Don’t let the band name fool you – they’re not here to sell you pirated DVDs. Bootleg Rascal are some of Australia’s most rhythmical, resonating and rousing hip hop and reggae-fusion masters. Since forming in mid-2013, the boys have released a string of killer singles, toured relentlessly and delivered a debut album that could easily be the perfect soundtrack for both a chilled summer, poolside sesh or a sweaty, dark dancefloor.
Now in 2017, the self-proclaimed “ghetto dubsters”, have recently encountered a slight switcheroo in their line-up, seeing bassist Scottie Grills make an exit to journey “to go ride motorbikes all through India and make a bit of a documentary about it, trying to promote child rights over there,” explains guitarist and vocalist Jimmy Young. Not letting the departure bring their momentum down, they proceeded with their projects, playing the Shake & Bake Festival at the start of this year, writing and releasing single With You, wrapping up a small singles tour, booking a North American tour for June, playing fruity fest Big Pineapple Festival in Queensland this weekend and now currently composing and recording a second album.
Reflecting on their days touring with Sticky Fingers on a wild jaunt around the US, Young discloses some behind the scenes antics.
“We did a support slot for Sticky Fingers last time we were over [to the US], which saw us all travelling ’round in a huge Metallica-style bus. Leather couches, PlayStations, the works really, it was very surreal. Carlos and I went back again after that and did a little stripped-back duo-style show. We actually had our photographer on a drum pad playing some beats too. The show was totally improvised. The first show, we only had electric guitars but also had the attitude of ‘We’ll be alright.’
“We walked on stage and it was a sold-out show in LA. We were on first and the venue was absolutely packed with about 600 people. The sound guys did the old trick where they faded out the house music while we were still tuning and setting it up, so there was about two minutes of us just thinking ‘Shit, what are we going to do, there’s more people here than we had anticipated?!’
“We went to play the first song and Carlos couldn’t remember the chords. It’s funny, when you’re on stage, how much time slows down because that few minutes felt like hours,” he laughs. “You get a bit more sweat building up on your brow, but in the end, it all went pretty well. The crowd was appreciative. I wouldn’t say so much as a sympathy vote, but it was that vibe where they want you to succeed. It ended up being really fun after that first few minutes.”
Now gearing up to head over to the US for a headline tour, Young speaks of the excitement circulating within the band and the contrast between Australian and overseas audiences.
“We’re doing the West Coast of the US and then heading up to Canada for a couple of shows there in Vancouver and Whistler. It’s going to be awesome and we’re all pretty pumped for it. American and Canadian audiences are kind of more chilled in a lot of ways. I think there’s more of a stoner vibe, for lack of a better word. They’re happy to just rock up to a gig and enjoy the music, maybe sway a little from side to side.
“It’s a different level compared to Australian audiences on the other hand, who tend to really like to get amongst it, have a few bourbons and start a mosh pit to reggae music. It’s funny like that. Both crowds are great, it’s just such a crazy comparison. It’s great to watch people going nuts in the crowd from the perspective of being on stage, but I know that when you’re in the crowd, the more chilled crowd is more ideal.”
Freshly released, Bootleg Rascal have brought out a stellar new video clip for their single With You. The video brings a hypnotising, comedic look into the band’s different sides and everyday styles. Contrasting color schemes and engaging camera angles turn the clip into a dream-like journey between a wild night out and a slightly sloppy Sunday morning. With no plan as to how the video was going to look or be perceived, Young tells me of their relaxed, disorganised approach and how it all paid off.
“It was an interesting process to say the least. We shot it on Easter weekend because that was the only time we were all available and we have a guy named Dan Hodgson who’s an absolute wizard behind the camera. He’s a Brisbane lad and he’s pretty young, but he’s done our last four or five clips. We’re all a little bit unorganised and we leave things too late, so we basically just call him up and said, ‘Hey can you come down and shoot some ideas for us?’ and he’s always keen to make it happen.
“The rough theme behind it was inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s most recent video clip for Humble and we loved all the clips in that. A lot of his videos tend to be a cool collection of really contrasting shots. Our last few had been heavily storyline-based, but we didn’t want that anymore, so it was much more of an idea of cool shots and that dream-like inception vibe where you find yourself slipping in and out of dreams and realities.
“Then it was just a matter of coming up with what shots we wanted and what shots were actually doable. We had Jack on the rooftop playing drums for one shot. Also, a mate of ours, wearing the red jumpsuit in the video, he’s a bit of a local legend named ‘Jimmy The Hand’ and he’s a bit of a character. He’s got a thick accent and just loves having a party and getting on it.
“We were down at Carlos’s local pub and they had a function room upstairs that had hosted a hens party the night before, which they said we could use to shoot. There were a million helium balloons piled up in the corner and we just thought ‘There’s a stage here, a million balloons and Jimmy The Hand. Let’s get him to have a bit of a dance,’ which ended up being one of the main parts of the clip. He rocked up, I think he’d been on a three-day bender, announced he had this red tracksuit and weird hat with him and was just absolutely ready to go.”
As for future endeavours, as mentioned before, Bootleg Rascal are currently working on a new album, which they are hoping will be released in October.
“This second album feels like an extension of what we are as a band. I feel like we’re now better at creating the sounds we want and better at song writing and piecing things together. It helps you build up a solid base, so I feel like we’ve built on it from the first album. If you liked previous Bootleg stuff then I don’t think we’ve strayed too far from our roots. We’ve delved a little bit more into synths and the electronic genre, but we still incorporate lots of real guitar and bass and things on top of that. I think we know what we’re aiming for now which helps things flow a bit better.”