Robert Delong
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Preview: Robert Delong at the Catalyst

Electronic musician writes love songs for the end times

Robert Delong plays the Catalyst on Wednesday, July 17.

The day after Trump got elected, L.A. electronic musician Robert Delong wrote “The Beginning of the End.” It’s a triumphant, spine-tingling electronic song with layers of synths and guitar and vocal processors, and a foreboding tone to the lyrics. (“Guess I should’ve seen the signs, but I didn’t.”)

The song’s not intended to be explicitly political, or even provide commentary on Trump—Delong just felt compelled to capture the dark emotion of the moment.

“That day was intense. You could definitely sense the tension in the air, especially here in Los Angeles,” Delong explains.

There aren’t even any obvious references to Trump, or the day after the election.

“You can also interpret it to be about relationships,” Delong says. “If any song is too specific, I’m not interested in it. I’m always interested in subtext in songwriting.”

“The Beginning of the End” was the first song Delong wrote for his most recent EP, See You In The Future, released in October of last year. He wrote the rest of songs several months after “The Beginning of the End,” but they capture a similar tone. These are large-scale, emotive electronic songs—bigger sounding than anything he’s released thus far—with apocalyptic lyrics that are “written out of the anxieties of modern life,” as he puts it.

The song “Revolutionary” comments on how technology and social media affects our lives. “First Person on Earth” is a love song that takes place in the apocalypse, with romantic lyrics like “If I’m the last one standing, I would wanna watch it burn with you.”

Probably the weirdest of all is “Favorite Color is Blue,” a collaboration he did with alt-rapper K.Flay. The song is a somber, almost robotic expression of watching the world crumble all around you, and has a bizarre, menacing chant in the chorus. The two artists wrote the song as a collaboration, a byproduct of their friendship. Delong says the song could not have been written by either of them without the other, and likely without the circumstances—a hot L.A. day with no air conditioning.  

“It was like a hundred degrees in my studio,” Delong says. “Maybe that oppression is what came through the weird frenetic lines that sound like a fucked-up circus.”

Earlier in his career, Delong was making more lo-fi, experimental electronic music that was driven structurally by his past as a drummer. He started out playing drums in various punk and indie bands, but later transitioned to production and got hooked on creating music via computer software.

“The music I make tends to rely on my sense of rhythm,” Delong says. “It’s the way I approach music. I’m always thinking about it as a drummer. I don’t know how else I could at this point.”

As a younger musician, he did write songs on his acoustic guitar, but he felt a strong draw to the possibilities of electronic music.

“The sense of scale is not really possible in a traditional rock setup. And really, just the amount of sonic information that you can fit into a song,” Delong says. “You can have a thousand different sounds from a thousand different places. It all feels like it’s part of the same thing. As opposed to just being limited to guitars, bass, drums, which I love as well.”

He also surprised himself as an electronic musician by becoming a solo performer. As he’s developed a career over the past decade, he’s become known as a one-man-band with some pretty out-there electronic gear; for instance, he’ll play a solo using light beams as the notes. This past year, as his latest EP shows, he’s really focused on making larger productions. And his live show is quickly becoming, oddly enough, a full-on band showcase.

“It’s fun because I can do my crazy looping. It has a really interactive performance part,” Delong says. “But I can just be a singer. Let the band take care of all the other stuff.”

Robert Delong performs at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $18/adv, $20/door. 423-1338.
Contributor at Good Times |

Aaron is a hard-working freelance writer with a focus on music, art, food, culture and travel. In addition to Good Times, he's a regular contributor to Sacramento News & Review, VIA Magazine and Playboy. When he's not working, he's either backpacking, arguing about music or working on his book about ska. One thing's for sure—he knows more about ska than you.

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