Back to Rockville

Robert DeLong: The sound of a one-man orchestra

One is the only number Robert DeLong wants to know, at least for now.

The Seattle musician spent time in several bands before figuring out that he could do it all himself.

“I’d played drums in a bunch of different bands before I went off to college,” he said. “I studied music there, and as I got more into music I became a computer nerd and got into audio engineering. I wanted to combine my passions and find a creative way to perform without involving other people.”

DeLong, who performs Saturday at the Midland, grew up in Bothell, Wash., about 20 miles north of Seattle. His father, a drummer, taught him percussion and ignited his interest in music. DeLong taught himself piano and guitar and, in high school, joined a few pop-punk bands.

After high school, he left Washington for California, where he studied percussion at Azusa Pacific University. While in college, he played percussion in a band called the Denoument, whose sound reflected his interest in bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse and Radiohead.

He also started working on music solo, writing songs. After college, electronic music came into his life and, as he wrote songs, he combined all of his interests: indie rock, electronica, computers, video games and science fiction.

“My style is tough to summarize,” he said. “I grew up listening to a lot of indie-pop and alternative-rock stuff. It’s kind of indie-pop songwriter stuff meets EDM (electronic dance music). It’s got a wild vibe.”

Live, DeLong incorporates an arsenal of gadgets — including Wii remotes and joysticks — and instruments to deliver shows that have become legend since he started touring about five years ago. A recent post at the blog raved about a 23-minute promotional video for his new album, “In the Cards”:

“It quickly becomes clear that this level of talent is very hard to come by. The brilliant DeLong makes use of various video game controllers, mixers, midi controllers, keyboards, drums and more alongside a flawless live-vocal performance for a high-energy show that truly one-ups Porter Robinson‘s Worlds live tour — if there was any comparison to be made. In fact, I’m not sure any live act (that I know of) can compete with what I’m witnessing here.”

“In the Cards,” released in September, is DeLong’s second full length, the followup to “Just Movement,” released in 2013 and “The Long Way Down” EP, released in 2014. All three are on Glassnote Records, the home of Mumford & Sons, Phoenix and the Kansas City duo Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear.

“(Glassnote) has been amazing,” he said. “They are all about touring, and I’m all about the live show. They are really the best of both worlds. They’re a big indie label with a lot of influence but still independent. I have more freedom and direct contact with a label than I ever could with a major.”

“In the Cards” is better conceived than his debut, which comprises songs written years apart, DeLong said.

“The first record was written over the course of five or six years,” he said. “It was kind of a love project that was fun and ended up coalescing in to an album.

“(Cards) was intentionally written as an album in about 18 months. My intention going in was to get to the core of songwriting and focus on writing songs that are compact and digestible.

“I also really wanted to branch out and explore a lot of different tempos and genres. With dance music, you can get locked into one tempo and style. I wanted to touch on a lot of different things and do an album with drum-and-bass to slow-motion R&B and house music. That was kind of the goal.”

Some of that music reflects another of DeLong’s interests: science fiction.

“Not so much lyrically, but definitely that aesthetic has been a part of my music,” he said. “A lot of the sounds I use are inspired by sounds I’ve heard in movies as a kid. A lot of those things get regurgitated. But, no, I’m not writing songs about people floating around in space.”

Saturday, DeLong will headline a show at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, where fans will watch and hear one man unleash the sounds of many, a course DeLong is not about to change.

“It’s a matter of convenience,” he said. “I wanted to find a way to perform without relying on others, whether it’s to show up for rehearsal or play the parts right. Once I started to perform, things went really well and really connected with people.”

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain


Robert DeLong performs Saturday night at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland. RAC, Big Data and Coleman Hell are also on the bill. Showtime is 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $9.65 and $15.