Interview with Emo-Rock Band Beauty School Dropout: Cowboy Pirates Going Against the Grain

Essentially born out of the pandemic, LA-based emo/renegade pop band, Beauty School Dropout are propelling the legacy of pop punk towards the future. Originally starting as Cole Hutzler’s solo endeavor, the project expanded into the present-day three piece–consisting of Hutzler’s vocals, Brent Burdett on bass, and Bardo on guitar. The band released their debut EP, BOYS DO CRY, in October 2021, with production by Grammy winning producer Rob Cavallo.

In this interview, Cole, Brent, and Bardo sat down with us to discuss how they picked up steam during a global pandemic, dedicating their time to focus on writing a growing catalogue of songs and forming a game plan once the world was ready for them. The group also touches on how their latest single, a pop-punk cover of Juice Wrld’s “Lucid Dreams” featuring Royal and the Serpent, came into being. As music culture evolves with the new wave of pop punk and emo scenes, pushed along by TikTok’s algorithm (love it or hate it), Beauty School Dropout are opening the floodgates.

Los Angeles based pop rock band Beauty School Dropout

What is your go-to gas station order?

Bardo: This is a good question. On tour, we figured out gas stations are lit.

Brent: Oh, I got mine. That bag of spicy pickles.

Cole: Ugh. Brah. I don’t get it.

Brent: And a large bottle that I can also pee in if I need to.

Bardo: That’s so important.

Cole: That’s pretty much it for me, a large water bottle.

Bardo: You guys wanna know the brand to get? It’s Core. Core water. First of all, they’re recycled bottles, so environmentally friendly. And the hole size is adequate.

Brent: Way to start off the interview.

Bardo: This is educational. Any other bands on tour, if you want mobile bathrooms, get a Core water bottle. And then this is how we get endorsed. They’re going to see this and be like, “Wow, we’re going to send you a truckload of Core waters.”

Brent: Empty bottles.

Cole: Just water. I can’t do the gas station food. I love baked goods, like donuts. Other than that, I just sleep all the way through the trip.

BSD is a relatively new project that started in 2020, essentially born into a pandemic. How has your experience as a band been shaped by launching at a such an unprecedented time?

Cole: Oh my god, it’s been… actually, it has a huge silver lining for us, because we had been writing the whole 6-8 months before Covid became a thing, and we were about to go play SXSW, which would’ve been cool and kicked our ass for sure, but we were still so infant and undeveloped and unsure of what we were supposed to be doing here as a group. So being forced into a position where we had to stay inside and spend another year writing, and once everything opened up, we had already made a digital footprint for ourselves before we had a chance to go activate in the real world. It’s been cool. Aside from the stipulations with touring kind of blowing ass, everything about it has been really fortunate for us.

Bardo: [Building a back catalog] was the big thing that Covid brought us. The opportunity to sit inside and work on music and figure out what our sound is. We could play some deep cut BSD demos that are just like, “What in tarnation is this?”. It’s like we kind of had to figure out what our sound is, and I think that’s one of the biggest struggles for any artist. Like, “Who are we? What do we want to do? What do we want to make?”. I think we’ve done a pretty good job figuring that out. And we’re still learning.

Los Angeles based pop rock band Beauty School Dropout

“Beauty School Dropout” is a song from Grease. Would you like to share more about how your band name came about and how Grease influences you?

Cole: Grease was one of my favorite movies growing up, and there must have been a subliminal inkling in my brain before it came to fruition. Before, this was my attempt at a solo project, departing from the last band I was in. As I was writing music, me being OCD, I was like, “I need a name for it.” And I ciphered through probably three or four different names before landing on Beauty School Dropout. And at that point, I was like, “No, I definitely want to have a band, I want this to be a group thing.” And it just stuck, everyone seems to love it, which has been a really cool thing.

“Lucid Dreams”, your second release featuring Royal and the Serpent, gives us a new take on the beloved Juice Wrld song. What was the process putting this track out and what does the original version mean to you?

Bardo: Alright, here’s my presentation. That song is classic. Juice Wrld basically pulled up and destroyed the industry in such a short matter of time, which is pretty remarkable. If you just think about where that song has gone, everyone knows that song, it’s so iconic. And even if you’re not the biggest fan of Juice Wrld, you know that song. And I think for us, the story of that song stemmed from when we were making these TikToks and we were doing these covers on Tiktok and Royal came over and was like, “Yo, I want to make a cover.”

Cole: No, she hit us up to do the live videos. Royal hit us up to do a performance video piece with her where we did two songs as her band and then she was like, “Okay, let’s do a cover.”

Brent: The first time was at the video shoot.

Bardo: Wait, it wasn’t for Tiktok. It was for a video, though. I forgot we did that. Anyways, it was dope. It was sick. I think we all knew there was something there, it was a cool version, it was a cool take on a song. Juice’s stuff is so emo, and we’re emo, and it was like, “Let’s make this emo rock song.” And everyone we played it for was like, “This is awesome.” We put it on Tiktok, and people liked it, and we played it on tour and people rocked with it, and we were like, “Okay, let’s just make this an actual song.”

Cole: It was pretty serendipitous. Up until that that point there was no plans to do that tour with Royal, which then gave us the opportunity to play it in front of people, and it got such good reception that it was like, “Okay, cool, Atlantic wants to put it out.” And we were like, “Sweet, let’s do it.”

Los Angeles based pop rock band Beauty School Dropout

You coined the term “renegade pop” to describe your band. What does that term mean to you?

Bardo: It’s pop, but more dank.

Cole: Yeah, pretty much. I think it was the simplest, most lamest terms to describe all the different influences we were pulling from at the time, because our older stuff was more pop-leaning, but my background’s in punk, metal, and rock and roll. Same with them being into alt and punk and indie, you know. We just have so many different elements of subgenres of rock, mixed with pop production elements, and it’s like okay, cool, what’s the simplest way of saying that without giving you the mouthful that I just gave you for the last two and a half minutes.

Bardo: I think our goal, whenever we’re writing music, is like, “How can we make the most pop song that hits hard?”. Because pop, I think for us, is just popular. Like how can you make something that’s good, how can you make the best song possible? Even if there’s heavy guitars, even if there’s drums, even if there’s screaming. Even so just like a mom, in her minivan, just crank that shit up baby. That’s what I want to do. And the renegade thing, I think we all share this love of—

Brent: We’re pirates.

Bardo: We’re cowboy pirates. And we just kind of love the outlaw, go against the grain type thing. Yee haw.

We’ve seen the pop-punk/alt-rock/emo scene evolve and change in numerous ways over the past two decades. Where do you feel the scene is headed and how do you see BSD fit within it?

Brent: I feel like it’s been really cool to see this pop punk recycle. I think that it’s allowed for the kids that didn’t grow up on Blink-182 and Green Day and all those bands, it’s hitting again and very similarly. But I think the next wave is the new interpretation of it, because a lot of stuff sounds very much from the past, in a little bit of a twist. But I think this next wave is gonna be the kids who have been rock kids or emo kids or whatever, that are like, alright, now we actually have a space to release our new idea of a genre that’s been around for two decades.

Cole: This is just my prediction; I think the pop punk thing is gonna turn towards the emo crowd a little bit more now that so many people have taken up that sonic palette. I think through that we’ll reach a new level of recycling rock music, but all sounds of it. Because there’s so many different iterations coming back, you’ve got people like Chase Atlantic, who I think are arguably a rock band, but they sound like they got the more trap beats and R&B flows, and then you’ve got people like Jaris Johnson who are like the Nickelbacks of the early 00s. For us, it’s like there’s emo bands. That’s how I see it, personally.

Brent: And I feel like emo rap too, like Lil Peep and stuff, is like another segway of making it accessible to be emo and rocky. He was taking Brand New samples and stuff. It’s coming back, and I think kids are ready to throw down. I think that kids are really just more sad than ever because of everything, and I feel like when we played Emo Nite several times, those kids are just really passionate about music and it doesn’t matter what’s going on, they just wanna feel and get rowdy and express themselves. I think emo inherently feels raw, and people are down to talk about the nitty gritty of mental health.

Los Angeles based pop rock band Beauty School Dropout

You have a Tiktok jokingly poking fun at your label telling you you have to get a song to blow up on Tiktok before you release it. What are your thoughts on Tiktok and how its changing the music industry?

Cole: I fucking hate it. It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to art, actually.

Brent: But it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to artists. It’s this weird, fucked-up catch 22.

Cole: I’ll change my mind when we pop on it.

Brent: And then that’s the weird thing too. You pop on it, and now you’re a slave to popping on TikTok, because oh sick, now you’re only as good as the last thing that popped, now you got to pop again. There’s a couple artists that have done that. Lil Nas X is a genius. He popped, and now he’s one of the biggest artists in the world because he continued. He’s a brilliant, brilliant guy. Things like that is tricky. It’s a beautiful tool, because artists like that or other artists like us can go from nothing to something really, really quickly. Then the challenge is how to get people to stay for your brand. Personally, for me, I care much more about our fans, the people who are in our Discord and DM us every day telling us our music helped them. I don’t care if we get TikTok views or not. If we do that’s a plus, and we’ll keep doing it, but that’s not how you make a career, you know what I mean? And you can still make a career out of yourself even if you’re not blowing up on TikTok. It’s just like, creating a space for people. That’s how you do it. I think that’s been our goal, even in this new year, like how do we tackle that even more. Speaking for myself here, but hopefully you guys somewhat agree with me.

Cole: We’re all on the same page, we definitely want to keep pushing ourselves to be innovative and finding different ways to tap into new audiences on the app. The way that we did that before was so time consuming. Doing the covers and all was really cool but there’s two backhanded compliments that come with that. One is followers but also then everyone is addressing you as the cover band. And also, like he said, you’re a slave to that momentum. If something pops, cool, now you have to do that again, and if you don’t, it’s inadequate, pretty much, is how it feels, at least, being the artist. It’s a catch-22. It’s opened a lot of doors for us, which is really cool. I don’t want to outright shit on it. But I think for how much time and energy we were putting into it for how little real value we were getting in return from it, it was like oh my god, ugh.

Brent: We want to tour and play shows. That’s where our core lies. When it’s so digital and quick…

Bardo: The way I see it is you’ve still got to play shows, you’ve still got to be cool, you’ve still got to be a human, you still got to do interviews, you still have to do all these things. And these artists seeing massive numbers, ironically don’t pay shit. They don’t pay anything. They may cop a deal that you’re in debt to. But the grand scheme of things, it’s like, you still gotta go on the road, you still gotta do shit. One of [our managers] strategies is that you still gotta do it the old-fashioned way, breaking artists on the road. That’s what we want to do. We want to break on the road. As much as we’re on the internet doing shit, we want to see fans in person. Our superpower, as we say, is our live shows. Everyone who comes to our live show shits their pants. So basically, we have to cater to that, and keep making it happen. I just want to keep beating ourselves at our live shows and making it this experience that you cannot get anywhere else.

You posted some playlists on Spotify showcasing some of your favorite artists, and have everything from Justin Bieber to The Smashing Pumpkins on your playlist. How does having such diverse tastes impact the music you create?

Bardo: We just make better music.

Cole: It’s the renegade pop thing. We just have such broad sonic palettes, we all listen to such different types of music and pull from such different influences that exceeds through rock or subgenres of rock.

Brent: That’s our through line, though. Rock is, all of us love rock, but all of us also spread off into all these other genres of music that’s like, when we come back we’re like, “How do we write what we like in rock form?”.

Los Angeles based pop rock band Beauty School Dropout

Now that your EP “BOYS DO CRY” has had a few months to circulate and secure its place in the world, what has the reception to this project felt like?

Cole: It’s been really cool. We’ve gotten a lot of love from it, it’s been incredible to see what kind of potential and success we can reach with minimal dollars spent, no major label backing it, and taking a really grassroots approach to trying to blow our music up. I think it’s also set a precedent for the next project and the next project after that of what we want to achieve in the coming years.

Brent: I think that was phase one of what we sounded like sonically, and we’re excited to get our next version ourselves out into the world. That project took a long time to come out, and we did a lot of evolving even during that time. Now we’re just excited to get what’s next out.

Bardo: We want to put a lot of music out this year.

What can we expect from you in 2022?

Cole: More chaos, mayhem, definitely a lot of new music.

Bardo: Shows.

Cole: Shows is the big one. We just got our agents and now I think we’re being pitched for tours and the opportunity to play in front of more people.

Bardo: BSD coming to a city near you.

Brent: Also, in just like community stuff, our community is everything to us, and just trying to figure out more fun ways to interact with our fans and friends is literally everything to us. And tons of new merch.

Bardo: Web 3. Crypto. I don’t know if you guys are into Web 3 NFT stuff but that’s been a big one for us.

Cole: Red flag. That’s like the modern equivalent of having a tapestry in your room. Is telling you about NFTs.

Check out Beauty School Dropout!

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