THEY.’s The Amanda Tape isn’t the plot of some quirky Netflix romantic comedy. The 10-track project is a combination of Dante Jones and Drew Love’s real-life experiences after realizing that they, along with their engineer, were all dating women named Amanda.
“We’re fortunate that there are two of us because we have this unlimited amount of material that we can pull from,” Jones tells VICE. “We weren’t consciously thinking that while we were making the music, but putting together the tracklist, we were like, Okay, how can you make this a story from top to bottom of what it’s like to be in a relationship.”
Together, Jones and Love are THEY., an inventive R&B duo, who have a knack for outfitting R&B in the emo, pop-rock, and hip-hop music they grew up on. The two met after years of working in the industry behind the scenes, with Jones producing for pop stars like Kelly Clarkson and Big Time Rush, and Love songwriting for artists like Jason Derulo and Jeremih. Shortly after meeting in 2014, THEY. opened for Bryson Tiller’s TRAPSOUL tour, and three years later released their debut studio album, Nü Religion: Hyena, which was heralded by critics as “Grunge N’B.”
Songs like “Say When” had guitar chords similar to the genre’s Seattle predecessors, but its lyrics detailed an explicitly Black experience as the Black Lives Matter movement was growing. “They’ll shoot at my brothers and let ’em fall / And then we some thugs if we get involved?” Love sang on the album. Even “Dante’s Creek” reimagines the theme song for the similarly-named 90s teen-drama, but it uses their lives in Southern California as its backdrop instead. The Amanda Tape, out now, is a slight departure from their grungy sound, but it’s still a patchwork of their greatest influences with its focus on R&B’s rousing new jack swing era.
“Our passions changed,” Love says. “We wanted to get more into the foundation and show our prowess when it came to R&B. [The grunge sound] will always be in our back pocket, so we can always use it, but I don’t know if that fully describes who we are anymore.”
The Amanda Tape distills Jones and Love’s respective relationships and documents everything from the thrill of the chase to the break up that leaves two people as strangers. But it’s almost as if Love foreshadows their demise before it even begins on “Moment,” an opener brooding with temptation. “This shit won’t last forever / Looks like it’s now or never.”