Marc Rebillet Takes His Improvised Musical Stylings on Tour

Marc Rebillet is standing in a mostly empty living room with a huge grin on his face. Wearing nothing but a bronze­colored silk robe and a pair of black-and-white boxer briefs, he holds a microphone in his left hand. Headphones are clamped to his ears, and his right hand hovers over a keyboard. The caller on the line wants a song about “getting it on with a big-booty Black girl.” Rebillet pauses, never losing his smirk. “I could get blasted for this,” he says, laughing. For the next 12 minutes and five seconds, Rebillet, his keyboard, and a loop machine (he’s known around the internet as Loop Daddy) oblige the caller with a bedroom groove featuring a bass line straight from an ’80s R&B quiet-storm playlist. The chat box lights up. Everyone wants to “work that ass for Daddy.”

Since 2016, Rebillet (pronounced RUB-EE-yay) has been livestreaming completely improvised musical performances on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes Twitch to millions of viewers. His first taste of virality came in 2007. Rebillet, then an energetic 18-year-old, was the first person in line at an AT&T store in Dallas to buy an iPhone, and he hammed it up for the camera when a woman bought his spot for $800. The video racked up 4 million views. He quit college the following year to start a music career. Rebillet was a classically trained pianist, and he would eventually work with private teachers to learn about sound engineering, mixing, and jazz theory. But he had no plan for how to bring his music to larger audiences. “I’ve never been good at strategy, you know? It was all just shots in the dark,” Rebillet, now 32, says, shrugging in the living room of his chic Manhattan apartment.

When he started building a fandom a decade later, it wasn’t just through a screen. People pay to see Rebillet live and in person. In the pandemic year alone, after national restrictions eased, he performed a sold-out drive-in tour. Now, he is returning to live shows across the U.S. with another tour, called “Third Dose,” and at festivals like Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. During his sets, he often displays a phone number onscreen and takes suggestions from his audience, but he never knows what kind of music he’ll create that day. The results range from EDM to ’70s funk to mournful piano solos. Along with the essential equipment — keyboard, loop machine, laptop, the occasional handheld percussion instrument, and plenty of beverages by his side — Rebillet pairs smooth vocals with a porn star–meets–stand-up comedian vibe. Most of his lyrics come from whatever’s in his head that day. Viewers request songs about just about anything: sobriety, quarantine hookups, long­distance friendships. His fans range from bros who want him to make up songs about breasts and weed to women who need encouragement about finding a new job to celebrities like Ice-T and Erykah Badu, who joined him onstage during one of his drive-in-tour stops in Fort Worth, Texas.

Rebillet at Lollapalooza on July 31.
Photo: Taylor Regulski for Lollapalooza

Rebillet grew up in Dallas, and for most of his 20s he worked with local rappers, making beats and earning no money. He originally wanted to become a producer, so he created a SoundCloud under the name leae (pronounced lay). “It was just this nonsense word I came up with because there were no other results for that word on Google. So it was like if you type that in, then I would be the only thing that came up, you know?” Rebillet explains. “It was a half-assed attempt at producing where I wasn’t trying to make connections in a serious way.” (He eventually quit trying to produce more formally because he found it “boring.”) He was similarly aimless when he moved to New York — where he worked as an executive assistant and a server to make ends meet — for the first time in 2011. “I made up a solo EP under that name and had a little release party for it on my roof. Just fun, but [it] didn’t really do anything,” he says.

In 2014, Rebillet returned to Dallas to look after his father, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. (He died in late 2018.) While there, he ordered a loop machine to mess around with. He was inspired by the way musician Reggie Watts used the device in his sets, looping layers of music on top of one another. Growing up playing piano, Rebillet had never liked practicing, so making songs on the fly appealed to him. The looper eventually changed the trajectory of his career, but it took him a couple years to take learning it seriously (because he was “a lazy shit,” in his own words).

In 2016, Rebillet began posting “idealogues,” videos of him improvising music, online. The following year, he set up a phone line so viewers could chat with him about topics of their choosing. Callers would present him with a subject like “pooping your pants.” He describes his decision to start streaming as “farting around,” but when people began leaving him tips on his livestreams, he realized there could be a bit of money in what he was doing. He started doing sets at BrainDead Brewing in Dallas, the first place to pay him to perform. Soon, he was playing at other local restaurants, including Twilite Lounge and the Common Table; his online presence grew as he continued to stream videos of his performances. After about two years of moving between livestreams and bar gigs, Rebillet returned to New York. His YouTube following had grown from 5,000 to 40,000 subscribers, and he knew he needed to take advantage of whatever was happening. “I had been helping my mom and taking care of my dad for three or four years at that point,” he says. “We had decided that if it had gotten to a point where my dad no longer derived anything valuable from my presence there, and if there was a reason for me to make a move, that maybe that would be the time to do it.”

By the end of 2018, Rebillet was booking shows at the Bowery Electric, the Kingsland, (Le) Poisson Rouge, and the Abbey. Within two months of his return to the city, “something happened online,” he says. “All the videos I’d been uploading to Facebook started getting shared around like crazy [with] a million and a half views, 2 million views, 3 million views. I started getting a bunch of DMs about playing in Germany, France, the U.K. And I really didn’t know how to answer these people.” A booking agent in Brooklyn contacted him, offering representation. “I signed with them, and they took over my Facebook and DMs and put together for me a North American tour that was grueling,” says Rebillet, shaking his head at the memory. He did over 30 dates in the span of a month and a half. “It was really poorly routed, but they were shows, and they were ticketed shows. They were like 200-, 250-cap venues, and they sold out within a week and a half.” Rebillet’s shows continue to sell out rapidly. During his most recent live performances, he says, the vibes have been unmatched. “You can feel it in the air — the relief, the joy, the unbridled sense of togetherness,” he says. “I’ve never been happier to play. Let’s fucking go.”

In the quiet of his apartment, Rebillet is mellow, but on his livestreams, he has to be quick; there’s little room for dead air. Part of his appeal is his unreserved passion when performing. It can be sensual to watch him, even when he’s not throwing a coquettish wink to the camera or sliding a finger into his bellybutton. His fans leave comments saying they just had sex to his livestream; his DMs are filled with testimonials from people who have lost their virginity to his music (along with declarations he remains more discreet about). Men hold up signs at his shows that say their girlfriends want to have sex with him. People of all gender expressions post videos of themselves dancing to his songs, shaking ass in their underwear. “I’m just very comfortable with the way I look,” Rebillet says of his confidence, leaning back on his plush red Togo sectional. “It’s good enough for me.”

Part of Rebillet’s sense of humor onstage is about embodying characters. Sometimes that involves generically channeling a woman — as with “Two Girls, One Quarantine,” a bedroom anthem sung from the points of view of two women — or putting on a Blaccent, as in “Work That Ass for Daddy.” When I first spoke to Rebillet last year, I asked him how he thinks about appropriation in his work. He pointed to his appreciation of the genres he’s working within, but​on some level, he can’t explain how he thinks about it intellectually. When he’s improvising, he goes to a place where he’s not overthinking every decision he makes. “There’s lots of ways in which you can fuck that up and be extremely insensitive,” he said. “But when I’m doing it, there’s not much thought. I am just trying to do something dope and deliver that in an honest way. Even if I’m saying stupid shit about butts and pussies, the music is hopefully pretty good — there needs to be that foundation there in order for the humor to work. I hope I’m not fucking it up. That’s all I can say, you know?”

Rebillet still does everything on the creative side himself. He edits his videos and overlays text as he layers sounds — things like “It’s not funk until some bass hits that sweet ass,” followed by “Time to ruin it with my stupid voice.” He fields all calls, answering them live without screening, which can make for some awkwardness when the caller is starstruck or doesn’t want to engage. (One time, he hung up on a caller for not bringing the energy he wanted.) He claims to spend nine-to-12 hours a day managing his social-media accounts. “I think that is part of the appeal,” he explains. “I don’t want to hand that off to anyone.”

Rebillet admits his aversion to structure is holding him back from achieving certain goals. He knows he’ll need help if he wants to create music that lasts. “I have this deep desire to create a full, realized, composed piece of work, but it’s hard for me to find the will and the patience to carry that out,” he says. “I’m reaching this point where I think I need a collaborator to give me that juice to carry through a more traditional production process and make something real.” Before the second wave of COVID-19 shut down Los Angeles last fall, he spent October in the city meeting with Snoop Dogg, Flying Lotus, and Watts, whom he cites as his main influence. “Reggie is the dream collaborator for me because there is a fondness and a comfort in commonality,” he says. When he is ready to pursue an album, Rebillet hopes it will be a collaboration with his idol. “That excites me: the prospect of having someone else who wants to achieve this thing with me,” he says. “These one-off, one-take things, they’re fun, but they’re not super-deep, you know? I’d like to make something deeper.”

In fact, he knows exactly what he wants: “A stone-cold piece of funk that is not a buttoned-up Vulfpeck shit. And it’s not pop heavy, like Anderson .Paak shit. It’s more Sly & the Family Stone raw-heroin-laced shit.” Rebillet grows more intense as he talks about it. He leans forward, his elbows on his knees. “It would be, at most, ten songs, and this would be something you could put on to fuck to. Nothing but a vibe for 30 to 40 minutes.”

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