It’s not often that a video game nerd is also an indie rock musician. It’s rarer still when that person is dragged to a rave that, in turn, heavily influences the music he makes. For these reasons and his fatalist lyrics that contemplate life as a predetermined journey, Robert DeLong is the best one-man band to perform with a Wii remote.
“It connects with people because everyone plays video games,” he says. “And I think people connect with the sound of electronic music, too.”
Since the release of his first single, “Global Concepts,” DeLong has done some globetrotting—including a stop at last year’s McDowell Mountain Music Festival.
“It was very hot and very fun,” says DeLong of the experience. “I haven’t played Arizona nearly enough, so it’s good to get there. I love the desert. I feel strong connections with the desert people.”
The son of a drummer, the Seattle-based artist’s induction into music was on his father’s drum kit, which provided the foundation on which he expanded into songwriting.
“Being from Seattle, I was always skewed toward writing depressing, mellow tunes,” he says, clearly aware of the stereotype.
DeLong took his songwriting and drummer talents in and out of multiple bands, but nothing quite stuck.
It was when he moved to Los Angeles to study music at Azusa Pacific University that DeLong fell in love with electronic dance music.
“It was a dirty, seedy rave in east L.A.,” he recalls of the experience. “It changed my perspective on house music.”
With his new intrigue, DeLong brought the rhythm and frenetic energy of EDM to his indie rock project.
“The drummer in me was inspired by seeing a lot of people dance together, come together, because of this loud, overbearing rhythm. And I realized that was a lot more interesting than staring at my feet and being sad about songs at a concert.”
The result: beat-heavy indie dance pop with a sci-fi aesthetic — another of DeLong’s interests that he has worked into his music.
“As I did it more, it just became obvious that it was unique and interesting for people, so I explored it more until I had a way to present my tunes using all sorts of gadgets,” he says.
“Gadgets” is the key word here. DeLong performs with a full ensemble of keys, drums, pedals, and reprogrammed video game controllers that function as MIDI remotes for sound effects.
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“I was really interested in trying to create a one man electronic performance, but I didn’t have a lot of expensive tools. I just had some video game controllers laying around, so I looked up how to hack them, and it all just started with that.”
DeLong’s live shows gained him the attention to sign to Glassnote Records, which released 2013’s Just Movement. Lately, though, he has been supporting last year’s In the Cards, which references, yes, tarot — but not always in the literal sense.
“People create their own stories and narratives from the symbols in their lives, specifically [on this record] from the pictures on tarot cards, but more than that, songs, art, or whatever creates a story for someone to make meaning out of,” DeLong says.
It’s his lyrics that will have you thinking, but it’s his indie rave that will have you dancing, wanting your face painted, and feeling the community of the crowd. And the maestro is one man wielding a joystick.