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There wasn't any hesitation. The boys of MKTO, Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller, instantly became best friends when they first met on the Los Angeles set of Teen Nick's Gigantic in 2010. However, in between takes, the duo couldn't stop talking about one thing.
"We dreamed of being on opposite sides of the stage rocking out with the crowd and having them sing along," smiles Kelley. "Music brought us together, and now that surreal moment is happening."
It's happening because the pair tirelessly pushed towards making their shared dream a reality. Oller recalls late nights in his Burbank apartment laughing, bonding, and recording music with Kelley until sunrise. Growing up with a deep appreciation for music, they bonded over influences ranging from Kanye West and Lil Wayne to Stevie Wonder and Muddy Waters. They also shared similar history. Kelley starred in Antwone Fisher with Denzel Washington and went on to lead the 2004 hit You Got Served before a regular and highly recognizable role as Walt Lloyd on the ABC smash Lost.
Simultaneously, Oller followed his own path in Hollywood. He went from Dinsey Channel original series As The Bell Rings to spots on CSI: NY and later the hit horror flick The Purge starring Ethan Hawke. Their friendship remains the group's driving force. Not only can they finish each other's sentences, but their brotherhood makes for a deep bond on and off stage.
The music still connected them the most though. They cut a few covers on their own for fun, but in the process, simultaneously carved out their own style—a smoothly stirred concoction of pop, hip-hop, and R&B.
"We're just honest with ourselves first and foremost," Oller goes on. "We make music that we want to hear, and it encompasses all of our influences. It's just us and whatever we're feeling."
The high-profile producer team of Emanuel “Eman” Kiriakou and Evan "Kidd" Bogart felt it too and inked a production deal with the group 2011. They signed to Columbia Records a year later and began working on what would eventually become their self-titled debut. The album spans a myriad of emotions and styles, while emanating undeniable energy guaranteeing a good time.
The world got to officially join the party when MKTO released the first single "Thank You". The song impressively garnered over 500,000 YouTube/VEVO views in just a day (1 million after three days!), and it went on to become an international hit in Australia. The track "God Only Knows" saw equal success globally, stirring up a palpable buzz in 2013. "God Only Knows" has also got fun dual meaning for Oller.
He says, "In a way, it's a song about a girl, but we wanted to juice it up and talk about a video game. Sometimes, you choose the video game over the girl. We've all been there!"
However, the second single "Classic" struts through a soulful groove with an immediately unshakable chorus and impressive rhymes. It certainly lives up to its name as well. "It's about a classic woman and bringing her home to mom," Kelley admits. "She doesn't need a lot of accessories or makeup to make herself feel better. She's comfortable in her own skin. That's the dream girl."
Everything culminates on the stunning "Goodbye Song". One of the first tracks the guys cut, it's a fitting send-off rife with a big hook and passionate delivery. "It merges rap and singing in a cool way," Kelley continues. "It's fun to perform, and it's catchy melodically. It's a unique little way of saying goodbye to a girl. You're putting your hands up and waving bye."
Another song on the album, the uplifting and kinetic "American Dream", speaks to the double entendre of their name, which not only represents their initials, but the phrase "Misfit Kids and Total Outcasts".
"You've got to do what you want to do and speak your mind," adds Oller. "It's about following your dream. We always knew that we wanted to do this. You've got to want it. I believe in this quote so much: 'You will gain success when you want it more than the air you breathe'. When you eat, sleep, and breathe it, it's yours."
They're a testament to those words, and they're going to bring this dream farther than they'd ever imagined as they tour the globe in support of the album throughout 2014 and beyond.
Oller concludes, "We make music we love. We want to entertain and give listeners an escape. Each song is a story, and everybody is invited along for the ride with us."