On the surface, West Coast neon-lit R&B duo THEY.’s latest full-length Nü Moon sounds like an ambitious concept: weaving together themes inherent in vintage horror films with serious contemplations on mental health—while seamlessly integrating guest vocals from pop-country star Kacey Musgraves, no less. Yet from the reverently campy spoken-word intro to the characteristically smooth first proper track, the Yung Bleu–featuring “In the Mood,” it’s clear that the energy on the record is markedly nocturnal while keeping the lyrical focus on personal, rather than supernatural, themes.
Tackling everything from romance to post-pandemic mental health check ins with a stacked list of collaborators including Fana Hues, Yung Bleu, and Phil Adé (in addition to Musgraves, whose recent music includes writing credits from THEY.), Nü Moon feels like a long drive to the end of the night, full of unexpected twists and turns all handled with grace. Though the record ends with the solemn “I’m Just Going Through the Motions,” it feels like a necessary sobering up as the sun begins to loom on the horizon.
With the record out now, the duo’s Dante Jones took us track by track through Nü Moon, sharing how each collaboration came together as well as noting callbacks to the outfit’s earlier material. You can stream along below, or check out the LP here.
So for the intro, we wanted to kick off the album in the right way. Throughout the process of making the project, we watched a lot of ’80s/’90s horror and slasher movies. They always had these great intros that would just immediately set the vibe. We also want to use this opportunity to explain the ethos of Nü Moon and the ride listeners are set up for the rest of the project.
2. “In the Mood” (feat. Yung Bleu)
“In the Mood” was the first song we did when we started the process of making the project. From the jump, we wanted to make something that had that ’90s/’00s, Bad Boy Records feel to it with a little Donell Jones mixed in there too. Once we had our part finished, we sent the track over to Yung Bleu. He sent back a verse—it was crazy. It was just one of those things where I didn't really know what to expect, but he came back and brought a whole new energy to the record that wasn't there before.
We got to a certain point in the process where we wanted to switch up the vibe and energy and ended up taking a trip to Atlanta to link with other producers and writers. One of the tracks we made there was “Riptide” with Romano Jones. He’s an amazing producer. From the jump, the track had this Texas bounce. That’s why we even added the screwed-and-chopped part at the end. The energy on “Riptide” was there from the beginning, and we knocked out that track in about 30 minutes.
“Moonlight” is kind of a call back to the early Nü Religion days. On our first project, we did a lot of songs that were in 6/8, so I definitely wanted to get back to that type of bounce again. The song also follows the theme of being with somebody and exploring the night together.
5. “Blu Moon”
“Blu Moon” is my favorite track on the album. We also made the record during our Atlanta trip with a legendary producer named Troy Taylor. It came together pretty quickly, too. On the production side, he and I were bouncing off each other. Troy laid those classic pianos and synths that you immediately know from that era of R&B. It's definitely one of our favorite tracks off the album.
6. “Lonely” (feat. Bino Rideaux)
When we started “Lonely,” I was really inspired by the West Coast sound that was bubbling at the time. I started the instrumental with Bino in mind. Even after we recorded it, I was still determined to link with Bino to get him to be a part of the record. We were able to arrange a session within about a week and he knew exactly what to do with it on the first listen. His verse was done in about 20 minutes.
7. “Comfortable” (feat. Fana Hues)
“Comfortable” is a track that we started with our homie, Digi, a producer who has had a lot of success. He had played “Get It on Tonight” by Montell Jordan. He was like, “Yo, it'd be dope if we did something to add to this type of groove. It wasn't until about six months later that we actually finished the song with Fana Hues. From the jump, it was one of those things where I knew I wanted to have a female perspective on the song. It was just about finding the right artist, and her voice came on there so heavenly and she provided us with a great outro. “Comfortable” is another one of my favorite moments on the album.
8. “Twenty One”
“Twenty One” is kind of a fork in the road on the project. It still has that down-south bob that we were channeling. But this is really the part of the album where you get into the more introspective moments of the whole Nü Moon experience.
9. “301 Freestyle” (feat. Phil Adé)
“301 Freestyle” is another reflective track. I actually bought a vocal pedal and we ended up recording the entire song through it, which had this crazy effect. We had even thought about going back and re-recording the vocals, but we didn't want to. We named it “301 Freestyle”—that’s Drew’s hometown, so he wanted to get somebody from there on the track. I have a really good relationship with Adé. He sent over a verse and, you know, it just came together really easily.
10. “Brutally Honest”
“Brutally Honest” is another introspective track that we started when we were in Atlanta. I think this track is really just about being honest with yourself and being able to identify the things you’re feeling. Especially as a Black man, it's tough to really dive into mental health. I think this is one of the tracks that we finally really get to touch on it.
11. “Wait on Me” (feat. Kacey Musgraves)
“Wait on Me” was the second track we made for this album. I did this one with my friends Ryan Marone and Dwayne Whitmore. I view it as a spiritual successor to the song from our first album, “Dante’s Creek.” There’s a similar vibe to it. Kacey hopped on the second verse when we made a trip to Nashville. We wrote a couple of songs for her album, and then she hopped on this track for us. It was one of those things on the surface where I didn't really know if we're gonna be able to pull it off. Once her part was written and laid down, it was really just one of those watershed moments for the project where I knew that we were on to something special.
12. “You Don’t Deserve This”
“You Don’t Deserve This” is kind of our homage to the Love/Hate era from The-Dream. Dream has always been one of my favorite artists. I've just always loved the production, approach, and swagger—everything he came on all his tracks with. This one is definitely special. For me, I feel like I got to pay homage to one of my favorite albums ever made.
13. “Set Me Free”
“Set Me Free” was a song that we had actually started prior to releasing The Amanda Tape, but never finished. I was really trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with it sonically. We did a bunch of different versions that were cool, but they just weren’t right. We were going over some songs we never put out and we collectively decided this is just how the song is meant to be—no drums, just airy. So we went in and flushed it out a little bit, but it’s actually the oldest song on the record, which I think is really interesting that we were able to make it work on this project.
14. “I’m Just Going Through the Motions” (feat. blackbear)
I wanted to end the album on a somber note. I started this song with my bro Caleb Contreras, who probably touched every song on the album from a production and a writing standpoint. But the main thing that we want to get across to listeners is “You're not the only one who's feeling this,” especially coming out of the pandemic and a lot of different tough times where the world was changing right before our eyes. As I said, within the Black community, it’s important for people to know that it’s alright to have times when you feel alone or like you're not enough. So it's definitely a message I wanted to end the album with. It was something that really resonated with blackbear when we sent him the song. He definitely touches on a lot of topics around mental health, so he was really excited about the record.