they.

THEY. are the emerging duo from Los Angeles making waves. They also (unsuspectingly) turned into major figures for the Summer’s Over tour. This, is their story.

A hooded impersonator, a rant and tales of severed relationships have somehow become the catalyst for discussions regarding Jeremih (and well now, not Jeremih) and PartyNextDoor’s Summer’s Over Tour. Despite these tabloid worthy happenings in Houston, THEY. stood out more than anything. The Los Angeles based duo provided plenty of genuine passion and talent amidst the sea of drama that now seems to define the tour.

THEY.’s performance energized and almost even confused the eager crowd as they transitioned from the upbeat “Motley Crue” to the hauntingly personal “Rather Die”. After their set I stood with Drew (THEY.’s ridiculously talented singer) and the group’s tour manager as we realized Jeremih had in fact sent what would be referred to as a “stunt double” to perform. We were all a little disappointed but it was one hell of an ice breaker.

Houston Style got the chance to interview THEY. after that performance and we can say that both Dante and Drew are equally as personable as they are talented, and modest to boot.

Houston Style Magazine: You are based in Los Angeles but your original hometowns are Washington D.C. and Denver; how have your geographic origins effected your music and artistic influences?

Drew: In D.C. there are a lot of people low-key struggling, but they’re all so talented but I felt like I had to get out of there. There are some artists that made it out like Wale, Logic, GoldLink, and Chaz (French), amongst others. In order to do what I wanted to do, I had to leave that environment. Although there are talented people, they don’t embrace each other. One man feels like he is cooler than the next and it eventually leads to nobody doing anything.

Dante: Let me speak on D.C. a little bit too. Although we are based in Los Angeles, people still tell us you can hear it when he raps, that D.C. sound – it’s still in there. But for me it is pretty similar. I grew up in a really diverse place. Denver and Aurora, Colorado which is equally everything. The school I went to was evenly split as far as race goes. I had a lot of influences. The biggest bands from Denver are rock bands like One Republic and The Fray. There is so much going on but there hasn’t been much of a hip-hop scene outside of “Whoomp! (There It Is)”. That is our only claim to fame. Our sound is everything mixed into one. But Los Angeles is where the action is at. It is where we live, where we work, where we make music.

When and how did you guys meet?

Drew: About 2 and a half years ago. (Dante) was producing for a lot of people and I was writing for other people. Like Jeremih, Chris (Brown) and stuff like that. He was doing his own thing on the pop side for Kelly (Clarkson) and we met in a session. I think we were working on a Maroon 5 song but once the song turned out trash we were like, “why are we even doing this?” So (Dante) showed me his secret stash of beats that he didn’t want to show anybody and as soon as he did I was like “yo, this is what we need to be focusing on.” After that we made a few songs and said let’s take a run at it and make a group.

The secret stash beats were different than what he was putting out commercially?

Drew: Oh yeah, way different. When you are working in the placement game, they really want structure. There is formula and anything that strays too far outside of that formula, they are afraid of. You have to take it upon yourself to make it something. So that’s what we did.

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“You have to take it upon yourself to make something.” – Drew

Can you tell us about the label you are signed to and how that relationship came about?

Dante: We are signed with Mind of a Genius Records. It is an independent label which just recently teamed up with a major label. It happened because one of my best friends out in L.A., Zhu, was signed to the label. I would go (to the studio) every week but never played anyone at the label my music. One day, I showed up to kick it with Zhu and he was busy so he told me that David (Dann), the founder of Mind of a Genius, was in the next room and I should go play it for him. I played him like six songs and he said, “Man this is different, this is tight. Let me live with it for a while and wrap my head around it. I have never heard anything like this.” He called about a week later and said he wanted to help in any way he could. I knew David through Zhu so it was just a natural fit.

Who all is on the label?

Drew: Gallant, Zhu, Klangstof.

Dante: A lot of artists that are mixing up genres are signed to Mind of a Genius.

How do you balance the need to make “mainstream” songs with the need to express yourselves as artists?

Drew: That is probably the biggest challenge. Nowadays the audience for urban music has a certain thing they already decided they are rocking with. I’m not trying to hate on anybody’s music but there is a formula that their listeners are used to following. Sometimes when they hear something outside of that, even if they like it, they don’t know if they should mess with it because they are so used to being a part of the same thing. That is one of the first things we talked about when we started that we should just do whatever we wanted to do. If they like it, they like it. Not a super religious person but, God has a plan. At the end of the day, if we are meant to do something with this music stuff then we will.

Dante: The thing about our music is that it is a full extension of ourselves. I’m all about progressing. All of that is just innately in us. We have all these different facets and things that we can do. It’s good that we are doing it ourselves, we can do whatever the hell we want. It seems like no matter what, our fans want to be a part of that movement; they’re like yeah ok this is different, we appreciate this.

You all draw inspiration from so many artists and genres, how do you channel that into the music you create?

Dante: It is all natural. Above all else we love good melodies. I grew up listening to so much stuff and Drew did as well. My parents listened to a lot of 80’s R&B and his parents listened to a lot of Motown. All of that is all rattling around in there and at the same time I have a playlist full of Future. I never want to limit myself to a certain sound. Music is music and everything was new at one point. It is all the same energy. We try to channel good, creative fun energy into our music, regardless of where the inspiration comes from.

Drew, do you have any type of technical voice training?

Drew: I honestly have not had any voice training up until this point. Obviously it is something that every singer should invest in. Even if your voice is nice you have to make sure you keep it up. I’m definitely about to dive deep into voice training to make sure I can make my voice last.

And do you Dante have you had any technical training in what you do?

Dante: Nah, I’m self-taught. I taught myself how to play piano, how to produce. Sometimes I think if you are classically trained or you go to school to learn the craft, it is good because it gives you tools to use but at the same time it can kind of hinder you. It can discourage you from just letting things happen. Like imagine if Jimi Hendrix would have been classically trained.

“It’s good that we are doing it ourselves, we can do whatever the hell we want.” – Dante

How do you all feel about the reception of your Nu Religion EP?

Drew: We knew that our stuff was quality because we liked it but I can’t say that I wasn’t surprised about how well it was received. We realized people are out here looking for new stuff, they just don’t know they are. People are striving for new sounds, new visionaries so we have to be the ones that do that. We are proud to take that role.

How did you all end up on the Summer’s Over Tour?

Drew: Honestly it happened kind of last minute. Our managers hit us up about the offer and we took it with no hesitation. I love Jeremih and PartyNextDoor and their music so being a part of it is amazing.

What can people expect from your upcoming album?

Drew: No expectations. It is just best to go into music with no expectations. We feel different every single day and have new inspirations so our music comes out different every day.

And the name of it?

Drew: Nu Religion: Hyena. Hyenas, shape shifters. You can’t classify hyenas into one sub-species, they are their own. And they draw characteristics from every other sub-species. I feel like it is the same thing as us; we draw characteristics from our influences and make what we are making. The hyena is an outsider but it is still feared. I feel like people don’t want to say it but they are definitely scared of us. They should be.

After hearing the unique style of music THEY. creates, an in person experience definitely solidified a new fan in me. While Drew and Dante are no name droppers, they have worked with some of the biggest names in the industry and even toured with Bryson Tiller earlier this year. THEY. is a name you need add to your playlist. Although the cloud of drama over Jeremih and PartyNextDoor’s relationship may seek to overshadow what THEY. is doing on the Summer’s Over Tour, one listen to their music and we guarantee you will forget about all of that.

This interview originally appeared in Houston Style Magazine.

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