Photo: The Wills
There's an art to constructing the perfect, quirky anthem. Many artists attempt it, but few succeed at striking that perfect balance between catchy and artistic, between saccharine and meaningful. This rare in-between space is the world Petey inhabits on his debut album Lean Into Life, boasting 12 tracks of lively, indie glory.
Take the first track on the album, "California," which essentially rockets the state straight to the the top of the best-states-to-be-depressed-in list. His hooky, anthemic chorus leads with, "I'd rather be depressed in California," and actually makes the whole idea of depression seem oddly euphoric. I won't be surprised if the mentally healthy among us (if they exist?) turn out to have a bit of depression FOMO with the way Petey spins it.
Next up is "Apple TV Remote," which comes out swinging with a tongue-in-cheek assessment of what it's like to lose touch in our digital world with the lyrics, "Now we only keep in touch via Venmo / saw you had lunch with so and so." It's this characteristic comedy that has helped Petey amass a major TikTok following.
Both of these tracks were what landed Petey his record deal with Los Angeles-based Terrible Records in late 2019. He wrote them while working in the mailroom of a talent agency. Typically, that's how aspiring agents get their proverbial foot in the door, but with zero ambitions to become a talent mogul, Petey found himself with a lot of time alone in the mail room to think.
"All the songs and content that I make is the product of me sitting down and having the time and space to think for a really long time," he shares. "My creative process doesn't have anything to do with routine, it has to do with the time and space to think critically about myself, how I interact with the world and observe my surroundings."
Not knowing what he wanted to do with his life - music wasn't a career goal - Petey poured his energy into creating. He "leaned into life" and life leaned back with a record deal and a growing fan base.
"When I finished those songs it felt like a decision had been made and once I made that decision everything after that fell into place more easily. Everything started flowing and I became a lot happier," he adds.
The album is presented in chronological order, so you might notice the growing thematic optimism in the later tracks like "Comfort in the Clutter" and particularly the title track, "Lean Into Life." Both showcase his distinctive sound, unique for the way it evades the narrow boundaries of genre categorization and pulls from influences like Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Kanye West and Blink-182. "As the album progresses I spend a lot more time and energy and care crafting the songs because I felt better about myself," he recounts.
Whether you want to dream about being depressed in sunnier locales or you're ready to push through the darkness and "lean into life," Petey's genre-spanning sound has a little something for everyone to rally behind.
Listen to Lean Into Life below: