On his new album USA (due 9/22/23), Chicago-bred singer/songwriter Petey bares his soul about all the endless things that keep him up at night. As he muses on everything from masculinity to anxiety to the very nature of human existence, the Los Angeles-based artist drifts between warmhearted sincerity and delightfully warped humor—a deeply affecting dynamic that also defines the absurdist alt-comedy that’s earned him a massive following on TikTok. Built on his idiosyncratic but viscerally charged breed of alt-pop/rock, Petey’s Capitol Records debut ultimately brings a gloriously strange convergence of comfort, catharsis, and unrelenting joy.
The follow-up to his 2022 debut Lean Into Life, USA finds Petey working with co-producers John DeBold (Wallows, Remi Wolf) and Aidan Spiro to piece together what he refers to as “an origin story of a typical American male in their 30s.” While the album includes decidedly autobiographical tracks like “Home alone house”—a real-life account of getting busted smoking weed on the beach in eighth grade—Petey’s songwriting often takes the form of impressionistic vignettes revealing the sheer depth and scope of his inner world. On “I’ll wait,” for instance, he delivers an explosive piece of pop-punk whose lyrics offer a candid perspective on mental health. “It’s a song from the mindset of an anxious man who’s acutely aware of the resources available to him, but for whatever reason decides to just wait it out,” Petey explains. “There’s some recognition that doing nothing will make the problem drag out longer, but there’s also an understanding that the uncomfortable moment will eventually end—just like everything else in life.”
Mainly recorded at Gold-Diggers Sound in L.A., USA came to life with equal parts intention and spontaneity. “For me, making music has always been like throwing spaghetti at the wall, and working with John and Aidan allowed me to be reckless and experimental while giving each song the care it deserved,” says Petey, who plays guitar, bass, drums, and synth on USA. “It helped me fulfill the only real goal I had for the album, which was to make sure every single song would be super-fun to play live.” To that end, “Family of six” unfolds in dance-ready grooves as Petey shares a fantastically surreal meditation on gender expression. “We hear so much today about toxic masculinity, so the idea behind that song is trying to reclaim masculinity in a way that’s actually positive and helpful,” he says. “Each stanza is imagining a parallel universe where the laws of physics are different, and therefore I’m the best version of a man that I could be.”
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