fatherly advice from the head of awful records
Father really does know best. Here, the ringleader of Atlanta's most exciting crew sounds off about making it independent.
The night before we met Father, he performed to a room of kids in Sydney that was probably more full than should've been allowed. He came with a crew of one: his manager, Gerry, who doubled as his DJ. Gerry doesn't have a background in music — he used to virtual DJ to play the set. Before this, he ran a cycling website. The show ended abruptly, when the kids flooded the stage and fucked up the speakers. That's not really standard practice for Father.
"That was one of the rowdier shows," he explains the next day. "People like, falling on top of each other trying to get on stage and shit. When I play the West Coast sometimes I can tell people are turnt, and everyone's enjoying it, but they're just so chill, they don't even jump around. Are y'all so stoned that you literally like, can't move?"
People falling over each-other to get close to him — intense, sure, but not all that surprising, really. Father is on the precipice of cult legend, and Awful Records, collectively, is already there.
Here's an abridged version of the origin story. In the winter of 2014, Father still looked a lot like a regular guy. "I was bullshitting my job and working on music at the house" — a place in Atlanta that was falling apart. "That summer was when everything started to go crazy."
He finished those first few songs and put them online: "Look at Wrist" blew up, and so did "Awful." A bunch of talented kids hanging out in the same shitty houses who decided to Do It Their Damn Selves. Write together, record together, then recruit a handful artists they found digging through Instagram and Soundcloud — Father's a big fan of the Explore page.
Because Awful was a circle of friends before it was a label, it still acts like one. The roster isn't set in stone; someone might fuck you over and go, some people are more casual participants — half-in, half-out. Certain early associates, like Playboi Carti, aren't with the group anymore. Not many stay in Atlanta.
Now Father lives in L.A., with his girlfriend of eight or so years. "It's a nice apartment in Koreatown, it's cool." He's still decorating.
How are you adapting to all of this? I think that being famous would be extremely enjoyable but also quite gross sometimes.
Yeah, it can get like that, but I kinda just accept it. This is normal for me, and normal for a lot of other people in this world. I adapt to things really quickly, so if something changes in my life, I'm just like, 'well, this is what I'm doing now.'
Yesterday at your show, you had hundreds of kids screaming your name. I might take it to heart — I mean, 500 people can't be wrong.
I mean, it feels good. You do take it on, like "Damn straight." But I'm very humble, so it's more like "Oh wow, that's cool." I don't get super egotistical. Maybe deep down inside I'm egotistical as shit, but I don't put that energy out there. I try not to talk about my damn self all the time. When I'm having conversations with people I tell myself, Don't say 'I' — don't say that. It's not about me, It's about you, you're talking to me about your life, your day. I make a conscious effort to not be so self-concerned. But it happens once in awhile. I mean, I love me, I do. [laughs]
What were you like in high school?
I was chill. I wasn't cool. Y'know the table in school where the kids who know everybody sit, but don't really hang out with anyone else? I was at that diverse table. It's like, you're a nerd, but you're also one of the cool kids — but you don't like hanging out with the "cool" kids because you like talking about interesting shit, so you hang here. Or like, you're a jock that doesn't wanna hang out with the "jocks." It's that weird table that brings everyone together.
I knew everybody in school but I didn't really hang out with people. I took my ass home and then hung out by myself. I was like, "When I go home, don't hit me up. I'm gonna get off this bus and I'mma go take a nap and maybe play some video games. Then I'mma wake up and do this shit all over again." By senior year I had a good circle of friends that I used to go out and kick it with.
Tell me how it feels to have made something people are so interested in, with Awful.
I mean, it seems like all the fucking geeks are cool now. I was an internet kid. Everyone I know, I'll talk to and be like, "Wait you used to be into what? That was lame as shit back then!" None of us were cool, we were doing nerd shit — I mean, I wasn't playing no Dungeons and Dragons or nothing like that, but we were the kids that left town, started doing drugs, and became real cool. We weren't cool in high school, we didn't peak.
A lot of kids who spent most of their time alone on computers are thriving now.
Yeah! You don't wanna peak early — that'd be terrible. Who wants to be a jock? I mean, of course you make a little money when you're young, but now jocks are really uncool. NBA players can't dress for shit! [laughs]
They end up loving "Wrist."
It works out full circle. I love it. Eating this shit up.
Awful looks like something that came about from a spirit of friendship more than anything else. That said, it's smart. You own all of your music.
Yeah, there's business that went into it. A lot of little internet Soundcloud artists put their shit up there for free, so when they blow up they don't end up earning any bread. All these fucking millions and millions of plays on a song but no bread to account for it. I'm just like, where's your money coming from? You're doing a show here and there, but really, you're not making bread.
And you've done something different.
People don't realize how much music still does sell. Streaming still does give you a lot of bread. You can be an indie artist that's pretty popular and be making at least what a doctor makes — and still be chillin, owning everything you make. That's basically what I'm doing.
Artists have so many avenues to approach listeners directly now, and say "here it is. Here is the song."
Yeah! Plus it's easier for regular people to access stuff. I figured out how to get my music on Spotify and iTunes real early. You can just look on the Internet and search, "How do I get my music on iTunes?" You don't need a label to get your music on those big distribution channels, and you haven't for a very long time. It's been years since you've needed a label.
Do you think streaming sites are making major labels nervous?
Absolutely. I feel like it was already really easy [to be independent] two years ago. Now majors have slowly started to get their stronghold back on the game, so it's a bit of a uphill battle again. All the stuff we used to have like Soundcloud, that was totally free. Now it's controlled by majors. They'll take your shit down in a fucking instant if they can.
Give me an example.
We had a track up with a homie of ours, and then later he signed to a major. The major label was like, "we didn't sign off on this feature," so it was taken down. A lot of people still get paid off Soundcloud these days, so majors will be like, "well we're just not going to let you get paid." Even if you're not selling the fuckin' record they'll just still be like, "nope." They shut you down.
I feel like I got in at a very good time. It's definitely gotten a little oversaturated right now. It's harder to find fly shit. I used be able to find tight-ass new shit on Soundcloud easy. Now I have to sift through so much bullshit to find that one thing that's like "whoa, I've never heard anything else like this." You have to go through fifty people like, "Oh, you sound like the last guy. Oh, you sound like me. Oh, you sound like my homeboy."
Okay. Songs in 2017: what are we gonna hear?
I think it's starting to get very Evanescence again. Except with 808s. Besides that, I'm not too sure. I'm tired of trap — at least trap as we know it. I wish people would calm down on using 808s for every damn song: a lot of songs have no melody anymore. I mean, I love it, but I wish people would go back to really composing a track.
How big of an artist do you aspire to be?
I feel like you're supposed to pick a stopping point, right? A point you don't wanna go past?
Yeah. If you think about all the most famous people in the world now, not one of them has been inside a grocery store in years.
I kinda like where I currently am. I can be in a Starbucks and only have one person be like "hey! What's up man?" I don't get mobbed, but I'm in a cool place where I still make good bread. In terms of followers on the internet, I'd rather be globally big than numbers "big." Like having a million followers on the internet is cool, but a lot of people that are "big" in the US have never been outside the US. They can't go anywhere here, but then they go over to France and they're like "Who the fuck are you?" I want to be globally known, so I can pull up in any city and have people be like "Yo! It's fucking Father, it's lit!"
Text Isabelle Hellyer
Photography Jack Grayson
Photography Assistant Lily Clausius
Art Direction Charlotte Agnew
Grooming Victoria Anderson
Assistant Shakirra Mae