A First Date in a Cemetery with Lil Peep
We spent a beautiful Tuesday afternoon surrounded by graves getting to know the boy with the Daddy tattoo.
Fotografie di Chris Bethell.
Lil Peep is… complicated. Here are the facts: he is 20 years old, he is from Long Island and he has racked up millions of plays on Soundcloud by singing about depression, heartbreak and cocaine over samples from all the band that made an appearance on your Myspace 'influences' list.
Ever since Pitchfork ran a profile back in January heralding him as "the future of emo", Lil Peep has shot from the internet fame he'd already been enjoying as part of GOTHBOICLIQUE – a collective of rappers, songwriters and producers with a shared interest in Underoath and Gucci Mane, one of whom is former Tigers Jaw member Adam McIlwee – and into the lion's den of public opinion.
As an artist, nobody quite knows what to do with him. Critics have spent months stroking their chins over what business this kid with a "Daddy" tattoo has scream-rapping over Mount Eerie instrumentals, while fans of emo and rap respectively have generally struggled to take his Taking Back Sunday-influenced trap seriously and, for now, lumped him at the farthest-flung end of a taste spectrum that can barely find a compliment for Lil Uzi Vert. His fanbase though – which is substantial, obsessive and comprised largely of teens – just see a guy communicating his feelings, which mirror their feelings, through a fusion of genres that make total sense in 2017.
Lil Peep also hasn't actively positioned himself as any of these things: songwriter, rapper, teen icon. He's just doing his thing, appreciating whoever is into it and waiting for everyone else to catch up. Most of the chat seems to be happening around him rather than with him – which is usually the first thing that happens when a visually bold artist bowls in out of nowhere, wholeheartedly owning a musical style that feels inherently confrontational because it fucks with a genre or backs one previously considered unworthy of critical validation (see also: Odd Future, Yung Lean or PC Music).
The way Peep presents himself is both a hindrance and a help in that respect; it may throw a lot of heat on him and contribute to the reasons why he can rub people up the wrong way, but he also just got back from Fashion Week in Paris and Milan where he walked for Balmain, Marcelo Burlon and Rick Owens among others. Still, the question remains: who the fuck is Lil Peep, anyway?
Clocking that he's been spending a load of his time in London recently, I asked Peep if he'd like to hang out with me and talk about himself. He was kind enough to take some time off from shouting about his debut album and doing improv comedy to meet me somewhere we both love: the cemetery.
Noisey: Hi… What shall I call you? What do your friends call you?
Lil Peep: Peep. My mom has been calling me Peep my whole life, that's how I got the name. I don't know why… She tells me I look like a "little peep" but I don't really know what a "peep" is. She's a first-grade teacher and she was doing all this home school type shit. She had me raising little birds when I was a kid, so I was raised with ducks and chickens. I'd keep them in my bedroom. That's my whole childhood.
So I guess you were like one of the birds.
Yeah, I was just a lil peep.
Do you remember the first date you ever went on?
[Pause] No. I've fucked my memory up.
Where would you take someone on a first date?
Disneyland. The one in LA is super old and has this really cool vibe to it. My mom's always telling me "You gotta get high and go in the Tiki Room". I'm not going in the fucking Tiki Room. They just sing and dance. But my mom is like, "Yeah it's the best spot, I used to have the best giggles in there…."
Happy Fourth of July, by the way.
I forgot! I'm not even American, man. That's what this is [points to his eye]. Crybaby. That's for the Americans.
You think they're all crybabies?
Not all of them, but a lot of them.
Do you have any Fourth of July traditions?
Everyone would go out and get drunk and I would stay home and smoke. Do you have a lighter, by the way? I love how they put Nando's on the cigarette packets here [points to photo on packet of a diseased lung].
Have you had a Nando's yet?
Of course! I get the bonus platter for two people and eat the whole thing to myself, every time. It's so good.
What's the nicest thing you've ever done for someone?
Woof, I mean, I do a lot for a lot of people. I help my friends out when they need it, I'm extremely generous. I've spent too much money on fucking gold chains and I have absolutely none. I get drunk and I take them off and I just put them on people like, 'That's yours, I love you.'
What's the nicest thing anyone's done for you?
My mommy raised me so well. This is my relationship with my mom right here [points to neck tattoo].
Would you say you're a romantic?
Oh yeah, for sure. It's a big problem.
How come? Do you get yourself into trouble?
Trouble, yeah. I'm a very emotional person so I fuck myself up, I fuck other people up. I wish I was a little less… passionate. I'm a very passionate person.
What's the first tattoo you got?
This thing on my arm. I must've been about 14. It's my mom's initials and her birthday. I got it so she couldn't get pissed at it when she saw it, but it's pretty fucking big… I didn't want it that big, lowkey, my friend did it in my garage while [my mom] was home. She didn't know it was happening.
Which is your favourite?
I love the Crybaby tattoo, because it means a lot to me. It doesn't just mean the America thing, it keeps me grateful. People complain about a lot of shit. "Ugh, I can't get no fucking wi-fi" – shit like that. It seems very petty to me. I have good values. I don't really care about money at all, or a bunch of other shit that most people think is important. I don't know, I'm not big into complaining. I used to complain a lot then I kind of found myself, and [the tattoo] kind of keeps me grateful for everything that I have.
When and how did you link up with Gothboiclique?
Ah, the homies! So, I moved out to LA when I was like 17. I didn't even walk for graduation – I did graduate, though. I got this homeschool deal. I didn't have to go to school because I was depressed, and my mom wrote all these essays for me. I didn't write one of them. She literally got me my diploma. I went to school like 20 days my senior year. So before graduation, I moved to California on a limb, not really having any idea what I was gonna do. My mom would send me baked beans in the mail and that was how I ate. I was too lazy to get a fucking can opener so I'd open the baked beans with a hammer. And then there was like metal shards in all the baked beans and every time I ate it I'd cough up blood.
That's not so good.
Anyway, so I'm at that house, pretty much on the couch, and this producer Nedarb – one of the first people I linked with in LA, he's a good friend of mine and was just on tour with me in Russia and shit as my DJ – he's known Gothboiclique forever so he just invited them over one day. Literally the first day I met Lil Tracy and everyone we made and shot the video for "White Tee" at that house. That's the day I met them all. From there we just really, really clicked.
Were you a fan of Tigers Jaw before you started working with Adam ?
Of course! I love working with Adam. We have some crazy shit that's not released yet. GBC is my favourite people to work with and always will be. I've had multiple huge artists hit me up to work, but like I said my values are different. I do it for the music not for the money at all, so I'm not gonna work with you unless I really wanna work with you, or if you've influenced me or helped me cope with whatever I've been dealing with. Just people who I really fuck with. I'm not gonna work with you just because you have followers.
Do you read press about yourself very often?
Yeah, somewhat. I read six sentences and I'm like "eurghh". But I think it's really hard to explain me and capture me. There's so much too it. I feel like it's hard to grasp or put into words, so I don't blame people for writing things that I don't necessarily think are on point.
I think a lot of critics or journalists maybe don't "get" what you do.
They don't yet, but they will soon. It's gonna take a while, it might even take a couple of years, but soon enough everyone's gonna get it.
I was at your London show in Omeara earlier in the year and it was rammed. Kids definitely get it.
Oh yeah, the kids get it. But the kids aren't writing the reviews, and even then… I don't know, if I were to have someone write an article on me it would be someone from Gothboiclique. One of my friends. I might just do that, have my homie Fish Narc write about me. He's the best. That dude's a genius.
You have a lot of intense fans and they have such a direct access point to you because of social media and the way people are famous now. Does it ever get overwhelming for you?
It definitely gets overwhelming, just because of all the people who misunderstand me and all the people who have so much hate in their heart and say the craziest things. Sometimes it gets to me and sometimes it doesn't because I know they're just trying to bother me. But sometimes they're not just trying to bother me, and I see people who are such disgusting human beings it freaks me out. I normally wouldn't have those people anywhere near me or paying attention to me if it wasn't for the popularity. I love my supporters, they're great. They've got good morals and the people who hate on them are just throwing themselves under the bus.
You've been doing loads of fashion work recently too, walking for Balmain and stuff. Is that something you've always had an interest in?
Definitely, but I never had the money. I always had "style", or whatever you the fuck you wanna call it. I don't even know if it's style, it's just a really different way of dressing and looking. Everyone has always copied how I looked and wanted to dress like me since I was, like, 10.
What kind of crazy garms were you wearing when you were 10?
Oh dude, I was swagging. My brother got me into punk when I was really young so I had my fucking bondage pants and whatnot from super young. When I was in middle school I bleached my hair. I had purple and green hair in fourth grade. I've always wanted to look different. I just wanted to look like a videogame character or an anime character or some shit. It's funny, because people draw me as anime characters now all the time. I get these crazy detailed drawings of me, and I think that's because of how hard I've worked on my image. Recently, someone made this doll of me that's literally exactly like me down to the tee. Every tattoo. They spent a year on it. When we talk about GBC it's like, we could be a character select menu on Tony Hawk's Underground. GBC is a 2k17 character.
What's your favourite RPG?
I loved Fable, and obviously Oblivion and Skyrim, but I also played a lot of Runescape when I was younger, so I think that might have done it. Pretty much all you do is walk around, flexing your outfit. That's like the whole point of the game. You fight people, kill people and get an outfit for it. Then you wear it around and people are like, "Oh shit he did that to get that outfit? That's crazy". Life is Runescape to me. You buy, sell, trade. Cut down trees for money. Yo, it taught me a lot. RPGs are definitely very important to me.
You said your brother turned you on to punk. Which were the first artists or albums to make a big impression on you?
The Casualties, Minor Threat, NOFX for sure. I was more into emo than him: Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance. He was less into that, he was more into punk, but that's what turned me onto it. The NYHC scene was really big back then. It was dope. I remember my brother and his friends going onstage with The Casualties. I used to have a mohawk and liberty spikes when I was 15. So I'm in the movie theatre with all these kids who were like, playing lacrosse, getting ready for their soccer practise tomorrow… and I'm there, high as shit.
Do you wanna tell me a bit about Come Over When You're Sober ?
It's fucking dope. It's definitely the best project that I've made to date. I made the whole thing in four or five days, I'm not gonna lie. I write a song in like 20 minutes and record it myself in my bedroom. When I'm super inspired I'll just be in a state of mind where I'm like, 'Alright, I'm working on the album right now and it has to be fucking great', and that's all I'll think about for a week. I literally won't even do anything else. We made a shit-ton of songs and cut it down to a few of the most powerful ones, which is the first time I've done that also. Usually I just release everything I make.
What are your favourite films?
My favourite director is Tarantino which a lot of people will make fun of but yeah, bitch, Tarantino. Probably my favourite by him is Reservoir Dogs. Other than that… Yo, you know what I loved? This is gonna sound corny: Twilight.
I will never shit on Twilight , those films are sick.
SO SICK. I love all vampire movies.
The soundtracks are amazing too.
Jennifer's Body is dope. Oh yeah, Panic! At The Disco did the song for Jennifer's Body! "New Perspective". That song is hard.
Who would play you in a film?
Justin Bieber. I'll just put my tatts on him. [Accidentally puts his hand in a spiderweb] Spiderweb! I don't kill spiders, but they scare me. I just stuck my hand deep in a web.
I am… Terrified of spiders.
I'll light a cigarette. They don't like smoke.
I'm freaking out. Are they on me?
It's OK, you're good. Do you know what my biggest fear in the world is? Centipedes.
We have a history.
They love me, and I fucking hate them. I bet you there's a centipede within ten feet of us right now. They just follow me around. I've had multiple situations where they're on me, crawling on me. Some people are like, "Yo I've never seen a centipede" and I'm like WHAT. I've seen 10 million centipedes. I think it's a Long Island thing. There's a lot of centipedes on Long Island. I'm just lying in bed, chilling and I'll see this shadow… And I already know what the fuck the shadow is. I'm so used to it at this point. The way that it's moving, those legs... So I'm like, "OK, Imma look at you, just to make sure I know what the fuck is going on', then I start screaming. Throwing my clothes off, running out of the house. I'll be like, "OK, mom, I'm not coming home," and it's like a Tuesday and I'm in elementary school, "I'm sleeping at Eddie's house until you show me the centipede dead on a napkin." So yeah, I kill centipedes. I'm a centipede murderer.
Do you have any other fears?
The ocean. I was never afraid of the ocean but my favourite school teacher of all time passed away in a surfing accident, and another kid who was a good friend of everyone in the neighbourhood also passed away having to do with the ocean. So there's been two pretty traumatic deaths in my life having to do with that, but also… I have a crazy theory. Ready for it? This is next level.
Hit me with it.
You know what the closest living relative to a dinosaur is? A chicken. So, first of all: how good do you think T-Rex's tasted?
Probably really good. Like Nando's.
Like a giant Nando's! I want to eat a T-Rex. Anyway, so I think birds are the closest relatives to dinosaurs because they could fly, right, and that's how they survived the meteor. At that time the earth was Pangea, just one big continent and the rest of the world was water. So I think everything that was in the ocean survived. I don't think any of it went anywhere, we just can't go deep enough to see it. So all those big ass Liopleurodons and shit? I think they're still down there, chilling. It's not that crazy of a theory I don't think. We're still finding shit all the time.
We know more about the surface of the moon than the ocean floor, apparently.
Exactly. So I'm not going anywhere near there. None of that, thanks.
[The caretaker shouts for everyone to leave because the graveyard is closing.]
I think we're getting kicked out now, like troublemaking teens.
See, we don't get any of this in America [gestures to church]. All these turrets and castles and shit.
You should definitely visit some castles while you're here.
Definitely. I want to buy a castle.
Word. What are you up to this evening?
I'm gonna get a bottle of liquor and see what happens.
On the way out, his manager asks him for a cigarette and Peep offers up his packet of B&H Silvers and says: "Have you noticed how they put Nando's on the packet here?" I laugh again. Everyone else laughs. He says: "I've used that joke like six times today."
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(Photography by Chris Bethell)