Ten seconds into “Pink,” the heart of Two Feet’s debut full-length album has been revealed. An electric guitar lures you in for seven seconds before Two Feet’s gravelly voice sings, “‘Cause I still think about the old days.”
That line was the first line that popped into Two Feet’s (born Bill Dess) mind for the album titled Pink (via Republic Records), and subsequently, “Pink” was the first song written. Of all the colors—all the adjectives, nouns, words in the world—pink was chosen as the project’s namesake because this song reminded Two Feet “of a modern Pink Floyd song, something, if they were around now, they could’ve made.” It isn’t a coincidence that the 26-year-old native New Yorker tapped a band distinguished in the 1960s and ’70s as an influence. He was living through a particularly nostalgic period in his life when Pink was created.
“The past two years, I’ve spent a lot of time looking back and reevaluating everything that has happened to me so far in my life so that’s why a lot of the lyrics are nostalgic,” Two Feet tells tmrw over the phone, one week before Pink‘s debut. “Not necessarily all of them in a sad way, like ‘We Will Be Alright’ can be a happy song. Sort of [laughs]. I think it just came from where I was emotionally in my life at the time that I just wanted to focus on looking back and being able to compartmentalize various time periods in my life, and writing this album actually really helped me do that.”
Making Pink was a major part of his continuing concerted effort to turn his mental health and life around.
The platinum-certified singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer likens it to pouring puzzle pieces on a table. He always had all the pieces, but they were unassembled at first. “And you’re like, ‘I don’t know what the hell this is?’” he says, “and then, as you start building the puzzle up with the pieces, you’re like, ‘Oh, I see what this is!’ And it gets a little easier to fill it out.”
Continuing under that metaphor, Pink‘s corner pieces were “Pink,” “I Can’t Relate,” “You?” and “Felt like playing guitar and not singing part 2.” Once those four were in place, the other nine tracks flowed. By summer 2019, Pink had taken shape.
“You?” dropped on Oct. 11, 2019. The track has a dark aura, with a heavy guitar-led backdrop that immediately demands listeners’ attention and lyrics that purposefully dizzy their minds once they’ve invested. In the first and second verse, Two Feet addresses an unnamed girl, but the chorus is even vaguer: “And you had a lot on your mind now (Your mind now) / Your mind, it’s true (Your mind) / So tell me the truth, was it me then / Who needed you? (You)”
Is he talking about someone else, or using an external lens to vent about his internal self?
“In my life, people who know me personally, I kind of never shut up,” Two Feet says. “I was the kid who would tell his dad literally every single thing about his personal life. I’m actually not a very private person. And not necessarily with my dad but with my friends or people I had relationships with, I had large portions of my life where I would open up and share that I was in pain about something, and sometimes, when you share stuff like that with people you love, there is this horrible thing that can happen sometimes where you can sense that they don’t really care that much.
“They might give you a false reassuring answer or just openly even make it clear that they’re not really interested, and from my experience, a lot of times that can be more painful than feeling sad or being depressed. Being in that state and sharing with someone who doesn’t care can just make it way worse. You can leave the conversation feeling way worse than you did when you started it. You go into conversations like that hoping for something cathartic to happen, and if it doesn’t, it can just be an enormous emotional letdown.”
So, opening up in your music about these things is a way to exploit a loophole in that?
“Exactly. That’s exactly right,” he says. “You can put it all into a song and record it, and you get this release without this horror of a rejection or the fear, even, that a rejection might be there because you know no matter what you can get that emotion out, which is why I started writing and playing music in the first place.”
Two Feet gained traction when he uploaded “Go Fuck Yourself” to SoundCloud one night at 3 a.m. in April 2016. He woke up and, within hours, the song recorded on a microphone taped to his wall had attracted approximately four million streams. Where “Go Fuck Yourself” was made impulsively, the bluesy alternative pop-rock artist emptied out every ounce of himself and what he has learned in the nearly four years since with an intricate process for Pink.
The songwriting came most naturally this time around, perhaps because the material is so personal. He remembers most of the 13 songs’ chords, melodies and lyrics coming together within a day or two, while the production took a significant amount of time. “Pink” took a couple months in production to get right, as did “Baby,” and a few others. Then there was “Maria.”
“I had submitted the album already, and I felt like there needed to be one last more single-y song for the album,” he says. “So what happened was, I messaged friends at the label, like, ‘What are you guys thinking?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, pump one out in a week.’ So I just really quickly wrote that song, mixed it myself, turned it in. From people I’ve shown, my friends and stuff, everyone likes that the most. I have a lot of friends, that’s their favorite song. … I think it’s a good way for people who may not know my music and may be introduced it to for the first time with this album, I think that [song] is a good introduction. So that’s kind of why I wanted to focus it around that.”
You wouldn’t know the rushed timeline for “Maria” by just listening to it. The sonics fit seamlessly with the rest of the album, and Two Feet’s voice sounds as smooth as ever. “I’m alone without a friend tonight,” he sings, his voice a balanced blend of breathy and throaty. “Maria, Maria, I tell you I need ya.” And while “Maria” was made under the single framework, Two Feet intends for Pink to be listened to in order as a whole.
The album’s cohesive landscape is at least in part because Two Feet mixed all 13 tracks by himself.
“I know there’s a lot of talk [about] Billie Eilish, you know, her brother produces and they write all their stuff in their bedroom and stuff, but they still sent it out to get mixed by other people,” he says. “I mixed this whole album completely by myself. And don’t take that the wrong way. It’s not a knock on Billie Eilish. She’s one of my favorite artists. I have [Billie Eilish] shirts, and I love her album more than anything ever. I’m just saying, you know, everything I did completely by myself, and I think that is what ate up an enormous amount of time.”
That’s bound to happen with a debut—finding what works and what doesn’t in the process in order to get the best out of yourself. Now, Two Feet knows what he does not want to replicate in his sophomore album.
“I think the next album will be a lot of quicker because I honestly don’t want to mix the next album,” he says with a little laugh. “It’s too much work, and honesty, the more people I’ve met—some of these mixers I’ve met are just absolutely brilliant, and you know, why wouldn’t I want to bring them onboard next time if they help make it sound better?”
Pink happened exactly as it needed to, though. He may outsource in the future, but he had to be this hands-on with these specific songs in order to reconcile his past.
“You hit a point in your life where you either reflect on your past and grow from it or you just keep moving forward and don’t acknowledge anything that’s happened to you in your life and don’t grow as a human, and I felt like I got dangerously close to reaching that point where I had just no growth as a person. I think this album really helps me open myself up more than I used, especially lyrically. It’s much more lyrical—it is heavily instrumental, but it is still much more lyrical than my old songs, which are just drinking and fucking. This is way more—I tried to talk about things that have actually happened to me, and I think really helps me grow as a songwriter. I’m honestly just really excited to start a new project with all the things I’ve learned from this album.”
But first: he’s eager to share this album with others, especially people who may even need it more than he did. Two Feet played some of these songs live on a mini tour that wrapped recently. “Pink,” “Intro,” “Lost The Game,” “BBY,” and “You?” were released in late 2019. He was pleasantly surprised by back-to-back crowds already anticipating musical drops and singing all the lyrics along with him. He describes himself as an artist who typically takes a while to do well commercially, whose songs tend to resonate more months later than on release day. “The fact that they were involved with this before hearing the full album and seeing the full picture and whole painting, to me, is a super good sign,” he says.
As of now, the Pink Tour Part I is scheduled to go on as scheduled despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak worldwide. The slate of 17 North American dates will begin on April 28 at The Novo in Los Angeles, and $1 per ticket sold will be donated to SRNA (Siegel Rare Neuroimmune Association) in partnership with Plus 1. Two Feet’s sister, GG, lives with related transverse myelitis, a rare and underfunded disease that prevents nerve signals from properly functioning through the spinal cord. It affects people of all ages, genders and races. “I really love the fact that I have the opportunity to do this for my sister,” Two Feet says. “… This helps bring about awareness. Their organization saw an uptick in donations and awareness, and I’m super happy to, hopefully, when this tour is done, have a ton of money to be able to give to them.”
He continues: “My overall goal is, first and foremost, and my sister would get behind this too because she loves music, is just share this music with as many people as possible. When you have a show day, for people who come to the show, it could be their best day of the week, their best day of the month or sometimes their best day of the year. That makes me really happy to be able to do that for people, so that’s something I want from both the album and the tour.”
It was all there in that first line. The old days are informing a better future.