Daren Vongirdner, better known as DVG, is an up and coming hip-hop artist and creative currently based in Los Angeles. Vongirdner first started gaining traction for his work on the popular YouTube channels The Philip DeFranco Show and SourceFed. His on-camera appearances brought an elevated sense of charm and fun to the videos, most notably in Roommates Forced to Build IKEA Furniture at 3AM and Best Friends Play Two Truths and A Lie.
DVG is also known as the co-host of the now-defunct She Didn’t Text Back podcast alongside William Haynes, which lived the HeadGum network. While he was busy infiltrating the YouTube and podcast scenes, Vongirdner continued to produce and release music on a consistent basis, eventually leading to his debut EP, “Hold Me to It”.
DVG has since switched gears in full pursuit of his music career. His most recent release My Life Became Beautiful charted #10 on iTunes, and it’s easy to see why. The tracks are smooth and lyrical, making it the perfect album for cruising around on summer days. His two follow up singles, No Sleep ft. Meghan Tonjes, and Different Seasons, received a ton of love and support on social media. Needless to say, there’s a lot of buzz building around the young hip-hop artist who is currently working on new music.
I sat down with DVG to discuss his hot tracks, what got him started in music, and how he’s is prepped to make 2017 his year.
Firstly some general introductory stuff, where’d you grow up and what were you listening too?
DVG: I was born into the type of family that moved to a new city every year. But, if I had to narrow it down to one location, I would say Hacienda Heights. Blink 182 was on constant repeat.
How old were you when you first started making music, what sort of stuff were you making? Was it always rap or were you messing around with a few genres?
DVG: I started playing the bass when I was 12 and quickly moved to the guitar. I had always written music but never showed anyone out of pure embarrassment. Jumping from pop-punk, death metal, folk, and hip hop. Someday I plan on starting an indie rock band just to keep things fresh.
You’ve mentioned that Philip DeFranco played a massive role in giving you your first break. Could you speak on how that relationship formed and how it affected your work as a creative?
DVG: Phil is a great dude who taught me a lot and gave me tons of professional and life experience. I don’t think I would say he gave me my first break but the companies he built definitely paved the way. Funny enough, I randomly tweeted at him when he was on a plane drunk, doing a Q&A. I simply asked him if I can work for him, he replied asking what I can do and the rest was history. His people called my people a few days later.
During your time at SourceFed what were the core roles you played behind the scenes and more importantly, in what ways do you feel your work at SF has impacted your art? Are there any skills or habits you formed over at SF that you see popping up in aspects of your music?
DVG: During the five years I worked at SourceFed, I did as much as I possibly could - besides guest hosting the Philip DeFranco Show. The job never impacted my art but the people that worked in that building definitely did. Shout out to Elliott Morgan and Joe Bereta one time.
When did you have that epiphany get-your-ass-in-gear moment, where you knew you had to leave Sourcefed and chase your career as a musician?
DVG: I’ve always had that “get-your-ass-in-gear” mentality, I was just patently creating the right moment. But the final FINAL moment was when I performed live at our SXSW She Didn’t Text Back show. In that hour block my life changed and I knew I had to quit.
Shortly after leaving SF, My Life Became Beautiful dropped. What were some of your biggest influences and inspirations that went into making this project? What were the core feelings and message you wanted to get across?
DVG: I wanted to share how I was feeling leading up to quitting my job. Half of the EP was written while still having a 9-5 and the other half was after the fact. I look back and that was such a special time in my life. I know I wanted more and I was at the beginning stages of getting it.
I found that thematically, your album really pushed ideas of being ambitious, appreciating the moment and being firm in chasing your dream. Do you consciously consider the themes of a song you want to make before touching pen to paper - or do you write lyrics based on what you’re feeling and then find the thematic connections organically?
DVG: I’ve been attempting different approaches to songwriting as of late but the majority of the time it is based on emotion. It is based on how the music makes me feel, what I am currently going through. I search for that first line/melody and the rest is just a puzzle that needs to be completed.
How many songs were written before you got down to the seven that made the EP? Speak on how that selection process went down. Was there a specific concept and story you were trying to adhere to? Similarly to the previous question - was it all premeditated or were you finding the sound as you went along from moment to moment.
DVG: There were a few songs that never saw the light of day but only because I felt they weren’t as good as the 7 final cuts. I write a lot more songs in between projects that never make it. Usually, when I am making an EP, the few times that I have, I know what I want and a rough idea of how long the project should be.
My Life Became Beautiful never tries to stunt or flex on the listener. You keep it very down to earth. For example, in the song, I Don’t Wana Do It -
You drop the bars ‘Can’t wait til they see I made it, can’t wait til they ask for favors... Can’t wait for my confidence to go up.’ You are very clear about being someone who is working towards something big, instead of being someone who already has it all. How important is to you that you maintain that level of transparency with the listeners? Do you find that it creates a more loyal fan base?
DVG: I try not to look at any of this as a way to gain followers. I think that’s cheesy. Not to say that that is a bad thing, it’s just not my vibe. I make music and it makes me happy. Period. I appreciate everyone who is along for the ride but I’m doing this for me.
Following up on the idea of transparency. My Life Became Beautiful has a lot of very honest moments - the stand out being 834 On A Sunday. If you’re comfortable could you speak a little more on what that record means to you?
DVG: The record is about the relationship I have with my mother. She used to be my hero but as I grew up we sort of went separate ways. The record means a lot to me and I honestly can’t wait to perform it live.
When it comes to honesty and personal stories in music, is it a more sensitive process? What are some of the things you consider before putting out a song of that nature? Are there things you write and then pull back on, are there moments where you’re holding back but then say ‘fuck it’ and go all in with exposing the reality of the story you’re telling?
DVG: I’ve had a few lyrics that never made it because it would have hurt feelings of people I care about. This doesn’t happen often because I view this as a way to express myself, but not everything needs to be shared.
How many iterations did these tracks go through before becoming the songs we vibe to on the EP?
DVG: Each song on My Life Became Beautiful was rewritten/re-recorded a handful of times. I was at a very unsure point and wanted to create exactly what I heard in my head. Although I am extremely pleased with the final result there are things that I would tweak if I had to redo it today.
Since the EP, you’ve dropped Different Seasons (a Friends concept record) - where did this concept come from, what drew you to this idea?
DVG: Honestly, I binge watched FRIENDS with my girlfriend for the first time and absolutely loved the show. I thought the dynamic of Ross and Rachel was written so perfectly- their feelings towards each other were always in Different Seasons.
The video for this song is incredibly well done. Every new video has a unique appeal from the previous. How involved are you in the music video process. Is anyone else involved in coming up with concepts for videos - or is it all you?
DVG: Thank you. Different Seasons was all me but it isn’t always that way. A lot of the bigger production stuff that I’ve done have always been a team effort.
Aside from the music videos, on occasion, you also vlog. Two questions about that. 1.) How do you feel vlogging has strengthened the relationship with your fans? 2.) Have your drone skills improved?
I feel the only thing it has truly done, is just that, strengthened the relationship. I guess it has allowed people to see more than just a polished product. The flaws are sometimes the best part. Ha, yeah my drone skills have improved but I still get a bit nervous anytime I fly it.
You also recently dropped, No Sleep ft. Meghan Tonjes, who’ve you’ve collaborated with in the past - how did that relationship form and can we expect more collaborations soon?
DVG: I met her at VidCon five years ago while she was drunkenly doing an interview with Elliott Morgan. This never made it to the internet because of the whole drunk thing. We’ve been great friends ever since. She is pure talent and if she isn’t on the radio in five years, I WILL FIGHT someone.
Who are some other up-and-coming artists or bigger artists that you’d love to collaborate with?
DVG: Chance the Rapper. Jon Bellion. Kanye West.
Collaboration aside - If you had to enter a major rap beef, who do you think would be the most epic to beef with?
DVG: In my current state of mind, I would never do this- who knows what I will be like in five years. But, if it had to be someone I would choose, DMX.
Different Seasons & No Sleep both display that you have a wide range of music you produce. Where do you see your sound going?
DVG: I’m still in early stages of this new EP- so I am unsure. My favorite thing about music writing is coming up with melodies, so it’s a sure bet to say that it is going to be wayyyy more melodic.
As an independent artist, what is the process of putting together a tour and producing merch? What goes into getting those aspects of your career up and running?
DVG: I have no clue. If you have the answers to this please email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Real talk. As far as merch goes, I’ve been silk screening t-shirts since I was 13 years old. I come from a family of eBay flipping, so I know a thing or two about merch. I also owned a clothing company for many years. If you do some searching you can still find photos.
What’s one thing that you want to say to the people who fuck with your music or look up to you?
DVG: Thank you so very much. You allowed me to take a risk and I am forever grateful. I have a new project coming out soon and I hope you enjoy it.