Picture this: It’s sometime in the spring of 2016, and Bill Dess is sitting in his rat-infested Harlem apartment. He’s indulged in one too many glasses of whiskey, and he starts to feel frustrated at the world around him. Led solely by instinct and impulse, he decides to create a song dedicated to all who have wronged him, all past “collaborators” who sought personal triumph at his expense. Appropriately titled “Go Fuck Yourself,” he crafts an unmistakably distinct and captivating guitar riff, uploads it to SoundCloud, and BOOM! Unbeknownst to Dess himself, that was the precise moment that Two Feet was born.
Within days, the jazz-influenced, electro-heavy track had accumulated over 8 million streams and set the stage for Two Feet’s debut EP, First Steps. Characterized by the guitar riff that has come to define his smoldering sound, First Steps received major acclaim by music critics and fans alike – eventually landing Dess a deal with Republic Records. The debut was followed by 2017′s Momentum EP, an expansion of Dess’ signature medley of moody lyrics, atmospheric arrangements, and hard-hitting guitar virtuoso. Along with his latest single,“I Feel Like I’m Drowning,” all of Two Feet’s songs provide the perfect soundtrack to release pent-up aggression and initiate late night romance alike.
After successfully completing a debut sold-out headline tour in the US, Two Feet is currently touring in Europe, and we can only hope for a full-length record to follow. In the meantime, get to know the inner-workings of Bill Dess in our interview below.
OTW: So I read that you initially got into the music after watching The Nutcracker?
Two Feet: I was a little kid, and I went to public school in New York. I think in kindergarten, they took everyone on a class trip to see the Nutcracker, and I was like screaming and crying because I wanted to leave. And then as soon as the teacher was taking me out the back, the music started playing, and I was just enamored. And I sat in the back away from the class and listened to the whole thing. It’s kind of like when you have the first memory of loving something, I think I was like five or six.
OTW: Did you take active steps to pursue music after that?
Two Feet: Slowly, as I started getting older, there would be a piano laying around, or a guitar, and I’d start picking them up and fiddling with them. But I didn’t really get serious until like the end of high school – actually, even further after high school, it just fell together. I spent basically the remaining time of my life, when I wasn’t doing anything, just playing instruments, and then everything kind of took off from there. So I guess, since I started taking it seriously until now, it’s been about six years.
OTW: Were you in jazz bands?
Two Feet: Yeah I was in bands, blues bands or just random guitar stuff, like if a friend would call and say, “Someone’s sick, come play for us.”
OTW: So then, can you tell us about the moment when Two Feet was born?
Two Feet: Two Feet was born in May or April of 2016 on SoundCloud. I just got really drunk and wrote a song. I mean, the simplicity of the first song that I put out, “Go Fuck Yourself,” is sort of evident, like it’s not this crazy overly-produced thing – in fact it sounds really raw. And I made sort of a conscious effort, because I had been trying and trying to make over-produced stuff, and it wasn’t working, so then I was like, “I’m going to make the quickest little thing ever and see what happens.” And then it just kind of took off, amazingly.
OTW: So you were not planning it at all?
Two Feet: I didn’t have management, I had no connections in press, I literally uploaded it online, and it started to just take off.
OTW: Wow, that’s crazy! There’s something about that song that’s so unique.
Two Feet: Yeah, it’s very catchy. Well now, you’re starting to hear it in a lot of other places I’m sure. [Laughs]
OTW: A little more! But you still have the signature sound.
Two Feet: I hope so. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I get kind of pissed when I hear other people put out shit that sounds exactly like mine, like the riffs. There are comments, like people put out a SoundCloud track or something on YouTube, and one of the comments will be like, “This sounds a version of Two Feet” on steroids. It’s sort of a compliment, but it can be frustrating at the same time.
OTW: That definitely sounds like a compliment to me.
Two Feet: It was very idiosyncratic; everything is kind of polarizing. You either like it or you really don’t like the song. I’ve seen some horrifying reviews of some of my music, and it just shows that I guess that’s a good thing, I’d rather have people hate it or love it than be like, “Ehh, this is okay.” Like one review I saw was like, “Who the fuck let this out of the studio, this sounds like they put a cat in the shredder.”
OTW: So obvious question then, where did the name Two Feet come from?
Two Feet: That came from being really drunk – have you ever tried to make an internet name of something, and it’s like “this is taken, this is taken, this is taken?” I was like, “Oh, no one’s going to have this name.” And also, I always kind of hated those two years in New York when I was doing nothing but working at a bodega and writing music. I spent a lot of time with my friends who were in the underground scene, and they spent a lot of energy trying to come up with very chic, or cool names, so I kind of thought it was funny to approach something with a sense of humor, and then at the end of the day, ended up getting a lot of seriousness and image attached to it that I didn’t consciously go for.
OTW: Do you feel like you’ve taken on that name since then?
Two Feet: I do, yeah. Now it really feels like home. But I had to grow into it; it’s like meeting a friend for the first time. So I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with it. I think the fans and the audience seem to be too, like they attach their own image to it. You know, like the dark, sexy image, even though I didn’t sit down and say, “Oh, this is going to be a dark, sexy project.” I literally was just like, “This is just music I want to hear,” the image was created by the people who listen to it, and then we just roll with it, you know what I mean.
OTW: So it sounds like you kind of fell into this, but now that it’s taking off, do you feel like you’ve been more calculated about your future?
Two Feet: Exactly, that’s perfect. At first, I kind of looked at it as a foray to becoming a writer and producer for other people, but now I don’t look at it like that anymore. Now I look at it like, “Okay, let’s go win some GRAMMYs and get some platinum records, and take over the world.” It can sound cocky, and it kind of is, but if you want to survive in this industry, you have to be a machine and be incredibly confident. You have to say what you want and go after what you want, or else you’re not going to make it. So it’s just like, I want to build this thing into as big of a thing as I can now. I used to be so afraid of saying that, but the only way to make something work is to really believe in it. I have a great team, my manager Jeff and my other manager Andrew are wonderful, my PR and the label are working really hard, and we all believe in it. It just feels like 24 months from now, we could be at a place like astronomically bigger than where we are now.
OTW: So you have two EPs, and based off song titles alone, both seem to be centered around aggression, or anger. Does it relate to where you were when you were making that?
Two Feet: I’ve always been incredibly aggressive. I’ve always been sort of a temper. So for “Go Fuck Yourself,” I had been trying to write for people forever, people would steal my beats, people would not pay me after I made them songs, or people would use songs that I made for them to get record contracts with Warner/Chappell as writers, and then not credit me as a producer. Then I’m stuck living on three dollars a day. But Huff, my bandmate, even he saw my old apartment in Harlem – he comes in, and there’s huge rat traps on the counter, and there’s mice running around everywhere, and he was like, “Holy shit.” I was very mad when I made that first EP, I was just going to make this song in two seconds, call it “Go Fuck Yourself” because everyone can go fuck yourself, and let’s see what happens. And ironically, that was the thing that everyone liked.
OTW: That’s so crazy. So can we talk about the upcoming music? Is it going to be any happier?
Two Feet: A little bit. [Laughs] Certain things that you might have been angry about go away, and then other ones come back, that are different. I’m a little bit more under control now, I’m trying to move into a more mature sound. The next EP sounds still pretty similar to my previous stuff, but when I work on the album, I want to definitely throw in things that I haven’t had the chance to do yet, like softer jazz stuff. I’ll still have singles on there, but I want like weirder shit, you know what I mean.
OTW: So for people who haven’t seen you live, what is the set up like?
Two Feet: We put a lot more money into the live show, considerably. We’ve rehearsed a lot more. When I played the Troubadour, that was like our third show ever, and we were freaking the fuck out. That doesn’t happen as much anymore, we’re a little bit more confident. We’re running a brand new rig tonight, so I’m going to be honest, it could be totally fucked up, or it could sound awesome. That’s kind of the thrill of the moment for me right now.
OTW: So who are your Ones To Watch?