It’s no secret that the global pandemic has taken a wrecking ball to the majority of artists’ hopes, dreams and plans for 2020. Gold Coast party-starters Bootleg Rascal are no exception. The duo kicked off the year feeling rejuvenated after coming through the most challenging chapter in their career, with an injection of fresh energy in the form of a new management team (Good Intent), a stacked 12-month schedule of national and international touring on the cards, and a brand new album of daring new tunes in the pipeline.
Cue COVID-19, and those plans went straight down the gurgler.
But the remarkable thing about the Bootleg boys is, unlike many other artists in their league, they didn’t merely shelve their plans and bunker down to wait out the storm. In fact, they’ve done the exact opposite, charging into the storm with the maniacal moxie of a rum-drunk Captain Jack Sparrow.
First, they stepped up their online interactions, tightening their already strong connections with fans through a series of activities like live streaming, personalised video shoutouts, guitar lessons with string-slinger Jimmy Young and madcap online bingo seshes with singer Carlos Lara and the band’s completely insane manager Bobby Dazzler. As a result, the band’s social engagement and streaming numbers have skyrocketed to an all-time high — during a global pandemic and without any major radio support, mind you — a stunning feat. In short, Bootleg Rascal are f*cking thriving.
Part of that success is also down to their rejigged release strategy. Once COVID hit, team Bootleg made the bold decision to “release as much new music as we could, as quickly as possible”, turfing their album plans in favour of an innovative staggered EP release dubbed Collaborations of Very Isolated Delinquents “19, which has seen the band drip-feed constant event singles to fans over a five month stint.
While on the music side of things, the group are done playing by other peoples’ rules; their fresh batch of singles showcasing a whole new level of genre-smashing sonic experimentation and risk-taking, from the groove-laden ‘Milk In My Bowl’, to fresh cut ‘Oh So Cool’, a take-no-prisoners party jam with big Beastie Boys energy.
As Young tells Music Feeds, “There’s always risk no matter what you do, but I think in general good things happen when you back yourself and go after what you really want.”
The audacious new track comes alongside some bittersweet news, the rescheduling of Bootleg Rascal’s East Coast headline tour dates for February of 2021 – something for fans to look forward to IRL (and a prime opportunity to cash in the booze vouchers they won at online bingo).
Though they may be seven-year veterans of Australia’s indie music scene, with two full-length albums, multiple world tours, pretty much every major Aussie music festival and even a triple j Like A Version under their belts, in a very real way, Bootleg Rascal are, in the words of Jimmy Young, “just getting started”.
Catch our full chat with the band’s guitarist-in-chief below.
Music Feeds: What would you like fans to know about this new chapter of Bootleg Rascal? What’s changed and what’s still the same?
Bootleg Rascal: This might sound a bit strange but in a lot of ways I really feel like we’re just getting started. About 18 months ago the band went through some pretty major changes, including new management and just a huge overhaul of our whole operation in general. Since then it’s like the handbrake has been let off and we’re able to finally open up the throttle a bit. I’d like to think that all the elements that our fans know and love are still there, just more amplified now. In other words, it is Bootleg on steroids.
MF: The majority of bands don’t make it onto their second chapter, so that in itself is a huge achievement. Can you give us a bit more insight into some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome to get to this point, and what you’ve learned along the way?
BR: I think the hardest point for us so far was around 2 years ago. It felt to us like the band had already reached its peak and that potentially our best musical moments were already behind us. That’s not an easy feeling to shake and even more so it’s really hard to know what to do next. Or if it’s even worth bothering to continue at all. I remember sitting down talking it all through with Carlos [Lara, frontman] one day. We laid all our cards on the table and realised that we both wanted to keep making music together, but we knew things had to change in order for us to carry on. We made a bit of a ‘wish list’ if you will, of certain conditions and goals that we knew once they were achieved would get us back to where we wanted to be again. We started working our way through the list, ticking things off, and everything felt like it started to get back on track, pretty quickly too. If anything, it feels like a lot of elements in relation to the band are actually the best they’ve ever been now, and we’d like to think that really shines through in all the recent music we’ve been creating.
If I’ve learnt anything through all this it’s how important it is to have a really great team of people behind you. You can be working your arse off and producing really great material but if you don’t have the right people connecting all the dots for you it can all be for nothing. Also, don’t be content with settling for mediocre in any aspect of your life just because you’re scared of rolling the dice again. There’s always risk no matter what you do, but I think in general good things happen when you back yourself and go after what you really want.
MF: How about the relationship between you two? Has it changed much after going through so many ups and downs together?
BR: I think one of the best things for any relationship is shared experience. Enjoy the good times and hopefully learn from the bad. I’ve always thought that being in a band together is like some sort of whack marriage where you get all of the worst bits but usually only some of the good, lol. This sort of life can be pretty intense at times. You get some amazing highs but some pretty rough lows as well. If you can survive it all and come out the other side you’ll only be stronger for it though. I feel like Carlos and I have definitely been though a lot together over the years but we’re probably the tightest we’ve ever been for that very reason. Who knows how long we’ll be doing this for, but I think we’re both up for taking this ride as long as we can and enjoying it more than ever.
MF: 2020 has presented more than its fair share of challenges for artists, but you guys have devised quite an innovative way to keep active during the pandemic with this staggered EP release. Can you walk us through how this idea came together and what you’re hoping to achieve with it?
BR: Pre-Covid we basically had a full 12 month tour/release schedule laid out, which was going to culminate in our third LP coming out at the end of this year. With touring suddenly off the table we decided the best thing we could do right now was release as much new music as we could, as quickly as possible. We had about half an album written and recorded already so we thought — why not just release what we had asap? We decided to put out 1 song per month, consecutively for 5-6 months, and make it an EP instead of a full length as planned. We’re currently about half way through the rollout and so far we’ve been absolutely stoked with the response! I think the main thing we wanted to achieve from it was just to give people something a bit fun and uplifting to vibe on during these pretty weird times and going off what fans have been telling us, I think we’ve already gone beyond what we were even hoping for.
MF: As we’ve seen from tracks like ‘We Independent’ and ‘Milk In My Bowl’, BR have also been continuing to blaze a new trail sonically on this EP, experimenting with lots of different vibes and sounds. How does this process of writing compare to the way you’ve worked in the past?
BR: I think our whole vibe in general for the last 12-18 months or so has just been to not be afraid of experimenting and trying new things. This EP really epitomises that mindset, I think. We didn’t really set out with any pre-conceived ideas about how the record should sound; we just wanted to start recording anything and everything and see where we landed. This time around, the main difference is there’s only the two of us writing, whereas previously we had three or four writing members. It’s been really refreshing actually, just having the two of us this time round. It’s been much easier for us both to lock into the same train of thought than it can be with a larger group, so that’s definitely been a bonus. I think it can sometimes help give the songs a bit more focus and direction as well, compared to having to many chefs in there spoiling the broth.
MF: Is anything off the table stylistically for Bootleg heading into the future? E.g. could we ever see you chuck a King Gizzard and release a thrash metal track?
BR: I’m sure Carlos would definitely agree with me when I say that in regards to Bootleg, nothing is ever off the table! Moreso now than ever we are keen to venture into new sonic territories so you never know what you could hear from us next! Thrash metal could be a possibility in the not too distant future for sure.
MF: Can you give us any hints as to what other kinds of musical delights the rest of the Collaborations of Very Isolated Delinquents “19 release holds in store?
BR: I’d say some of the best tracks off the EP are still to come. Keep your eyes peeled for 1 or 2 sneaky features thrown in there too from some of our favourite Aussie artists right now!
MF: Incredibly, your streaming numbers and levels of social engagement have gone through the roof during the pandemic. What do you attribute this to?
BR: I think it comes down to a lot of things, but a few things in particular. Firstly, most people probably have more time than ever on their hands right now and I think for a lot of us that has translated into doing things we previously put on the back-burner, because we were too busy with work and other interests. I think things like reading books, listening to music, hobbies and other creative pursuits have really filled that excess time for most of us recently, which is great. It also partly equates for streaming numbers being higher than average for some of us right now, too.
I think the other thing that’s happening right now as a bi-product of Covid lockdowns etc. is that people are longing for any form of real connection more than ever as well. I know that nothing fills that kind of void for me and many others like music does. Whether that be playing it live, listening to it or creating it. It pretty much always sorts me out.
I think those two factors combined with the fact we’ve been releasing so much new material lately has really helped bump our numbers up across the board. Whatever the reason, we hope it keeps going!
MF: We are living in very uncertain times right now as artists, and the future of live music still feels very much up in the air. Like many of us, you guys had live dates locked and loaded for the second half of 2020 that have now had to be postponed. At the start of the pandemic, September seemed so far off! How painful was the realisation that these dates wouldn’t be able to happen yet and how are you dealing with the live music blue balls in the meantime?
BR: It’s not ideal having to keep postponing live dates but at the same time our main priority has always been to do whatever is best for everyone’s safety and wellbeing. In that respect, we felt like postponing was sadly unavoidable for now but was the right decision for us to make. In the meantime, we’re obviously writing/recording/releasing as much new music as possible, as well as working on our live show so it’s bigger and better than ever when we can finally return to playing live again.
MF: Crossing our fingers and toes that touring will be able to return in some capacity in 2021, what are you hoping next year will hold in store for Bootleg?
BR: I think for us, playing live again in just about any capacity will be amazing! Touring overseas will probably be off limits for quite some time still, but just being able to head all over Oz again will be more than enough to satisfy our live cravings I’m sure! Bring on some big regional tours in 2021!!
Catch Bootleg Rascal’s rescheduled East Coast tour dates below.
Bootleg Rascal Tour Dates
SAT 21 NOV
BIG PINEAPPLE MUSIC FESTIVAL, SUNSHINE COAST QLD
w/ Hilltop Hoods and DUNE RATS
Tickets: Official Website
SAT 26 SEP FRI 15 JAN 2021
WOOLLY MAMMOTH, BRISBANE QLD
Tickets: Official Website
FRI 25 SEP SAT 23 JAN 2021
MARRICKVILLE BOWLS CLUB, SYDNEY NSW
Tickets: Official Website
FRI 18 SEP FRI 5 FEB
HOWLER, MELBOURNE VIC
Tickets: Official Website