SEATTLE -- Saturday’s MLS Summer Beat concert at Occidental Park in Seattle will prove something of a homecoming for headliner Robert DeLong, a fast-rising, electronic one-man band now based in Los Angeles. And as he returns home five or six times a year, he's noticing the crowds at shows and Sounders matches are seriously overlapping.
“With the confluence of sports and music, in Seattle, those things share a lot of the same people,” he said, recently, on a trip back to town and a walk around downtown. (That's where he'll perform, in Occidental Park, before the March to the Match where the Sounders will take on the Portland Timbers.)
DeLong grew up in the Seattle suburb of Bothell, but moved to Los Angeles to pursue his music career after high school. The move has certainly paid off over the past four years -- he's played Coachella multiple times, while releasing two acclaimed albums and one EP on Glassnote Records (home to such indie heavyweights as Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, CHVRCHES, and Childish Gambino).
For all of his time away, though, the Pacific Northwest continues to leave a stamp on DeLong's creative output. And when he cites Pacific Northwest bands like Pedro the Lion, Death Cab for Cutie, and Modest Mouse as inspiration, the lineage becomes obvious. “I think the thing with a lot of those bands from that era is what is unique to the Northwest, that sort of that gloomy introspection,” he says. “But, in a way, that never comes across as indulgently depressing. It's like you’re sitting alone on your porch drinking a cup of coffee and considering things, you know?”
Indeed, you might notice a similar emotional reflection in DeLong's lyrics. His biggest radio hit, “Long Way Down,” opens with him opining, “I’ve been messing around while you’ve been saving the world.”
Sonically, though, he follows anything but the usual indie-rock instrument playbook. Instead, he mixes analog instruments with explorations into electronic sounds like dubstep and moombahton. The end product? Catchy, danceable pop songs marked with some atypical instrumentation, including gadgets like Nintendo Wii remotes and Microsoft Gamepads as MIDI controllers.
When performing live, DeLong still handles it all himself, working an elaborate setup that includes a full drum kit, keyboards, video game controllers, and multiple microphones. The heady mix has proven a hit especially on the touring and festival circuit, keeping DeLong on the road for upwards of 200 days a year at his busiest.
Photo by Mike Fiechtner
For his next full-length, though, a follow-up to 2015's In the Cards, he says he's taken about six months off from touring, finally, to focus on writing and finding new sounds. “I've been able to be creative and try out things I never would have before,” he says of the break, which he hopes will produce a single later this year.
The new material also looks to be more collaborative than its predecessors. “I've been working with all sorts of writers and producers to just to get fresh ideas, because when you're alone and sitting in your room, at some point you lose perspective," he says. "It's good to have that constant stream of new information, new melodies, new production ideas.”
In the meantime, Robert DeLong looks forward to treating his hometown fans to a free, Saturday-morning show for MLS Summer Beat. He says, “Every time I come back to Seattle it's always such a great feeling," he says, "because I feel like the city has really taken ownership of my music and I feel a strong connection with the people.”