While Skrillex might be the face of hard-dance EDM in the U.S. this year, his friends and collaborators from the U.K. Nero are quickly becoming popular. In fact, Nero’s Daniel Stephens and Joe Ray, joined by frequent vocal partner Alana Watson, have five stellar hit singles across the pond from their debut album, Welcome Reality, which is now available in the U.S.
Notably, here in the States, fan support has surged, with strong Stateside gigs, a recording deal with Interscope and their single “Me & You” even being used in a Beats by Dre commercial featuring the good doctor himself. It’s another endearing success story spawned from a genre that, in the past, catered to a very few, but today, the masses clearly can’t get enough of.
“We’ve had songs off the album that have charted very well in the U.K.,” Stephens recently told MTV News. “And we come over here wondering — because they are not on the radio and not charting here — we wonder if they’ve translated over to the U.S. market, and we are always really shocked and amazed when they go off just as much over here.”
Watson added, “For the crowds here in the States, ‘Guilt,’ ‘Promises’ has had a massive reaction, with obviously Skrillex doing a collab remix of that for us, which is amazing!”
Of the group’s live performances, Stephens explained, “You can’t really hear Alana. When we play live now, she’s just drowned out by the crowd. It’s very humbling when you got a whole massive room of people just singing your songs back to you. We all feel like rocks stars now.”
Welcome Reality is a cinematic, electronic opus inspired by colleagues like Daft Punk and ’80s sci-fi films like “Blade Runner” and “Aliens.” Nods to the music and pop culture of the ’80s are no more prevalent than on their latest single, “Reaching Out,” which features ’80s recording legend Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates, who recorded original vocals for Nero, and bits from the Hall & Oats classic “Out of Touch.”
“A guy that works in the office just next to our studio, he produced [Hall's] most-recent album,” Stephens explained. “So, he said, ‘Oh, I know Daryl. I can sort that out for you. He’d probably be up for singing some new material on the track as well.’
“So, back and forth through emails, he agreed that he would re-sing that passage and sing a whole brand-new fresh chorus for the track. So, it’s all original Daryl Hall material, which is amazing! And he still just sounds so great. It’s incredible.”
Though Nero and Watson have yet to meet Mr. Hall in person, collaborating with the ’80s icon proved to be a career milestone for the trio.
“Just having this ’80s legend, it wasn’t an obvious way to go,” Stephens continued. “So for us, that felt really special. We got this guy that we love, but also this fresh thing to have on a dance track. No one else had really done that.”
The video for “Reaching Out” is, fittingly, as stellar a nod to the era as the song, a “Miami Vice”-meets-”Scarface” short film of Miami ’80s opulence comprised of stock footage from the decade. Welcome Reality also features U.K. hit singles “Innocence,” “Me & You,” “Guilt” and “Promises.”