Walking Down Memory Lane: Calabasas Talk New Single “Stressed Out,” Finding Balance, & Staying True to Themselves

Calabasas © courtesy of the artist
Calabasas © courtesy of the artist
Adding to a run of anthemic singles, LA-based duo Calabasas offer insight into making the most out of music on a personal level while dissecting what makes the dream work.
Stream: “Stressed Out” – Calabasas

Seeing one person and making a difference in their day with our music in any way we can; it can go a long way.

Calabasas have been on fire.

Stretching back to October, the LA-based duo of Watrcup and Franskiiz have been ceaselessly pouring out larger-than-life pop anthems, sounds ranging from a drive down the coast to something a-ha would have put out in an alternate universe. For every moment of catharsis or sun-kissed stereo love is a synth-laden energizer to get you going a mile a minute. Seriously. Check out “Goin, Goin, Gone” –

I’m thinking all this ethanol
Has made my heart flammable
I’m speeding like a cannonball
But nobody can turn me off

– and thank me later.

Stressed Out - Calabasas
Stressed Out – Calabasas

Stressed Out,” released on March 1 and the latest addition to their run of pop anthems, is an all-purpose enhancer. It’s something to pacify those nagging daily stresses. The production grandeur present in lots of their stuff takes a backseat in favor of dancing guitars, head-bobbing hits and a hook that sticks like glue, all mixed to perfection.

Life gets lonely when you’re
stressed out, stressed out

I keep going, but I’m
checked out, checked out

Work hard to never miss out, miss out
But I could really use some rest now, rest now
Calabasas © courtesy of the artist
Calabasas © courtesy of the artist

The lyrics are candid and endearing, enough to the point where the listener is smiling – at least tapping a finger, depending on how tough the going is that particular day – by the time Watrcup’s first verse comes around:

Life gets complicated, okay, I know it (Yeah)
She said, “Boy, you made it okay”
So why’s it feel like I can hardly keep my composure?
There’s so much that they put on my shoulder
I’m feeling older and wiser
And you know I’m a soldier, but I’m tired
Of acting like nothing can hurt me
It sucks being worried ’bout life

“We wanted to make a song highlighting everyday stress. About the normal complications of just being alive,” Calabasas details. “The world is always pushing us to go go go, and to us we wanted a record to say it’s ok to take a step back every once in a while.”

The tandem continues to explore different sounds with no reservation, years removed from the pop rap route that rightly led to their mass exposure in 2021. The alternative fabric of their music, however, is still alive and well, and while that era – their days as The Image, masks and all, of which they still hold close to heart – is behind them, their present pop focus is a result of growing into their own.

Calabasas © 2024
Calabasas © 2024

“I feel like it’s just maturity,” Franskiiz shares. “It feels very coming-of-age; with all the new elements in the music that we have now, there’s even more of that flavor. So it’s really exciting.”

Watrcup frames it as a matter of self-service. “It’s been nice to settle into something we really enjoyed doing and it seems more appropriate for us as we’re getting older. I think that not everything we do is the easy path or the most rewarding at the time, but I feel like the way we go about things together – how we should approach music, our careers, life, everything – it ends up paying out.

Atwood Magazine had the chance to sit down with the band to discuss everything from “Stressed Out” to their songwriting processes and the difficulties behind shooting a music video in New York City – and maybe, just maybe, there’s a hint at an upcoming project as well.

— —

:: stream/purchase Stressed Out here ::
:: connect with Calabasas here ::
Stream: “Stressed Out” – Calabasas


Stressed Out - Calabasas

Atwood Magazine: First things first, welcome to Atwood Magazine! I know you guys have been running all over the place and releasing singles non-stop since October so we appreciate you taking the time to sit with us. How are y’all doing?

Watrcup: Doing good, man. It’s good to connect.

I think it’s right to dive straight into your single, “Goin, Goin, Gone.” I loved it! This is off script, but I hit a PR in the gym listening to it, so thanks for that. Where did the idea for the song came from?

Watrcup: Man. It’s kind of like a happy-go-lucky song. It’s just getting lit, more for the vibe than anything else. You have your songs that are deep and meaningful. And this was just more like a “we got drunk and wanted to make some cool sh**.”

One thing I really appreciated about the track is that it dives into this synth-pop, new-wavey sound that hasn’t ever been so front and center in your music. As a fan, it’s been cool to see you guys graduate out of the hip-hop sound you came up on, and evolve this new niche, trying a bunch of sounds and making it work so well.
That synth-poppy sound was a little apparent on “Touchdown,” but “Goin, Goin, Gone” just turns it up to eleven. What led you down that sonic route?

Franskiiz: Yeah, I can answer that. I feel like it’s just maturity. We kind of want to grow out of  different sounds we’ve explored and explore more of a pop sound. Obviously our hip-hop background, we love doing hip-hop. But this definitely just kind of feels good. It feels very coming-of-age; with all the new elements in the music that we have now, there’s even more of that flavor. So it’s really exciting.

You are so confident in that sound, too. It’s like you have been working on that kind of music forever.

Watrcup: We kind of have. Even when we were still dropping the hip-hop stuff. I mean, we were building up a lot of records that, whether they were full cut demos or just half ideas, were just touching on a ton of different genres. So I feel like when we leaned into it fully, there was already some level of comfort.

Another thing I always enjoy with your music, because it's very variable from song to song, is how the song structure plays out. It was very satisfying listening to “Goin, Goin, Gone,” just like the fluidity from Jared on the first verse to Fran hopping in on the pre chorus. It just scratched an itch I didn't know I had. Was super cool. That's just something that's very characteristic of your music in general; you never really know what to expect regarding who does the hook or which verse. When you're in the studio, how does that division of labor play out? Does it just come naturally?

Watrcup: Honestly, we have a lot of fun with it. I feel like that’s really it. Every single song is different. I mean, on “Goin, Goin, Gone,” it’s like every other line or verse we’re switching off, but it really does depend on the song. There’s so many ways we can figure it out. It’s part of the fun, the process of knowing, like, who goes where and who does what.

Calabasas © 2024
Calabasas © 2024

I bring that up because one thing that's hooked me and so many others throughout the years is the chemistry between you two. It's just so cohesive. You know, there's something to be said about why that transition works so well; it’s because you work so well together. There are so many other duos out there, especially within the hip-hop sphere where the limelight is so heavily shed on one person rather than the other. Calabasas seem to work so well as equal parts Jared and Fran. Aside from years of working together, what do you think has made you two mesh so well?

Franskiiz: I feel like it’s because we come from two different places, but the end goal has always locked within the music. Having something that you drive for, that keeps you going; meeting in the middle is a necessary balance, that’s from my perspective. It always felt right, whenever we got in the studio and started making great stuff. Yeah.

I want to bring up the music video for “Goin, Goin, Gone” because I'm a New York native, and it was interesting to see you fly across the country and come here to shoot the music video. I was curious, shooting a music video when you're in the subways and running around the streets... New York can definitely be full of surprises. What creatively inspired the video, and what were the highlights and lowlights from your NYC experience?

Watrcup: That was actually one of the most fun days I think I’ve had in a couple years. Our videographer Nick, who’s amazing and does almost all of our sh*t, was the one that was kind of pushing like “yo, let’s just run up and shoot it.” We were there for like, what, like a week and a half?

Franskiiz: Yeah.

Watrcup: So we tried to just carve out one day to shoot something and then, I think, it just kind of turned into a full video because he was shooting the whole time we were there. And we were kind of nervous to, like, do it in such public, open areas like the subway with all these people just staring at you with a camera in your face. But Nick just kept saying “everybody’s an NPC, just pretend everybody’s not real,” and then we just got into it. [laughs] It was fun. I mean it’s a good time. I love New York; New York is a f***ing great place to be in.

Calabasas © 2024
Calabasas © 2024

There's so many people everywhere; I'd imagine with a camera pointed at you people are either gonna be just, like, elbowing you out of the way and whatnot.

Watrcup: Well, it’s not LA, which is obvious. At the same time, I feel like if you’re in Los Angeles and you see somebody shooting, you don’t really bat an eye, but I think it’s a lot different over there where it’s like, “why are you shooting right now?”

Everyone’s just, like, dressed in black and grumpy. But I’m glad to hear you guys had fun. Another thing I want to mention is the artwork for the recent singles you’ve released. I'm really into that retro, scrapbook vibe, and it really accompanies the shots on Instagram between the suitcases, the flimsy newspapers, and being in random remote places. It gives this escapist vibe that matches the music very well. What overarching theme are you going for between the creative content and music you've released lately?

Watrcup: I think that the main theme is just “retro.” I mean, there’s the word. A lot of the songs that we’re dropping have that older feel to them, like you mentioned with the synth pop stuff, some of the alternative stuff. It all kind of fit this washed California vibe. I don’t know; it doesn’t matter if it’s 80s or 90s or 2000s. We weren’t trying to pinpoint something specific –  just more like the feel of it. Being not from now, you know?

Speaking of social media, one thing I've always admired about you guys, being a longtime fan of yours, is that you put way more effort into your social media presence than I see from a lot of other people that I follow, and that translates –

Watrcup: Can you say that louder, by the way? [for media team member in background]

Once you made that transition from being The Image to Calabasas … When you really blew up in 2021, your work ethic on your social media and in your music just kind of turned up in turn. I remember you just started pumping out content – giving step-by-step production tutorials, Fran playing violin covers of whatever song – all just to give fans little behind-the-scenes glimpses behind your music processes and who Jared and Fran are as people. I mean, that effort kind of reflects how much effort you put in for your fans, but it also reflects the manner of which your friends drive you to be the best versions of yourselves as musicians. So I guess what I'm saying is, you know, what keeps you motivated?

Franskiiz: I guess it’s just the love for what we do and seeing people react the way that they do, and kind of feeding off of their energy. It’s all we can really ask for. We really are – I’m not speaking for Jared, but for me, I’m a very low expectation person. Seeing one person and making a difference in their day with our music in any way we can; it can go a long way. And that really can drive someone like me or Jared a long way, to push through any obstacles and filter out all the negativity and just kind of feed off of that energy. So it’s really awesome to see that there’s obviously more than one person who loves what we do. And that’s just something that we hope to continuously grow; to reach more people out there.

Stressed Out - Calabasas
Stressed Out – Calabasas

You two have teased a new single, “Stressed Out.” What’s it all about, and what can listeners expect?

Watrcup: Sonically, it’s very happy-go-lucky. I feel like it’s a real feel-good. Put it on in the car; roll the windows down; jam out. Lyrically, I feel like it’s just something everybody can relate to – anxiety and people going through daily stresses. I mean, we all have it. I think it’s a cool one just to, like dive in a little deeper with. You might feel good one second and then you’re like “f***, I am always stressed the f*** out,” so yeah, I think people will relate to it.

Couple singles with the same cover format and a big promo push recently – can we expect something bigger in the near future?

Watrcup: Yeah … let’s just put it that way. Yes. Yeah… That’s a really long-winded way of saying yes.

Calabasas © courtesy of the artist
Calabasas © courtesy of the artist

Alright, home stretch, boys. It’s been an absolute pleasure seeing how far you have come over the past couple years. I remember coming across you in 2021. I was watching a YouTuber called Patrick Cc:, he was taking music submissions and putting it into playlists. “Super Lit Boi” came on, and I was like “this is the best song I've ever listened to; these guys are gonna be huge.” You then blew up by tens of millions of listeners that year in 2021. I remember opening my Instagram to you on IG Live, and you were performing that same song for a crowd of hundreds and even more tuned in to the stream.
Now you are where you are. You have your song “Hello” synced to, as of a couple of days ago, the #1 streaming movie on Netflix in Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken. Having been The Image, taking the risk that you took in your rebranding and gravitating away from the hip-hop sound that made you popular, and becoming even more popular in turn – it's got to be a crazy feeling. Having taken that leap of faith, putting in the countless hours of work that you do in the studio every day, how does it feel looking back at how far you have come?

Watrcup: You want to answer first? I can answer after.

Franskiiz: It just feels special. Obviously nowadays, we don’t really know what to expect. You don’t realize sometimes how far you’ve really come and then overlook it. Some days you’re like “Wow, it was like we haven’t done anything,” but in reality, there’s been so much. Like, hearing you say what you just did – looking back to the last few years. It’s been a crazy journey, man. Just traveling from city to city – your hometown [NYC] for example – and experiencing things like that. That’s all we really look forward to – just having the people respond the way that they do, and the feedback we get is just the icing on the cake for us. We’re just grateful. I’m grateful for all of the support that we have from people like you, man, so it’s really awesome.

Watrcup: Yeah, I 100% agree. I think it’s nice to just reflect sometimes and be like “okay, not everything we’ve been doing has been, like, wrapped in struggle,” but like you said, I mean, it was a risk doing the complete rebrand. I mean, actually, it’s so funny to me. I gotta just put this on my camera really fast because I’m sitting right in front of it [pans camera to old mask from days as The Image].  I still have this right here. But what I’d say is it seemed at the time like it was going to be like a bigger mountain to climb, but it hasn’t been. It’s been nice to settle into something we really enjoyed doing and it seems more appropriate for us as we’re getting older. I think that not everything we do is the easy path or the most rewarding at the time, but I feel like the way we go about things together – how we should approach music, our careers, life, everything – it ends up paying out. I think more in the long run because we want to get things exactly how we want to get them before we’re ready to sit back and be like “okay, things are good.”

For sure. Well, I think that's all I got today, boys. Again, absolute pleasure to chat. Is there anything else you want to say before we sign off?

Watrcup: Don’t think so. It’s been dope, man. Appreciate it. There were some good questions there.

Franskiiz: Thanks, man. This was awesome. Pleasure.

— —

:: stream/purchase Stressed Out here ::
:: connect with Calabasas here ::
Stream: “Stressed Out” – Calabasas

— — — —

Stressed Out - Calabasas

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