By now we all know the script. A new artist - or a group? - bubbles up through the music ranks anonymously, identity kept secret, face always in the shadows. And then, when the public has been whipped into a frenzy of unknowning, the mystery artist is revealed in a flourish of press and live shows. It's anti-marketing as marketing, a carefully calculated PR plan wrapped in a shroud of artistic integrity.
That is not Goodbye Tomorrow's script.
Or to be more accurate, after speaking with them I'm choosing to believe their insistence that they're truly committed to the ideals of anonymity, that their career will be more MF Doom than The Weeknd. I believe in them and those ideals enough to continue to keep their identities a secret, although I can confirm that Goodbye Tomorrow is more than one person, even more than a group. In the vein of recent collectives like The Social Experiment, Goodbye Tomorrow is more of an idea, a constantly shifting crew of musicians, photographers, computer programmers, designers and more, all united by their desire to make art that transcends ego.
According to the group, it all started about three years ago with an, "...epiphany about the ways things worked, about collaboration. There was a point where I got over the ego, where I was concerned about us getting somewhere instead of me getting somewhere. And together we can go so much farther, make such better shit."
The evidence of that "better shit" has been mounting since Goodbye Tomorrow first began to reveal itself to the public in February of 2015, with the release of "Jay Z." Since then we've received a slow but steady stream of new music, all of it meticulously designed to further the message that Goodbye Tomorrow is so driven to get across, a message aimed at finding a space of true self worth in the empty Age of the Selfie.
"It's about the collective nature of humanity," they said. "What's possible when we get rid of the me-me-me bullshit. Everything's so me focused, so look at me, and hip-hop's a microcosm of that, but that attitude is everywhere. Our whole idea is to get rid of that. Our message is the power we have that we can take back and claim, to get over the bullshit that divides us."
I recognize that might sound like lofty talk, but in many ways that's part of the problem. Our expectations for music have become so low and immediate that a statement as simple and direct as using music as a vehicle for self worth sounds grandiose, and there's some real truth in the idea that anonymity can be a powerful tool in that work. Goodbye Tomorrow watched the release of Surf closely and saw that no matter how hard The Social Experiment fought to emphasize that their music was a collective effort, the media and the public inevitably thought of it as a Chance the Rapper album, at most Chance the Rapper and The Social Experiment. As they pointed out, as soon as we knew who the people involved in Surf were, the message they were trying to convey was "interpreted and stripped apart and turned into something else."
By keeping people focused on the music and not who Goodbye Tomorrow is, what they're wearing and where they're from, the group hopes to be that exceedingly rare thing, musicians who exist solely within the realm of their music, a realm they can carefully control. From the music to the videos to their purposefully 16-bit site, that realm is all about "ctrl alt deleting your brain," giving people a space to escape from the constant pressure to update their status and check how many likes their latest selfie got and reconnect with their pre-digital selves, although the group is careful to state that they're not anti-technology. As they put it, "The future is awesome, we're excited about technology. It just came so quick people didnt get a chance to adjust. Technology outpaced humanity and we forgot who we were."
We're now just a few short days away from the August 14 release of their album, A Journey Through the Mind of a Non Believer, a project that's been years in the works and one they hope will truly connect with people. But even if that album is a huge success, don't expect Goodbye Tomorrow to step into the spotlight. As they said, "We've probably had 60 conversations with labels talking about the big reveal, when it will happen, but no, there will be no big reveal. For us, it's about you interacting with us and the world through our art."
Only time will tell if they're able to hold true to their ideals, they're well aware that the coming years will be a real "humility check," but right now I believe in their intentions, and regardless of the outcome, we need artists like them who are striving to create something different. We're our most true selves when no one is watching, so in an age when we're constantly broadcasting our lives, how can we possibly recognize that true self. Goodbye Tomorrow may not have the answer, but at least they're asking the question.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer/talker. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]