The downbeat: Goth Babe and his new take on West Coast lo-fi

Goth Babe, a project by Griff Washburn, is a project equally focused on producing music and living a dream lifestyle. After all, the homepage of the Goth Babe website features a giant photo of Washburn about to hoist a surfboard onto the roof of his camper van, the background a green wash of pine trees. 

Goth Babe’s music is mostly centered around this enjoyable outdoor lifestyle, with song titles such as “Sunnnn,” “Weekend Friend,” “Early Mornings” and “Car Camping.” The songs have a clean, mellow and clearly West Coast influenced sound; there is a lush and vibrant wash of instrumentation behind Washburn’s soft, warm vocals. Some songs bend genres, such as the mix of electronic and acoustic sounds in “Her Vacation.” The biggest similarity from song to song is the sense of natural inspiration and inner peace that comes from (mostly) living outside. 

The project’s associated media is equally outdoor themed: Many of Washburn’s music videos are aesthetically pleasing, nature-infused pieces featuring clips of him surfing, hiking, camping and enjoying the outdoors. 

This seems to be an accurate description of his lifestyle and not simply an aesthetic, although Washburn has successfully used this aesthetic to really sell the project’s image. Washburn records his music in the back of his camper using solar power, and when he’s not touring, he’s driving up and down the West Coast with his dog, Sadie.

Whether or not this is 100 percent the truth is not really the question; the cultivated image here is inspiring, and this is why. 

When I think of lo-fi music, I usually think of DIY album art, poorly lit basements, grungy shows and a string of bandcamp or SoundCloud EPs. Lo-fi music became an underground movement in the American rock scene in the ’80s and ’90s. Perhaps for this reason, much of the lo-fi music I have been exposed to leans more punk, grunge or emo and is less similar to the bedroom pop sound that is becoming popular with current musicians such as Clairo, Cuco, Rex Orange County and King Krule, to name a few.

Of course there is no one style of lo-fi music; lo-fi music is defined by Merriam-Webster as simply “the production or reproduction of audio characterized by an unpolished or rough sound quality.” 

However, even the surf or skate-themed lo-fi music I listened to in the past just isn’t as happy as Goth Babe. And I have definitely never heard of a lo-fi musician who uses their music to live life on their own terms as completely and successfully as Goth Babe appears to. Goth Babe not only makes fun, dreamy music, but he trailblazes (pun intended) a blueprint for using music as a means to a lifestyle. 

For example, Surf Curse, a surf rock lo-fi band with a sound similar to Goth Babe, sings about darker subject matter: unrequited love, feelings of sadness, teen angst. Surf Curse even has a song called Goth Babe” with the lyrics “I want a goth babe in my life, I want someone I can bite.” The band has an impressive discography and a developed sound, but its overall lifestyle and aesthetic does not rival the Goth Babe project, which stands out against other lo-fi artists. 

In his own words, Goth Babe “part[s] ways with social status and relevance … Making music to Griff is less a climb to the top, as it is a form of free thinking and enjoyment.” 

Hopefully, future artists can look to the work of Goth Babe as inspiration for their own art and lives. Making music doesn’t have to match any specific genre, nor does it need to be a grueling, taxing job. Goth Babe proves music can be meaningful and fun, but most of all, that life can be fun, and music can be the way to that reality. 

Ella Boyd SC ’21 is one of TSL’s music columnists. Besides writing, she enjoys making music, poetry and art.

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