Do you remember your first ever date? Mine was with an Italian boy with a really big mouth who smelled like lime-scented laundry detergent. We went to the cinema to see Madagascar, then we skateboarded around town until he tripped over a stone and bust his lip, then we made out in the car park behind Tesco Express and he touched one of my boobs for six seconds. Eventually, we ended up in McDonalds—as all good dates do—where we ate matching cheeseburgers with fries and shared a strawberry milkshake. It was fucking L I T.
Once you get into your twenties, though, dates become less about seeing where the day spontaneously takes you and more about getting trashed and deciding if someone doesn't repulse you too much to sleep with them. Sorry to sound bleak, but it's true. Which is why, when I heard Rat Boy was in town ahead of his new album, I thought I'd use this opportunity to ask him on a date to McDonalds in order to relive the glory years before warm pints and relentless swipes and "so, what do you do?," while also, y'know, finding out about his music in the process.
If you haven't heard of Rat Boy yet, he's a 21-year-old musician from Essex with messy hair who makes very catchy, relatable songs about getting stoned, being broke and staving off boredom. His genre-flipping sound is hard to define, but it fits somewhere between The Clash, Beastie Boys, and The Streets if the aforementioned came of age in the 00s and wore head-to-toe Thrasher, Palace, and Supreme. He's also got an army of teenage fans who all dress and act like him—interesting for someone who isn't a typical "pop star." But that also makes sense when you watch his colorful, DIY skate-aesthetic music videos or listen to his lyrics, which manage to capture and bottle exactly how it feels to be young and directionless, without slumping into cliche.
I don't know what I thought Rat Boy would be like in person, but I wasn't quite expecting the very sweet and vaguely shy presence that waved at me as I walked into McDonalds. When I told him I'm a vegetarian, he ordered a veggie burger to match mine because he'd "feel uncomfortable eating meat" in front of me and he then apologized for not bringing flowers.
Noisey: Sup, Rat Boy. First off, do you remember the first date you ever went on?
Rat Boy: Yeah, I went to the cinema when I was 13. We had pick 'n' mix and sat on the floor outside the cinema, then some guy I knew knocked it out my hand and onto the floor, but I still ate it because I was embarrassed.
No! What's your idea of a perfect date?
Just both people enjoying it; nice vibes, not feeling awkward and just being myself. I think sitting down is weird and I hate eating in front of people as they'll judge how I eat. I don't like people who are rude, or when someone brings food over and they're not polite to them.
I promise I won't judge you for getting burger crumbs everywhere. So, what was the first ever album you were obsessed with?
Dookie by Green Day. I love them. I had a crush on this girl when I was 11 and she had a Green Day pencil case so I was like, 'I need to learn about this band.' She went out with me for the six-week summer holiday and then she dumped me at the end of it and I cried for two days. I used to write her poetry and stuff.
What were the poems like?
I don't know… proper cringey. I think there was one called "punk rock girl."
Ha! Into it. What were you like at school? Were you one of the popular kids?
No, I hated school! I had one of the lowest attendances in my year. Honestly, school was the worst thing ever. My parents were chill about me not going because I was at home doing art or music; I wasn't just sitting there playing games. I just wasn't very academic; I liked being creative. I didn't even enjoy art and music at school because it was more about writing. I was friends with a lot of people at the skate park who didn't go to my school, so I used to hang out there a lot.
When did you first realise you wanted to start making music?
I was in a few bands at school but it never really happened… it's really hard to get four people in the same room who want to do something! Then in college, I met the band who I'm with now and I already had demos to show them, so it wasn't like starting from scratch. I always wanted to be in a band; I grew up listening to Beastie Boys and stuff like that.
You're pretty young still. You must have got your record deal not long after…
It was nearly two years ago, in February. I met this guy called Drew McConnell who's in Babyshambles. People had started speaking to me about my music, but he was the only one I trusted because I'd grown up listening to him. He let me stay at his flat and gave me the train fare because I'd just lost my job. I was a stranger to him at the time, but he really helped me out and took me to meet the right people.
I used to send my music to so many people and not hear anything back, and then literally in one month it all changed. I had all these labels wanting to meet me, I was like "what the fuck is going on?" I'd only been to London a few times, so it was bizarre.
When you were younger, did you see your life panning out like this?
I always thought I'd be doing art or music but I never thought it'd be this—it feels so unrealistic. Thinking about it now, when I go on stage, it still feels so bizarre. It's just stuff I made at home… how did that happen?!
So excited to finally hear your debut album, Scum. What does it sound like?
It's all over the place. There's a lot of hip-hop and funk stuff—it's like Beastie Boys, you can't really put it into a box. It's like a merge of genres, but they flow together properly.
How is it different to stuff that you've done before?
I think it's a lot more complete, it has a lot more direction. It's all been mixed a certain way. Also, the album is like a radio station. I worked with the guy who did Grand Theft Auto's radio station so it's got loads of weird adverts in between the tracks.
That sounds sick. Are there any artists you'd really love to collaborate with?
In terms of visuals, Mark Gonzales. Have you heard of him? He did a bunch of stuff for Crooked skateboards and he was also one of the first people to kick flip, apparently. In terms of musicians, there are loads. I'd like to work with Mike D from Beastie Boys. I recorded at their studio in New York but they weren't there. The guy I worked with said he'd send my music to him so we'll see. That would be cool. There was this Beastie Boys video called "Time for Living" that was like a skate video that I loved, and all my mates were listening to their first record this one summer, so I got into them around then. It was proper old but it felt so new to me when I was 16.
I feel like your videos are like skate videos too, with their use of color and fish-eye lenses…
Yeah, they're directed by me and my mate Tommy and it all comes from that. Skate videos are what got us into music, art and clothes. Tommy has the camera skills and then I draw a load of pictures like a comic book for the different shots. We're probably going to release it as a comic book one day. Also, the soundtracks to skate videos are always so good... that's kind of my goal: to be in a skate video soundtrack.
Surely you're already in one! On an entirely unrelated subject, do you have many tattoos? I've got my lip done… it says "Rat Boy." I've also got my stomach tattooed and my hands. I used to tattoo myself when I was at school and they're actually so bad. Remember those "S"s you used to do as a kid? I did like half of one of them but I got bored because it takes so long. And I got my ex-girlfriend's name tattooed on me. I did that to myself when I was 15.
Typical. Are you going to keep it?
Yeah, I think so. I did these four dots on my hand when I was at school as well and I didn't know what it meant, but apparently it means "all coppers are bastards." I showed my dad because he's covered in tattoos and he was like "what the fuck's wrong with you?" Then I've got a five on my hand for high five.