Rising Star Two Feet on How He Went From Playing a Laundromat to Headlining a National Tour
It’s a story as old as… well, since SoundCloud has been around. An unknown musician uploads a track only to wake up the next morning with literally millions of streams. Bill Dess, a.k.a. Two Feet, lived that story first-hand. His blend of blasé vocals, hazy guitar and electronic beats pushed his debut single “Go Fuck Yourself” to instant internet fame. Coming from the beat making scene, lyrics were never the focus for him. But in today’s millennial culture, song titles like “Go Fuck Yourself” and “Love is a Bitch” resonate, even helping to bolster Dess’ effortless sound.
With a new EP slated for this spring, Dess is currently on a North American jaunt that kicked off in Los Angeles on Jan. 23 and stops off for one night in his hometown of New York on Feb. 16. All this before a highly sought after set at Governors Ball in June. Just before his sold-out performance at L.A.’s El Rey Theatre on Jan. 23, Dess sat down for a chat with Entertainment Voice about his sudden entrance into the music industry.
First off, you’re right in the midst of your own career come-up story. How has the ride been since you uploaded your breakout single “Go Fuck Yourself” back in 2016?
Pretty crazy. You release a song, things get better, and then something else happens and it goes even further up and then something else happens… You know what I mean? It’s not like an angled graph. But, it’s been pretty wild. In all reality, the project’s not even two years old and to have it take off that quickly is amazing. We played a laundromat last March, and (now) we’ve sold out the El Rey. It’s moving very quickly. It’s overwhelming.
There’s no question that your musical style is unique. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when describing your sound to those unfamiliar with Two Feet?
Clapton-heavy guitar, electronic alternative pop music (laughs). (That’s) the quickest way I could put it.
There are a handful of similar artists that come to mind when listening to your EPs, especially Australian singer Chet Faker as well as Citizen Cope. How do you work to separate yourself from your influences?
That’s a tough question. I grew up listening to Citizen Cope. My dad used to play him all the time. So, his music really kind of engrained in my soul. It has elements of hip-hop and rock and alternative in it. Same with Chet Faker who I’ve listened to more recently. I guess the way that I separate myself is that I kind of include more elements than those two people who influenced me. Those would be my main influences, but I also take influences from all over and kind of mash it together. So, it’s like I take their sounds and kind of…I guess you could say develop them, in a different way. That’s how music works, you know. Rhythms from Africa came over to America and created blues music, and blues music created rock n’ roll, and rock n’ roll helped create pretty much everything else in the world, modern pop music even. So, it’s just like, I kind of hate the word “derivative” because all music is derivative, theoretically. I just feel like I’m trying to continue building the story, moving the story forward using people I love.
On that same note, you’ve said recently how your aim is to focus less on your musical influences and more on internal inspiration. What sort of sounds or ideas come to the surface when you’re looking inward for new song ideas?
I always have gravitated towards like, slower, the second line stuff, jazzy stuff. So if I could just like pull out what was in my soul and create it, it would be like hip-hop, electronic-influenced jazz music, I guess.
You worked with K.Flay on one of your recent tracks “Love is a Bitch.” How did you two hook up?
We originally got together to see if we could write something with her on it. I think we kind of just both decided that the way the song ended up, it just flowed better as a Two Feet song. She was just super stoked to be on it as a writer. She’s like incredibly talented. She’s literally one of my favorite people in the music industry. I love her. She just got nominated for a Grammy actually. She’s having a good year. I’m excited to see where everything goes with her too. But that just kind of fell together because my manager at the time was friends with her manager and I kind of sent over a track that I was working on and they were like ‘Oh, let’s get them together out in L.A.’ I’m sure we’ll work together again, because that song ended up working best on that EP out of all my songs.
Most of your songs have minimal lyrics. Do you find it more affecting to let the music, tone, the overall production speak for itself?
Yea, I came from making beats so I almost didn’t like music that had vocals in it at all. I listened to all that when I was younger, but when I turned like 21, 22 I listened to straight electronic music. Like club music even. Sometimes there’s a lot of songs that are like basically with no lyrics. I mean, when you go all the way back to blues where it’s just like the same thing repeating. But they’re very effective because it really gets in your head. So with lyrics, either, in my opinion, you’re gonna tell a really good story or you’re gonna keep it like really simple and just hit home a point. So that’s sort of how I approach that. And I also don’t approach lyrics in my songs as what drives the songs. The song drives the song. The lyrics and the vocals are just another instrument.
You’ve previously performed with just yourself and another musician running your synths, drum kit, etc. How is the live show setup for this tour?
It’s the same thing. I don’t plan on changing. My buddy Huff, he plays with us. He’s super talented at putting everything together and he’s kind of grown with me as we’ve moved forward with this project. From the beginning, we both had no idea what we were doing live and I think we have a sort of charming dynamic together on stage. It also gives me a lot of room to run around and move around and stuff, which I really like. I don’t think I plan on changing that. I’m not the biggest fan of live drummers. They sound sort of messy. I like more beats. So, I think I plan on keeping that (setup).
You’re two EPs into your career right now (2016’s “First Steps” and last year’s “Momentum”). What’s next as far as your studio recordings go? Should fans expect another EP or have you already begun putting together your debut full-length?
We have another EP that’s already done. That’ll be out in spring, at some point. And then I am done with EPs. I want to start an album. Three EPs is more than enough, I think. It’s time to move to something bigger. Plus, on an EP you have four songs so you kind of need at least two or three of them to make some sort of impact. On an album, I feel like you have much more room to make like a weird song. You have way more space to be creative. So I’m actually very excited to enter into that world where I can have two or three singles on the album and the rest be like what I really want to make.