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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: Abstract Theory

Louie Petrone emcees the Pittsburgh Hip-Hop project Abstract Theory. The new album PULP is fun at times and dark at other times, as Louie raps about heartbreak, regret, love, pleasure, and just about everything in between. The song “Tongue Tied” features singer Sierra Sellers.

Louie Petrone recently spoke with WYEP’s Joey Spehar.

This conversation may be lightly edited for content, clarity, or length.

What’s your musical history up to this point?

Pat Hogan

My music history has been a wild ride. I started learning instruments in middle school. In high school, I met one of my best friends, Mark Doman, and we’d skip school or leave early go to his basement, which was filled with musical instruments, and just play whatever came to our heads. In that basement, I started rapping, which was in like 2011. Mark really started snowballing my passion for music because that and longboarding were all we’d do together. He started teaching me about FL Studios and I fell in love with that program/DAW.

In 2012, I graduated high school and we went to separate colleges, but still kept in contact, and still do to this day. A lot of the friends I used to hang out with would go to this local producer’s basement, his name was Doug Funny. There I started finding my voice in the Hip-Hop world. Unfortunately, Doug and I had a falling out when I left to go to Penn State main campus a few years later. Then, Doug unfortunately ended his life a couple of years after that. I can say to this day without that time with Mark and without that time with Doug Funny, I wouldn’t have stuck to my guns with music.

When I left for Penn State main campus in 2015, my love for music and Hip-Hop really started snowballing and I started to perform live in front of others. But me performing in front of others wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t get the courage to do so from my Hip-Hop Theater class with Kikora Franklin, a spoken word club (W.O.R.D.S), an open mic club, and starting a conglomerate organization with other students called Performing Arts Council (P.A.C) during my time at Penn State. These gave me the opportunities I needed to move forward in finding my voice, footing, and sound.

I wrote my first mixtape called "Lyrical Economy" and Abstract Theory was born. I got to open for The Chainsmokers & Dej Loaf up there, found my first music partner, Troy Reeves, and found my way to New Zealand to study abroad. In NZ I made friends who were in the music scene and went to a music school and made the decision to really pursue music when I got back to the States with Troy. As soon as I got back from NZ to Pittsburgh (2017), Troy and I hit the ground running trying to find any opportunity we could perform, write, and find a sound that embodied Abstract Theory. We both wrote our EP together called Wasted Youth. It received some notoriety when we worked at a nightclub together and got to open for KRS One, NBA Youngboy, & GHerbo. The promoter at the nightclub, Kelton, knew KRS One personally. He put our music in front of him and we got our first break, going on tour with KRS One in the Netherlands (2019).

After we were on tour, we came back to writing new music together (“Forget About It” ft. Sierra Sellers, Blue & Tapedecks) and our own music separately. Unfortunately with time, Troy and I strayed creatively and stopped working together as a group. I was left with the decision to start anew or keep the name of Abstract Theory and really progress the sound I’d been chasing. I chose to keep Abstract Theory and really solidify its existence in the Hip-Hop world. I started working closely with Remy Vega putting out singles Retro Love Ft. K.D.B (at ~350k streams), Fallin’ Ft. K.D.B, & Not There (at ~150k streams), and with Sam Kisic & Studio 22 to put out singles Again, Knowless, Ride (Freestyle), SUM, & Tapedecks Live at Enclave. Sam and I started really nailing down some creative endeavors like a stop animation music video for “SUM” using Legos and trying to find that West Coast Jazzy Hip-Hop sound that became PULP.

When I make music, I really want to tell a story and make the listener feel an emotion. In today’s society, it’s too often we avoid our emotions. So it’s my goal to bring something that makes someone feel anything other than avoidance. I want them to start to hear themselves and connect again.

Pat Hogan

How do you describe your sound?

This whole album is very West Coast Jazzy Hip-Hop. A lot of my favorite groups are from the West Coast. Although the whole album is a lot of live instrumentation & no samples, I wanted to embrace that West Coast sound that created a vibe and atmosphere on the predominately digital songs (i.e. “Tongue Tied (Prod by YZ),” “Night Shift (Prod By Stoic),” “She Got Away (Pieper Beats),” “Retro Love Ft. K.D.B (Prod by Remy Vega)”), and the songs that had predominately live instrumentation I wanted a warmer jazzy feel (i.e. “Autumn,” “Aware,” and “Fishing”).

Tell us more about the song “Tongue Tied.” What inspired you to write it and what does it mean to you?  

This whole album is based on emotions and events that take place in the timeline of a relationship with a partner & within yourself. “Tongue Tied” is based on that moment/feeling that occurs when you go on the first date and you’re extremely enamored with the individual your on a date with. You don’t know how to talk, your tongue doesn’t work properly, it’s all dry or everything is coming out twisted, you can’t sit still, you don’t know what to do with your hands, or whether or not you should go in for the first kiss, your heart is beating out of your chest, your palms are all sweaty, you can’t stop staring at that person, & you don’t know whether the other person feels the same way when all you want to do is know how they feel. Everything is just leading up to the moment you finally embrace each other.

What was the first album that really changed your life?    

The first album that really changed my life was the 1996 Sublime album. There’s not one bad song on that album.

Who are some other Pittsburgh artists you think more people should listen to?  

Sierra Sellers, Back Alley Sound, Bill Waves, Beedie, Yak The Atlas, Cliff Fields, Julian Atwater, & Wild Blue Yonder

Any other super interesting things we should know about you?

I make music videos for others under the name Concentrated Fruit. My most recent music video I filmed and edited was for Bill Waves & Beedie’s SKy’s The Limit, which is live on YouTube here. I recently shot a short film with this homeless guy, named ElderBeatMaster, who does spoken word Hip-Hop, which is also live on my YouTube page under this link. I’m submitting it to the Sundance Film Festival under the Short Film category. I also do comedy around town and in Ohio weekly. I’ve played Joe Rogan’s club (The Comedy Mothership) and Cap City Comedy Club down in Austin, TX.

Learn more about Abstract Theory here.

Check out previous Pittsburgh Artists of the Week here.

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.