Meet WLZ: Adelaide’s Finest

I met Nick Wells back in 2018 while we were both working as breakfast attendants for the Pan Pacific Hotel in Whistler, BC. He was this big, goofy-looking mixed kid from Adelaide, Australia and we bonded over skateboarding and rap music. Little by little, he started showing me the beats he made and the notebook where he wrote down all his verses. At the time, he was pretty shy with his music; I had to coax him into rapping the verses out loud and his delivery was hesitant and uncertain. But his material was unlimited and his songwriting ability was undeniable; by the time I had left Whistler he had already put together the skeleton of his debut mixtape Pink Hoodies & Vans and began recording on a cheap microphone. 

WLZ stayed in Whistler for another year or so after I left. During this time he had finished recording his mixtape and emptied his bank account on music videos. When his visa finally expired, he had planned on moving to New York to live with his uncle but decided to move back home to Australia at the last second. There, he reached out to his old high school friend/producer Nate who had formed the band i.e (inotherwords) along with singer/guitarist Matt and began working with them on finishing his mixtape. The three of them were contacted by aspiring sound engineer Q who agreed to mix their projects if they signed to his budding label Bottleneck Studios, an enterprise devoted to grooming Adelaide musicians. The team then released Avian, a 6 song EP recorded as a teaser for the upcoming mixtape, as well as a self-shot music video for “Nuts” on July 12th, 2020. Pink Hoodies & Vans was released briefly on July 30th before promptly being taken down on all streaming services; some tracks are still available on Soundcloud but WLZ stated he was not planning on rereleasing any of the tracks in the future. 

I had the privilege of picking his brain a bit and learning about the early stages of a music career.

Thank you so much for taking the time to join me. Joining me all the way from Adelaide, Australia is my good friend WLZ. Let’s start off with how you’re feeling?

I’m doing alright. It’s been kind of a weird 24 hours with the passing of Chadwick Boseman. That was kind of a wild shock to the system, I was like mad scattered yesterday and didn’t know what to do with myself. Heart rate was up all day, it was a lot. So first things first rest in peace Chadwick.

Yeah rest in peace Chadwick. Me and WLZ know each other from Whistler; we both worked at the same hotel. Back then, you weren’t even recording or anything you were just making beats and writing your own stuff in a little notebook you kept around with you. How did you transition from a mild interest in hip-hop into something more involved?

It actually started way before I even got to Whistler. I sucked at school, getting C’s and D’s and I had no direction for my life. I just needed to get it out somehow, I wasn’t even planning to rap really. When I started writing I felt like “Oh I’m actually alright at this” but it was always to myself. I used to go out with my skateboard and find a bridge to sit under and write raps. And then I bought this $60 shitty mic off Amazon and said “Fuck it lemme just record some songs” and the first one I recorded was “raindrops”. For a first song ever I thought “Alright maybe this is actually doable”.

Do you think there’s anything you want to say about why you took Pink Hoodies down?

Look there’s a lot of things that I’m still dealing with mentally and I’ve always been someone who’s a very harsh critic of myself. Overall the biggest thing was you couldn’t really listen to the mixtape without having the storyline in mind. The thing I love most about my favorite storyline-driven projects (like Forest Hills Drive, Good Kid M.A.A.D. City, Man on the Moon) is that you can listen to them without caring about what the storyline is. I listened to Pink Hoodies from a listener’s perspective and thought “If I don’t have any idea who these characters are or what the storyline is, can I really listen to this by itself?” And I just didn’t feel like you could. Even though we took it down, I’m really proud of us. We put in so much time into Pink Hoodies and I feel like that was kind of me leaving Whistler behind. I still had all this pent-up stuff that I put onto that project and even though it’s not going to be on Spotify, I can throw that part of my life behind me.

Let’s talk about Avian. Do you want to talk on how that was different from Pink Hoodies and the mindset you were in?

*Laughs* One of the reasons why Pink Hoodies was so annoying was that I literally spent max 2 hours on every song on Avian. Even “2 cents” had both verses done in one take, and you can hear how sometimes I don’t pronounce the words fully. I literally just made those songs to have something out.

Do you feel like you learned something about overthinking & overdoing and maybe it’s just better to get stuff out?

Yes, 1000 percent. That’s the biggest thing I learned from Pink Hoodies. It’s like Kenny Beats says, Don’t Overthink Shit man. If you try and perfect every little thing you just lose the feeling of the song. It’s one of the reasons why so many rappers freestyle their verses. The first ideas you get out are a lot of the time the best, just use them. Something I’m learning now is I just need to make stuff. When I look at Mac Miller’s early discography – before Blue Slide Park before KIDS – the songs aren’t great. But he kept making stuff and because of it he kept getting better and better. By the time Faces was out it’s like “Holy shit this dude’s a genius”, but he’s already made like 500 songs. I’m honest with myself, I know nothing I’ve made so far is good enough to warrant blowing up or having a bunch of fans. And that’s completely fine with me because I’m going to keep doing this until it does.

It’s crazy to me how badly you want this. Has that ever wavered over the years?

Definitely. I’ve always wanted it super bad but there’s been points -and I think it’ll always be like this- where you’re like “Damn, am I even good enough to do this? Like am I just trash?” And you just have to suppress those thoughts because it’s really damaging. That’s the good thing about making music with other people, you always have that support system right there so I’m really happy I get to make music with Nate now and I’m not just by myself.

What has the reception been like to your projects amongst your friends or people who have listened to it? 

It’s funny because Avian – everyone loved it. People from school would hit me up -people I didn’t really get along with even- and be like “Yo, the new project is fire”. I remember I went to a bar with Wes, my close friend and saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen in like 4 years who were like “Yo your EP’s fire”. And I was always like “Just wait for the mixtape [Pink Hoodies]”. But when the mixtape came out nobody gave me props or nothing. *Laughs* It was funny as hell. But yeah, the reception’s been great; especially for the “Nuts” video. One of my old managers hit me up – she’s like a 40 year old woman and on the song “Nuts” I’m literally talking about fucking a girl- and was like “Yoo this shit is so fire”. *Laughs* I was like “Thanks mom”.

What kind of music do you like? What have you been listening to? Who are your biggest inspirations?

I’m actually going to pull the spotify playlist up that I’ve been listening to. We got, Clairo, Men I Trust, Beach House, The Japanese House, Blood Orange, Girl in Red, Ari Lennox, Beabadoobee, Willow, Snoh Aalegrah, Kid Cudi, Sade, Jhene Aiko. Then obviously Mac, Cole, Pac, Drake, Tyler – I got them all on my wall.

Something that kind of surprised me about your playlist there is that there was a lot more indie/alternative/R&B stuff – I don’t think you listed one rapper there. Do you think that’s influencing the music you’re making now in anyway?

For sure, it’s definitely influencing the sound of my music. I’m heading in a more spacey direction: less straight rap, more melodic. I think you almost have to be in today’s rap scene. I’m taking influences from like Cole, Pac, Mac and trying to infuse that with influences from like Mac de Marco, Men I Trust and Beachhouse. I wanna be confident on the track but also have the melody and the soft touch of these indie artists. That’s kind of where I’m heading.

You mentioned earlier that your voice was something that you were really insecure about. Now that we’re talking about a shift into more melodic, sing-songy stuff, do you find that as an obstacle when you’re making music?

No I think it’s fun; it allows for more creativity. There’s only so much you can do with words. I think it’s something Drake perfected. He has his one-liners and Instagram captions or whatever but being able to fold that rap and half-singing type-shit into one is what really made him a superstar. Drake isn’t a good singer, but it sounds so fire because it’s real. You can feel the emotion. I always say I actually prefer when someone isn’t that great at singing to when someone is a perfect singer. I don’t know what it is, it might just be because it’s imperfect that I just feel the emotion more. That’s what I’m trying to get at, get that melodic shit out because even if I’m not a great singer, the words I’m saying can hit more if you have that melody and you can hear the rasp in your voice when you’re trying to get a note out that you’re not supposed to hit.

If we’re looking at the future now, what can we expect to see from you? Are you going to be dropping more regularly? What do you have planned?

I actually was meant to have a song come out yesterday, but DistroKid had the cover art copyrighted. I put a picture of Link from Zelda on it. That song is a single off my next solo project that’s gonna come out.

Have you decided on a name for the solo project?

Yes, yes I have.

Are you going to announce it? You don’t have to if you don’t want to.

Nah. *Laughs* I’m going to keep that. I can tell you that the project that Nate and I are working on is probably going to be called Sitting on the Moon Going Fishing. So yeah you can get a little idea of the concept or whatever.

If everything were to go your way, when do you think that would drop?

December? Hopefully? I mean it’s kinda bad juju this year I might just wait until January. *Laughs* Might drop it and fuck around and die bruh. Nuh uh.

That’s all the questions I have for you today, thank you for taking the time!

Watch the music video for “Candy Cane” here:

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