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THEY. Defy Music Industry Norms By Creating Their Own Genre 

Wednesday, Jan 20 2016
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It's been three months since Los Angeles alternative fusion group THEY. released its initial three singles. In fact, those tracks, packaged in an EP called Nu Religion, are the only available songs from the band to date. Three songs — that's all.

Yet, in the last three months, and over the course of 2015, the duo of 27-year-old Dante Jones and 23-year-old Drew Love has achieved a lot. They signed to the record label Mind of a Genius, and worked on an as-yet-unreleased album produced by Timbaland (who also endorsed the band via Twitter and Instagram). In November, THEY. collaborated with famed electronic producer and DJ Skrillex on a track premiered by Apple Music's Beats 1 Radio (it has more than 10 million plays on Spotify). The band's SoundCloud page, which didn't exist before October, has amassed more than 9,000 followers, while their songs have racked up hundreds of thousands of plays. And now, without having released any new music, THEY. is traveling the country as the opening act for R&B darling Bryson Tiller's sold-out nationwide tour.

The secret to THEY.'s success lies in the music. It's bizarre and boundary-less, a melodic Frankenstein of rock, indie, punk, hip-hop, and R&B. The music combines a mix of instrumentation and technical effects that includes everything from guitar riffs and thumping 808s to hi-hat cymbals, reverbed vocals, and references to "money, pussy, [and] bitches."

Because of this, it can be hard to pinpoint a genre that the band falls into. That's also sort of the point. "Our goal from the beginning was to shift the way people listen to and think about music," says Love, the group's singer.

"It gets confusing because it can change from song to song," adds Jones, the band's producer. "But that's the one thing that's really encouraging about us: There's a thread that you can hear within the songs that connects them even though each song is still very different."

Jones moved to Los Angeles in 2011 after attending college in Oklahoma, followed by Love, who moved out west from D.C. in 2014. Both artists came to the City of Angels to pursue careers in music, but, instead of working on their own projects, ended up working on others'. Love, who had previously released a few ambient R&B tracks, took a job in songwriting, while Jones became "a beat maker" for pop artists, including Kelly Clarkson and Chris Brown. After a few years of producing, Jones decided to branch off on his own to pursue the weirder, more avant-garde sounds that he had tried to entice other artists with to no avail.

"I tried to get established artists to hop on a new sound, and I realized it wasn't about to happen," says Jones. "It was just a little bit unacceptable to the places I was trying to send it to initially, which is why doing it on my own made so much sense."

The pair was introduced through a mutual friend in August 2014, and, after hanging out a few times, Jones decided to share with Love the secret demo tracks he'd recorded.

"I had this uneasiness because they were a big deviation from what I'd been doing in the past," Jones says. "Even just the idea of me coming up with melodies and stuff like that was a huge deviation from my whole life."

As it turned out, Love not only liked them, but was convinced he could build off of them. "I still remember the feeling I got when I first heard them," Love says. "I was like, 'Yo, let me do my thing with it.'"

Fast-forward to today and the band — who, according to Jones, chose the name because "it's a little unorthodox" — is hard at work on another EP, slated to drop sometime this year, and a full-length album. And although they're still newbies, they've already learned a few lessons about the music industry and life in general.

"Overall, the underlying thing is it's okay to be different," says Love. "In any field that you're working in, try to bend the boundaries a little bit. Everyone else might be too afraid to do it, but that doesn't mean you should be."

THEY. play with Bryson Tiller at 9 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 27, at Fox Theater.

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Jessie Schiewe

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