They. doesn’t have their eyes on the R&B world and what they are up to. Instead, since the duo’s formation and first release with their 2015 Nu Religion EP, singer Drew Love and producer Dante Jones strived to zag when the industry zigged. They. was one of the first to usher in the heavy guitar sound over 808-laden beats and they’re well aware of how their sound influenced the rest of the game. But, as it occurs with trends in music, They. watched their sound land in different corners of the game while losing its unique touch, an influence that they are proud of but one that forced them to zag once again.
From their debut album Nu Religion: Hyena to their most recent release with 2018’s Fireside EP, They.’s influence on the game is undeniable through their pen and production contributions to a number of artists over the years. Drew Love has helped pen songs by the likes of Ty Dolla Sign and Jeremih (“Goin Thru Some Thangz”), K. Michelle (“Ain’t You” & “Take Two”), and more while Dante Jones’ production skills can be found on Alina Baraz’s 2020 album It Was Divine, Emotional Oranges’ The Juice Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and more.
After staying quiet for the majority of 2019, the duo is preparing the release of their sophomore album, The Amanda Tape. A work in progress for the last year and a half, the project got its name after They. and their engineer discovered they were in relationships with different women who were coincidentally named Amanda. The Amanda Tape presents the emotions within a relationship; from the highest highs to the lowest lows and everything that lies in the middle.
Following its three singles, “Count Me In,” “Play Fight,” and “All Mine,” the producer half of They., Dante Jones, spoke to Uproxx about The Amanda Tape, what it was like creating it in the midst of a pandemic, and what they hope to accomplish with their upcoming album.
This year has been crazy, to say the least, so before the music, I just wanted to ask how are you doing mentally?
I’m good man, I’m good. Obviously we were thrown a big curveball with the whole COVID sh*t and it just seems like it’s all just kind of building up from there. It’s definitely been a transformative year for sure, a lot of growth, a lot of changes, I’m just rolling with the punches and trying to keep progressing towards the goals, getting the music out and stuff like that throughout all the different circumstances and sh*t that’s going on. I get to spend a lot of time with my family and stuff like that that I usually wouldn’t get to. I think we’re just all navigating things in our own way, just about maintaining and pushing forward.
Your upcoming album The Amanda Tape will arrive in the midst of a pandemic. Did you work on it prior to or during the pandemic? What pains did you experience while trying to be creative during this time?
We’ve been working on this project off and on for the past year and a half. We started working on it right around the time we finished up the Fireside EP, this gonna be the end of 2018, so we’ve been chipping away at it ever since then. When the pandemic hit, we had just been writing for a year and a half, and what that afforded me the opportunity to do was really slow down, finish everything, reign everything into one concise vision […] When it comes to creating man, it’s off and on. I feel like I’ll go through weeks where I’m super inspired, it’ll be like a 2-3 week period, and then it’ll be the same thing the opposite [way] for the next two weeks. It’ll be like, “Oh sh*t, I feel like I can’t come up with anything. I’m tired of looking at the same walls, at the same screen over and over again.” It comes and goes in waves.
With your most recent “All Mine,” the song’s concept kinda made me laugh in my head. I feel like it’s the epitome of “give an inch, take a mile.” The door to this relationship and this girl are still a bit open, but you bust it open because just cracked isn’t enough for your liking. What sparked this song and this shift in direction for y’all?
A lot of the time, I’m usually the one that walks into the studio with an idea of like “We’re doing this today” or “Today, we’re doing this.” I’ve always grown up like a big brother, the one who’s in charge, sometimes I just carry myself like that. That day, I walk in and I was like, “I want to make some hard R&B, something cocky, something The-Dream would say. That first Dream album, that Love Vs. Hate sh*t.” We were like, “Alright, f*ck it let’s do it.” I think that at the time when we were writing the record, Drew’s — the name of the album is The Amanda Tape and that comes from both of us being in relationships with girls named Amanda at the same time. Drew and his Amanda broke up and, slowly but surely, she’s sending out little smoke signals like, “I’m with a new guy,” blah blah blah. In that moment we were just like if we can channel that into like “Alright cool, I know you got your new man, your new dude or whatever, but don’t get it twisted. You know what’s up, we were together for a year and a half, this n**** is here for the moment.” I think it was just channeling that energy and that confidence into something that really came out dope. Sonically, we wanted it to feel like it was a Bill Withers song or something like that whenever the record first kicks off, but yeah I think we walked in with so much intent and such a chip on our shoulders when we wrote that record that it just came across from top to bottom.
I read in a previous interview that The Amanda Tape explores all the emotions relevant within relationships. As Black men, we often experience difficulties expressing love and the emotions that come with it. Did y’all experience any of these difficulties and are they discussed on the album?
I think that right now we just have so much material, so many things that are fresh and new, it definitely gave us a lot to talk about. Even more so as Black men, we’ve got that much more pressure on us on a day-to-day basis from the amount of things we have to contend with. I feel like we’ve done a good job of putting out that perspective. I was writing something yesterday and we were just like, “F*ck there’s so much sh*t going on in the world, I lowkey want to speak more on what it’s like to be a Black man in an R&B sense.” It’s been done a little bit, you have guys like Anthony Hamilton and people like that who I’ve always felt like he could really talk about love but he could also talk about the world, political sh*t, and stuff like that. I want to find a way to do that in a fresh way too, just the mindset that we’re in right now. It’s a tricky time man, you’re navigating this minefield, this relationship minefield, where sh*t can go wrong on both sides.
Heading back to your debut album Nu Religion: Hyena, you both were emphatic on not having features for it. However, for Fireside, we saw the other side of that spectrum. Where are you both for The Amanda Tape and who can we expect to hear if you can share some names?
The entire ethos of the first album was us trying to prove ourselves. We want to make the sh*t that most left-field — I’m making sh*t with chromatic melodies and all sorts of craziness. The whole album was just about flexing and proving ourselves, “Yeah, we’re here. We’re dope.” The next one was more about collaboration and expanding on the sound and also, to be honest, gave more clarity as to who we are as artists and actual people, not necessarily show what we can do, it’s like really reining it in and being hyper-focused. Whereas this album, it’s the best of both worlds. We definitely have moments where we’re showcasing our talents, but overall we really just wanted to tell a story more so than anything else. The features that we picked whether it be Tinashe, we have Juicy J coming up soon, we got Wale who just sent over a verse that we really really love. I think it’s just really about completing a narrative as opposed to collaboration or bringing people into the world or anything. We were really dead set on telling a story and only including the pieces that made sense for that story.
You mentioned in that same interview last month that you’ve got 10-11 songs so far ready to go, what’s the number looking like now?
There are 10 songs on the project and then we got a lot of additions and surprises and stuff coming after the initial project, but the main body of work is 10 songs.
What’s the one song from the album that you’re excited for fans to hear?
I’m definitely excited for all the songs. We write a lot so when we cut it down to 10, I feel like I gotta love all 10 in different capacities. I’ll say one record that I’m really excited for is “Losing Focus” which is featuring Wale and is one of our more personal songs, very introspective and kinda got a different ’90s bounce. Another one I’m really excited for is called “Mood Swings” which is just an uptempo R&B joint, something I’ve been really trying to tackle honestly for like years. I feel like I always wanted to make an uptempo kinda like 112 or Jagged Edge [track], but completely up to date, 2020 kind of vibe, but I didn’t know how to do it until I actually was able to do it. That’s probably one of our favorite records off of there too, we got a mixture between that 112 type of uptempo energy, but it still sounds modern. The next single that’s coming out is called “S.T.C.U.” featuring Juicy J which was just a dope bucket list moment. I grew up a big fan of rap, Southern rap in particular, and obviously a big fan of Three 6 Mafia, so just to have that on the resume and to have him be a part of what we’re doing was a big moment within itself.
What do you hope to accomplish with The Amanda Tape?
Whenever I’m working on music, my intent is always — when people zig one way I want to zag the other way. I want to be the one introducing new ideas and perspectives. When we came out with the first album, or honestly even the first EP, we were definitely one of the pioneers of putting the 808s and guitars with melodic stuff. We were one of the first to do it. You go back to 2015 and listen to “Motley Crue” and there was really nothing else that sounded like it. The sound’s always going to evolve, but the intent is exactly the same. With this new project, it’s always about trying to channel the energy of the music that I grew up with and putting it into something fresh, new, and different that’s going to inspire people to try something different. I think on this new project, we were really about to do that by channeling the ’90s R&B and early-2000s R&B and making that into something that’s fresh and new.
The Amanda Tape is due October 23 via Avant Garden/Island. Get it here.