Koe Wetzel knows what his fans might be thinking. “For the last nine years, we've just kind of been doing our own thing and building up this fanbase,” he tells Apple Music. “And whenever we announced we were signing with Columbia Records, we had a lot of people that were coming on and commenting and going, you know, 'He's a sellout. He's finally sold out. We lost him.' And I feel like sometimes they kind of want to keep you to themselves.” A cult favorite among fans of independent country music, he conquered the touring circuit of his native Texas before spreading his singular blend of '90s rock and rowdy country far beyond the borders of the Lone Star State. Wetzel addresses the elephant in the room in the album's opening skit, then goes on, along with his band and producer Taylor Kimball, to create daring soundscapes for Sellout's songs, which explore substance abuse, romantic entanglement, and life on the road with candor and confidence. Wetzel flexes his muscles as a lyricist too, as on standout track "Good Die Young" when he sings, "My mama called to say she’s praying for me and Jesus called but I wasn’t there." Below, Wetzel shares the inspiration behind the songs.
Pre-Sellout "Especially in our scene, the Texas music scene that we kind of came up in, when somebody signs a record deal, they feel as if they've lost, because they either turn into pop country music or something that wasn't what the fans were used to. And so that was the whole reason behind naming the album Sellout, because our music hasn't changed at all. If anything, I think this is some of the better music that we've put out, especially with the sound that we came up with on this record."
Kuntry & Wistern "It was right when COVID hit and everybody got quarantined. Social media was going crazy and everybody was losing their mind. Me and my buddy have a studio in Denton, and I called him up and I was like, 'Screw it. If we're going to quarantine somewhere, we might as well quarantine in the studio and make some music.' So we went in and we just started from the ground up. We had a riff that we came up with and then I was like, 'I lost my fucking mind,' whatever. And it kind of stuck. It was kind of a joke at first, but it just stuck. And then we got really tanked in the studio and finished off the rest of it. We put it out just because we hadn't put out music in a long time and we wanted to put out something people could relate to at that moment in time."
Cold & Alone "I just put myself in somebody else's shoes going through a breakup, you know what I mean? Just kind of mixed with personal feelings that I've had going through breakups and then how somebody would feel if they were just dropped out of the sky from a long-term relationship. And so I just took that and we came up with that song from the ground up. All these songs were pretty much put together within a two-month period, if that."
Crying From the Bathroom "My producer, Taylor Kimball, he actually had that line 'crying from the bathroom' when we were recording our last record, Harold Saul High. We did a demo to that song and it was just the chords and just the first line, 'You called me from the bathroom.' And it was a bunch of mumble-jumble throughout the whole song and I kind of freestyled, but none of it really made sense. Whenever we went back to actually start cutting songs for the record and start making new songs, we went back on that song and I was like, 'Man, this song has a really good feel to it.' So we threw in the whistle and we threw the big drop in it with the big heavy guitars, and I finished writing to it. We got done with it and we were like, 'Man, that sounds pretty cool.' I was like, 'Let's kind of mix it up a little bit. Let's throw some steel guitar on it and kind of give it a country vibe. But at the same time, whenever that drop hits, let's not take out the steel guitar. Let's let it ride with the rest of the song and kind of throw people off.'"
The Fiddler "'Lubbock' and 'The Fiddler' were originally one big track. It's just me trying, attempting to play fiddle, because I don't play fiddle for shit. So it's me just fucking around and it sounds pathetic, it really does. I'm just like mumbling the words to 'Lubbock' on it and there's a guy in the background, he's like, 'Oh, my god, it sounds terrible.' And I'm just like, 'Fuck this thing,' and I throw it down. And then it leads right into 'Lubbock.'"
Lubbock "There's a bar we always play in Lubbock, it's called the Blue Light. We kind of cut our teeth in Lubbock, and you know, that's where Texas Tech is, and it's out in the middle of nowhere. But we have a lot of good memories in Lubbock, especially on the come-up. And every time we go back, we feel at home in Lubbock. So it was actually a song that I wrote back in like 2013 or '14. We were kind of looking for a country-esque song to put on the record. It's kind of like a boot-stomper, I guess you could say. And we came back on that song, but I couldn't remember all the lyrics. So I had to rewrite like the second half of both verses on the song to fit the record."
SideChick "It was like 4:00 am and I was probably like two or three bottles of wine deep and just off in my feels and I grab a guitar and I told my producer, 'Push play.' And I brought in the shaker and I just laid on my back and I sang this. I just freestyled this whole song. So the whole song is surrounded by a side chick's point of view."
Drug Problem "The song in general, whenever you see it and you hear it for the first 10 seconds, you're like, 'Oh, my god, this guy's a druggie.' Like the Sunday school people are going to hate this song for the first 10 seconds. But at the end of it, it just revolves around the drug being the girl or the significant other and the relationship. And you can't get enough of it. So it's kind of like a hidden message, you just got to get through the first 15 seconds of the song and give it a chance."
Outcast "'Outcast' is a William Clark Green song. He wrote that song. It was off of his first album. One of my best friends passed away back in 2017, and in high school we would listen to that song constantly. And especially really late in the night, whenever we were pretty toasted up. I put that together for the homeboy because if he was still here, we'd be jamming that pretty hard still."
Sundy or Mundy "I'm a huge Nirvana fan—Kurt Cobain, Soundgarden, Sonic Youth, like the Seattle grunge era. I'd just seen like one tweet or something that was, I can't remember what it was, but it got me pissed off. And so I was just like, 'Fuck everybody,' kind of, on this song."
Good Die Young "After my buddy Saul passed away, I'd actually started writing this song and I had the first verse. We've been playing it for like the last three or four years, but that's all I could get to, was just the first verse. And then after that, I just couldn't write anymore to it. You see all these younger people that are going through stuff or people that are passing away way before their time. And it sucks so bad. So that was kind of the essence of the song, to kind of help people get through."
Drunk Driving "Everybody's drunk-drove before. I don't condone it. I don't think that's the message of the song, obviously. But it kind of puts you in the driver's seat of somebody that's drunk driving, I guess you could say. And kind of what they're going through, not necessarily why they would be drunk driving, but somebody that's gone through a lot."
FGA "So everybody's like, 'What does FGA stand for?' And I'm like, 'I'm not telling you,' or 'I don't know.' Everybody's just been guessing. But no, it's only just the chords to the song, so...if you want to just put that it's the chords to the song, then that'd be cool."
Post-Sellout "'Post-Sellout' is another skit, but it has a hidden track behind it. It's just a song about a chicken farmer and his wife cheating on him."
Kuntry & Wistern
Cold & Alone
Crying From The Bathroom
Sundy or Mundy
Good Die Young
14 SONGS, 46 MINUTES
NOVEMBER 20, 2020
℗ 2020 YELLABUSH RECORDS, UNDER EXCLUSIVE LICENSE TO COLUMBIA RECORDS, A DIVISION OF SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT.