Songwriting sibling duo Rock City (Theron and Timothy Thomas) have written for Rihanna, Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Usher and Fergie (to name a few), but now they're stepping from behind the pen and paper and onto the stage. The RCA signees have recently dropped their single "I'm That.." ft. 2 Chainz and are poised to become their own artists.
Sharing a mutual love of music has afforded the St. Thomas-bred duo not only much success in the music industry, but also a tight bond. In a fun interview with Singersroom, the lyrical stars dished about their new single and video for "I'm That…" ft. 2 Chainz, as well as how they work their hit-making magic. Despite their success, Theron and Timothy's brotherly love haven't been shaken; their bond is closer than ever. Sharing a love and respect for music and each other has left them grounded and humble as they emerge as new artists to create music and good vibes.
Peep our chat with the hitmakers below:
Tell us about your upbringing in the Virgin Islands and how that shaped your musical aptitude.
Theron: Just growing up in the Virgin Islands, it’s a musical melting pot. We grew up on all genres. St. Thomas is Calypso, Soca, its Reggae, its Hip-Hop, its Rock. Just growing up there, we’ve always been genre-less, we never knew the difference. We were like, ‘I like this song, and this song.” And it wasn’t until we moved to the States did we know that ‘Oh my God, this song is for urban radio, Urban AC, Rhythmic, or Pop,’ we didn’t know music was formatted until we moved to the States. Kind of like when we approach writing /making music, a beat came on and we just sung whatever came to our heads, so we would sing reggae melodies on rap beats or R&B melodies on a pop beat, and people would be like, ‘man that’s crazy,’ but to be honest, we didn’t know the difference. It all sounds like singing to me. We mixed everything up and that became what made us different cause we just crossed genres without even thinking about it.
How do you feel about the U.S. industry having so many markets for so many musical genres? Is that a hindrance or you just don’t pay attention to that?
Theron: Honestly, I wouldn’t say it's a hindrance at all. We’ve always made our music, we’ve never let anybody dictate how we make out music so, we just make our songs, wherever it goes, it goes. [Rihanna’s] “Pour It Up,” to some, was a pop song, it was an urban song, but they put it on pop radio. “We Can’t Stop” got some urban radio play, and it was Miley Cyrus the pop star. [Rihanna’s] “Man Down” was a complete reggae song, but it got pop radio play, rhythmic radio, urban radio. When we’re making music, we want people to like it, and if people like it SOMEBODY’s gonna play it.
What’s the story behind the concept of your single and video for "I'm That…" ft 2 Chainz?
Timothy: Born and raised in the Virgin Islands, we wanted out first look to the world represent who we are and where we come from. A lot of people don’t understand, growing up in the Virgin Islands, it’s kinda like the best of both worlds cause you have the beautiful parts of St. Thomas. Anywhere you go in the world, you have a lot of good places and bad places, and we grew up in a really bad place in a really bad environment. And wanted to show that side of where we came from. I always like to compare our album to the Fugees; the first single off The Score album was “Ready or Not” which was a rap record, then the second single was “Killing Me Softly,” which was a straight-up R&B record, and out album is a mixture hip-hop, and R&B, and we fuse our Caribbean culture with it. So when we were in the studio with Dr. Luke and Circuit, and when they started making the beat, something they were doing reminded me of Beenie Man’s “Sim Simma.” He actually started playing that, and I was like ‘That’ll be dope,' Then, once he started putting drums to it, then me and Theron started coming up with ideas. I made sure we approached the concept coming from growing up in the projects in St. Thomas, this is where we come from, this is who we are. So that’s how we came up with that.
Tell us about the experience shooting the video in both St. Thomas and the ATL.
Timothy: It was a lot of fun. Going back the V.I. is always fun cause we’ve been performing and putting music out back home for years. We’re the biggest group ever to come out of the Virgin Islands so when we go home, they always show us mad love, but we never shot an official music video back home in the V.I. We went back to our old neighborhood that we actually grew up in. In the opening scene where we're in an apartment project, that’s actually our dad in the video, and that’s actually the old apartment we grew up in. Our mom is in the video, so we really had a lot of fun, then we came back to Atlanta and shot 2 Chainz’s part. Shout out to 2 Chainz, he got on the record before he even heard it, just out of love for me and Theron. We sent it to him, he put a verse on the track and sent it back to us ASAP. Me and my brother appreciate that very much, he showed up the video shoot, and it was just a lot of love and a lot of fun.
How do you guys vibe off of each other when creating? What’s your creative process?
Theron: Sometimes my brother, he’ll be at home and hell call with like ‘hey, I got this idea,’ and vice versa, but for the most part we’re in the studio together bouncing ideas off just to keep the perfect balance. The majority of time we’ll start of a track, but sometimes you just be walking and you get a melody, but the majority of times, we start off with a track or beat, and me and my brother, we just feel like music talks to us. Some beats sound sad, some sound happy, some sound turnt up, some sound like you should ride out, and that’s how we come up with the concepts. Melodically, I don’t know, we just come up with stuff, we’ve never had writer’s block. I thank God for that, that’s a blessing, and I’m like 'yo, that’s crazy'. I don’t ever WANT to have writer’s block, but it’s just like, no matter what you do, if the beat comes on and we like it, we start boppin’ our heads; we be like ‘put me in the booth, I got something.’ So we just feed off of each other.
Do you guys ever argue over concepts?
Theron: Oh my god, we’re brothers, we argue over EVERYTHING. I just wanna let you know. Listen to me, listen to me…we argue from the most major things to the stupidest things. If you’re ever in the studio with us, you’ll be like, ‘uuuuuuuuhhhhhh, I don’t know why they just got so mad at each other.' But we’re brothers, that’s what we do, we argue, and it’s like, ok cool. But that’s just how it is.
Sibling Songwriting Duo Rock City Interview
Does working together strengthen or stress your sibling bonds?
Timothy: It definitely strengthens our bond more and more. Since we were born, we’ve always been really close. We argue, but we don’t physically fight, we’ve always done everything together; started school together, finished school together, do music together (fortunately) and that’s a blessing, so our bond as brothers grow everyday whether we’re in the studio or stage performing or working, so I think it builds our bonds as brothers.
Out of all the people you’ve worked with/written for, who was the most memorable and why?
Theron: Me and my brother have learned to control a room, and I don’t wanna say anybody was a favorite, but we’ve always been able to bring out the best in people. If you ever get the chance to hang out with us, they just fall in love and positive energy attracts positive energy. So everybody we’ve ever worked with have always been excited and happy and laughing. Honestly, I would be lying if I said ‘that’s my favorite person we’ve ever worked with.’ We have fun with everybody. It’s been a blessing that people have embraced us because when we first started, we were too different, we were too Caribbean for American music and too American for Caribbean music and now we’re regarded as ‘yo these dudes are dope, they do this and that,’ and it’s just like wow, it’s just sick, we’re just excited.
What’s next for Rock City?
Theron: Definitely going on a promotional run, throughout the United States as much as we can, radio station to radio station, trying to get people’s support behind the record. We definitely have a plan to drop an album sometime next year, working on music, also putting out records for other artists. We’re working with Nicki Minaj, Pitbull, we did the new Jaime Foxx record with 2 Chainz [“Party Ain’t A Party”], the new Fergie song with DJ Mustard [“L.A. Love (La La)”], working on Becky G, and there’s so many things we have coming as writers, new artists, big artists. We just worked on Gwen Stefani’s new project, just worked with K. Michelle, Tamar Braxton. And that’s what I mean, we go as pop as you can do, we go as R&B as we can go. We’re working on 2 Chainz, we did the new Juicy J single. Rock City is pretty busy and one of our goals is to be busy for the next 30 years. This is what we wanna do, we’re happy that we get to do it, write music for other people and ourselves, perform and do shows, and take care of our families, that’s the plan (laughs).
Well, going at this rate, it’s gonna happen!
Theron: (laughs) Thank you, thank you.
A little superlative fun: Out of the two of you, who’s the most talkative/quietest?
Theron: (laughs) Obviously I talk TOO much. And my brother doesn’t talk that much. Between me and him, I’m the talker and he’s just like, laid back in the cut. I’m crazy and he’s sane. That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell (laughs).
Most likely to get drunk?
Theron: Me. (laughs)
Theron: (laughs) I’m two for two right now.
Timothy: Probably me.
Most likely to splurge?
Theron: Timothy! No, he’s lyin!
Theron: That’s funny, cause crazy as I am, I’m cheap, and HE is, yo! Maaan, this man is MAN, I’m tellin you man! If you go the club, go to the club with Timothy. He got the section and the bottles on like “aaaaayyyee!!!”
Theron: You gotta watch him. He’s quiet, but you gotta watch him.
The quiet storm, huh?
Theron: Yes, that’s what he is!
And last but not least, who has the best fashion sense?
Timothy: Oh that’s both if us, we TOO fresh.
Theron: Yeah, I think we both different. I don’t think one of us has a better fashions sense than the other, but we’re both different. I would say I’m a little bit more eclectic. He has his own style, I have my own style but it meshes well with each other. We have some days when he try on something and I’ll try on something, but it don’t come off like that and you see I’m and you be like, ‘what are you weariiiing???’ (laughs) But we brother’s so we get to mess with each other like that, but as far as fashion sense, I think we’re both pretty fly dudes. And I think we’re both pretty original when it comes to the fashion. So we try our own things, we don’t follow too many of the trends, we mix the trends of our own style.