Skip to main content

Home Music Music News

Djo: Joe Keery talks viral sensation ‘End of Beginning’ and new music

Out of the upside down: The musician and Stranger Things star discusses how the runaway TikTok success of his 2022 track is informing work on his next album.

By Will Richards

Djo (Picture: Guido Gazzilli)

Joe Keery – aka Djo – is currently sitting at Number Four in the UK singles chart with ‘End of Beginning’, a song from his 2022 album DECIDE.

In recent weeks, the track – a melancholy ode to Chicago and moving onto a new phase of life – has seen a TikTok-led resurgence that is somewhat mystifying to the Stranger Things star.

“I have literally no idea what’s going on,” Keery smiles when we meet in east London as the track keeps climbing the charts. “I’m probably more confused than ever, but it’s really, really cool to see something that you’ve written affect people and have them take it in as their own and into their own lives.”

“When I’m back in Chicago I feel it / another version of me, I was in it,” he sings on the song’s downbeat chorus, and it’s the hyper-specificity of the track’s lyrics that are proving its most alluring aspect.

“I love songs that are really specific,” he says. “In the specificity, people can see themselves in the song. People substitute [my experience] for their own version in their own lives. It’s not a feeling that’s unique in their own lives.”

DECIDE was recorded in what Keery describes as “a MIDI field of insanity” during the pandemic, created almost entirely on computers and produced remotely. With ‘End of Beginning’, the last song written for the album, he returned to analogue instruments and favoured a greater simplicity.

“I come from a band [Post Animal] that’s really prog-y, and a lot of the music I like is like that too. I was questioning whether people would like this song, but now I have some distance from it, I realise that it encapsulates a specific feeling really well.”

This simplicity and a move away from software-based writing has informed work on what will become Djo’s third album. Written in between film and TV shoots and in breaks on set for Stranger Things, he teases the forthcoming music as being more organic and earthy.

 “It had been so long since I used the acoustic guitar as my base. It’ll show itself in the music. It’s not a big acoustic album, but it starts with those building blocks.”

Keery says he’s still figuring out what the new songs mean to him in real time, and how they will evolve through their final studio-based flourishes. “We’re just talking now because [‘End of Beginning’] didn’t follow the rules!” he laughs. “The material for the record is all there, but now it’s just figuring out what it is. I’m in it right now.”

With the end of Stranger Things coming this year, Keery sees Djo as an ongoing pursuit to fit into his day-to-day life around his acting work.

“The music is a really good antidote to the fatigue of waiting around for the acting stuff,” he says. “A lot of acting is waiting. You audition for something and you hope it happens, but you learn that sometimes things don’t just happen. I would love to be in a big cool movie, but you got to work at it. In the meantime, it’s really nice to have a guitar laying around, so you can be creative every day with that. I can’t just stand up and do my lines to the wall. That’s not really fun.

“Lots of actors talk about how there’s not like a great way to practice, and it’s true. There’s also not a lot of rehearsal on set. 90 per cent of the job is waiting until you have a job, and then 90 per cent of having a job is waiting until you’re on set. Only 10 per cent is working. That’s why people do theatre. Yeah. [Djo] is my version of doing that at the moment. It can scratch that creative itch.”