INTERVIEW: Robert DeLong

Robert DeLong has built a career upon creating innovative soundscapes that push the boundaries of DIY production. He’s always led the way with contrastingly dark and bright sonics that captivate listeners with a hint of intrigue and mystery. But for his third studio album ‘Walk Like Me’ (out now), the Los Angeles based singer, songwriter and producer has dived even deeper in creating his most transparent and vulnerable body of work yet.

Contrasting a bright and bold production style with his most honest and personal lyrical introspection yet, this twelve track collection is unlike anything you’ve heard from him in the past. There are moments of confrontation with heavy lyrics that will make you think, while there are also zany production qualities that’ll have you ready to run around and break shit. It’s all about contrast. And it’s all about showing the listener that you can have a good time even if everything else is going wrong. 

I recently chatted to Robert DeLong about the experimentally charged production behind his new album ‘Walk Like Me’ that is contrasted with some of his most honest lyrics yet, as well as explored collaborating with Ashe on two tracks, and transitioning the album into the live realm. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your new album ‘Walk Like Me’ is an experimentally charged reflection of your own personal evolution, and it’s a body of work that genuinely seems to be your most honest material yet. Where in the process of this album did you realise that it had gone down this very transparent path? 

ROBERT DELONG: I think it was really just a result of life experiences at that time. I had just gotten out of a 10 year relationship, which is a long time and essentially a divorce. And half of the record was made during the pandemic, so all of that was going on too. I was racking up a couple of hundred demo’s and the songs that seemed to have a consistent theme and fit together were all the most honest and personal ones, so I think that was how it all coalesced the way it did. 

TB: This album contrasts some heavy and introspective themes with a very bouncy and pulsating production. Was this emotional contrast with the lighter production something that was important for you to explore thematically?

RD: Yeah, but I think it’s also just what I naturally gravitate towards as I’ve always liked that contrast as you can deal with intense issues in your life but you can also have a good time. I experience everything with a sense of levity and humour to it, and I think there’s a bunch of silly and goofy moments while simultaneously dealing with an existential or personal topic.

TB: ‘Don’t Be Afraid (We’re All Gonna Die)’ is a song that immediately stands out on the album with that distinctive refrain echoing in your head. Can you explain how this track creatively came together? 

RD: Last summer my housemate was out of town, so I set up a studio in the living room which is not usually where I make music *laughs* as I usually work in my studio out the back. I was weirdly listening to some early 2000’s hip hop records, so I was really in that speed and groove. That melody just came to me while I was watching an Alan Watts lecture and he said something similar which triggered this concept of having to deal with the idea that we are all going to die. And it just came out as this almost fucked up nursery rhyme *laughs*. 

TB: Was it a quick song to come together? 

RD: Yeah! I would say the songwriting for all of these songs on the record were super quick. They only took up to a couple of hours to finish. But then the production could take months to finish as I could walk down some alleyway and realise that it was the wrong thing and start all over on the production again. But I do find that the songs that are the best flow out quickly. 

TB: Do you think that also played an aspect of the full transparency behind the lyrics as you weren’t overthinking what you were writing and just allowing yourself to blurt it out and then focus on the production? 

RD: I think there is definitely something to that! With that being said, I definitely laboured over specific lines on this record for more than I needed to. 

TB: ‘Rest Of My Life’ is the second time you’ve teamed up with Ashe for this record. So how different was this studio session with her compared to ‘Better In College’?

RD: Those sessions were actually two days back-to-back. ‘Better In College’ was the first song we wrote, which is sort of a similar subject matter but a more silly and tongue-n-cheek take on it. And then the next day we decided to really dig in which is when we wrote ‘Rest Of My Life’. We both had a lot of shared experiences as she was coming off a divorce, and my girlfriend at the time was literally moving out of the house while we were writing the song. We just had a really honest conversation before we jumped into the session, and it was all just personal details from both of our lives that we crammed into the song in different ways. 

TB: The lyric that stood out to me in ‘Rest Of My Life’ was “So I broke the handle to the door I would open for you”. What inspired that particular lyric? 

RD: Ashe had the genesis of that idea, and then we shaved it off and broke it down to that lyric right there. But basically the idea was that leaving a relationship sometimes is like a closed door, and I think that’s an amazing metaphor. 

TB: Your production is always really intricate, and you really create these immersive soundscapes. So what song on the album took the longest to really hone its sound and vision? 

RD: That’s a really good question! A few of these songs went through some pretty different versions before they arrived at the final version. But I would say ‘Did It To Myself’ probably went through the most versions as it started off as a faster hip hop styled song, and then it was this slower guitar thing, and then it became this electric pseudo dub track that it is now. 

TB: ‘Chaos Chaos Chaos’ is THE mosh pit track of this record. What was inspiring you sonically specifically for this track? 

RD: Hell yeah! That one is messy. It was written directly in the aftermath of my breakup and I was going through this period where I was partying too much and trying to forget everything that happened. I honestly don’t even remember what was inspiring me as it was written one night at 2am when I came from a bar. I just shat that song out, and it feels like it *laughs*. I’m starting tour in a week and a half, and I’ve put this track in the setlist, and it’s going to be so much fun to play live but it’s also going to scare some people *laughs*. 

TB: What was it about the track ‘Walk Like Me’ that felt like it embodied what this whole album meant to you? 

RD: On some level because this record is so personal and there are so many life details in it, I like the idea of inviting people to walk like me or walk in my shoes. There’s something about that which felt appropriate. There is also a certain goofiness and zaniness to that song that I like upfront as there is some really tough and deep shit in the other songs. So it kinda sets the tone that we are still having a good time even though we are going through shit. 

TB: Your live show is explosive and has this incredible experimental energy behind it. How do you see this album fitting into your back catalog on the live stage? Have you got a particular vision for your upcoming run of dates? 

RD: I have been working super hard in the studio on my set as it’s obviously very technical and there are elements that are heavily programmed and there are elements that are very freeform. I’ve tried to string the set together so it welcomes you in with familiarity, and then it does some wild off the wall shit, and before it gets too off the rails it comes back to some other old songs you know. I’m also doing some different versions and extended versions of songs which is really cool. It’s going to feel like a classic Robert DeLong show as there is a lot going on *laughs*. 

TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions about the album. Are you ready? 

RD: I’m doing it!

TB: The emoji that best describes my new album ‘Walk Like Me’ is…

RD: The poop emoji *laughs*. 

TB: The lyric that hurts my soul the most when I listen back would be…

RD: “So I broke the handle to the door I would open for you”, for sure!

TB: The song that nearly didn’t make the album was…

RD: ‘Chaos Chaos Chaos’

TB: The song that nearly made the album but is still in my drafts is…

RD: ‘One Eye Open’! But that will come out some day. 

TB: The song I would want you to play to your friends from this album if they’ve never heard of me before would be…

RD: I think ‘Own Worst Enemy’ is pretty easy to digest, so I would say try that. 

‘Walk Like Me’ is out now!