Q&A — N3ptune and Rusty Steve Dance In the Darkness With New Single “Shadow”

n3ptune and Rusty Steve posing in all black for the "Shadow" shoot.

Denver’s most exciting enigmas N3ptune and Rusty Steve are back with a new single, “Shadow.” The song and accompanying music video are deep and dark, pulsing with rebellious passion and beautiful abandon. It’s a step in an intriguingly dark direction, diving headfirst into themes previously flirted with on their last full-length release, Rennaissance. The duo recently spoke to 303 Magazine about the song’s development, N3ptune’s incredibly intricate choreography, artistic evolution and more.

READ: N3ptune Builds A Foundation For A New Cultural ‘Renaissance’

303 Magazine: To start, you’ve always been one to revel in the darkness, but this one seems like you’re fully embracing it. How did “Shadow” come about? What was the initial conception?

N3ptune: The topic of my shadow isn’t new for those who’ve come to the shows. There’s an intro we have titled “I Don’t Sleep” that we do a procession to. I say, “Shadows linger by his/ Coaxing him to get no rest;” “The shadow’s keeping me up at night,” and “Down by the wayside where the sun don’t shine/ There lives a man who owns the night.” I wrote it in January at like 2 a.m. at my framily’s (friends who are like family) house and finished writing during the recording. I heard a song, and started hearing “I exist with the lights off.” The song wrote itself, but I went into asking, “What does the shadow want to say?” During production, it was difficult to figure it out, because it’s so many sounds in one. Electro pop, breakbeat, Jersey club, blues, gospel, and ghetto techno. It’s a clusterfuck. At its core, it’s my shadow speaking freely about who he is. Simultaneously, addressing capitalism, overconsumption, addiction, self-medicating, and the effects of trauma, in this embracive way.

Rusty Steve: Pretty sure N3p had the lyrics already written for the most part, but the track came together while we were both in the studio one night. I laid down the bass progression that continues throughout the song and we built it up from there. 

n3ptune and Rusty Steve posing with a guitar and a hammer in from of a white background.

303: How would you say “Shadow” represents an evolution from the music you’ve put out before? 

N3ptune: Both Rusty and I have grown so much in the past two years, and this song boisterously displays that. Rusty has evolved as a guitarist, producer and engineer and you hear that in the quality of the song. I’ve evolved as a vocalist, producer and writer and you can hear that in the song’s execution. We’re a lot better at what we do, and the music reflects that growth.

Rusty Steve: I think it takes the sonic landscape we had before and builds upon it, taking it in a slightly darker direction. The production is richer and more “hi-fi.” We’ve both grown as artists and musicians and you can hear that translated through the music. 

n3ptune and Rusty Steve posing with a guitar and a hammer in from of a white background. Fish eye shot.

303: Could you elaborate a little on what you mean when you say “I come from generation fucked?”

N3ptune: Gen Z. To put it bluntly, Gen Z is inheriting shit circumstances. We’re making a lot of positive changes as a generation, coming after the robust impact millennials have made. But most feel hopeless. We’re facing unprecedented mental illness rates, gun violence, economic crises, global warming, lobbying, rampant substance abuse, ridiculous cost of living and unlivable wages. Not to mention world leaders that are hell-bent on being real-life supervillains. Older generations had the luxury of a future. Meanwhile, we don’t know if the world’s gonna blow up tomorrow or if every last one of our rights are gonna be stripped simply because the Supreme Court is feeling spicy today. I’ve heard teenagers say they need guns to protect themselves on the daily. What the fuck?! That’s not normal. 

Rusty Steve: Definitely a question for N3p, but when I hear those lyrics it makes me think of all the fucked up shit our generation has going for it, from being able to see practically anything on Twitter, to climate change, to a couple hundred people controlling all the wealth in the world and to debilitating mental illnesses, we’re kinda fucked.

READ: REVIEW — N3ptune and Rusty Steve Turn the Bluebird Theater Into a Religious Experience

303: Can you walk us through some of your processes for creating such intricate and difficult dances? 

N3ptune: I love that my choreography is a topic of discussion now! I always see the chorus & hook of songs. I always feel that part of the song the most for some reason. I love molding HBCU-style (historically black college or university) dancing with iconic pop choreo. I go for high-energy and cardio-driven pieces.  For Shadow, Amy Eichman and I collaborated on the choreography — Amy choreographed her ass off! I wanted to do something high-energy, sexy and energetic. It pays homage to Lady Gaga and Janet Jackson.

n3ptune and Rusty Steve posing with a guitar and a hammer in from of a white background.

303: One theme that recurs throughout your music and your incredible live shows is this idea of inclusivity. How do you create this feeling that’s so palpable in so much of your art and why is it so important to you? 

N3ptune: It’s important that people feel welcome around me! I think since I was never first pick for shit most of my life, it just became a no-brainer that I wanted people to feel free to be themselves in these spaces. I sometimes worry about how dark it can be, but then I’m like, “Nah, they can get that sunshiny shit from someplace else.” I set many intentions when writing, recording, filming, performing, etc. I lay myself bare in all areas of my craft, and that rawness and vulnerability is what I think people are feeling. Fraudulence is a norm in our society and it’s imperative that I embody what I want to see more of from artists.

Rusty Steve: I think we are both outcasts and when you’ve been there, you generally want to be inclusive because you know how shitty it feels to be ostracized.

READ: Review —N3ptune Blossoms During an Awe-Inspiring Performance at Globe Hall

303: Any final thoughts, plugs or anything else you’d like to share with the world? 

N3ptune: Stream the hell out of Shadow, run that video UP and do that dance. I wanna see y’all do it for real! I’d like to thank my team and my inner circle & family for being my rock! They’ve been here for me, and I’m just very grateful for them, especially over the past year. And thank you to this fan base (The Orbit) for the love and support. We’re gonna express our dark sides soon!

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