By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Pop-rap act GUEST LIST started off the new year with a bang, with the recently unleashed new single “SET ME FREE,” the first from their debut album, slated for an early 2021 release.
The group formed over the internet, with its members based primarily in the United Kingdom, but also in the United States. Their goal was to focus on pop music, but also push the limits of what can truly be experimental these days.
“SET ME FREE” (also their sixth single) was developed while under quarantine and documented the members’ shared sentiments of pure isolation.
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to discuss “SET ME FREE” and more with the members.
Music Bugle – How did you guys decide the band name:
Jake – The name was created in reference to how Zak, Lane and Milo originally met. Zak previously worked as a bouncer for a nightclub in his local area. Lane and Milo had been invited to an event there and upon their arrival, they were refused by Zak for not being “on the guest list for the party.” After an altercation, Lane and Milo ended up being kicked out of the club. The next day, they came back to apologize and after some conversation with Zak, found they had very similar music tastes and it all kind of went off from there.
Music Bugle – What inspired your single “Set Me Free”?
Lane – The working title for this track was “The Quarantine Blues.” When I initially sent the first demo to the others in GUEST LIFE, I didn’t expect it to end up being a full song because it sounds so different from anything we’ve put out before. However, I’m glad that it did, because the result was something quite unique. Conceptually, the song explores the ideas of feeling trapped and isolated, which is obviously something many around the globe are currently experiencing. I think people underestimate the degree to which our very sense of sanity relies on social connection and when your connection to the outside world becomes severed, it can make you begin to question your very concept of reality. That’s really the feeling I was expressing here.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your debut album?
Griffin – Making songs is pretty easy, but trying to decide which songs are album cuts and which ones have to be left behind is a difficult process.
Jake – Oh yeah, completely. We’ve had so many favorites when making the songs, we had to try and put some bias to the side, as sometimes we love a song, but it just does not fit as a sound on the project.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Milo – We started out with the goal of making experimental music, which originally to us, just meant using experimental sounds and structures, but eventually evolved into an experimental approach in everything we do. From our albums to our music videos and even the pre-release promotion, we want to provide our fans with an experience unlike anything they’ll have with any other artist.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Milo – “BURIAL PIT” was particularly hard to put together, as it started out as a collection of three full-length verses by each of the rappers, bound together by Jacob’s chorus. Due to the nature of the song being so abrasive and intense, it’s length and pacing in that iteration didn’t work, but we couldn’t figure out why for the longest time. The song went on the backburner and we even performed it in our live show in it in this older iteration before its release. It wasn’t until mid-2020 when the producers went back and forth, cutting and adding various sections while working up until the deadline we had set for ourselves to finish it, making the song much more fast-paced and consistently interesting in the end. After finishing this process, we felt it warranted a music video more than any of our other songs so far, so we went straight to work on that.
Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about where you come from?
Griffin – It’s funny because I’ve already lived in so many places, granted, all within the same state, but each place has its own feel to it, so I’ve never really felt the need to claim any one place, really. Maybe as I grow older, it will become more clear to me, but as of right now, I’m content with just kinda wandering around.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Sam – Regarding how the group functions, there wasn’t much of a difference. We formed and primarily operated online through messages and group calls, so having to be remote wasn’t something alien to us. With that being said, we had just started working on live shows, so we’ve had to push that back a bit.
Jake – Also, in addition to this, Milo and I have not actually told the people around us that we make music. It’s almost like a big secret that we just keep up at this point. When the pandemic rolled around, it meant we could not really record, as everyone was stuck inside. This led to a good few months of no recordings and just producers having to deal with shitty recordings. Looking back on it now, the whole situation with secrets seems quite silly, but I guess Milo and I just value our privacy.
Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in today’s music industry?
Griffin – Experimentation within pop music. I really enjoyed the songs on the radio in the 2000s and early 2010s because they pushed themselves creatively. Like, of course it’s pop, so it’s still inside of some sort of box, but not as much of a box as modern day pop music.
Milo – I wish the impact of the dollar sign on the art that people choose to pursue could be taken away. In the internet age in which anyone can theoretically start their career without the support of archaic mediums, many artists still eventually need to make that choice between artistic integrity and commercial viability. As a group, we’re still walking that tightrope, always trying to find the right blend of pop perfection and eclectic experimentalism and I hope we’ll someday be in a position to promote the pursuit of ideas in a new generation of artists.
Music Bugle – Away from music, what’s something people might be surprised to know about the band?
Jake – Uh, nearly all of us are very passionate about filmmaking. Sam loves his photography, I love directing the music videos and all of us have some aspirations to do with directing films. Apart from working on music for me, filmmaking is always something I felt was an exciting prospect that goes hand-in-hand with all the music we are making.
Sam – Yeah, we all have a passion for the visual aspect of the creative process, just as much as we do for the music. As well as filmmaking, almost all of the creative direction in terms of single/album art and promotional material is done by me and is very collaborative. We’re all very passionate when it comes to making sure every single aspect of the art is perfect and refined and created by us.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Sam – Lots of Jai Paul and I’ve always got Frank Ocean on repeat.
Griffin – Just listened to BTS for the first time recently, shoutout Milo.
Jake – Viper.
Zak – Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license.” It’s a banger and she’s gonna be huge.
Milo – I listen to a lot of GUEST LIST. Specifically, our unreleased stuff.
Lane – Amine, Skizzy Mars, Grouplove and The Mowgli’s.