The LA-based experimental rap duo propels itself forward with LP ‘MID AIR’—cementing its status as music's unidentifiable flying object
Nominally, Paris Texas is an SEO nightmare. The band shares its name not only with the city, but also with the Wim Wenders Palme d’Or-winning film—but that’s a problem for publicists. Frontmen Louie Pastel and Felix approach music without regard for the industry, or care for perception. Their cinematic counterpart doesn’t seem coincidental, as there are a number of apparent aesthetic and conceptual overlappings between them—notably, in its aggressively offbeat sense of humor and its Tim Robinson-esque, abrupt approach to narrative, as seen on the band’s YouTube channel. (This one, perhaps most explicitly so.) But any convergences, they explain, are actually not intentional; in fact, half of the duo has never even seen the film—a point they are frequently asked to make, and one that becomes increasingly disinteresting to them. It’s really beside the point.
That frustration carries across most aspects of Paris Texas. They adopted the moniker from the city (sort of)—by way of a film still from Tumblr—taking to the apparent contrast within the name. That duality seeps into every detail of the project—multiplicity might be more accurate. Yes, the influence of Tyler and Cool Kids and (early) Kendrick and Yves Tumor permeate their work, but to group them together would be to miss a big piece of Paris Texas. If a big-name comparison had to be made, for the sake of context, they are maybe most akin to Death Grips—not in sound, but in concept: refusing to comply by any standards, every detail requiring an explanation that goes something like, It’s a bit like x, but more like y, and maybe a bit of g and p and q. (And, just in the sense that they are meddling between rap and punk—genres that often share sentiments, but rarely intermingle in sound.)
Everyone wants to be indefinable in that way, littered with intersections and subversions, but Paris Texas is really doing it: referential to hip-hop in their rhythmic, poetic ease and in their occasional tendencies toward vulgar lyricism. On “Full English”—a track from their extensive upcoming LP, MID AIR—the words go: “Get Pounds / WIT MY LONDON BITCH / Eat beans / WIT MY LONDON BITCH / Big ben / WIT MY LONDON BITCH / King Krule / WIT MY LONDON BITCH.” It’s stupidly explicit, it’s funny, it’s unreserved, it’s real. But then it moves into something more earnest, sort of emo-indie-esque: “My London Girl / (You know I miss you right?) / I’m flyin’ out, The country / (Yea I miss you) / just to see my London Girl.”
They also share the sensibilities of D.C.’s unapologetic ’80s outbursts—think: Minor Threat, The Teen Idles, Bad Brains. And they infuse the influences of funk and R&B and psychedelic rock and horror movies and Mario Kart—it’s so many things that it’s maybe impossible to mention them all. MID AIR, is aptly named; its press release reads, in a literal interpretation of its title, “There is no logic, no history, no narrative arc—just the present tense, the suspension of a single moment.” The record is intentionally impalpable, inexplicit, uncontained.
“How do I take what I am and make it a sound, and make it make sense? I struggle to explain myself.”
Paris Texas is annoyed that you (we), the general public, don’t get what it is that they’re doing. Maybe MID AIR will help you (us) get there—you have 16 tracks to figure it out.
Louie Pastel: Especially at first, people really didn’t get it. They’ll like the visuals, but not get [it] musically. We’ll play a show and people will be like, ‘Oh, so it’s pop punk?’ That is not it at all.
Felix: People don’t really know what to grasp.
Document: What is it that people aren’t grasping that you want them to?
Felix: People will take a joke too seriously, or take something serious as a joke.
Louie Pastel: How do I take what I am and make it a sound, and make it make sense? I struggle to explain myself. This is what I want you to understand: You don’t have to like it. I just want you to see it for what it is.
They’re at a complicated crossroads: Paris Texas is a young enough project that misapprehensions are expected. (“Nobody is recognizing us on the street,” Felix says. “Maybe at a festival, but we can go to Target.”) But giving a play-by-play analysis feels a bit perverted—art is supposed to be consumed without bounds. It’s a delicate line to toe, actually: Of course, any artist would prefer that the meaning of their work naturally resonate with their audience, in the way it’s intended to. Overexplaining is boring, and feels impositional—who are they to tell anyone how to experience their work? But again, it’s tiresome that audiences read Paris Texas out-of-line, and maybe it’s their fault you aren’t understanding it. “I can’t even blame them—I gotta get better at translating what I’m trying to say.”
The only people who might truly “get it” are Felix and Pastel themselves. It’s what drew them to each other when they first met in 2013, and began developing the nuance of their shared creative language. The state of in-between is one that’s always driven them; the initial concept for the band was that the name would change with each show—Paris Texas 1984 to Hollywood Florida 2001, for instance—to mirror their experiences as “Black kids that didn’t feel like we belonged in a place.” It’s the only continuity to be seen in MID AIR—capturing a moment of stillness in something in movement, uncertain if it’s flying or falling, examining it from all angles.
I hope that I “get it.” I probably don’t. But that’s not going to stop me from making meaning from the project, and proffering those (maybe) misinterpretations around the internet (as done above). For now, Paris Texas is content enough, knowing that, at the very least, they get each other. And with MID AIR, hopefully that circle of comprehension will grow.