R&B Duo THEY. Talk Los Angeles, Touring, 'Nü Religion: Hyena'
Drew Love and Dante Jones of L.A.-based R&B/beats-influenced duo THEY. have been working for it since the moment the pair linked up in Los Angeles in 2015.
Originally from Denver (Jones) and San Antonio (Love), the guys knew they had a mountain to climb in order to make the right moves and cut through the noise in Los Angeles. And similar to other success stories in music, a lot of the first steps are all about meeting the right people.
"It is a community, it is about who you know," Jones points out. "[GRAMMY-nominated producer and fellow musician] Zhu was one of the first people that I met — he was fresh out of college, and I'd just moved out — and we really just connected on a friend level."
Through that close friendship, built up through days hanging out at each other's apartments and working on beats and music, THEY. found themselves with a friend with an ear for talent who was making big moves of his own locally.
"Me and Drew had been working on our project, I think we were maybe like eight songs in, and one day I'm like, 'You know what, I'm just gonna pull up and see what he thinks of it,'" Jones explains of how they first linked up with Mind Of A Genius Records, where Zhu had just been signed. "[Zhu] was busy that day, but we played it for the label head, David Dann, and within about a week he was hitting us up, and saying he wanted to help us out."
Once officially signed to Mind Of A Genius, also home to GRAMMY nominee Gallant, the duo initially put out their three-song Nü Religion EP, which generated buzz through the vocal support of Timbaland on Twitter and Instagram.
After wrapping a brief tour opening for Bryson Tiller, THEY. jumped right back into the studio, where they spent the next two years putting together their debut studio LP, Nü Religion: Hyena, which grabbed mad headlines for its purposeful blending of disparate genres and styles.
"I think it's just a culmination of everything we were feeling at the time," says Love. "It became something really really tight. We don't really go in with any preconceived notions of what we should be making, or, 'We need a song that sounds like this.'"
"We knew that the album was a risk," Jones adds. "We were incorporating a lot of elements that really hadn't been mixed too well before. I think the main thing that was encouraging was how many people really embraced the music. We had a lot of people that really identified with the type of music that we were making. It was just that little bit of validation."
Speaking on their latest output, their funkified vibe track "Not Enough," a collaboration with Norwegian rapper/producer/songwriter Lido, THEY. reveal some details about how their shared music influences pushed the song in the direction it took.
"I've always been just a huge stan for new jack swing — like Guy, Bobby Brown, New Edition, stuff like that. When we first came out, we listed New Edition as one of our main influences. Most people didn't get it," Jones explains. "But me and [Lido] were telling each other, 'Yeah, I've just been trying to find a way to bring new jack swing back, but I just haven't been able to figure it out.' I was like, 'Well, why don't we try this … ?' And when we actually put our heads together and tried to attack it, it just came together quick."
With their debut LP released this past February, Love and Jones were finally able to break out for a bit and dig into their first headlining world tour.
"Just to be able to go on stage and let out all that energy, and receive that energy back, that's just all a musician could really ask for," says Love. Jones echoes the sentiment, "It gave us the opportunity to be able to create the experience in a live setting. Recording is great, but we were really itching to make it a whole experience and really engage the fans in the world we're trying to create."
So what's up next for THEY.?
"I'm still songwriting behind the scenes, and Dante is still producing. We are working on our next project, so to speak. We just got back off of the tour, and we get to relax and see what our minds have in the tank, see what the next installment brings," says Love. "I'm just excited for music in general."