KCR One-On-One: Beauty School Dropout

I got to sit down last week with Beauty School Dropout to talk about their music, working with Lauren Sanderson, Cole’s boyfriend Harry Styles, their clothing brand Dropout, and so much more.

You can watch the video here, but below is the lovely interview!

I am so excited today because I am here with Beauty School Dropout! How are you all doing today?

Cole : We’re doing great! 

Bardo : Excellent.

Brent : Waking up.

Cole : Kinda in a frenzy. I just got back from the beach, literally we all just walked in just before this meeting.

Perfect, perfect. So let’s just start this off by individually introducing yourselves and your role in the band.

Cole : I’m Cole, I sing and play guitar. 

Brent : Ok, I’ll go second. 

Bardo : Save the best for last!

Brent : I’m B, or Brent and I play bass.

Bardo : I’m Bardo and I’m a producer and I play guitar.

Cool! I’m not musically talented whatsoever. I played the drums when I was ten, but I gave up because I kept learning the basics and I wanted to learn songs. So my mom sold my drum kit. 

Bardo : I sat through lessons my whole life and I just always end up quitting or like getting kicked out because I never actually did practice. I would just write songs or manipulate the teachers into opening up GarageBand and writing songs.

Brent : See I’ve been nasty since I was born. 

My drum teacher, it was like this very tiny room, and he had very strong smelling arthritis cream that he would put on like right before we started every time. This room would be 2×2 and just smell like arthritis cream, so now you understand why I quit.

Cole : Yeah, that’s pretty funny. Just BENGAY stinking up the room. 

Brent : Ah BENGAY.

It made no sense. 

Cole : Wow, fire. 

Yup

Cole : I’m so sorry.

But how did you get into making music together? 

Cole : Oh, together? It’s kind of a long tale. It’s serendipitous how we all met. Our story is a little bit funnier. There was this girl I had a crush on and I saw that her friend was in my hometown, so I hit her up when I was going home to San Diego, and I was like, “Wanna hang out?” and she was just like, “Can I bring my boyfriend?” And I was like, “Yeah! I would love to meet your boyfriend!” 

Brent : I’m the boyfriend. 

Cole : And this was the boyfriend and we ended up becoming boyfriends too. 

Brent : Yeah! My favorite part is imagine you’re the boyfriend that’s showing up. And I just bought him coffee because I wanted to swoon him. I was like, “wow this dude is so hot, I’m gonna make him my boyfriend.” 

Cole : Yeah, it was pretty mutual. And then we met at a show. I used to help co-produce events at this spot called Winston House. We had a mutual friend who was performing and he showed up. At that time it was still kinda a solo project / we were just starting to figure out that we wanted to play shows together, and so we ended up kind of forcing him into the corner. And we were like, “No, no, you’re joining this band.”

Bardo : At the time, I was producing for other artists and just doing the whole songwriter producer thing. The first session we did it was just like these two guys came over and we just started making stuff. We’re like, “Oh OK, cool.” At first I was like I’m not going to be part of this. 

Brent : “I’m just going to produce.”

Bardo : I’m just gonna watch this thing.

Brent : And you never left.

Bardo : And here I am. Cole never left.

Cole : That was also on the decline of my last relationship, so I like started staying on the couch or something. It was hectic. 

Bardo : Everyone left the session one time, and I was literally about to go to bed. It was like 3 in the morning and for some random reason, I just decided to walk back downstairs. My phone was dead or some shit, and I hear this banging on the outside door. I look outside, I thought it was a homeless man. It’s Cole, back from his house, and he’s like, “can I sleep on your couch?” 

Cole : My girlfriend kicked me out. 

I mean hey, it all worked in the long run because here you are!
Cole : Yeah, yeah. Definitely. It all happened for a reason.

Wild stories, but great stories. Probably one of the best I’ve heard honestly. 

Photo Credit: Natasha Ribeiro-Austrich | @natribaus

How did you come up with this name Beauty School Dropout?

Cole : So, I’m so OCD about naming things and when this was still technically my solo project, I was running through various different monikers that I was trying to figure out what I wanted to go under. One day, I kinda just popped this one into my brain, and threw it in my bio. This was probably like 6 months before we even started doing anything together, any of us. Then at the time when we started working, I was like I think this is what the name should be. And everyone has been really kind and loving about it, so we kept it.

Catchy, but if you do search your name on Google the first thing that comes up is like stuff from Grease.

Brent : Wait so we have a new metric for ourselves. Once we’ve beat that, we’ll know we made it. 

That’s like Of Mice & Men, the band, the same deal, the book comes up. But now they come up, which might just be my Google. 

Cole : It definitely does. I grew up listening to them too.

Bardo : I get scared when people search on Spotify. Does like Grease come up or do we come up? 

I think you do on there thankfully.

Brent : We got Frankie Avalon on there.

Cole : I don’t mind all too much because I love that movie and I feel like somehow people will remember it. Even if they don’t find us, or are intending on finding us, or vice versa like, it just sticks. They’re like, “oh! Beauty School Dropout, that band!” 

Bardo : I saw this cover, or someone was covering Beauty School Dropout Grease, the other day. I looked on YouTube and I’m like what?? Then I was like, oh. 

Wrong one, wrong one.

Cole : Like wow people are covering our songs.

Bardo : But it’s cool because I mean like certain people aren’t necessarily going to remember, a lot of younger, Gen Z kids, aren’t going to remember Grease. They may not have seen the movie or they just ya know. So Beauty School Dropout will just be this thing that is more of a saying, which is kind of cool. 

I honestly forget that there are people younger than me out there. 

Cole : We watched a video last week of what, kids or teeenagers reacting to Nirvana and Paramore. 

Paramore???

Cole : Being like, “Oh what is this?” Like what? Who raised you?

Brent : They’re like, “Oh I’ve heard this song before.”

It’s like this song recently, Potential Breakup Song, because Aly and Aj just did a revamp of it and made it explicit. But I have two little sisters, they’re 18 and 16. They’re like, “Oh yeah that’s the song from TikTok.” I looked at them and I was like, “that’s not a song from TikTok, that’s my childhood.”

Bardo : That song slapped. I remember buying it on iTunes. 

You gotta get the explicit version now because it makes you even more mad. 

Bardo : So good!

Brent : Oh, I know that song.

So good. 

Bardo : The Cowbells movie. 

Oh my gosh! I talk about that all the time and my sisters won’t watch it with me! It’s a classic! 

Photo Credit: Natasha Ribeiro-Austrich | @natribaus

Let’s talk about this year already for you all, since you started off by releasing a song with Lauren Sanderson called over again. So how did that collaboration even happen or come to be?

Cole : I met Lauren a while back, also when I was throwing shows at that place called Winston House. She did a showcase there and that was kind of the initial step of us meeting. There was another showcase like two or three days later that we went to and she was performing, also hanging out with one of our friends at the time. So like, when quarantine started we kinda hit the ground running and sent our producer pack out to a bunch of artists that we admire, wanted to work with, whatever, just to see who would come back. And she was one of the first people and we’ve kind of ended up getting our hands on just about all of her songs since. But that being said, because we were producing a lot of her music, we got a feature on her re-release, which was pretty special to be able to share with her. 

That is such a great song, and I love Lauren Sanderson. So I found out about you all, and then that song was released, so my mind was just not being able to comprehend.

Brent : That’s sweet!

Cole : That’s amazing. Yeah, she’s fantastic. In fact, she just underwent surgery on her vocal chords. I tracked her vocals on Sunday, the day before. It was like the last thing she could do before, she did a one take and then left and was like peace and I was like OK.

That works! See the transformation after surgery. 

Bardo : Yeah, we gotta wait a couple weeks and then we’ll get her voice back. But, it’s gonna be kind of gnarly. Like, the transition back into singing after intensive surgery. 

Cole : Yeah for real, it’s gonna be weird, but she’ll be fine!

Yeah! 

Bardo : It’s a character builder.

The live music video for this song is probably my most watched video on YouTube yet, which is really bad. I think the day it came out, I was replaying it and my roommates were probably very annoyed. But, was that video a collaboration between you all and Lauren or how did you come up with that idea?

Bardo : She came to us with it actually. She was like, “I wanna do a live video.” Basically, she wanted to do a live music video for it but her whole style and aestchis is like retro, mtv, kind of vibes. 

Cole : Camcorder, VHS vibes.

Bardo : It was cool because we actually shot that all on VHS. Her guy does all her stuff 88 mm, or is it 8 mm? 

Cole : 8 mm. Clint. His name is Clint.

88 would be very interesting, but 8 yeah. 

Bardo : I don’t know anything about the mm.

Cole : Super medium format.

Bardo : But 8 mm. Clint is fucking rad. Point is, his name is Clint. He’s dope. He shot it all on VHS. It was sick, because we had a camera behind the drum set and like all these other like old skate video cams around everywhere. And then I was laughing when we got the video back because I thought they just put filters on, like to make it look all VHS. Turns out, he actually like went and bought a bunch of used TVs and just filmed the TVs. Like played it through the VHS, then filmed the VHS TV. That’s how they actually did it and I’m like oh that’s really cool. So he’s like all about it. He’s like really really cool.

That’s insane. I thought it was just a bunch of filters too till now. 

Bardo : That’s legit. 

Brent : Like rock vibes. 

Bardo : So that was actually recorded live too. 

That’s the version I played on my radio show because that’s the version for me. 

Cole : Oh sick! That was kinda I guess where it became collaborative because we brought all our gear, band had to set up and do the whole mix on it. And we sent that back, and they did the video and kinda spliced that together. 

I don’t know how she danced around in those shoes. I wear platforms all the time but those were like higher than I’ve ever worn. 

Cole : My ankles would have been snapped. 

Me too, I’m very accident prone. I fall walking with nothing around me, so that would have been a disaster. 

Photo Credit: Natasha Ribeiro-Austrich | @natribaus

What is your songwriting process or creative process normally like and has that changed during covid? 

Cole : To be honest, it didn’t change all too much. My background is songwriting for other artists, as is his, as he is too but more on the production side as well. So when we met, we kinda just had this synergy creatively where we were like, “OK, we can apply this to people outside of just our project.” So, when covid hit, we were probably 6 to 8 months into already being in the studio, like day and night, just writing through and through. I guess nothing really changed, if anything it was kind of a silver lining for us because then our friends stopped hitting us up, so we were actually allowed to just work and not have to be putting people off. Yeah, we just kept our heads down and hit the ground running and we ended up working with Lauren and a few other great artists that I don’t even think we can necessarily talk about yet, but there’s some really cool ones on the backburner right now. 

Well I’m excited for those!

Cole : Yeah, top secret!

Top secret! Guess I can’t find out yet, it’s fine. 

Obviously you’re a newer band having only started really in 2020 and you have only a handful of singles out. Personally, my favorite is Make It Through the Night with Die For You in a very very close second. But, what is your favorite song that you have all made together and why?

Cole : Your face right now. Nothing that is out unfortunately. I think we were still very very much still discovering ourselves throughout that whole process. I think in that, we were kinda just like, “oh, let’s put stuff out!” Which we did, and it did a lot of great things for us, it was definitely perfect for what we were trying to achieve at the time.

Brent : We were in the womb, we’re ready to give birth now.

Cole : Yeah, the trial phase. But now, the new music that we are waiting on, or I mean finishing, about to put out hopefully later this year, depending on what kind of happens between now and the next couple months, is far FAR more better than anything we’ve put out.

Bardo : Far more better.

Cole : Far much. Very excellent. Super great.
Brent and Cole : As far manys.

Cole : Much better.

Just another thing I have to wait for!

Bardo : But, it’s more in line with what we wanna actually be making. Not like the songs we have out aren’t us, because they are us. That was just us in that moment. Like Last Time Was the third song we ever made and we just like put it out. So we had to go write a hundred songs to figure out 5 songs that really define us. And we also write so much for other people that it’s this thing like you kinda pick up along the way like, “Oh, wait we did that thing in their song, we should do that for ours.” We kinda steal things, but we’re stealing from yourself, you know. It’s cool to like go through the process and we have to learn, and we’re always going to evolve. The EP we’re finishing right now is probably going to be different from the second EP we put out, but it’s all going to be us. We’re doing it, so. 

I like that description of it. That’s just like you in that time, that was your sound in that time. I really like that. 

Cole : If I had to choose one, I’d probably say Last Time or Die For You.

Brent : I would say the same. 

Bardo : Probably Last Time.

Make It Through the Night isn’t a popular one over here I guess.

Bardo : I think there’s just a lot of…I don’t know. 

All your faces tell me everything I need to know.

Bardo : You should hear the original version of that song.

I would love to! We could make it a KCR exclusive, play that on air.

Cole : It was Make It Through the Summer originally. Yep. Trust. That was just a crazy evolution.

Brent : There’s some residual trauma from that. 

I can see it in your eyes even through the screen. 

Cole : Only because again, at that time we were still so young, and what we were doing and there’s this thing that a lot of artists face of the emotional attachment to a song, like a sentiment. That specific song saw so many different changes and evolutions and it was kind of jarring for us to try and accept those changes. But at the end of the day, we’re always trying to achieve the best song possible. I think it was kind of this weird, frustration of going back and forth between, like, Ah is this really better? Or is this just a change? Like what and if  it is better or like I like this old thing because of what intention was there. 

Bardo : We’ve always heard this song so many times, it’s like hard for us to have a clean opinion on it. 

Brent : There’s also 30 versions of it.

Bardo : There’s 30 versions of this song. And also, it’s really tricky because when you listen to all the new things you’re doing, you get so attached to those. All this new stuff that we’re working on right now is just like, in my opinion, so much more mature and advanced.

Brent : It’s elevated.

Bardo :  Yeah, it’s elevated. So much cooler, in my opinion. Something like that, it’s like almost hard to listen to the old stuff, because you’re like, “dang, I wish we had done this differently.” But you can’t beat yourself up about it. You had to get there. 

Brent : We’re older and wiser now. 

Bardo : Yeah, 6 months older. 

Yeah, that’s how I feel. I’m turning 22 this year, I’m young.

Cole : I just turned 23 and I feel young. 

I feel so old already, so.

Brent : I turn 25, and so does he. 

I don’t even want to think about that, that’s scary, I’ll have a breakdown. 

Cole : We’ll *buzzer noise* skip that subject.

No, cut off. 

I think that even though you only have a few singles out, you have a very distinct and unique sound. How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never listened to your music before?

Cole : That sound or the new sound?

New sound, you can do new sound. 

Cole : Diesel. It’s just diesel. 

Brent : I forgot who said it, but I really like it. It’s like the Neighbourhood produced by Skrillex, with hip hop influences.

Bardo : Blackbear, the Neighbourhood, Skrillex collab. 

I like that!

Brent : But like definitely not just like dead-on, but it’s a cool starting point!

Once again, excited! 

Brent : More rock, more rock. 

Bardo : Definitely have a lot of rock. 

Cole : The new stuff is hard as fuck honestly. 

That’s what I’m needing. I’m having a very hard time finding new music that I actually want to listen to. I’m like thinking of a very specific sound, because I’m not really a person who likes pop music, my radio show is called Everything But Country. So no country. 

Brent : I love it. 

So, no country for me. I’m like all rock, that’s how I’ve always been, so trying to find new music right now is hard. 

Cole : We’ll have to after this send you some of the unreleased demos so you can vouch.

Please! I could write about it a little bit and be like, “I can’t tell you much, but this is good!” 

Cole : Yeah, we love that! 

So I saw on your Instagram that y’all are making clothes, a brand called Dropout. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Cole : Yeah, we would love to! It’s kinda the extension of us. We treat it more as a clothing brand than it is merch. I don’t even think we’re really thinking of it as our touring merch, it’s more just this other entity that we’re running. We just did the official launch of the hoodies! We had the hats out for a little bit, but I think that was kind of just to test the waters , see what people were really interested in. Also for us to be able to see how many people are actually going to actively buy and support this small business of ours that’s starting. Yeah, the hoodies just dropped, we’re about to start doing vintage tees. We got a plug on a vintage wholesaler, so we’re trying to keep it as sustainable as possible because that’s a huge thing for us as well. Gonna start dropping more clothes pretty actively here in the summer, so keep an eye out! Go buy a hoodie now!

I’m excited. I just keep saying that, “I’m excited, I’m ready!” 

Brent : It’ll be like a wave and will just hit.

I know! That’s seriously what it’s going to be. One day, everyone’s gonna know your name because you drop it all at once. 

Cole : Yeah, that’s what we’re going for!

So out of all of the releases from 2020, besides your own songs because obviously already described how much you love those, but what was your favorite release from 2020?

Bardo : We only listen to our music, that’s why we hate it so much.  

Brent : Probably the Nothing But Thieves album. That slaps!

Cole : That was really good! Oh! Amo by Bring Me the Horizon. Or was that before? It was, god we’ve been in such a black hole. I don’t even remember. 

That was a great album. I was listening to it in my car one day, I heard Evanescence singing, and I was like, “this kind of sounds like Evanescence here!” And I’m driving, so I wasn’t looking at my phone. I was being a good driver that day. So then I like got home and looked at it and I was like, “wow okay this is sick!” The whole reason she’s on the song is because she actually sued Bring Me The Horizon for a song on their last album because it sounded similar to an Evanescence song. So that’s how they got her.

Cole : So they got her to feature? That’s awesome. Oh god, now I’m gonna hit my Spotify real quick, I playlist all day, so I know that I’ll have something.

Brent : Yeah, I’ve been super about this artist glaive. He released a lot of cool stuff last year, this year too. 

I think one of my favorite releases last year was Glue by Boston Manor. That was one of the best ones, I love that album. There’s this artist that I actually found on TikTok called Brakence.

Brent : Oh! I was just about to bring it up!

Cole : Brakence is great!

Punk2 is so good!
Cole : Yeah, Brakence is fire! Yeah he was definitely one of my favorite artists that I found from last year. Also, Brent Faiyaz. He is one of my favorites, hands down. 

Brent : We just all bring out our Spotify’s. 

I know. Everyone’s sitting there scrolling. 

Cole : And I’m a basic bitch, but Drake. I love Drake. We love Drake. If you couldn’t tell by all the Drake. That was like a big troll at first, then we were just like, “No, let’s actually do it!”

That’s OK, I’m a One Direction fan. I know I like look more emo and everything, but I was a Belieber and a Directioner back in the day, so that shaped me into who I am. I’m like One Direction always. 

Cole : My boyfriend used to be in that band. 

Yeah, haha, I already know about that. I have the Watermelon Sugar vinyl and [a mutual friend] grabbed it and was like, “wait, is Cole on the back of this?” And you’re literally on the back of my vinyl.

Cole : I’m immortilized in that fucking speedo. 

Bardo : You’re really immortalized. 

Brent : You’re gonna go down in history as the dude in BSD and the one on Harry Styles’ Watermelon Sugar Vinyl. 

We actually should talk about that. I don’t know why I haven’t brought that up. How did you even get into [the Watermelon Sugar] video?

Bardo : I’m surprised no one’s made more of a bigger deal about it, like on TikTok. 

I don’t think anyone’s made the connection! 

Bardo : We’ve had some people comment like, “that looks like the guy who’s in the Watermelon Sugar video.

You could go viral on TikTok, just post like a TikTok of you, and just be like, “yeah this is me! I’m actually in a band.” And you’ll blow up!

Cole : I love that! We were thinking of doing a Watermelon Sugar remix in the speedo.

You should do it.

Brent : it’s undeniable.

Exactly, everyone would know it’s you then. 

Cole : But that was a fun time. 

That’s insane to me, I can’t believe that. It completely left my mind, I forgot that you were in that for a second.

Cole : Yeah it was super random. I have a casting agent friend who hit me up the night before. He was like, “Hey, need a male for a Harry Styles shoot. They already said they want you.” Or whatever. I was like, “Oh, sure!” Then it turned into a whole ass thing that I was just so not ready for. 

I can’t imagine getting an email that says, “Yeah so Harry Styles says that they want you in the video!”

Cole : I don’t know if it was Harry or his team.

It’s Harry. Just pretend. 

Cole : It was Harry. Harry actually called me up the night before and was like…

There, I’ll edit that whole part out [his team], don’t you worry!

Bardo : I think Harry had a crush on Cole.

Brent : Yeah, yeah. Like I thought you guys were dating. 

Photo Credit: Natasha Ribeiro-Austrich | @natribaus

Besides music, and now your clothing brand, what else are you all passionate about? *silence* I’m sorry to ask that in the middle of a pandemic.

Bardo : We like crypto-currency! We’re like really into investing and stuff. 

Brent : We do!

Cole : We’re like actual finance nerds. It’s pretty funny. Music and finance. 

Look at the new Stock Market here.

Cole : We gotta invest in ourselves. 

Brent : Gotta get those gains!

Cole : I don’t know, I think we’re passionate about a lot. I love to skate and make art. I’ve picked up tattooing over the last year, which has been fun and kind of brought me into a bunch of cool situations. I know you guys got some crazy ass talents too, so don’t hold back. 

Brent : I just like anything that’s fun. Besides music, I like tattoos too. I’m a nerd, I like video games.

Cole : I feel like anything creative, we’re all pretty down to take on. 

Bardo : Mountain biking. 

Cole : God, fuck that. 

Brent : NO! Not mountain biking.

Cole : This man took me mountain biking. I hadn’t ridden a bike in maybe a year, let alone ever a mountain bike. His dad and him took me electric mountain biking through the outs of slough and I almost died four times. We made it up the hill, which was fine, like, “Oh sick! You made it! Cool!” No one told me how to go down the hill on the bike, so of course we start sending it and I got thrown off the bike into the bushes, over the handlebars at least three different times. 

Bardo : We were at the bottom of the hill and we’re all there and I’m like, “Where’s Cole?” And this dude comes ripping down the mountain, and he’s like, “Oh, your buddy’s back there, he’s in the bushes.” He’s like, “He’s fine! He’s just in the bushes.” 

Cole : Have you ever seen those bad motorcycle crashes where people like fly over the handlebars and like ragdoll? That was me. 

Bardo : I don’t know, we love hiking and nature and shit. We don’t have a lot of time right now. 

Brent : Ping pong! We love ping pong. 

I am so good at ping pong and I have the worst hand-eye coordination possible, but somehow ping pong and pickleball are where I thrive. 

Bardo : Pickleball is super super fun.

I think at Big 5 they have a pickleball set that you can buy for like $20, I have been thinking about it. 

Bardo : It’s like a smaller tennis ball right?

It’s like a plastic ball with the holes in it, wiffle ball maybe. Then it’s a really short net, but with similar rules to tennis with a smaller court. I played it in middle school, that’s all I know. 

Cole : That or tether ball. 

Brent : Or that thing that’s like the trampoline in the middle.

Spikeball! 

Brent : Yeah, I wanna try that. 

Do you know what Kan Jam is? It’s a northeast thing. It’s a frisbee game but you have two literal cylinder cans, and there’s a little slot. You have to throw the frisbee and you can either hit it, the other person hits it into the cylinder. Or, if you get it in the slot, it’s an automatic win. That’s our spikeball in the northeast.  

Bardo : Yeah! I’ve played Kan Jam!

Cole : Have you ever been larping? 

No, I have not!
Brent : You should larp. I love larping!

I would do the makeup for it, I could do that.

Bardo : I used to work at Red Bull when I lived in Nashville and we’d go deliver Red Bull to people at events and things. We pull up to this park one time, at a Larp Festival. Literally for the entire day that we were supposed to be working, we parked the car and just larped. 

Cole : That’s so fire. 

Bardo : We still just gave them Red Bull and they gave us like swords and stuff. Larping is pretty cool. They’re really into it. I really respect it. 

Brent : I respect it too. It’s hard to do. 

Bardo : I was into airsoft when I was a kid, that’s kinda like larping.

Brent : Me too!

Cole : I wanna play airsoft.

Brent : I want to go paintballing.

Bardo : I’ve never been paintballing. 

I’ve never been paintballing. I’ve shot a gun once in my life, a pink pistol when I was 12, in the woods. That’s it. It was with an adult, don’t worry. 

What are your plans for the rest of 2021? New songs? I know you mentioned possibly an EP.

Cole : A lot. We got a lot. Plotting right now. First and foremost, shows. We’re about to start playing shows again. Well, we have a show that we are about to plan for like a month from now. After that, probably preparing to launch. Put out some music and visuals, hopefully by the end of the year. Again, that kind of depends, we’re in the middle of a few different opportunities that are on the table right now, so I guess it’s kinda just like navigating which one is the most appropriate for us, what allows us the most creative integrity because we do literally everything from designing, to the music, to the creative, to like even packing the orders. Literally everything, we do it. For now, we’re gonna kinda continue building from the ground up and probably in the next 6 months start really thinking about what songs we want to come out with first. 

I’m excited again! I hate that I keep saying it, but I’m excited. 

Cole : Yeah, we are too. It’s gonna come faster than we think. We’re just really scratching the surface now, waiting for what we’ve been trajecting for. Keep your eyes and your ears open because it will be happening sooner than later. 

Anything else you want to add? Where can people find your music?

Cole : Do you know Josh Gunther? 

Why does the name sound familiar? 

Cole : I don’t know. We had this whole thing, joke, but like there’s this movement now, “Joshua Didn’t Pay.” Just in case you didn’t know, I figured you should. 

Brent : #JoshDidn’tPay

Cole : #JoshDidn’tPay, brother diesel. We were robbed. 

Bardo : That’s a whole other story. 

Brent : But on another note, we’re on all streaming platforms.

Cole : Yeah, we’re on all streaming platforms. So if you want to reach out and talk about life or anything, we’re here. We love other people, so.

Bardo : And watch our TikTok videos. 

Brent : We remix songs. 

Thank you all so much for sitting down and talking to me! 

All : Thanks so much for having us!

Cover Photo: Natasha Ribeiro-Austrich | @natribaus

Written By: McCaeley O’Rourke

Interview with Black Lips’ Jared Swilley

Black Lips’ Jared Swilley discusses covering the Beatles, the importance of music videos and radio for connecting with fans, and the band’s upcoming venture into country music.

Atlanta‘s Black Lips have proven to be a resilient force in the tumultuous and challenging world that is today’s music industry. Despite numerous changes to their lineup, the band is known for seemingly endless tours which established their reputation for rowdy live shows (including a 2012 tour of the Middle East). Meanwhile, production on their own records with assistance from big-name producers such as Mark Ronson and Patrick Carney from the Black Keys haven’t managed to slow down a band that’s been in the garage rock scene since 1999.  After 8 full-length studio records, a live record recorded in Tijuana, various side projects (The Almighty DefendersThe Gartrells, and Crush, to name a few), and the creation of a new genre dubbed “flower punk,” the band’s legacy and influence upon younger musicians is undeniable.

Now, almost twenty years since their inception, Black Lips seems like a completely different beast. Only two founding members remain (bassist Jared Swilley and guitarist Cole Alexander), the wildness of their live shows has been toned down considerably, and the band has now set their sights on releasing their interpretation of a country album. Despite the group’s departure from the violence and rebellion of their younger days, the punk ethos which Black Lips was founded upon still shines through in their work.

KCR’s Andrea Renney recently spoke with vocalist and bassist Jared Swilley in advance of their November 13th show at the House of Blues San Diego. The following interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

KCR: So your next tour starts next month. I was kind of surprised to hear that you were co-headlining with [Danish punk band] Iceage, since Iceage isn’t really a band that I would associate with Black Lips. How did that come about?

J: Well, we’ve known each other for a long time, and we have some mutual friends. We had met them in Denmark before. They were going out on tour around the same time as us and I like them a bunch. I kinda like going on tour with bands that are a little different; it just changes things up. We don’t really have the same sound at all, but I think they have a really great live show. Every band that we end up going on tour with is just from us hanging out and talking and saying “Oh yeah, we should tour sometime.”

KCR: I guess Kesha’s a good example of that; not someone that you would necessarily expect [Black Lips to tour with]. But I do think that there is a certain similarity there. I know Kesha has her roots in Nashville, and she is, despite being so pop, kind of rock and roll. It was something that was surprising, but at the same time, it made sense.

J: Yeah, she has really good taste in music. I was surprised when I first met her years ago; we started talking about music and I just thought she was this pop star or whatever. But she was really into Dead Moon and all these bands that I like… We’ve been on tour with bigger bands that are rock bands, and we’ve gotten heckled by their fans. Their fans didn’t really like us. But with Kesha, it’s all really young kids that are really stoked to be there. They’re just there to have a good time.

KCR: I think Black Lips are the perfect band for Kesha’s fans. Like you said, they’re just there to have a good time.

J: Yeah, they were all real sweet.

KCR: It’s been over a year since Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? came out, so I’m not gonna ask a bunch of questions about that. I feel like you’ve already discussed that record at length. But I do have one question — I wanted to know about your cover of “It Won’t Be Long” [by the Beatles] and how that kind of came about? Did Sean Lennon [music producer and John Lennon’s son] approach you guys with doing a cover, and was it that one specifically?

J: I never would have been like, “Hey, can we cover one of your dad’s songs?” but he really wanted us to do that. When we were playing it at the studio we were doing it exactly like they did it, but obviously they do it a ton better, and ours just sounded like a carbon copy of it. So we kind of started messing around with trying to make it sound like an evil version of it. I would never in a million years have thought to bring that up or try to do that, but [Sean] did a lot of the arrangement. We didn’t try to do a Beatles copy, we just did a sinister version of it. I was happy with it. And Yoko gave us the blessing to do it so that was real cool to hear her say “Yeah, you should do a Beatles song.”

KCR: Yeah, absolutely. What an honor, really.

J: Yeah, that was pretty cool. Overall, it was pretty surreal. But it was awesome.

KCR: On the topic of records: Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? came out last year, and now all I’ve really heard is about your forthcoming new country record. I haven’t heard too many details, but is that still the plan?

J: Yeah, yeah. The whole thing’s written and we’ve already done a couple songs. We did a session in Berlin this summer with King Khan [of King Khan and the Shrines, The King Khan & BBQ Show, and other projects], and we did another one at Oakley [Munson, the current drummer for Black Lips]’s house. But yeah, the whole thing is written. We’ve got tons of songs, and we’re just right in the middle of finding what label’s gonna put it out and what studio we’re gonna go to. But it’s definitely gonna be out by spring next year.

It’s not, like, serious country. It’s definitely all country influenced, but it’s kind of our take on country. It’s different, but we’ve always been into kind of twangy, southern style stuff. For this one, we’re more focusing on that. There’s not gonna be synthesizers on it or anything.

KCR: I know that some people were surprised about the whole country record thing, but I feel like on every record you’ve ever done, there’s always at least one song that’s pretty obviously influenced by country. On the last record, “Rebel Intuition” – that’s pretty country. And songs like “Workin’’’ [from 2005’s Let It Bloom] and “Drive By Buddy” [from 2014’s Underneath the Rainbow] – definitely. So to me, it seemed pretty natural. But what made you decide that now was the time to do this one?

J: I guess just because we’ve done so many garage rock records and stuff like that. We just kept talking about it, like, “Yeah, let’s do a country record.” It kind of worked out real good with having Jeff [Clarke, also of Demon’s Claws] in the band, because he’s great at writing songs like that. He’s really good at playing those kind of things. So it just felt like a natural thing for us to try out. Kind of like us doing our “mature” country record. But it’s not all that mature.

KCR: Growing up and becoming country stars.

J: It’s easy to age gracefully in country music.

KCR: Definitely. While we’re on the topic of changing sounds: you’re still in Atlanta as far as I know, but Cole and Zumi [Rosow, saxophonist] are in LA, and you said Jeff’s from Alberta, while Oakley’s in New York?

J: Yeah, he’s in the Catskills. And Jeff’s been in Germany for the past couple years, but I guess he’s kinda living at my house in Atalnta. But yeah, everyone’s scattered all over now.

KCR: Do you think that spreading out has been helpful for changing your sound and keeping things fresh? Or does it make it difficult to reconcile all those different perspectives?

J: No, it kind of didn’t change anything… I mean, Cole still has a house here so he’s back a lot to visit his family. But we never really practiced before, like at all, unless we were just about to go in the studio or had new stuff to work on. So really, I haven’t noticed that much of a change. I guess we’re usually in Atlanta before a tour, and then we leave from there. But as far as music scenes, I’m not really all that involved in the Atlanta music scene at all. I don’t go out too much when I’m not on tour. I know Cole and Zumi are pretty involved in the LA scene and stuff like that, but not me.

KCR: Just working on your own stuff?

J: Yeah, I’m mostly a homebody when I’m at home.

KCR: I think that’s pretty typical for people who are on tour as often as you guys are.

J: Yeah, going out’s like… I do that for a big part of the year. So when I’m at home, I hang out with family a lot, friends.

KCR: So, I’ve always loved your music videos that you guys put out. Most recently I loved the one for “Crystal Night;” About music videos though: obviously music television isn’t really a thing anymore. So why do you guys still continue to release videos? Do you think it’s just an artistic expression, and do you still want to keep putting out videos like that?

J: I still like watching videos. If we’re in hotel rooms and stuff, I’ll watch the music video channel. Even in Europe, where I don’t like any of the music, I like music videos. And I like making them. We always direct our own videos. I mean, there’ll be directors, but I did the treatment and everything for “Crystal Night.” And the other one we did was “Can’t Hold On,” and Cole did that treatment. It’s just fun. I enjoy the video aspect thing. It’s harder and harder to get money for that stuff nowadays, because there is no MTV. But we’ve been lucky with Vice [Records], because they have resources to let us do that. And sometimes, like, I think we had Ray-Ban help fund a video for us. But yeah, if we can find the money for it, it’s just a neat little tool to have.

KCR: And I think fans appreciate it too. It’s interesting to see what the artist interprets as the visual side of their music.

J: Yeah, me too.

KCR: I know I mentioned this earlier, but I’m calling from KCR College Radio. It’s the college radio station for San Diego State University, and I think that it’s such a cool thing that we have. So I just wanted to know – obviously music streaming services have kind of become the primary way for consuming music, especially for young people. Do you think that radio is still an important resource for getting your music out to a new audience, even your current audience, and reaching new fans?

J: Yeah, I think it’s still really important and a good thing. In Atlanta we only have half of a college station now – it only becomes music after 7 or 8 now. During the day NPR bought it. And we lost our cool AM station, so that kinda sucks. But there’s still KEXP and KCRW and WFMU. I mean, I still listen [to radio]. I don’t stream music, but I guess I could figure it out. I’ve just never done it. I just pretty much listen to WFMU out of New Jersey because they have everything up on their site. I mean, it’s important for me, but I’m 35 years old, so obviously the kids are listening to something else. College radio was a big thing, especially growing up. I never went to college, but me and Cole had our own radio show, and it’s actually still going on.

KCR: Really?

J: Yeah. We started it fifteen or sixteen years ago, and there’s still students doing it with our same format. So that was always awesome for me – I got my own radio show and I didn’t even go to the school. I was really proud of that. So I think that’s still real important and I think that it makes a big difference. Because people are loyal to their local stations, which is now usually almost always college stations.

KCR: I just joined it this semester, in September. And it’s actually kind of crazy how well-regarded it is. In the major newspaper here, it won best station in San Diego, even against the commercial stations. Like, this college radio station did. So it’s pretty clear that people really do appreciate college stations and even radio in general.

J: Yeah, I love the format. And I think it’s good for record sales and promotion and things like that.

KCR: I did an interview last week with Zac [Carper] from FIDLAR, and I asked him the same question. We were talking about how the cool thing about radio is the curated aspect of it. How you don’t really get that with streaming, or with just finding music on your own.

J: Yeah, you don’t get that at all with streaming, really. I guess you can do the algorithm thing.

KCR: Yeah, but it’s not the same. You know, you can look ahead and see what all the songs are. It loses that aspect of wondering what the next song is gonna be.

J: Yeah. I got into so much music when I was a kid that really turned me on. When I was in middle school and high school, there was this show called “In the Aquarian Age” on 88.5, which is the Georgia State station. At that’s how I got into so much cool, weird, old ‘60s music, through that.

KCR: I think radio’s good for stuff like that, a genre or a time period that you’ve never listened to before. It’s hard to just jump into that. So radio’s great for guiding you and guiding your taste.

J: Yeah, you definitely don’t get that on streaming.

Catch the Black Lips at the House of Blues on November 13th on their co-headlining tour with Iceage, supported by Brooklyn’s Surfbort.

Written by: Andrea Renney
Photo courtesy of: Grimy Goods

Interview with FIDLAR’s Zac Carper

FIDLAR is Zac Carper, Max Kuehn, Elvis Kuehn, and Brandon Schwartzel

FIDLAR’s Zac Carper talks new music, the benefits of college radio, and getting recognition as more than just a “party punk” band

Los Angeles punk rock band FIDLAR is well known for their songs about beer, skateboarding, and drugs. Their live shows are loud and raucous affairs, a place for kids to work out their aggression and energy in the mosh pit (including the band’s famous “girls only” mosh pits). However, despite the hard-partying image they’ve cultivated (the meaning behind their name’s acronym, “Fuck It Dog, Life’s a Risk” is a skater’s version of Nike’s “Just Do It”), the members of FIDLAR are not the slackers many make them out to be. The band has released two records (2013’s FIDLAR and 2015’s Too) amidst years of constant touring, while their third record, Almost Free, is slated for release in early 2019. On top of all this, they’ve managed to keep the same original members, while facing personal issues such as drug addiction and death. The fun-loving, party band reputation may not be entirely undeserved, but their work ethic and dedication to sticking together is something that ought to be admired.

KCR’s Andrea Renney recently spoke with lead singer and guitarist Zac Carper in advance of their October 18th show at the North Park Observatory. The following interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

KCR: So you just finished the first leg of your fall tour at the end of September, over on the East Coast. Then you’re about to start the second leg on Thursday [October 18th] here in San Diego at the Observatory. How was the first leg of the tour, and how was the response to your new music?

Zac: It was super fun. We tour a lot, you know. We haven’t toured America in a long time. We were doing Europe for a little bit and I just forgot how fun it is to play in America, you know what I mean? Especially bigger cities like Chicago, New York, Philly. And the band that we took on tour was super fun, this band called NOBRO. They were awesome. And this band called Dilly Dally. So it was just a good time, good vibes, and everybody was getting along.

KCR: Awesome. Dilly Dally’s coming on the second leg too, right?

Z: Yeah.

KCR: And what was the other band that you mentioned?

Z: NOBRO. N-O-B-R-O.

KCR: Okay, cool. Are they gonna be on the second leg?

Z: No, they’re from Montreal. We were doing the East Coast, which is closer to them, so it would be easier for them. And then for the West Coast we’re taking this band called The Side Eyes.

KCR: Right.

Z: But NOBRO is this all female punk band from Montreal. They were hilarious, they were awesome.

KCR: Oh sick, that’s really cool. I’m actually from Canada myself, but I’m from Vancouver, so the other side.

Z: Ah, other side, other side.

KCR: Yeah, west side. So other than that, you’ve been releasing some new music throughout 2018. I know “Alcohol” came out earlier this year, followed by “Too Real”. Now “Can’t You See” just came out last week, and you’ve got your new album [Almost Free] coming out in January, is that correct? Next year?

Z: Yeah.

KCR: So, I mean, it’s been three years since Too came out. Has this album kind of been in the works for that entire time?

Z: Unfortunately, yeah (laughs). It just takes a long time now, man. You know, I always say the shitty part about DIY is you have to do it yourself.

KCR: Yeah, I feel it.

Z: And that’s kind of the reality of it. We’re not on a major label, we don’t have those kind of budgets to rent out fancy studios and go work. Like, for us to pay our rent and for us to sustain a living, we have to be on the road constantly, you know?

KCR: Definitely.

Z: And being on the road is kind of like a different shift of the brain. You have to focus on the road. Sometimes I’ll write on the road. Like that song “Alcohol”: it took a while to write that song. I think I wrote some of the vocal melodies and lyrics in Australia, so it’s kind of like piecing things together. It’s just a different way of doing things nowadays. And on top of that, when Too came out, the first year we toured we did something like 32 flights, and 12 of them were in Europe. In one year. You know, it’s just a lot. It’s a different thing. And this was before we were really doing things comfortably. We were still touring in vans every now and then and just going for it.  So we didn’t have the comfort of having a bus and being able to play guitar on it. We were just stuck in this van.

KCR: I get that. Coming off of tour and then going back to the studio and back and forth for years, I can imagine that it would be hard to sort of switch between those two ways of living. It makes sense that an album would take a bit longer when you’re having to go on tour all the time.

Z: Yeah. And we wanted to change it up, too, you know what I mean? I feel like sometimes time just makes you change things up, you know?

KCR: Oh, absolutely. Moving on, would you say the new album is going to be quite different, to the point where people are going to notice it?

Z: I think so. We’ve only had two records out, but those two records are pretty different from each other.

KCR: Yeah, I would agree.

Z: I mean, that’s kinda the whole point for us. We don’t wanna stick with one thing too much, you know?

KCR: No, definitely. I feel like that’s pretty common, not even related to music. Everyone changes, it’s a way of life. And kind of as an example, I know that you produced The Frights’ last two records. Those two records are very different. So there’s another band that’s very much reinventing themselves and always changing.

Z: Yeah. I think for fans of music, there’s two sides: where they don’t want the band to change, but then people also get mad when the band doesn’t change. Because then it’s just the same thing over and over again. And there’s no winning in that scenario. That’s something that I’ve had a conversation with Mikey [Carnevale] from The Frights about. Like, you can’t think about that shit because then you’re not writing music for you anymore, you know what I mean? You’re just trying to please an audience, and that just doesn’t last long.

KCR: Yeah, absolutely. Then the music probably isn’t gonna turn out that well and it’s really not genuine if you’re just trying to please people. You just can’t win. I’ve definitely felt that before with bands and I feel bad about it but, you know, sometimes you just form a bond with a record and then the next one’s different, and then you’re kinda sad. But you have to be happy for the band.

Z: I know (laughs). I’ve done that since I was a kid. I remember when Modest Mouse came out and I was like, “This is the best!” Then another record came out and I was just like, “I can’t do it anymore”, you know? But I still support them. You know what I do? I go back and listen to the record that changed my life. And that’s the thing that I present to people that call us out for changing. It’s like, what are you guys complaining about? Just go listen to the record you like!

KCR: Right? It’s still there!

Z: Yeah. It’s basically free on Spotify, go for it!

KCR: You don’t even have to pay for it, we’re not even getting money!

Z:  What else do you want from us, man? Like, what do you want… It’s just funny.

KCR: I agree. So I read that you worked with Ricky Reed to produce this new record, is that correct?

Z: Yeah.

KCR: Who, as far as I know, is known more for producing kind of pop-oriented stuff. How was that experience, and what do you think he brought to the table regarding the sound of your new record?

Z: It was extremely weird because when I met with Ricky, I didn’t know he wanted to do a FIDLAR record. I do some writing sessions on the side, so I thought that he wanted me to work on some pop stuff. I was like, “What am I doing here?” and he was like, “Oh, I wanna work on a FIDLAR record,” and I’m like “Why?” (laughs).

KCR: So he approached you?

Z: Yeah. And he’s just one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. The way he works is just so unique. The past year I’ve produced a couple bands, so I know how to record and I know how to do the production aspect, and he was willing to just use the demos that me and Elvis have been creating, and then build on top of that. So it was just a different way of working, a different style. He taught us that there are no rules in this thing, you know? Like, most of the stuff I wrote was on my laptop. I got into drum machines and stuff like that, and he was like, “Yeah, why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you try that stuff?” It doesn’t always have to be guitar and bass and drums and vocals. Let’s get weird, let’s try stuff. We even got into adding horns to songs.

I know people label him as a pop producer but I think he’s just one of the most brilliant producers in general. And he’s the most fuckin’ punk rock dude I know, man. He’s the most humble person ever. There are a lot of producers in LA, you know, and a lot of them are pretty sleazy and flashy. They all drive fancy cars and are just kinda weird. That motherfucker’s driving a fucking beat up Prius that he still has, lives in a super modest house, has an amazing family. The way that he does everything, I was like, I really respect this guy and I feel like we can get on a level, you know? And when we started hanging out, literally all we were doing was cracking each other up. And that was kinda the point. All the other people that I’ve worked with, everything was so serious. I’m like, I don’t think you guys are getting what FIDLAR is. FIDLAR has always had that humor to it, that we have to keep because I don’t wanna take this shit too seriously. We do take it seriously, but… I’m not fuckin’ Tom Yorke here, I’m not trying to fucking reinvent the fucking wheel, you know what I’m saying?

KCR: Yeah, you can take things seriously but also still have fun and not take yourself too seriously in the process. To me, that’s the perfect way to be.

Z: Yeah, so that’s why me and Ricky got along really well. Presenting him to the band, they were all like, “Ah, he’s a pop producer, how is this gonna work?” But then once they met him they were like, “Oh my god, this is awesome.” It was a cool thing, it was very unique.

KCR: It sounds like it ended up being a perfect match.

Z: Yeah. And even with our second record, the producer we used was a pop/country producer, so it’s kinda always been a weird FIDLAR fashion to be like, okay, maybe with the last couple producers, it made the most sense to use that guy. But then at the same time, we’re already a punk rock band, you know what I mean? What if we offset it with something different? And something cool would come out of that.

KCR: Exactly. And, again, you don’t want to just keep making the same stuff. You should be trying new things and seeing what comes with it – why not?

Z: Yeah. See, you get it (laughs).

KCR: Yeah, I think I get it. On the topic of FIDLAR always being kind of humorous, the song “Too Real” seems pretty serious to me, pretty political.

Z: Yeah, I know. People in interviews, they’ve been asking me questions about that song a lot. The thing about it is it’s not choosing one side or the other. It’s not talking shit on one side or the other, it’s literally just saying what I hear going on. All this input that’s been happening over the past couple years, whether it be politics or social media or the left and the right movement, I’m just kind of writing lyrics that point those things out. It’s not like I’m taking a side or anything. It’s just like “Yo, you guys, you all sound fucking ridiculous”. That’s what this is. And that’s me included, you know what I mean? We’re all fucked up.

KCR: No, absolutely. And I think that comes through pretty explicitly that this isn’t some right-side bashing song. It’s commentary on the state of the world.

Z: Exactly.

KCR: Was there a specific incident where you thought, “This is messed up, I need to write this song,” or was it more of a general response to the government and our society focused on things like social media and always being politically correct?

Z: You know what, I don’t really quite remember what it was. I do know that I made the music of it, like the beat and the track of it, after doing a session with these guys called GTA. They’re an EDM duo. And I was blown away by how they work, how they use their laptops. Their laptop is like their guitar, you know? I was like, I wanna learn how to do this stuff, so I went to my studio and just made this beat, and that’s what that whole track is basically. Then I think I just let it sit for a while and then I had to lay down lyrics for it, and… I think I was probably fighting with my girlfriend at the time or something (laughs).

KCR: It’s funny that it kind of stemmed from that EDM group, since you have that line in the song pretending that EDM never happened.

Z: I was talking to them about EDM, and they’re like a huge EDM band, you know? And they were saying musicians and bands don’t treat them like they’re musicians. I totally understood that, and I felt that when FIDLAR started. I felt like people weren’t treating us like musicians because we would just get drunk and play three chords and yell. So “let’s pretend that EDM didn’t happen at all” is not a bash on EDM, it’s like a bash on-

KCR: The people saying that EDM isn’t music?

Z: Yeah, exactly. It’s the old people, I call them “rockets”, as in they only like rock music or a certain thing. But that’s the whole point, like “let’s pretend that EDM didn’t happen at all” –  that song is basically an EDM track (laughs). I used the fucking kick sample, the drum pack – all the samples are from an EDM pack. So that was kinda the joke about it, but I don’t think people got it. I think they just think I’m talking shit on EDM.

KCR: Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Z: Yeah, yeah.

KCR: Well I’m glad I know that now. Anyways, let’s move onto some trivia. On the topic of a song like “Too Real”, where it’s a bit more serious, you’ve said yourself that other musicians wouldn’t really view you as musicians. You’re just getting drunk, a “party band.” But “Too Real” is a great example of a serious song, while even something like “Stupid Decisions” is pretty personal. Do you think that FIDLAR is misunderstood in their reputation as a party band, and is it something you’d like to change? Or are you kinda just okay with that?

Z: I mean…look. Half of it’s our fault, writing songs called “Cheap Beer” and “Wake Bake Skate” and “Cocaine”, you know what I mean? Like, okay, I get it, we get it. Half of it’s our fault. And maybe it’s the name of the band, or our whole image or whatever – the goofiness of it – and for us in the media we really try to go for this party punk band, slacker punks, burnouts, that whole thing, you know?

The reality is, we wouldn’t be where we are if we were slackers or burnouts. We work really hard at what we do. Elvis [Kuehn] and Max [Kuehn] have been playing music since they were so young. I believe Elvis is a once in a lifetime musician, you know. He’s one of those savant dudes. He plays piano, he plays every instrument so well. So I feel like we do get discredited a lot for being musicians. A lot of people have labeled us as this party punk band, but we work really fucking hard at what we do, and we’re constantly working.

KCR: That must be tough. Obviously the music’s gonna get whatever label it’s gonna get, but it’s still unfortunate that you then get that sort of reputation. Like, “Oh, they’re just slackers,” or whatever. But you’ve released two records, kind of on your own. Obviously you’re working hard – this stuff doesn’t just happen.

Z: Yeah. And all while dealing with life shit. That’s the other thing that people don’t realize: we’ve been a band for almost ten years now. And it’s been the same members, the exact same members the entire time.

KCR: Yeah, that’s rare. When does that happen?

Z: That’s fucking RARE, dude. When does that happen, exactly. And it’s like, we have to deal with life shit. I got hooked on heroin, Elvis is going through some shit, Brandon [Schwartzel] is going through some shit, Max goes through some shit. We have to deal with life shit and we’ve had to learn how to talk to each other, and how to settle our differences and build our bond stronger. It just doesn’t really fucking happen that much. Musicians like to blow things up, like “Fuck this, I’m outta here.” But nah, that’s the easy way.

KCR: Yeah. The fact that you didn’t even break up given a serious addiction, and that you’ve remained the same members – I don’t know, I think you should get some recognition for that.

Z: Yeah, it’s been a lot harder than people think it is. And I think the press and media and stuff like to label us as “These guys just like to smoke weed and go to the studio and make music.” And, like, yeah… but we do it smart.

KCR: Yeah, you’re like “We’re doing that, but look at what we’re producing.”

Z: Yeah. We’re doing that every day and working hard at it, that’s what we’re doing.

KCR: Exactly. Everyone does different things, but at least you’re working hard at it. So just last week, “Can’t You See” came out. Can you tell me what it’s about? I was kinda getting the vibe that it was about the superficial side of the world in general, but maybe more specifically Los Angeles these days, with the whole “gluten free” thing and “meditating” and “getting rich quick”.

Z: Yeah, totally. It’s totally about that. To me, that song is like that dude at the party that’s just coked out of his mind. Maybe he’s a musician, or maybe he “makes beats”. He’s a producer or something like that. He’s showing you his band through his iPhone speaker. Like, “Listen to this, isn’t this cool?” And you’re just like, “Fuck, I feel like I’m trapped in a cage right now.” That’s kinda what we were channeling with that song.

That song wouldn’t have happened without Ricky though. Elvis had that riff and he had the verse to it, and in FIDLAR fashion we would’ve made it super loud and grungy. But then Ricky was just like, “Let’s do a song that’s just mellow.” And we were like, “Whoa, we’ve never done that before.” So we tried and we just had so much fun doing it. And we learned something in that process, that it’s actually harder to play quieter. Because you have to lock into the groove more. It’s easy to just turn shit up and strum hard.

KCR: Yeah, absolutely. And if you’re quiet or slower, people might notice mistakes more, whereas when you’re just playing loud and fast, your attitudes shifts into “Whatever, just do it.”

Z: Exactly, exactly.

KCR: That’s awesome. So I have one final question, and it’s related to radio. FIDLAR was somewhat recently added to KROQ’s regular rotation, which is really cool. Congratulations.

Z: Thank you.

KCR: You’re welcome. With music streaming services being the primary method of music consumption these days, do you think that radio is still a really important service for reaching new fans and getting your music out there?

Z: Yeah, I do. I really do. Not everybody can look on YouTube, you know what I mean? I come from a place where the only radio station was college radio, and that was literally where I found all my music. On Sundays, on this radio station, these guys had this three hour block and they played everything from Wu-Tang to Beastie Boys, whatever. They just played whatever and that’s how I learned about music, to be honest. Not everybody has the internet. Most people do, and a lot of people have smartphones and things like that. But I just think there’s something to be said about curated music instead of just having a whole library of shit to get lost in, you know what I mean? Because then you’re just like, “What do I listen to?” Having a DJ or specific songs picked out, I think that’s such a unique perspective.

KCR: Absolutely. And I know you can get curated playlists, but it’s not really the same. You don’t get that personal touch, but you also don’t get the commentary on the songs. That’s why I like listening to radio, for the curated aspect of it.

Z: Yeah, and with radio you don’t get to know what the next song is. I think that’s the joy of the radio thing for me, you’re just like “Oh, what’s gonna be next?” you know? It’s not a fucking list.

FIDLAR’s third full-length record, Almost Free, drops on January 25th via Mom + Pop Music. Listen to their newest single, “Can’t You See”, here.

Written By: Andrea Renney

Interview with DaniLeigh

DaniLeigh Lays Out Her Heart For Us at the North Park Observatory.

DaniLeigh is a fresh, young artist from South Florida signed to Def Jam Records. With an extensive background within the entertainment industry, DaniLeigh is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. Upon hearing that she was appearing alongside Teyana Taylor as part of the Keep That Same Energy tour, Peter Swan and Christian Le immediately drove out to the North Park Observatory to chat with Dani before the show.

 

You went from a background dancer to gaining a huge following and going on tour with Teyana Taylor. Is there any real technique to how you’ve gotten your internet following?

I’ve been on Instagram for a while now, and I’ve just been posting videos of me like, either dancing or singing and stuff. But I really gained a huge following when I did the “In My Feelings” challenge. It kind of went viral for me, so, that was my big spark for the jump in followers.

He mentioned you touring with Teyana Taylor, but I think you’re basically a jack of all trades; you’re a singer, dancer, songwriter, model, you’ve directed a [Prince] music video, and even acted a little bit. What made you focus on becoming a singer, because it seems like you’re talented in so many different areas?

I think I just love music so much and I think music is just the…what’s it called, the “middle of everything” for me, you know what I mean? And it’s dope that I get to express my story through music. I think music is the platform for me to showcase everything I do.

How has touring with Teyana been?

Good! She’s cool, she’s a great performer, it’s very chill, it’s real cool. Everybody’s dope and the concert’s get sold out so that’s a plus for me.

So you’re on tour right now, is this your first time in San Diego performing or…?

Have we ever performed here? No, I think it’s my first time.

Well welcome to San Diego. Going back to your following, you have a special name for your fans: what is it?

DaniLions.

DaniLions! Well, I do have some alternate names if you care to hear them?

Sure!

So, I’m thinking the DaniMonds, like diamonds, or the DamnDanis.

DaniMonds… like diamonds?

Yeah!

Oh… [everyone laughs] 

Let’s go back to your background. You’ve been a background dancer for a lot of music videos too, but the one that stood out to me was I found out you were actually a background dancer in a Romeo music video.

Yeah, [laughing] that was when I was like 16!

What was that like, because I used to see him, he had his own Nickelodeon show, he was in Like Mike, and I’m just thinking “this dude’s so cool!”

Yeah, that was fun. That was when I first moved to LA.

Oh really? That’s awesome!

Mhm. Did you watch the video?

Yeah, it was alright. He does his thing. I don’t want to compare music now, but him back then versus you now? There’s definitely a clearer and better person.

Yeah [laughing].

As he’s said, you’ve been doing just everything for a long time now. You first started just doing YouTube videos when you were about 14. Now personally, I’m not proud of the stuff that I put on YouTube when I was 14. Is their anything that you like to look back on and laugh at?

For sure. I think I couldn’t sing at all when I was 14, so all my YouTube videos are all private now, but they’re fun to watch cause, y’know, I was a shy little girl.

Hey, are you hungry Peter?

I could eat.

You know what, I’m feeling Curly Fries right now.

[DaniLeigh bursts out laughing]

You know, while we’re on the subject, can you tell me anything about Curly Fryz?

I love curly fries! I want some right now… I mean I was in a group back then, and that was our name.

Do you feel like being in that group helped you at all?

Definitely! We were very self-sufficient, we weren’t signed or anything, so we did a lot of independent work. Like, I learned how we did our websites, we wrote video treatments, we were super D.I.Y, so I learned a lot.

So other than this interview, what’s been the highlight of your career so far?

Last night.

Last night?

There was a little baby girl. I was singing to a little baby, and it was so crazy! I posted it on my page, so you guys can see it there.

Anyways, you’re pretty talented, but your family’s pretty talented too. You have a brother and a sister who also do music?

Yeah, my little sister, she’s 15, she’s in a girl group, but she’s a crazy singer. She’s super good. And then my brother’s a rapper, he’s pretty fire.

And your brother, did he used to be a barber too?

Mhm. And he still cuts hair too.

Maybe if I come to LA I’ll look him up.

Yeah, he’s nice.

I’ve been looking for a haircut actually…  But you’re signed onto Def Jam, and you’re on a US Tour. Do you feel like you’ve made it?

No.

No? What’s next for you then?

Yeah what’s the plan?

The plan is “The Plan,” my album dropping, did you know that? [laughs] In October, I’ll be dropping my album, so after that’s out, I feel like that’s what’s going to make me feel more “on.” But I don’t feel like I’m there yet.

Okay, so he’s already mentioned your YouTube covers, but I have a related question. Which artist would you want to cover one of your songs, and which song would it be?

To cover one of my songs? Drake should cover Lil Bebe.

Wow, no hesitation there! [laughs] So my final question for you is, what’s the tallest tree you could climb, and are you able to prove it?

Yeah for sure, probably like a 14 inch stalk [bursts out laughing].

That’s not even higher than the chair you’re sitting on!

That’s my answer.

And last but not least, do you have anything to say to your fans?

I love y’all fans so much!

Be sure to check out DaniLeigh’s work on Spotify, Apple Music, or SoundCloud.