Plus, a blast into the past with an interview from Robert DeLong’s set at the House of Blues last June.
“Just say ‘yes’ to everything until you have the option to say ‘no.'”
Returning for his second year at Edgefest in Frisco, TX, Robert DeLong performed in front of a crowd of 20,000+ fans by himself, while his girlfriend Heidi Callaway painted the faces of sweaty, passionate concert-goers, pressed up against the barricade. Following the release of his latest EP, Long Way Down, the twenty-nine-year-old solo artist is starting to gain traction amongst larger audiences, as well as radio stations. His two studio albums, Just Movement (2013) and Long Way Down – EP (2014), merge electronica and rock in a uniquely thrilling way, unparalleled by any current EDM artists or indie bands.
Edgefest 25, Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX – April 25, 2015
Prior to Robert’s set, I casually run into Heidi while exiting the press pit, and ask if I can interview Robert. After I quickly explain how we’d met at the Dallas House of Blues in June of 2014, she apologizes that Robert is not immediately at hand, but promises I can interview him later in the day. Given the unreliable cell service in the stadium, and the erratic nature of large crowds, I decide to interview Heidi while I have the chance, and she ecstatically agrees because it is her first interview ever.
Spencer Vilicic: Who is your celebrity crush?
Heidi Callaway: Probably Jude Law, but only because of the characters he plays. I don’t know if he’s actually a cool guy or not.
Spencer: Does Robert ever look to you for musical inspiration?
Heidi: I like to think so. He asks me sometimes what “kick” I like best, and he will let me listen to the beats, and I get to choose one of three of my favorites. Usually, they all sound the same to me, so I’m just like, “Number…three!”
Spencer: If you are allowed to say, is Robert in production of a full LP right now?
Heidi: Oh, yeah, of course! It should be released so soon. I’m crossing my fingers for end of July, but it might be more like September.
Spencer: Do you have a name for the album?
Heidi: I think it’s going to be called In The Cards.
Spencer: Oh, awesome, I’ve heard that [song] before.
Heidi: Yeah, it’s kind of like… A running theme in the album is the reinterpretation of tarot cards, and whether your destiny is your choosing, or if it’s all written out in the cards… It’s really cool. You know his music is always really philosophical.
Spencer: Yeah! I’ve always wondered, does he have a background or major in philosophy, or something like that?
Heidi: No, he’s just a really intelligent guy, and really fascinated with that type of stuff, and religion. Yeah!
Spencer: Okay, final question. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been told?
Heidi: Hmm, shoot… Probably “Live long and prosper,” you know? Star Trek themed.
Spencer: Cool, thank you!
Heidi: Of course!
After this brief encounter, Heidi takes down my phone number, and tells me she’ll text or call me later in the day, so I can meet with Robert and interview him. Within an hour, he is up on stage moving the crowd with his dynamic stage presence and impressive use of video game controllers, while Heidi tirelessly paints abstract war paint on the faces of those fighting the heat.
A few hours pass, and the rest of the Pretty Neat Grooves team and I go to the meet and greet area, further off from the stages, tucked away near the artists’ coach buses. Hopefully, I intend to meet Robert right there, and avoid the trouble of trying to talk to Heidi on the phone over the noise of the festival. With as much fortuity as before, I immediately spot Robert standing next to a tent, talking to some fans, and as I approach him, I run into Heidi again. In this very moment, he slips past me to go back to the stage. We nod in agreement, and she says that she’ll get him for me after he is finished “nerding out to Death Cab.” What an awesome reason to do anything.
He soon returns from the set, Heidi mutters something to him, and I am now standing face to face with Robert DeLong. Again, I explain how I’d met him last summer at a concert downtown, and he recalls it briefly. After introducing the rest of the crew, the interview begins.
Spencer Vilicic: Who is your celebrity crush?
Robert DeLong: My celebrity crush…uh, probably Jena Malone.
Dustin Bagayna: Nice.
Michael White: It’s nice to hear somebody who’s not like, the same name that everybody drops, you know? Everybody likes to say Scarlet Johansson and stuff like that. Jena Malone is a cutie.
Spencer: Have you considered expanding from a solo act to a group act, or collaborating more?
Robert: Uh yeah, I don’t know. I like doing the solo thing, but I’m definitely gonna have more and more, like, you know, guest features on different songs and stuff like that.
Spencer: Yeah, I really like the feature you have on “Perfect.”
Robert: Oh yeah! Natalie Nicoles, she’s great.
Spencer: What do you like or dislike about performing solo? Are there like…
Robert: I mean, I love it.
Spencer: Pros and cons and stuff?
Robert: It’s awesome because I get to, you know, practice and control everything, I guess. The other side of it is that it’s a lot of stuff all on me, you know?
Robert: I get lonely on stage. [chuckles]
Spencer: You had one of the best crowds, I would say.
Robert: Awesome, thank you.
Spencer: Do you ever look to Heidi for musical inspiration?
Robert: Yeah, I mean we’ve always… She’s always been a big supporter, and you know, she was the one who kinda introduced me to electronic music-
Robert: And like the whole dance music scene, so yeah. I mean, you know, she’s been a big part of that.
Spencer: What’s one question that no one asks, that you wish they’d ask?
Robert: Uh…I mean, I wish people would just talk about my favorite Sci-Fi books or something. [chuckles]
Spencer: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Robert: The best advice that I ever heard was just to, uh…You know, that it’s all about working hard and being nice, or something. I don’t know.
Heidi Callaway [to Robert]: You wanna know what I said, Robbie? You would’ve been so proud. He asked me what the advice was, and I was like, “Live Long and Prosper!”
Robert: Oh yeah?! [chuckles]
Heidi: I thought for sure you would’ve said that.
Michael: What’s the best advice that you could give to other people?
Robert: You know… Do your best to have a good time, be happy, and work hard. I don’t know. [chuckles]
Dustin: So this is Dallas… or uh, Frisco, Texas. What do you like and dislike about Dallas or Frisco?
Robert: I love the heat, and I…also dislike the heat. It’s kind of a…
Dustin: Yeah! [chuckles]
Robert: But it’s nice here.
Dustin: Alright, that’s it.
After our interview, we take a few pictures, and then Robert and Heidi retreat back stage. If you ever get the chance, say hello to these two because they are wonderful and fun people!
House of Blues, Dallas, TX – June 4, 2014
Remember the Robert DeLong concert at the House of Blues that I mentioned? Well, after that show, I met Robert. He and I talked for a moment, but then I was made to watch the car and ensure it wasn’t towed, while a couple of my friends stayed behind for this stellar interview…
Maddie Flores: Boom. Okay.
Martin Flores: Were you in a band before you became a solo artist?
Robert DeLong: Yeah. I was in a lot of bands! You know, I was in a lot of bands in high school and stuff like that. But then in college and afterwards, I was in a lot of indie rock bands, like progressive indie rock. A lot of weird psychedelic stuff, and also folk rock bands. You know, I was recording people, and I was doing this as a side project, and it just became my main gig eventually.
Maddie: Sweet. Okay, how does being a solo artist, like…in terms of writing. How is that different, being on your own versus in a band?
Robert: I mean, you just get…You have total control, it’s the best. [chuckles] But no, I mean, like I said…It was just this weird side thing that I was doing, and then, at some point as I started performing, it started taking over. It’s a really nice thing to be able to have total control. But then also, have input from other people if you want, but not have to have the argument every time you use a C minor or something like that. [chuckles]
Maddie: Can you tell us a little bit about your recording process?
Robert: Yeah. I mean, it’s kind of across the board. Sometimes, I just start with the melody in my mind. I go to my computer, lay down the melody, and then build a song around it. More often than not, what I do is I start with a drum beat, or maybe a synth line, or some idea I had. Like, I want to copy “this sound.” And then, it’ll never end up there, so I’ll just build something on that, and then in the end, something comes out.
Robert: It’s kinda hard to explain. You just sit there…You have computers, you’ve got headphones.
Martin: So, how is Dallas treating you?
Robert: I’ve enjoyed it! This is like my fourth or fifth time here. It’s always been great. I’ve always had…Honestly, Texas in general I’ve had really great crowds and good people, so it was nice.
Maddie: Yeah, this is my fourth time seeing you, and his [Martin’s] third.
Robert: Oh, cheers!
Martin: Yeah, I’ve heard you talk about Edgefest, and how the whole right side of the speakers…
Martin: What was your favorite band at Edgefest? Like, were you starstruck by anybody there?
Maddie: Or at any festival?
Robert: I mean like, specifically Edgefest, I actually knew a lot of those bands, besides like…Uh, what’s their name? [snapping fingers] It’s the band…Why am I blanking on the names…You know they had the album White Pony or whatever…Deftones!
Maddie: Oh! Yeah.
Robert: Deftones was one of the only bands there that I hadn’t met before. But, we ended up meeting them in South Africa, and they stole our power strip. [chuckles] But, I mean, yeah, I love it. Touring…One of my favorite bands that I’ve seen touring in the last year was Architecture in Helsinki, actually. I saw them in Australia just a couple of months ago. It was fucking the best, but…
Martin: Dream collab?
Robert: Dream collab…I would say Brian Eno, but that’s reaching for the stars. Besides that, like, Flume. I love Flume right now, it’s one of my favorites.
Maddie: Dude. [to Martin] Do you wanna ask about Logic?
Martin: I’m a total Logic nerd.
Maddie: Please just nerd out.
Martin: Do you use [Logic] 9 or [Logic] X?
Robert: 9, no I switched over because I use a lot of 32-bit plugins–
Robert: –that haven’t been upgraded.
Martin: I bought X earlier this year, and I’m like, “Oh my God.”
Robert: Right? Yeah, it’s a lot of stuff. I’ve used Logic since 2004, and that’s when I switched to Mac finally. I’m just so fluid in Logic that, like…I will always compose in Logic, probably. When I play live, I use a lot of the environment window, which is like, you know, doing MIDI transformations and stuff. It’s just like weird, archaic stuff. It’s not the easiest way to do that stuff, but it is really precise, so I do it.
Martin: Any go-to plugins?
Robert: Yeah. I mean, my favorite soft synths are, like…I use DUNE. I actually just bought DIVA by U-HE, which is really cool, a really cool software. And then, you know, for certain heavy bass sounds, I use Massive like everybody. And like, FM8, and then Appsynth every once in a while, but mostly my go-tos are DUNE and DIVA right in the suite. And then, you know, Logic has the EXS24, but yeah.
Maddie: Cool. Any tips for aspiring artists, like electronic or not?
Robert: I don’t know, like…Work hard, be nice to people…Those I think are literally the biggest things. Just say “yes” to everything until you have the option to say “no.”
Martin: You played a couple of new songs tonight. Can you talk about what’s going into those songs?
Robert: Sure, yeah!
Martin: Like, what influence is going in?
Robert: Yeah I mean, it was kind of funny. I played them…I played three new songs of mine right near the beginning of the set, and then I played a couple of covers in the middle of the set…One of them being a Rolling Stones tune, which most people don’t recognize because I’ve changed it a lot. But, yeah, I’m doing a lot of different things, like…Those things aren’t even necessarily a good litmus test for where I’m going. I’m doing a lot of really heavy, disco-y kind of stuff, but still electronic, house, modern. Like pop songs that are very focused, like verse/chorus and that kind of thing, but also very out there like Talking Heads, like yelling and all that kind of shit. Anyway, I’m rambling… [chuckles]
Maddie: No, it’s cool. Um, I don’t have anything else…
Robert: What’s the name of your thing?
Maddie: Pretty Neat Grooves. I have a card!
Robert: Pretty Neat Grooves. Cool, so should I say something like, “Yo, what’s up? This is Robert DeLong with Pretty Neat Grooves. Keep rocking.”
Maddie: Oh my God, yeah. Thank you so much!
Thanks for reading. Look out for In The Cards, to be released on September 18, 2015.