Rockin’ With The 5th: Balancing Light & Dark with DLRN


In darkness there is light, and no one knows this better than Sacramento’s DLRN, a hip-hop duo with some serious cinematic and futuristic leanings. Just in time for your weekly nightcap, the duo, composed of emcee, Sean LaMarr and producer, Jon Reyes, just put out a new EP. Earnest in storytelling, heavy on synths and rich with cultural references, Neon Noir, is currently out on Waaga records, and we fortunately got the chance to catch up with Sean & Jon at the height of their new release.  Read more after the jump.


What’s the story behind DLRN? How did you guys come together.

Jon: Sean and I met through an art collective in Sacramento back when we were in high school, filled with poets, musicians and visual artists. I started getting heavy into production around the same time Sean started taking emceeing seriously. What began as just shooting ideas back and forth online turned into churning out music together.

2. Your music sounds like it has a lot of different influences: golden era hip-hop, 80s, a little r&b. What is the most challenging part about bridging all of these elements?

Jon: The most challenging part is making everything cohesive enough so folks “get it”. Our music backgrounds are so diverse that we definitely try to sprinkle a little bit of everything in our work. At the same time, the sound has to make sense so everything doesn’t sound all over the place. Sometimes the cool niche things we want to add don’t really make sense in the bigger picture.

Sean: It doesn’t feel challenging from the creative standpoint. We don’t ever set out to make a certain type of song. Packaging it always seems a little harder though.

3. Geographic location has always had a strong bearing in hip-hop, both lyrically and production-wise. How has living in Sacramento shaped your own musical landscape?

Sean: Sacramento isn’t necessarily known for one type of music or sound. Growing up here you have the choice to be exposed to a lot of different styles. I mean Brotha Lynch and Gift of Gab were in a hip-hop group together when they were in school, and they are on very different ends of the content spectrum today. I think we’ve both pulled inspiration from a lot of different Sacramento and Northern California artists. It’s probably why the music is so varied.

4. In your Soundcloud profile, and even some of your song titles, you make some references to prominent writers like Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson. You also describe your production as “cinematic.” What are some of your cultural influences beyond music (i.e. literature, film)?

Jon: Pretty much everything from Louie CK to professional wrestling – as long as we’re able to see the artistry in things and make those relevant connections, we’re influenced by it. I think both Sean and I approach DLRN as an expression of interpreting the shit we consume. Whether it be directly (referencing it in song) or indirectly (trying to capture the same feeling other work gave us), we make a conscious effort to put that back in the music.

Sean: Yea, from Spike Jonze, Dave Chappelle, Bukowski, Tarantino, and on and on…we really came up in a moment in time where there was so much access to past and present ideas. In a lot of ways some of those cultural influences, beyond music, help bring gravitas to our expression. We aspire for that level of artistry, or impact, not radio success.

5. Your latest EP is called Neon Noir. What’s the significance behind that title?

Jon: Balancing the light and the dark. It’s an album exploring the post-nightlife.

Sean: The music has a lot of dark tones, but the stories have a silver…or neon lining. It’s definitely the duality or light and dark tones, ideas, liquors and whatnot.

6. How did you link up with your current label, Waaga Records?

Sean: A friend of mine is very involved with Waaga and a couple other labels, and in asking him advice on some music related ideas he offered us a chance to put out this project with them.

7. Like many new artists, your music has been highly promoted on Soundcloud. Are there any artists you discovered on there that you have on heavy rotation?

Jon: Yeah, I make a mix every Friday trying to shine light on some under the radar artists. Most of them I found on Soundcloud. Folks like Sex on Toast, Pomo, Moon Boots.

Sean: It’s probably the first place I look when I hear something from an artist and want to hear more. If I keep seeing a name pop up online, I’ll search them on Soundcloud.

8. I know you guys recently had a record release party in Sacramento, as well as an event with Vestax in LA, but is DLRN touring anywhere else anytime soon?

Sean: We’re working on an East Coast, and perhaps national tour kicking off in DC in October. Getting all the details for that together now. In the meantime we are putting the finishing touches on Neon Noir Part II. We hope to get that to you before the summer ends.


Hip-Hop geek for life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s