New Noise

28 August 2013 | 4:00 am | Daniel Cribb

"The music I’ve always appreciated the most is music that’s been driven by storytelling; everything from The Beatles to Modest Mouse."

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Robert DeLong calls in from the warmth of his Melbourne hotel room, sipping on tea and preparing for his first Australian show. “It's colder than I expected,” he laughs. Before heading Down Under for Stereosonic, he booked two headline shows to accompany his appearance at Splendour In The Grass. Fairly reserved throughout the conversation, DeLong puts on an energetic, eclectic one-man band performance that leaves those present in awe. He resembles a wild animal trapped in a cage of drums and samplers, running around in circles and creating a wall of controlled musical chaos. “I love it. First of all, it's total control, which is nice, but beyond that, it's practical; it's a lot easier to tour with it, and also, for what I'm doing it makes a lot of sense. I guess in some way, it's akin to a DJ set, but then it's something totally different.”

This evolution comes from his roots with the indie scene. Growing up, DeLong played drums in numerous bands, as well as giving lessons to make a living. From day one, he's incorporated real instrumentation throughout his sets. His vocal-driven tunes are a clear indicator of his roots. “I never consciously made the decision to switch what I was doing – in my mind it was fluid, but I guess it does seem like a big jump from playing folk music,” he laughs. “To me, it's important to keep the visceral part of the performance intact. The music I've always appreciated the most is music that's been driven by storytelling; everything from The Beatles to Modest Mouse – music that has conventional song structures, and that gives the audience something to attach themselves to, emotionally and intellectually. Coupling it with the electronic drums also gives people something to shake their arse to, I guess.”

Another thing people tend to fixate on over his live performance is the use of videogame controllers as triggers. DeLong quite frequently thrashes about a Wii remote, pulling all kinds of sounds from it. “It's funny, I'm not much of a gamer. I played games like any other kid, but I was never allowed to have a Nintendo, which might have been a blessing in disguise,” he jokes. “The game controllers, I really just started using them because that's what was available to me. Once I started performing it just became a really big part of my show and immediately I recognised that it was intriguing to people because they'd never really seen anything like that. But I was never much of a gamer; I played Monkey Island and Command & Conquer, but that was about it.”

Just Movement, the debut featuring Global Concepts – the single that put him on the map – has a fresh perspective. And with it, DeLong unintentionally put together somewhat of a concept record that focuses on identity and spirituality. “I had just graduated college in my early 20s and I think a lot of the songs came out of that,” he tells. “I think that's a time where a lot of people explore that idea and that's what came out.”

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