Paris Texas on their debut album 'MID AIR'

Interview Paris Texas: Everything, Everywhere, All At Once

Since breaking through with debut ‘HEAVY METAL’, Paris Texas have made themselves uncategorisable. On debut LP ‘MID AIR’, they’re doubling down on their stance and embracing a world of limitless possibility.

For Paris Texas, even reaching their debut album feels like a culmination. The enigmatic, doggedly experimental hip hop duo began life with zero parameters, with an intention to change their name from show to show, perform music live without ever recording it, and generally, it seemed, do everything they could to stave off conforming. Indeed, it was only when they dropped breakthrough single ‘HEAVY METAL’ in February 2021 that the world beyond the Los Angeles underground scene they were birthed from were introduced to the duo - Louie Pastel and Felix, who remains mononymous.

That was the moment that the blue touch paper was lit and Paris Texas’ ascension began. Something about that single set imaginations afire, announcing as it apparently did an entirely singular voice. Who were these guys playfully seeing off bars over a minimalist backdrop of queasy guitars, littering the track with sonic quirks like the fading in and out of Felix’s voice? It sounded like the work of two men with zero regard for the established rulebook.

“I had been struggling to find somebody else who had the same taste in music,” says Louie on a Zoom call from their native California. “But actually, meeting Felix wasn’t really about that. It wasn’t like we met and both were like, ‘Shit! We’re so different! Fuck!’ The important thing was really that I’d met somebody who was totally open-minded. A lot of people have a very specific idea of what they want to do, and they’re not willing to deviate. It’s hard to find somebody who will put their ego aside and rock with your weird shit, and then match it with their own. We never told each other ‘No’. Neither of us ever said to an idea, ‘No, that shit’s dumb’. We were open to everything.”

Louie’s words help to illuminate how Paris Texas came to be after the pair first met at high school as teenagers with different musical interests (Felix was an experimental hip hop head, while Louie was in thrall to indie rock), but a similar distaste for genre boundaries. After ‘HEAVY METAL’, they had creative momentum, which they channelled first into bracingly carefree eight-track mixtape ‘BOY ANONYMOUS’, defined by its impressionistic instrumentals and mercurial changes of pace, and then EP ‘Red Hand Akimbo’. On the latter, the pair sounded as if they were settling into themselves, Felix’s lyrics witty and referential, and Louie’s beats ever weirder and less predictable.

Only now though, are they taking a step that perhaps they couldn’t have envisaged when they began: ‘MID AIR’ - their daring, sprawling debut album - sounds as if the pair took the Paris Texas atom, split it, and pressed record.

Paris Texas on their debut album 'MID AIR' Paris Texas on their debut album 'MID AIR'

“He doesn’t feel like my bandmate, he’s my brother, at the end of the day.”

— Louie Pastel

It feels like a punk manifesto. Setting out an immediately idiosyncratic stall, across the release Felix’s bars careen from nonsensical to existential, while Louie’s beats are more indebted than ever to the alternative rock he grew up loving, sounding meticulously crafted one minute and utterly freewheeling the next. The pair have succeeded in taking their eccentricities and moulding them into a pointed statement but, as the title suggests, Paris Texas still feel as if they’ve not long since been shot out of a cannon.

“I think we’ve kept some of the fluidity that we had in the beginning,” says Louie, as he reflects on how the past couple of years have changed the group’s interpersonal dynamic. “We’re still mad disorganised in our lives! It still doesn’t feel like a band, or ‘something we’re doing’. He doesn’t feel like my bandmate, he’s my brother, at the end of the day,” he says of Felix. “It’s not like we lock in a time to practise, or say that we have to do this or do that. I’ll see him once or twice a week. ‘You feel like rapping? Not really. Aight, then.’ It’s funny, it still doesn’t feel that concrete sometimes.”

“We’ve had to adjust to pseudo-fame,” says Felix as he joins us on the call. He is quieter than his bandmate, softer-spoken and less forthcoming, and acknowledges that the pair’s rise to prominence has affected them differently. “We both lean into different sides of it, I think. Finding a balance with it has been an interesting journey. I’m talking more so about things that are beyond the music; the music itself has been us sticking to what we knew, especially after having conversations with our peers.”

This does beg the question of who the duo’s peers actually are, given that their style is close to unique. Felix offers up Kenny Beats, a frequent collaborator on the production side, as an example, and comparisons have been drawn, too, with King Krule. Archy Marshall indeed gets name-checked on the ‘MID AIR’ track ‘Full English’, a deliciously funny paean to the UK that also nods to Tesco, Harry Potter and Nando’s. “I think our peers are people who have been doing this for longer than us that have been able to find balance - find their home within it,” he reflects.

“But as far as creative peers, I don’t think there are any, really,” Louie reasons. “Nobody’s doing the same thing as us. What happens is that we get put in the same box as other people who, like us, don’t really fit into any one category. So, we get lumped in with, like, Black kids who aren’t just doing rap - ‘Look, they’re quirky and weird, and oh my god, they’re so indie’. But we don’t do the same thing in the slightest.”

“We get lumped in with Black kids who aren’t just doing rap, but we don’t do the same thing in the slightest.”

— Louie Pastel

Beneath their weird and often wild exterior, though, something else that arguably sets Paris Texas apart in the current climate is their increasing willingness to discuss deeper issues, whether they be personal or societal. ‘MID AIR’ is a highly conceptual piece of work; one that repeatedly returns to themes of humans leaving Earth to colonise Mars, while leaving the poorest in society behind. It’s a palpable political undertone, and one that is amplified by tracks like recent single ‘Everybody’s Safe Until…’, on which Felix is disarmingly vulnerable as he reckons with feelings of hopelessness.

“We’ve been thinking about those things since ‘BOY ANONYMOUS’,” Felix explains. “We want to leave things to your imagination, but it’s hard to ignore the probability of certain things happening when you look at the state of the world right now, and look at people developing things outside of what we are now, those things keep coming up in the music. Those things are ubiquitous, and the lyrics are just what my subconscious blurts out. That doesn’t mean that I don’t whole-heartedly believe in what I’m saying, though. There’s a constant dialogue between your personal life and the world around you, and both of those are on a track like ‘Everybody’s Safe Until…’ Like, Louie is taking a way more personal approach to those ideas on the first verse, and then the second verse is me speaking to the more ubiquitous fact that death is everywhere, and we’re always thinking about it.”

“I think we just try to be witty and cutting about it,” adds Louie. “I think people maybe gravitate towards what we do because of that, and maybe BECAUSE the delivery is kind of campy. I don’t do it because I feel as if I should speak to those issues. If anything, I feel like I should shut the fuck up. I don’t have a PhD in Futuristic Matters. I’m just a dude. It’s just that there’s so much shit going on that it’d be weird to say, ‘Let me talk about something else’.”

You get the sense that they’d rather do that, though; Louie, in particular, would sooner be reeling off his influences. The key ones on ‘MID AIR’, he says, are LCD Soundsystem and Franz Ferdinand, with the documentary Meet Me in the Bathroom having helped to reignite his interest in noughties alt-rock. “We just want to make whatever the fuck we want, and not be limited,” he says. “Having preconceived ideas can really stunt your shit. Like, you ever go on that fucking YouTube channel that’s like, ‘Chill beats for studying, three hours?’ Everybody’s trying to make a beat you can vibe out to, but I want to be able to make a chill beat, a turnt beat, a fucking indie beat… What you’re listening to is literally just us, making what we want to hear.”

‘MID AIR’ is out now.

Tags: Paris Texas, Features, Interviews

As featured in the August 2023 issue of DIY, out now.

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