Writing about death is one of the most difficult things to do as a music journalist, particularly when it’s so untimely.
Just 12 hours ago, Gustav Ahr, aka Lil Peep, posted a picture of three girls dressed in GothBoyClique T-shirts captioned: “Look at my beautiful fans awwwww.” Just a few hours later, after news had broke that the New Yorker has passed away aged just 21, his manager Chase Ortega found himself Tweeting: “I’ve been expecting this call for a year. Mother fuck”.
I have to admit that a couple of months ago when I was preparing to speak to Lil Peep for our latest issue I wasn’t sure what to expect. From the research I’d been doing, his interviews could be somewhat unpredictable. I was going to be speaking with him one morning while he was waiting around to play a festival. I imagined that he might not be particularly thrilled to be faced with an interview.
My concerns turned out to be completely misplaced. He was engaging, inspiring and demonstrated a true passion for his music and a genuine love for his fans. He graciously shared his story of moving from Staten Island to L.A. in order to pursue a career in music: describing how $300 worth of equipment from Guitar Centre led him to a cult following and modelling gigs for Balmain, Marcelo Burlington and Rick Owens - constantly showing appreciation for the fans that have supported him along the way.
Our conversation was so optimistic that I came to name the feature after the hook of one of the tracks on his debut album ‘Come Over When You’re Sober Vol.1’: 'Look At The Brightside'.
Tragically, this no longer feels appropriate. We’re publishing this feature today in tribute to Lil Peep. Rest in peace.
Lil Peepis wandering the parking lot of Angel Stadium. Tonight, Anaheim’s home of baseball will be overrun with young fans, here to see the likes of Travis Scott, Kodak Black and Khalid, as they open three days of Day N Night festival. Right now, it’s 11:30am and Peep has just finished soundchecking. He drags his feet around the concrete, playing the waiting game as he anticipates his performance, praising the line-up’s perfect blend of acts that cover the spectrum from underground to mainstream.
The 21-year-old, born Gustav Åhr, inhabits a crux between the two. His recently released ‘Come Over When You’re Sober, Part 1’ sees him beginning to outgrow the online underground where he’s culminated a core fan base through an impressive eight solo mixtapes since 2015. His output is a balancing act of pleasing “open-minded people who respect good music and don’t judge things based off what they see on the Internet,” while simultaneously pissing off “music critics who get all technical about shit.”
All sorts of hashtags, buzzwords and genres tend to be thrown around when discussing Peep’s music, but the best way to put his unique concoction into words is by reeling off the list of artists that come up in conversation with him. During our half-hour chat, he references Lil Wayne, Taking Back Sunday, Crystal Castles, 50 Cent, Linkin Park, Gucci Mane, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Paramore.
His own musical dreams began to manifest when, at 17, he left his native Staten Island to immerse himself amongst a bunch of like-minded artists based in LA. “I was really depressed,” he reveals. “Suicidal, self-harming, doing bad drugs that I shouldn’t be doing.” Having spent plenty of time buried in black holes of online music discovery, he’d found artists like Horsehead and the GothBoiClique (of which he became the last official member) and decided to follow their blueprint. “I know that music is what I love to do,” he explains. “I did what everyone else who inspired me in the underground did: you run into the Guitar Centre, spend $300 and then the whole world is in your hands. Literally, you just need to put in the hard work at that point.”