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GARZI and the school of alternative 808s

When you picture GARZI, you don’t see an artist playing by the rules.

Confidence oozes through every release that he’s ever done, a feat that can only be achieved by someone that knows that they’re batting with the greats – and GARZI is. From famed producer John Feldmann to blink-182’s Travis Barker, there is no greater endorsement needed for him than the calibre of those who choose to include their names in his song credits.

And yet, GARZI is, at the same time, still that kid who once rocked up early to a show played by Texas metalcore outfit Memphis May Fire, chuffed to get the chance to speak to vocalist Matty Mullins before they took the stage. “I had a whole little box with their tees and then little guitar picks that I got in concert form them, signature and stuff,” he recalls.

In high school, he had a cover band, but didn’t find the same enthusiasm that he had matched in the eyes of his peers. “We tried to do a little more with it”, he comments, but as time went on “people are just living their lives and weren’t dedicated towards it.” He went to college, faced with the decision between getting a degree or taking the risk of pursuing his art while he still could.

“I ended up leaving school”, he explains. “I moved back to Miami, and then randomly I ended up meeting up with one of my childhood friends who is now a producer and engineer.” He started off in the trap/hip hop sphere, before getting to his new normal: what he defines as “alternative 808s.” “I wanted to do what I’ve always liked, but to put a new spin on it”, he notes. And with his music, “tap into feelings that are relatable.”

“People don’t often like to talk about things that make them feel uncomfortable, or the darker side of things and that life isn’t perfect, but that also in the darkness, there are ways to overcome that. I’ve grown up with my mom telling us there’s a solution to everything in life except for death. Whenever things get really rough, that’s what I try to remember. I was once that lonely kid, who didn’t really fit in and didn’t really have friends, and Memphis May Fire’s the band that took me out of that and showed me there’s more. I want to be that for other people.”

“Unfortunately, most regular people go through a lot of hard times. That’s what I want to remind people of.”

To date, that’s gotten GARZI to a place where he is able to become that for his fans, to provide sanctuary for them from what they’re going through. In the same way that he’s let himself be changed by bands like Memphis May Fire and letlive, he hopes to influence others. He still listens to what he calls “the original bands” – like Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco – but also Lil Uzi Vert, Trippie Redd, and his favourite artist today, Fever 333.

“I love Fever. I think they’re so dope. I’ve been following Jason Butler since he was in letlive…I love how outspoken he is. I love that he’s got a message that he’s trying to push.” Similar to what GARZI advocates, Butler has offered a gritty commentary on society since his career started out, reiterating that “most people are just normal, going through regular stuff. Unfortunately, most regular people go through a lot of hard times. That’s what I want to remind people of.”

In his journey to doing so, he’ll make the trip to Los Angeles from Miami, moving there to be closer to the people that he’s working with on new music. He’ll tour, when he’s able to, and hopefully get to meet some of his inspirations, who he was looking forward to sharing some festival line-ups with before the virus benched him. By the time that happens, those bands – from Sleeping With Sirens to Rage Against The Machine – will likely be just as pleased to be co-billed with him.

But at the end of the day, it’s not about being a fan for GARZI anymore. He played it cool when he met Travis Barker, but didn’t dwell on it, getting down to business and bypassing his butterflies to make meaning out of the experience. He describes him as “super cool, super mellow, down to earth, just a regular guy, just trying to make good music.” Putting aside everything else, Barker and GARZI became equals in sharing that ambition.

“I just wanted to make good music as well.”