NME Radar: Breakout

Paris Texas: thrilling and gloriously unpredictable alt-hip-hop duo

The LA musicians recently dropped their disorienting-yet-fascinating ‘Red Hand Akimbo' project, and now have their eyes set on... Christmas number one?

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

If we were ranking 2021’s most impactful debuts, Paris Texas would easily be troubling the top three. The LA alt-hip-hop duo delivered the musical equivalent of a roundhouse kick to the head back in February with their debut single ‘Heavy Metal’, which fused a filthy blues riff and buzzsaw distortion with louche bars detailing feelings of self-doubt, paranoia and pure, unbridled bloodlust. Thrillingly, this sense of wild claustrophobia was exacerbated further by its accompanying video, which depicted the pair being taken hostage and variously bloodied and bound to chairs, dragged by cars and being buried alive in the woods.

When their debut project ‘Boy Anonymous’ then dropped in May, it only confirmed what we already suspected: namely that the creative partnership between rapper Felix and producer Louie Pastel – who first met in junior college eight years ago – is one of the most exciting we’ve witnessed in years. Operating at the intersection of post-hardcore and hip-hop and conjuring their own grisly visual language, Paris Texas have already garnered favourable comparisons to clipping., Death Grips and Brockhampton, who they’re booked to open for across the US in 2022.

Paris Texas don’t fit any particular mould, a fact further underscored by their latest project ‘Red Hand Akimbo’. Released last month, the five-track collection often finds the duo exploring heavier, rock-influenced territory: take searing opener ‘Dr. Aco’s Miracle Bullets’ or the low-slung swagger of lead single ‘Girls Like Drugs’. Add in the production of more warped music videos and some pretty surreal skits, and the latest instalment in the Paris Texas story is as disorientating as it is fascinating.

Fresh from a trip to London to launch the EP – where they also reportedly hit the studio with the likes of Mac Wetha and Karma Kid – Paris Texas took time to chat with NME about the band’s origins, their pitch-black visual world and their ambitious plans to take on Mariah Carey in the race for Christmas number one. No, really.

NME: The two of you come from quite different musical backgrounds…

Louie Pastel: “Yeah. I spent a lot of my teenage years channelling my angst into post-hardcore music, and maybe some rap – but not too much. A little bit after high school, I started diving into rap and finding my own tastes. There was this one artist that I liked, and I showed everybody else and they were like, ‘No, this is fucking stupid’. I showed Felix and he was like, ‘I know about him and I like him’. And so we built this relationship where we’d find different underground or low-key rappers and show each other. Later on our music tastes melded, but [Felix] had a head start with a lot of rappers.”

How quickly did you realise you had creative chemistry?

Pastel: “When we first started being friends, it was very surface-level. But two or three years in, when we started revealing our pasts, it was like, ‘Oh, we’re like the same exact person’: certain histories with girls, the same type of trauma. And we faced a lot of the same shit from our class growing up. I wouldn’t say we were outcasts, but it was very, very similar.

“But we really, really, really fought [against] being a group. That was the biggest fight ever. We just had seen so many people try it and fail. But every time we did a solo show, we’d always get booked together. So then we’re like, ‘Alright, let’s just stop being stupid and actually make a group, and give this a name’.”

What’s the story behind the name Paris Texas?

Pastel: “We just liked the idea of the crazy juxtaposition between the two places, because we’re always doing two things that don’t really coincide with each other culturally, or the music we were making just never fit into what was going on. And that’s not me trying to toot my own horn: it wasn’t always a good thing. Oftentimes we would make something and be like, ‘Yeah, this is cool. But where does this fit?’”

Do you feel like you fit in now?

Felix: “No, I don’t think so. It’s still hard to really convey ideas, and you can’t go find another [song like] ‘Heavy Metal’. At least not that I know of.”

‘Heavy Metal’ definitely felt like a real moment here in the UK. How was it being on the receiving end of all the speculation and hype?

Felix: “It definitely took everybody by storm; hit them over the head. I didn’t know it was gonna happen.”

Pastel: “There’s no bass in that song, so from a producer standpoint I was like, ‘I fucked up’. I think the visuals helped a lot.”

paris texas
Paris Texas (Picture: Saru Hagher / Press)

The visuals for ‘Girls Like Drugs’ are similarly wild. How involved were you in the concept?

Pascal: “Initially, all I had was the window scene in my head. The song is pretty much talking about being a guy in this world and having an asocial relationship with women. It’s a bunch of punchlines and pick-up lines, trying to get these girls’ attention. And so I needed the video to convey that idea of she knows we’re there, but she doesn’t. So we’re under the bed, playing the guitar to try to get her attention in some weird, creepy way. The window scene was like me, Felix and our manager’s idea. And then the rest were like a lot of the director’s ideas.”

Visuals are clearly a very important aspect of Paris Texas…

Pastel: “We were raised on media in all aspects: I think that the internet opened the door for a lot of that shit. So we’re receiving music, movies, TV shows, reality shows, fucking skits on Instagram and YouTube. I feel like when we [make our visuals] we’re trying to make sure we grab all of those things all at once, because it’s time for me to return the favour to people who did that for me. So many people bless my eyes and my brain with so many good visuals, and it’s my turn to do the same thing. I might fail in the process and embarrass all of us, but it’s important to me to keep doing it because there’s some kid out there who is just like I was, who needs to see something. We’ve got to give them the whole nine yards by making music and visuals that are really tight, and then inspire that kid to do it. I want to inspire somebody so crazy that they show me what they made and I’m like, ‘What the fuck?’. I want to keep the train rolling.”

It feels like there’s a slightly surreal streak to your work, be that in your music videos or on some of the skits on ‘Red Hand Akimbo’. Is that fair to say?

Felix: “A little bit, yeah. But with the title of the project, everything for the most part ties into the same universe. Even the music on ‘Boy Anonymous’, too – everything is intertwined. But there’s a specific reason we called it ‘Red Hand Akimbo’.”

Which is?

Pastel: “I can tell you want to be mysterious, so…”

Felix: “I know people will figure it out. It’s a long thing.”

What’s coming next from Paris Texas? An album?

Felix: “We’ve all been talking about that. Everyone wants it to be the album. But, I’m like, we don’t have that much music out yet. We got a present for Christmas coming up, though.”

Pastel: “We’re giving Mariah Carey a run for her money.”

Paris Texas’ ‘Red Hand Akimbo’ is out now