Goodbye Tomorrow is No One, Goodbye Tomorrow is Us All

Preme is the emcee in Goodbye Tomorrow.

He’s absolutely sure it’s alright for me to write that, except he’s not, although it’s completely fine...probably. Since they first began popping up on radars nearly two years ago the Chicago collective have been dedicated to anonymity. The art mattered, the message mattered, and our selfie-obsessed culture constantly threatens to obsess over the individual at the expense of the group.

Everything’s so me focused, so look at me, 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.
— Goodbye Tomorrow, DJBooth interview

Just look at what happened to Surf, a socially experimental, collective project that was routinely referred to as a Chance the Rapper album by fans and the media. And from The Weeknd to DVSN and beyond, initial anonymity has known become a familiar marketing strategy, building buzz through tantalizing “who are they?” chatter before stepping out into the spotlight with a grand reveal.

Goodbye Tomorrow refused to suffer the same fate - they still do. For them anonymity isn’t a temporary state, it’s the destination itself, an essential pillar of their mission. Instead, they hid their faces and projected a ‘90s tech aesthetic online, using programming as another tool of their art right alongside music and video, elements that were brought together seamlessly in a “Jay Z” video that caught widespread attention.

Rostrum Records were one of the many who noticed that something truly different had arrived, and a few months later the group was signed to the former home of WIz Khalifa and Mac Miller. It was a situation that at first seemed to hold nearly infinite promise, but soon ran into a brick wall of reality.  

We always did everything ourselves, we never wanted to have to rely on anyone else. But it turned out it was really easy for me not to listen to my own advice.
— Preme

This is not the story of a money-hungry label steamrolling a fragile artist. When we speak Preme has absolutely no ill will or bitterness towards Rostrum, and the reverse seems to hold true as well. It simply turned out to be true what he has assumed all along - that Goodbye Tomorrow’s mission truly was too unique to fit into any larger, more traditional structure.

Like any label, Rostrum is ultimately a business and it understandably struggled to market a group that philosophically refused to show their faces. As Preme recounts, many in the label seemed to have been hoping, perhaps even expecting, for them to eventually drop the anonymity, but as it became clear that wasn’t going to happen tensions mounted. And then there were the usual delays and setbacks, with the group straining to release new music and the label holding back, and it eventually became clear that the two had to part ways.

It was a learning experience, even if much of that learning was simply an affirmation of what they already knew, but working with the label also did force them to confront the possible limits of anonymity as well.

They truly believed their message could help change the world, but can you reach the entire world anonymously? Was there a point where, counter to their mission, the anonymity threatened to overwhelm the art? They were performing live behind projected screens, a captivatingly unique experience, but the screen also served to disconnect them from the audience.

Creativity is constantly evolving, and so are Goodbye Tomorrow. They’ve taken to adopting a more human voice on Twitter, and while Preme is still very much against splashing his face across every video and album, he also wants people to feel like there are actual, genuine, relatable and reachable human beings making this art, and he wants to be able to directly connect with them.

When someone comments on Instagram saying they love Goodbye Tomorrow, what? I’m not going to tell them that I did it and so they can do it too?
— Preme

Perhaps this new iteration of Goodbye Tomorrow looks something like MF DOOM’s career. DOOM is by no means a complete secret, a simple Wikipedia search reveals that his name is Daniel Dumile and tells his life story, but his dedication to wearing a mask has effectively enabled the raw power of his art to overwhelm any attachments to Dumille as an individual.

The group’s new stage show includes moving screens, allowing them to alternately remain concealed and then step out into the spotlight, a ready metaphor for their art as a whole, and if their latest EP, ;;;;;tunnel stripe exit ramp, is any indication, their music is only getting more and more gripping and dissonant.

Preme’s ideas tend to come in avalanches, occasionally cascading from him with seemingly unstoppable momentum, and those ideas do not come small-sized. He and the collective are hell bent on breaking apart the barriers that prevent humanity from connecting, a mission that’s far too powerful to be contained in any one person, any identity, and any interview.

After all, you can only stop what you can label, and completely anonymous or not, Goodbye Tomorrow remains as un-labelable as ever. So it has been, so it is, and so it always will be.

[By Nathan Slavik, aka @RefinedHype]