Koe Wetzel Reassures the Masses That He’ll Never Change on ‘Sellout’

Koe Wetzel (Photo: Jody Domingue)

Koe Wetzel found himself bombarded by people saying he “sold out” or that they “lost another one to the industry” after he signed to major label in early 2020. Following the backlash of signing to Columbia, the Texas country-punk felt prompted to piece together a musical response on his fourth album, Sellout.

“This is a throwback to them that we’re not changing anything, and they’ll get it when they hear the record,” says Wetzel. “We just wanted to reassure them that this is just us trying to better our career and put our music in more places than we can do on our own.”

On Sellout, Wetzel is the same artist he always was—his own amalgamation of 1990s country, grunge, and early aughts punk. Following up 2019’s Harold Saul High, which took two years to record between intermittent touring breaks, Sellout was written and recorded mostly during the pandemic with more continuous time in the studio allowing Wetzel to dig deeper into each song.

“This quarantine gave us a lot more time in the studio, so it was easier to get everything done,” says Wetzel. “Instead of just writing it on the road, then going in the studio and cutting a song on the spot, we had time to transform the songs into what we really wanted.”

Following an opening 33-second intro “Pre-Sellout” talking about some country punk rock hillbilly selling out, Sellout jolts into “Kuntry & Wistern” with Wetzel singing I think I lost my fucking mind

“I wanted the title ‘Kuntry and Wistern,’ because it sounds nothing like country and western music,” says Wetzel.

Written entirely by Wetzel with the exception of the slower crooned “Outcast,” co-written with William Clark Green, Sellout is a 14-track narrative on relationship observations and personal experiences, including the loss of his good friend on “Good Die Young,” a track he initially wrote four years earlier. Constantly bending the genres from a country ode to the Texas city of “Lubbock” to an alt rock movement of “Drug Problem” and the heavier “Sundy or Mundy,” Sellout is interspersed with spoken word skits (and off-tune strings) on “The Fiddler” through a closing spoof on the label signing on “Post-Sellout.”

Koe Wetzel (Photo: Jody Domingue)

“It’s kind of a goof for everybody,” says Wetzel of the scattered Sellout talking points. “I’m glad Columbia was really cool with it.”

Wetzel also brought two older songs, that just had a verse or a chorus, to life on Sellout. More studio time allowed him to flesh out all the song fragments and write the remainder of the album from the ground up, often putting himself in the position of people who were going through rough relationships and adding in whatever storytelling fodder he could find.

“More or less, I was grabbing the most random shit that I could possibly think of at that time with quarantine going on and seeing it it could make sense in a song,” says Wetzel. “With this record, and in a lot of my songs, you have to listen to them a couple times before you actually get what I’m trying to say. I’m not a very deep writer. I try to be very blatant with everything that I say.”

At the same time, Wetzel’s songs don’t play so black and white. “I leave it up to the listener to make their own assumption of what I’m trying to get across,” he says. “Every listener is different. Everybody kind of gets gets a different idea of what I’m trying to get out.”

For so long, Wetzel says he’s been trying to find his sound, which started developing on 2017’s Noise Complaint and on through Harold Saul High.

“You have to hone the craft of how you’re playing the music and how you’re putting together your music and presenting it to people,” says Wetzel. “‘Noise Complaint’ was on the edge of what we were trying to do, and ‘Harold Saul High’ was molding it into what we wanted it to be—that ’90s country meets early 2000s punk rock with early ’90s grunge and hip-hop music in the background.”

This entire soundscape plays out on Sellout, and it’s a place where Wetzel has finally hit his groove. 

“Because we had so much time in the studio to actually listen to every song over and over, we got to experience so much with this record, more than any other record that we’ve ever made,” says Wetzel. “We’ve just grown as a band, and I’ve grown as a songwriter. When I’m writing, I know my fan base, I know what I’m writing for, and I know what those people are going through. We finally found our sound and what we really wanted to do with it. I understand my music more now.”

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