Thriving Sydney-based crew, Bootleg Rascal, moves seamlessly beyond any realm of defining genre. Their music pulls at your rhythm-strings and takes your body on a journey of new intellectual discovery. With elements of dub, hip hop, pop, trap and reggae, Bootleg Rascal blur the lines of categorised music, pulling inspiration from anything and everything. Their latest single 'Head In The Clouds' takes on strong aspects of smooth hip hop and reggae with a tenacious, yet expanding beat that further demonstrates the booming force of talent that is Bootleg.
We chat to vocalist, Carlos Lara about Bootleg Rascal's latest single, their constant and expanding diversity of genres, and what it truly means to aspire to greatness. Ayla Dhyani writes.
You just dropped ‘Head In The Clouds’, tell us what the track means to you.
The only way that I can really explain it is basically through how we wrote it. Every song has a different meaning to me, but because it’s so collaborative how we write, it’s hard to really pinpoint a particular meaning. I really like this song because it has all these sounds and qualities that are going to be in the album. It’s got that mix of reggae and hip hop and even pop, and Lyall has a really fat rap in it, with a 'trappy' beat break-down at the end. I was listening to the songs the other day and each track is completely different. It goes from a slow reggae song to almost a techno fat bass at the end. Then there are poppy songs and a Polynesian themed dub track that we wrote as well. So it’s really strange, but it’s kind of nice. It’s really hard to pinpoint a genre with what we’re doing.
You seem to diversify a lot with your sound, as a band do you find that you’re fairly in sync with each step that you take musically?
That’s the thing. It really changes. It really all depends on the mood that we’re in. Jack has written the majority of the songs on the album, I’ve written a few, and then we’ve all collaborated. But our writing process changes a lot. Jack might come up to us with just a beat, and then I’d work over that and it’s actually gotten to a point where were work so smoothly together that we actually have songs that we like. When I first joined the band, we were trying to write together, and what we did was we actually had the song 'Holding On For Life' by Broken Bells and we kind of used the song as inspiration. We didn’t copy the song, but we kind of followed its form and the sounds that it was exploring and we used that as almost a template. So a lot of the time, we’ve written songs like that. But then again 'Oh I Know' started off as a recording on Jimmy’s phone of him humming the bassline in the truck at work. That’s literally all it was. Then we just started adding guitar parts to it and we kind of had half a song. Then Jim sent it all over to me and I sat down and started writing some lyrics to it. They literally had no meaning whatsoever, but Jim just really liked it. So there’s no real form that we really follow at all.
That’s great. There seems to be such a strong dynamic between the four of you.
Yeah, well we’re all such different dudes, but it seems to just work really well. When I first started in the band, I had just met the boys. I’d never met them before and we literally had five gigs at Woodford Folk Festival straight up. Somehow it’s just worked and we all get along. So I really like that that was all able to happen.
You’re going on tour soon, you pumped for that?
I’m pretty excited. I haven’t been on tour for way too long. I’m beginning to get withdrawals. I start freaking out when I stay in one place for too long.
You guys seem to get up to fair bit of mischief as well, what’s the most mental thing that’s happened on tour in the past?
No, we’re angels, we’re good boys (laughs). But I guess we do somehow attract that behaviour in some manner. We don’t take ourselves very seriously at all. I always say to people “I’m the 'shittest' musician in the world unless I’m told otherwise.” I don’t want to get a big head, and I think that that kind of mentality is kind of the only way to keep it real. There are a few pretty crazy things that happened that I won’t go into, but one of the scariest moments was when we were going down the highway in the van and then the back doors just opened with all our gear in the back. Everyone just freaked out. Another time my acoustic guitar got smashed at a gig and then the following night my electric guitar got smashed as well. They were terrible guitars, but you know. It’s all been so stupid, but so much fun.
Any other projects that you’re working on?
I like being in the band. I love performing, but I do start to get restless when I’m not doing something. I’m starting my own business, similar to Sureshaker, with another guy called Carlos. It’s a company called Look What We Found and I’m taking care of publishing and sponsorship and he’s taking care of the agency side, but I just do that because I get so bored. There is a lot of touring coming up, though, and we’re also going to be dropping this album, which I’m really excited about. We just keep chipping away as a band and I’d love to be able to get to a point where we’re selling out shows and making enough money where none of us have to work outside of music. But I’m really excited to drop this album. We’ve been working on it for a while now and I just really want people to hear it. I think the next few singles that are going to be coming out are going to have a good response and will be translated a lot better than before. There are plans to go to Europe at the end of the year and talk to go to America with Sticky Fingers at the beginning of next year, so that’s all coming up. It’s all going in the right direction and people are starting to look up to us. I believe that musicians have an ethical responsibility. You have all these people who are listening to you, so you may as well make something worthwhile out of that.
What moves you?
That’s a very good question. There are a lot of things that move me. On an intellectual level, I would say people move me. I find it fascinating the way that we interact and all live together and the reasons that we do the things we do. It really does move me and changes perceptions in my head in the way that we do things. I just love studying people. Everyone does. Everyone loves people watching and watching all the intricacies that people live by. I’m always reading physics stuff on parallel universes and all those different theories, because I just think you have to have an open mind. I believe too many people in this world say that they have an open mind, but its like their minds are so open that it’s reversed to being closed. They think that they are so open minded but all of a sudden, their opinion is the only opinion that they listen to. To me an open mind is to really listen to everyone’s perspective, not necessarily understand it or agree to it, but agree to the fact that you might think a bit differently. It’s a great question as well “what moves you?” because I don’t think a lot of people understand what does. I feel that there’s a large part of the generation that genuinely don’t know what moves them. They’re doing jobs that they’re not happy with, but then they don’t know anything else. That's why I love music. I have 45 minutes on stage to have that ability to move other people, and potentially create a physical and emotional change in others. I always say "I want to be great. I want to be a great person," and unfortunately the definition of 'great' is very blurred these days. A lot of people who think that they're great are very self-centred and very arrogant about it, but I believe that true greatness in not only about being great, but inspiring every single person around you to also be great. I think that that's one of the most important things. If everybody could understand that and do that, the world we live in would be f**king awesome. Society is holding us back from achieving that greatness with all these rules that we think we have to follow. There are astronauts that went out into space and said "if the whole world was able to leave the planet and look at the Earth and the floating nothingness that it exists in, everyone would live there lives in a very different way." You just realise how insignificant everything is and if you really think about that from a bigger picture, the rules that society has dictated upon us just mean nothing. As musicians and artists, we have that ethical responsibility to "change the world," to connect people on a deeper level. If you're not going to live your life trying to change the world, then what's the point of living?