Lil Lotus: “The more I got to know myself, the more I started saying things that I really felt. It came out pretty dark”

Sober and “more present”, Lil Lotus has traded the Sad Boy Soundcloud scene for a more fully realised take on emo. With second LP Nosebleeder, he’s discovering a new darkness, and becoming a star in the process…

Lil Lotus: “The more I got to know myself, the more I started saying things that I really felt. It came out pretty dark”
Jake Richardson
Cover photo:
Rowan Daly
Mallory Turner

“At first, it was just light-hearted ‘Sad Boy’ type stuff, but the more I got to know myself, the more I started saying things that I really felt," says Lil Lotus. "It came out pretty dark. This has been a big transitional period for me.”

Lil Lotus has had to change his approach in order to become the burgeoning rock star he is today. Real-name John Elias Villagran III, Lotus’ origin story is a pretty common one amidst his peers. Starting out on Soundcloud in 2016, he recorded, mixed and uploaded tracks online, collaborating with and starting a number of projects alongside fellow Soundcloud artists like Lil Aaron and Smrtdeath.

Where he differs, though, is in his love of the concept of ‘the band.’ Having already formed the metalcore group If I Die First in 2020 to satisfy his appetite for all things heavy, Lotus is now determined that his solo work – which leans more into the realm of emo and pop-punk – be considered as that of a collective in all but name. It starts with taking a more methodical approach to his craft.

“I’m spending a lot more time writing than I used to in the Soundcloud era,” Lotus reflects, pondering how his second LP Nosebleeder, released on Dec 1, differs from 2021 debut Error Boy. “Where in the past I’d freestyle, tweak it a little and then run with it, I’m now going into much more detail and being more creative. It’s about the connection to the songs – when I’m performing, I’m finding that I feel so much more connected to those tracks where I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting them.”

Having grown from a Soundcloud freestyler to a fully-fledged artist, Lotus has channelled his inner darkness to take his music far beyond the Sad Boy tropes that characterised his early work. Nosebleeder takes a serious look at themes of addiction, mental health and toxic relationships.

“I think it’s to do with me being sober, more in my head and present,” Lotus – who’s been open about his past substance abuse – says of Nosebleeder’s themes. “This album isn’t ‘heavy’, but it’s definitely on the darker side of things. It’s the same with other stuff I’m doing – I’m working on a new project at the moment called Hospital, which sounds like what I imagine the afterlife is. It all feels hard-hitting, but mature and beautiful too.”

Despite the darkness surrounding this creativity, though, Lotus’ vision for the listener isn’t one shrouded in despair.

“Whether you’re jamming out on your own or driving through the middle of fucking nowhere, I want Nosebleeder to be an enjoyable experience that bring those feelings of hearing lyrics and melodies from your favourite emo bands from back in the day come rushing back.

"Music can hit really deep in that way – it’s a feeling of nostalgia, but you don’t necessarily know where it’s come from.”

Lil Lotus’ album Nosebleeder is released December 1 via Epitaph

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