriter Drew. Both accidentally fell into music through a family member. Dante’s passion for music stemmed from writing poetry. Trying to impress his mom by singing along to old Motown songs during their car rides heightened his interest in music. Eventually he merged poetry with singing and decided to pursue music seriously around the age of 17. Drew’s attraction to music sparked after his big brother Marvin, an all-state basketball player and his idol growing up, decided to start making beats. Following in his brother’s footsteps, he gave producing a try. To his surprise he had a natural knack for it, so he kept practicing and eventually taught himself how to play the piano. Wanting to elevate his producing skills, music became his minor while in college.
They both moved individually to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams in music, and were very successful. Drew was putting his music online with hopes of gaining exposure when a friend of his in LA saw his potential and offered their place for him to live so his dream could become a reality. “As soon as I got out there, I hit the ground running,” he recalls. “Of course placements didn’t start off right away because, of course, it’s difficult.” His groundwork ultimately paid off when word started to spread about his music through sessions he’d been in with other artists and producers. This led him to meeting and working with Jeremih and Jason Derulo, who took him under his wing.
Dante, aspired to create urban music like famous hip hop producer Drumma Boy, but failed terribly. “I wasn’t good at it and I couldn’t make a Lex Lugar beat for my life,” he said. He had a natural niche for pop music, so he decided to take that route in producing. By trying to emulate producers like Dr. Luke and Max Martin, he learned how to structure a song properly. Working countless hours in different music sessions contributed to a call he received informing him that someone liked a few of his tracks. One day while at the laundromat he heard his track with Kelly Clarkson singing over it on the radio. He later won a Grammy for his work on that song, “Mr. Know-It-All.” This then granted him the opportunity to work with Chris Brown, CeeLo Green and Will.I.Am.
Hearing music out of G.O.O.D. Music’s studio across the street from his studio inspired him to hone in on making different sounds, so he quit his daytime job at Nickelodeon Studios. Everything came full circle after Drew heard his “beats that were from left field” in a session they both happen to be in. Instantly having a brotherly camaraderie, they decided to unite musically as a duo and immediately went to studio to create. Dante saving his tracks under random words cultivated the idea to name the group THEY. after a track named that caught Drew’s eye. With a good amount of music waiting to be released, and an official name, during a listening session they spontaneously decided to drop their EP Nu Religion in October of 2015. “Within about 15 minutes we made the decision to put out an EP, randomly selected three songs out of our collection and set a date for it to be released,” Dante said. Nu Religion served its purpose by the embrace it received from people all around.
Shortly after an offer to hop on the single “Working For It” by electronic musician Zhu featuring Skrillex was extended to them. They laid the hook for the song, which was their first feature as a duo.Mega producer Timbaland caught wind of the EP and reached out to collaborate with them. Bryson Tiller was another new fan of the two after noticing the support from Timbaland via social media. He extended the chance to be an opening act for his “TRAPSOUL Tour.” Although the duo had never previously performed live, they took the offer and traveled all over nation performing their music. “From city to city we just learned to pace ourselves and take care of our bodies and keep a level head. We’re a duo and we have to have each other’s back” Drew said.
Following the completion of touring with PartyNextDoor, the duo is ready to headline their own tour after the release of their debut album Nu Religion Hyena. Being an extension of their EP, they felt lengthening the EP’s title for the album was perfect. They believe they share similar characteristics with the hyena – being outsiders, drawing characteristics from their surroundings, can’t be classified and are feared. This is a passionate project for THEY. because they’re sharing their take on music and merging their inspirations together. The album is completely written and produced by them to showcase the reason they teamed up. “Our music is organic,” Dante says. “And there’s something to really say about being able to have a cohesive album fully written and produced by us.”