“Boots, Bolo Ties, and Big Belt Buckles”: An Interview with lil racecar

Harley Geffner chats with lil racecar about his OutWest project, country trap, and the similarities between punk and rap.
By    March 28, 2018

OutWest can make an underground warehouse show feel like a campfire sing-along. They look like they stepped right off the set of Nashville. They rock bolo ties and cowboy hats from the high school hallways of lil racecar’s beach-adjacent hometown in Ventura to HAM on Everything shows on LA’s skid row.

The Southern California-based group breathes fresh country air into the recirculated atmosphere of darkwave SoundCloud. Infusing their penchant for outland aesthetics with the heavy bass of their auto-tuned influences, the group is innovating a unique country trap sound. The style is less Florida Georgia Line foraying into rap with some interesting rhyme patterns, and more Lil Peep throwing lassoes on an El Paso ranch.

Producers 1800entity and trxpicvl evoke the straw-chewing imagery with banjo-plucking samples and maudlin strings that could be straight out of a Tim McGraw track. Over this backdrop, racecar and gravelust sing simple melodies of love, loneliness, and wanderlust. Their feelings are delivered without the cool frustration of figuring out modern-love through subtweets. They hearken back to a simpler time; driving in a pickup truck and agonizing over love lost and found through their bright-skied travels.

The vocal inflections recall the atonal melodies that GBC popularized, brimming with an existential warp that feels like it knows the pain of that famous Norwegian scream painting. It’s like their music admits the ugly hollowness of searching for answers to the unanswerable questions that feel-good country music sometimes sits on top of without explicitly referencing.

To find out more about the inspirations behind OutWest’s sound, I hopped on a phone call with lil racecar and chatted about the group’s big belt buckles, their varied influences, and the post-rap landscape. —Harley Geffner

When did you first start making music?

lil racecar: I’ve always had music in my life. I was actually in a band with my sister and a few of my friends in 4th and 5th grade. I started making music under lil racecar two or three years ago.

What did you listen to growing up?

lil racecar: Fuck, I’ve listened to a lot of shit. I listened to a lot of the Gun Club, that was one of our big inspirations for OutWest. It’s a really cool country and kinda death rock band. I listened to a lot of rappers—Future, Chief Keef, all that kinda shit. I listened to a lot of witch house as well. It was all that 2011-2012 kinda dark sort of house music. To me, a lot of the underground is kinda based off that now and I think that’s where I got my roots sort of in the underground. I got into it when I was super young. I was like 11 and that kinda propelled me into the scene I’m in today.

I was going through your SoundCloud, and a lot of your old stuff is with Cold World Gang. You still make music with them, but your old stuff is with YungJza, SK, and others How did you meet them?

lil racecar: Yeah, honestly I’m a huge YungJza fan. I’m the biggest YungJza Cold World Gang fan ever. I just loved his music and I hit him up and bought a feature off him and he just fucked with me. I invited him to come down to Ventura to play a show, crash at my house and record and shit—and he did it. And ever since, that’s just been my fuckin’ brother. I love everybody over at CWG. SK, Adharmasatru, Pink Nokia, they’re all fuckin’ great people, really cool people.

And what was it like working with them?

lil racecar: Yeah, oh my god. I still get goosebumps from their music. It was almost like a dream come true to make music with them sort of. And now it’s awesome to be able to call them my best friends in the music scene.

So 1800entity tweeted out that when you guys (the OutWest crew) first met, it was over a game of bocce?

lil racecar: Yeah haha that’s funny. So entity is from Simi Valley—he doesn’t live there anymore, he lives in Bakersfield now, but he was living in Simi Valley at the time which is about 30 minutes away from us. Gravelust knew some kids out there and they knew entity and we just started fuckin’ with them and we linked up with them. There’s not shit to do in Simi Valley. I actually had bocce balls for some reason—I had them in my car—I have no idea why. We just went to a park, chopped it up, and played bocce ball basically. It was awesome.

When did you decide to form OutWest with them?

lil racecar: So me and Dylan…gravelust. Sorry, if I call gravelust Dylan and call 1800 Shane by the way, that’s their real names. Me and Dylan were making music for a while and he was…well yeah Dylan was away for a while. We’ve been making music forever. Ever since I made lil racecar and he made gravelust, we’ve always been bros—always doing it together.

He had to go away for a while, but when he got back, I was really kinda in a weird place—camping a lot in the desert and listening to a lot of music that my mom used to play for me when I was little—kinda learning to understand what I like. And I just brought the idea to him, like, ‘I wanna do some kinda cowboy shit.’ He was all for it and me and him formed it with our friend Leo, who is SaticoySlime, who DJs for us. And just eventually we fucked with entity and put him on the team.

Word, so what initially drew you to that country sound?

lil racecar: To be honest, I’ve grown up on it. My mom is from Fresno, but her parents are from Arkansas and Kansas so I’ve always grown up with that kinda vibe around me—listening to Elvis and Johnny Cash and shit. I don’t know, it’s just the idea of escapism is what really appeals to me. Creating music that takes you to someplace different instead of creating music about the same thing. It’s the same appeal of watching a Western movie.

You escape to a different place, you’re put in a different time. You’re getting told a story. That was the appeal to us—the stories that were told through country music and how you could kind of tell stories of pain, all of that, and at the same time, have a different essence to it and a different kinda sound.

And it still has this new sort of punk trap sound to it as well.

lil racecar: Yo, I’m glad you said that because I was about to bring that up. I think punk and this new rap right now are synonymous. I think they’re so similar in the ways that it’s just almost kinda like post-rap. Post-rap, man…I correlate it the same way how punk bands in the ’80s. There used to be punk bands that had cowboy influences. The only difference is that we grew up on a lot of rap music too, what we heard growing up in the 2000s. Like hearing Chief Keef and shit, and hearing how we could put that together with the punk sound.

Alt and indie rock, too. Blink 182’s influence is huge right now among today’s crop. This punk rap wave kinda came out of Chicago drill and Arcade Fire.

lil racecar: Exactly, yeah, and we’re very inspired by those bands too, like Jawbreaker and Title Fight. What I think is really cool about OutWest is it has so many influences and we’ve pulled things from everything we like really and put it together under one sound.

It’s really cool that you can do that in this day and age. You have the resources to create that kinda shit readily available. We can easily create music that we actually really want to—bringing in all our influences together. We’re not pigeonholed by any one genre. It’s kinda eclectic—picking and choosing from what we like and don’t like.

I wanted to ask you a little bit about your style, too. I read the Underground Underdogs piece about the comeback of this country western style in popular fashion. It mentioned that you guys perform in cowboy hats.

lil racecar: When we started to move in that direction musically, we kinda started molding our whole life around it and got really into it. The whole feel of it, the culture of it, and everything. I mean that’s how we dress day to day sometimes. I honestly think that shit looks hard and that’s just what we like. We’ve been wearing it for a while. Boots, bolo ties, and big belt buckles.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the footage I came across from like two years ago of you performing with some of the GothBoiClique guys. It was Coldhardt and HorseHead I think.

lil racecar: Yeah, haha. We used to be pretty close. We still are kinda. We used to have them come out all the time because their old manager was our homie and worked at the motel down the street from my house. They used to just hop up and play shows in Ventura all the time before they kinda blew up. But yeah shoutout GBC, they’re cool people.

So what’s your songwriting process like?

lil racecar: Oh it’s fucked up, haha. It’s really bad.

There’s no wrong way to do it.

lil racecar: Exactly. Maybe it’s fucked up for me to call it fucked up. I just sort of zone out. I started to read a lot. Old Cowboy books and Western books. I listen to a lot of country artists I really like and kinda just hear what I want to hear, feel what I want to feel. Then I’ll listen to a beat and sort of just get to it.

Do you mostly use pre-recorded beats or are you cooking up together while you’re with gravelust and 1800?

lil racecar: It’s a little bit of both. When Shane is in town, then we’re getting sent beats by him. We’re striving to do a lot more work in person, I think that’s something that’s kinda lacking in the underground—that sort of kick of originality—well not kick, I don’t know. Hearing a song that you wrote and that you wrote the lyrics for is a lot different than on a prerecorded beat. That’s just facts and there’s no way around it.

I think that’s what we really want to do with OutWest—and we have too, we have an acoustic song on the EP. But for the most part we get sent beats, but when the opportunities arise, a lot of our new music is going to be with the producer in the studio, working on beats or we wrote the guitar sample type shit.

Do you have a dream collaborator?

lil racecar: It’d be cool to collab with Lana Del Rey. I’m a huge Lana Del Rey fan—that’s the main goal for sure. It’d be cool to collab with country bands like Midland or something. Probably just all my idols. Like Future—it’d be so cool to collab with Future. Or Young Thug…Wow. Young Thug on one of those Beautiful Thugger Girls country beats. That’d be really cool.

Do you have any plans for music videos coming up? There are a few fanmade AMVs with your songs and one 20 second snippet from your track “On My Jeans.”

lil racecar: Yeah, we’re actually in the process for planning a video for one of our songs coming up. But we’re just sort of looking around trying to find a director and where to shoot and shit, because for us, we really want to wait to put out a video until we can do a quality video that is sort of our vision and a hundred percent immersed. We’re being really picky about it right now. Picky and choosy about who we’re going to work with for a video, but we definitely do have plans once we can figure out all the logistics.

Word, and any upcoming projects?

lil racecar: Yeah, we got a bunch of new singles coming up and then we’re going to start working on the OutWest album. We don’t know what we’re going to call it yet, but it’s going to be both of us in OutWest, just me, gravelust, and entity will produce most of it I think. We’re trying to record all of it in person. We’ve been talking about going out to the desert and getting a cheap motel and setting up shop there to record an album. We’re just waiting on the right time, but expect an album.

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