angelus Is Watching Digicore Come to Life

angelus Is Watching Digicore Come to Life

by Payton Dunn

angelus had just gotten to New York City when they played their first ever show. As a veteran of SoundCloud’s underground digicore scene, staying in the city for the summer made perfect sense — having access to the packed and recently established venues of Bushwick or Williamsburg or the iconic concert halls of downtown Manhattan — but angelus’ first show didn’t happen in Manhattan or Brooklyn. In fact, it didn’t happen in the city at all.

The rising star got to New York on July 18th and made their way down to Philadelphia to headline Fiona’s World 2022 two days later alongside fellow digicore mainstays SEBii, lieu and funeral. It’s the same city where digicore first sprung itself into the live music canon just under a year ago at the now legendary Overcast N Friends show, which featured the inaugural live performances from staples of the scene like aldn and the hyperpop-aligned emo rapper brakence.

After the Overcast N Friends show on October 9, 2021, Philadelphia’s South Street was flooded with digicore scene enthusiasts and artists as they were ushered out of the Theatre of The Living Arts. The mingling lasted for hours as friends who had met each other over Discord during the pandemic finally got the chance to see each other face-to-face for the first time. It was something angelus couldn’t partake in, still living all the way across the Atlantic Ocean in Paris, France.

When angelus invited me out for lunch at San Marzano on the Lower East Side, they had just gotten the chance to live out their own version of what happened in Philadelphia that October night. “I just be thinking back about how everything was and how everything is now and it’s just surreal. We’re doing shows now and everything but we used to play Minecraft,” they explained before digging into their pasta.

They had been friends with everyone in the scene since 2019, having met many of them when fellow digicore artist kurtains organized a Discord server for them and their friends at the start of the pandemic, which only lasted for a couple of months before it became too oversaturated with members to have that tight-knit feel.

One of those friends, kuru, gave angelus their second live performance opportunity following the Fiona’s World show in Philadelphia, this time at Elsewhere in Brooklyn. kuru was doing an opening set for Fish Narc when they spontaneously invited angelus up onstage with them, who had been huddled over in the corner in a Star vs the Forces of Evil t-shirt chatting with kuru’s manager, Taylor Malone.

Naturally, with how insular the whole scene is, Malone would be the one to give angelus their next live opportunity in a digicore domino effect. On Aug. 1, angelus made their way over to Williamsburg’s famed Baby’s All Right for a showcase of the best the digital underground had to offer. The showcase was put on by Malone and Billie Bugara — co-founder of independent record label deadAir, which is the home to some of the most influential acts in the digicore scene.

Bugara popped up on stage after all of the artists listed on the bill had made their rounds and opened up their mosh pits to announce that there was a secret guest star about to take over the stage — one who had flown in all the way from out of the country to be there. The crowd chanted out names trying to guess the identity of the mystery performer, with one person convinced that it was the Welsh artist that started that Discord server all those years ago — kurtains. Bugara finally unveiled their friend and final act of the night, cueing a loop of the intro of angelus’ song “gossip girls” from their drama queen EP as they stormed the stage, influenced by the confident and chaotic stage presence of Playboi Carti.

angelus sat reflecting on the whole ordeal at San Marzano, still making their way through their pasta. “What’s your relationship with Billie like?” I ask. They stopped eating, a grin now making its way from one side of their face to the other. “Billie changed my life,” they stated with a fondness building in their voice.

“I met Billie through Twitter because they just hit me up in mid-2020 to do an interview with me for Lyrical Lemonade, and ever since then we’ve become friends,” they explained.

Despite finally being able to meet all of their internet artist friends in real life, they’d only recently started listening to their friends’ music again, shutting themself off from it earlier in the year to work on their upcoming EP, majorette, which they announced today with the lead single “heartless” coming out on Sept. 7.

“Right now, I listen to a lot of my friends because I finished a project, but I don’t really like to listen to too much of it because I’m scared to take influence too much because we are in the same space and people like to compare us to each other. We’re always gonna have the same similarities, but I always wanted to make something that’s me with my references and with everything that I put in together.”

angelus went right to work after drama queen, setting their sights on a new project. “At first, I was just making songs to make songs. We were so close to turning it in, but then I was like, ‘No! I’m gonna change everything again!’ At first, it was just rap music, but I was like, 'That’s not really me! That’s not really genuine!' It’s good music, but it’s not really something I made from my heart, and I want to put out something genuine especially if it’s gonna be a big project like this.”

That first attempt at rap provides a glimpse into the inner workings of a digicore artist, and more importantly how they’re perceived by the public. Digicore often gets misconstrued as a subgenre of rap rather than the diverse scene that it is, where artists are just as likely to pick up a rap record for inspiration as they are a pop one.

More recently, that paradigm has been stretching even further, now even encompassing rock music. Last year, a signee of Billie Bugara’s deadAir label — Jane Remover — released a now-classic record called Frailty, which fused gritty indie and noise rock with the musical stylings of a video game soundtrack, all in a concoction lined with the techniques they used to make classic hyperpop records years ago. This year, the trend marched forward with the release of good grief by aldn, who PAPER sat down with earlier this summer to talk about their recent move into the alt-rock sphere. Meanwhile, an entirely new guitar-driven scene is popping up separately across the internet ecosphere, with artists like underscores, poptropicaslutz! and aldrch taking on the angst of classic emo records and dawning the era of hyperpunk.

angelus is the latest to put themselves at the front of the digicore-goes-rock trend, with The Weeknd-style synthpop meeting indie and bedroom pop on the new EP. Indie rock artist beabadoobee became one of the largest reference points for their upcoming record, with angelus explaining, “She’s my inspiration for everything in life, I’m not gonna lie.”

The trend isn’t something angelus is partaking in intentionally, having reached that musical conclusion completely independently. “I still get inspired by my friends," they explained. "But I feel like I get inspired by my friends more after seeing them achieving stuff being like, 'Wow, this is actually working out,' rather than sound wise.”

As angelus finished off the last of their lunch, I asked what exactly that "digicore mindset" is, with that grin coming back in from one side of the face and curving all the way to the other one last time. “That anything is possible! Seeing it happen. Our space is getting bigger and bigger and more people know about it, and I love to see it,” they responded with an immense amount of hope and happiness flooding into their voice.

Photography: Falyn Huang & Monar

Hair & Nails: Kaya Coleman

Makeup: Jackie Chojnaki