Joe Keery spoke about the impact of short attention spans and social media on modern society, as well as his decision to transition from starring in Stranger Things to pursuing a career in pop music.

Joe Keery spoke about the impact of short attention spans and social media on modern society, as well as his decision to transition from starring in Stranger Things to pursuing a career in pop music.


Joe Keery, the musician and actor from Stranger Things, has a passion for traditional works. He recently had the chance to visit a well-known studio in west London, which is arguably one of the most renowned in the world. However, due to tour restrictions, the name of the studio cannot be disclosed. As we explore the vast studios and cozy control rooms on a chilly morning in March, Keery is dressed in a black wool coat and a houndstooth beanie, covering his forehead. He remains mostly quiet and in awe throughout the tour. Despite being given the chance to play on a piano that Paul McCartney used to write a Beatles’ hit, he respectfully keeps his distance. His amazed expression remains unchanged until we enter one of the studio’s most prominent rooms, and a curious look crosses his face: “This reminds me of my school!”

Keery is not unfamiliar with exclusive spaces. After gaining recognition in 2016 for his role as the stylish reformed “bad boy” Steve Harrington on Stranger Things, he has attended numerous award ceremonies, talk shows, and fashion events. While his second album, 2022’s Decide, was a homemade project completed in just five days, his upcoming third album was recorded at the esteemed Electric Lady studio in New York. The studio has hosted many music legends such as Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, and AC/DC. Keery expresses his awe at the opportunity, calling it “crazy.”

Keery has had a hectic past few days in London. He recently made his first visit to the city and has been quite occupied. He made an appearance at the Brit Awards where he presented the award for best new artist. Following our conversation, he is swiftly taken to meet a limited group of admirers in Soho. During our meeting, it was just announced that his song “End of Beginning” from the album Decide, which gained popularity on TikTok, has moved up to No 5 on the UK singles chart (currently at No 4). Despite this achievement, Keery shows no signs of being overwhelmed or overjoyed. Instead, he expresses his amazement at being in the same room where the score for Lord of the Rings was mixed, while sitting on a couch in the studio’s attic.

“It has been a bit difficult to measure the success, but it has been thrilling. I am deeply appreciative that others are able to connect with the song,” he states. “As for its position on the charts, I have a hard time comprehending it – my focus is on continuing to create music and recording in interesting locations. Anything else that may come is just a bonus.”

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Keery, who hails from Massachusetts, has been involved in both acting and music since his school days. However, achieving success as an actor initially led to some inner doubts and feelings of being an impostor. In an effort to establish his electronic-inflected psych-rock music under its own merit rather than solely as a side project of the “Stranger Things Guy,” Keery performed under the alter ego Djo, often sporting a costume and wig reminiscent of Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. “I didn’t want to exploit my name as an actor and I wanted to separate Steve from Stranger Things from my music,” Keery explains. Over time, it has become widely known that Djo is just another talent of Keery’s, and he has accepted this with grace. “I don’t believe it’s done with negative intentions – at the end of the day, I am grateful to have a job.”

Keery presents Raye with an award at the Brits.View image in fullscreen

There is a paradox in the fact that End of Beginning has gained popularity through social media, even though Keery had deleted his accounts a while back (“I won’t go into details, but I don’t want to call anyone out”) and some songs on Decide express his dislike for it. He reflects, “Isn’t it strange that social media has contributed to the success of the song?” It is challenging for me to maintain a healthy relationship with social media. I have a Djo account that I don’t control – otherwise it’s easy to get sucked in. I saw a statistic about the amount of time – in years – that is spent on social media compared to your life, and I thought, “Wow, I need to disconnect.”

I inquire whether Keary is worried about experiencing a similar situation as musician Steve Lacy, who achieved top ranking on the charts with his TikTok sensation “Bad Habit,” only to discover that audience members were solely attending his concerts to hear the short 30-second segment featured in viral videos. However, Keary is not familiar with this incident. As I explain it to him, a look of terror crosses his face. He exclaims, “That’s terrible! Goodness gracious! It’s evidence of societal attention spans being too brief.” He adds, “I will have to find out about Steve Lacy. I hope I do not encounter the same situation.”