An alternative to artists who follow the industry blueprint, churning out the “same old shit” on a conveyor belt, the ethos of THEY. (producer Dante Jones and vocalist Drew Love) is underscored by an unruly ambition to never sate but always challenge the status quo. “We don’t chase trends, because we want longevity,” states Dante. “We may emulate but we’ll never take the quick route.”
This stems, in part, from their own disparate experiences as teens, navigating those turbulent formative years. “I was a social outcast,” admits Drew, who grew up in Maryland, DC. “I didn’t have friends so music was my refuge, it formed my escape.”
Dante’s experiences coming up in Denver, Colorado, are antithetical but no less compelling: “I was the troublemaker. I got expelled three times! I floated; I hung with the artsy girls and the hood niggas. I was rambunctious, but it made me absorb these different influences around me.”
It’s unsurprising that the core demographic at their sold-out London gig is miscellaneous millennials and receptive students, finding kinship with THEY.’s rhythmic rebellion. Indeed, as soon as the siren-snare of anthem ‘U Rite’ attacks the ether, a frenzy of bodies push and shove, the duo inciting a riot at the very centre of the floor. “It’s the one track where you feel the feedback,” Dante remarks on the visceral impact. “The dopest track to interact with.”
While THEY. confess their foundations are rooted in R&B, it’s embellished with a surface accoutrement of guitar-rock and grunge, a ‘rebel without a cause’ attitude pervading their metaphorical ‘Nü Religion: Hyena’ LP. “Often our pot of gold is because of happy accidents, which is why we don’t like traditional studio sessions,” explains Dante. “We’re drawn to strange things, and when things sound a bit off.”
THEY. want to imbue their songs with a social consciousness, reflecting two young black men navigating the murky depths of an unforgiving country. Look no further than the police brutality-referencing ‘Say When’. “We’re fed up with conjecture,” Drew declares. “And we’re ready for action. We’re talking directly to the police and we’re addressing our oppressor.”
It’s invigorating to hear first-hand the sort of artists THEY. want to be going forward: multi-disciplinary and world-weary. Dante closes our interview with a life-affirming lesson: “We’re influencers, and that goes beyond music. We want to instill in our listeners the belief that different is good.”
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Catch THEY. performing at a Clash x London Fashion Week Afterparty tonight (September 19th) at Proud Galleries, London. To grab a ticket click HERE.
Words: Shahzaib Hussein
Photography: Aleksandra Podburtnaja
Fashion: Vincent Levy
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