Rock Band Beauty School Dropout Blur Genre Boundaries
WORDS by PATRICK CLARKE
PHOTOGRAPHY by JIMMY FONTAINE
Rock band Beauty School Dropout have a special word for the kind of music they make. “Renegade-Pop” says singer Colie over video call, so named because “when we started the band our main goal was to push boundaries in every direction.” Explains bassist Beepus: “We’re trying to avoid this constant recycling, where it sounds like the same song has been made 50,000 times.” There are obvious touchstones to their work— pop punk, trap, emo and a touch of glam-rock—but they aim to extract something new from those influences. “Trying to use our favorite stuff to make our new favorite stuff,” Beepus puts it.
That spirit is mirrored in their looks; the band are decidedly fashion conscious but in a way that they intend to blur the boundaries of genre conventions. “Some days we look British. Some days we look like we’re in a glam band. We wanna blend everything,” says guitarist Bardo. They are committed maximalists. “We’re big into worldbuilding, through artwork, merch and photoshoots,” as well as the music itself of course. “We put our hands on everything.”
Put simply, Colie says, “There are so many rules in music, let’s break them. Let’s absolutely destroy them and create something cool and magnificent and sticky and catchy and see how far we can take it.” From the very first conversations they had about the band, “we were like, ‘we’re not stopping until this is in stadiums.’”
Colie, Beepus and their drummer Michael had all been in a band which had fallen apart. Colie spent around a year songwriting for other artists and sketching out ideas for a project he could front himself. He ended up linking back up with Beepus down the line, “I was litmus testing different producers and when we met Bardo, it was instant synergy. The last piece of the puzzle.” For a year straight they spent almost every day in the studio, trying to get noticed via their work for other artists.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, it threatened to torpedo the band’s early momentum. They had not yet played their first live show, and with opportunities to do so suddenly vanishing, they were forced to innovate. They bought out online adverts, initially in Brasil where rates are cheapest; they even picked up some Portuguese in order to communicate with new fans. They started uploading cover versions to TikTok. “The original inception of the idea was ‘let’s just keep making Drake songs until something happens,’” jokes Bardo, “but then it kept going. People were like ‘actually, their music is cool, we like their personalities,’ and we tried to interact with people as much as possible.” Against the odds, Beauty School Dropout gained a significant following.
When they were finally able to play a show, clearing out the racks from the basement of their friend’s vintage shop, it was a release. “We threw an open bar and just raged so hard. We flooded the place in so much alcohol, that people were leaving stepping through puddles. The energy was insane,” says Beepus. It was satisfying to see their efforts online during lockdown pay off. “Quarantine gave us ten years of growth in two years. It was therapy times a million,” says Beepus.
It taught them, for instance, about the value of constant interaction with their fans. They still run a thriving Discord server for them—who they affectionately nickname ‘dropouts’—where they organize movie watchalongs or videogames. “We talk every day with our fans, try to be humans and that’s all you can do. The best marketing is word of mouth,” says Bardo.
Tech-forward, they’re also embracing the possibilities of web3 with the launch of a platform called The Dropout World, which Beepus calls “a step further into our world.” Offering exclusive content, merchandise, VIP entry to shows and parties and more. “Basically it’s about exclusivity,” says Beepus. “If you’re rocking with us, we want to rock with you.” The exciting thing, he goes on, is the platform’s flexibility. “The biggest thing for us is that we just want to use the technology that’s available to bring people into our world.”
At the beginning of 2022, their efforts attracted the attention of Verswire, a label whose venture capital- style approach involves investing in and supporting acts according to their specific needs; as well as allowing artists immediate access to various revenue streams. It all aims to upend outdated industry models. This forward-thinking approach chimed well, the band say, with their ideals of Renegade Pop. Mark Hoppus’ involvement as a strategic advisor was a selling point too. “He’s my messiah!” proclaims Beepus, who grew up playing in Blink-182 cover bands. “He’s not trying to change us in any way, he just wants to add to what we’re doing and offer advice,” says Bardo. Hoppus and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, also involved with Verswire, would later appear as exasperated dads in the band’s hedonistic video for “Assassin”.
“It was pitched to us as this new way to tackle the music industry,” recalls Bardo. “They wanted to look at it like a startup and we’re all interested in that world.” The band’s embrace of business, in fact, is fundamental. During lockdown, says Colie, “the thing that took the most drastic 180 was our lack of awareness about how to operate like a business. Having to figure out how to make a digital footprint and a culture with no merch, no music out, made us realize that if we wanna survive as a band, we have to do it a certain way.”
For those of an old-fashioned disposition, it’s easy to dismiss Beauty School Dropout’s intense focus on business and marketing as somewhat cold, but there is a rawness and heart behind what they do that should not go overlooked. A few years ago, Colie was driving when a man fell from a building and died in front of him. “When it happened my first thought was that I had just seen someone take his own life,” he remembers. Colie has had his own struggles with mental health, “but it sparked a thought of ‘I don’t wanna do that to the people around me.’” Later he considered the possibility that it had been an accident, “but even if it wasn’t intentional, it was an eye-opening experience how brutal life can really be. I think it lit a fire under my ass to achieve the things I envision and make sure we take things as far as we can.”
How do the three ensure their own mental stability, particularly when the band’s entire ethos is based on allowing their fans constant and intimate access? “It all just comes down to willingness, just as much as they wanna be a part of it, we do too,” Colie explains. “It’s not a thing we have to think about. We just exist in the ecosystem and have fun with it, because that really is the point, to have this space for our people; for them to resonate with us as much as we do with them.
Ultimately, for all their ambition and business-savvy, it’s a straightforward love for the exchange between artist and fan at Beauty School Dropout’s core, says Beepus. “We call our fans ‘dropouts’ because we want anyone in our world to know that no matter how much of an outsider you feel in your own reality, if you come to ours, you are loved, accepted, valued and appreciated.”