Victor Internet's Bold Pop Worldview Is Transgressing His Limitations

Victor Internet's Bold Pop Worldview Is Transgressing His Limitations

The teenage viral talent speaks to Clash...

In his short career, Victor Internet has overcome plenty of challenges.

Through tiresome stereotypes about Mexican-American musicians and a lack of financial resources when he first began making music in 2017, Victor has persevered and found a passionate fanbase for his sweet, confessional, and genre agonistic tunes. With all that the 18-year-old singer and producer has faced, it’s easy to see why some mic troubles during a headlining show at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade hardly phase him.

“I grew up working at a very young age. I got my first job when I was like 15, and I was helping my mom out with rent because my dad wasn’t in the picture,” he explains over the phone a few days after the show. “For someone that’s 18 and already on tour, I just think it’s a lot to process still in my teenager brain.” 

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Like many other artists who came of age in the digital era, Victor is exceptionally self-aware. That’s evidenced by the cheeky name of his first official project, ‘Victor’s Debut’, which contains nine tracks that show his expansive sound and penchant for both warm, enveloping love songs and hard-edged tracks that address his trying upbringing on the Southside of Chicago.

“When it comes to stardom, it’s very hard for someone like me to grasp that because I come from the Southside. I grew up very poor and around a lot of violence,” he explains. “It’s weird for me to come up all of a sudden and start making money. All of this - the internet popularity - it’s still something that I’m accepting and figuring out how to navigate.”

Victor says that earlier in his career he was frequently grouped with fellow artists of Mexican descent like Cuco, Omar Apollo, and Jasper Bones. Though he’s a fan of all three, and calls Cuco “one of the most supportive people I know” after they toured together earlier this year, Victor didn’t want to feel like the type of music people expected him to make was dictated by his ethnicity.

“When you’re boxed in, at some point you feel like you have to make music like that. You have to appeal to that audience, because that’s the only audience you could have at that moment,” he says. “But now that I have a larger fanbase I can experiment and do whatever I want. I’m grateful.”

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With its homespun charm and DIY origins, much of Victor’s early work was lumped into the “bedroom pop” category, a subgenre name that fetishizes a method of musical creation which sometimes is less of a chosen aesthetic than a necessity. “I hate it,” he laughs. 

“I’ve always felt that bedroom pop and the whole playlist aspect of things is just people profiting off something that I struggled with. I didn’t ask to work on my computer at home, that’s just how I grew up because unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of money as a kid,” Victor says. “If I could’ve, I definitely would’ve picked a studio over my bedroom, but at the time the circumstances were just different and that’s what I had to stick to.”

Though Victor broke out with charming tracks like ‘U Got My’ and ‘Tinder Song’, the latter of which he performs while swiping on the dating app from the stage, he’s moved on to make conceptually weightier tracks that cull from many different musical styles.

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One of the standouts on ‘Victor’s Debut’ is ‘SOUTHSIDE / TELL ME NOW’, where Victor addresses the grim reality of where he was raised. “Tell me, have you ever had your homie gunned down / Body in the street / Bloody concrete / When I got the news man I could barely breathe,” he raps furiously. Eventually, the track shifts to its coda, and we’re alone with Victor’s thoughts as he reckons with the trauma.

“What I was trying to do with that song was create a climax, and then I wanted an aftermath, where everything toned down. It starts very abrupt and crazy, I’m yelling,” he explains. “Then, you have these suspenseful chords and you have the bass come in every few measures. In the end it’s just me in my head saying, ‘Is it safe? Is everything going to be okay?’”

Now that he’s making a way for himself, Victor has no shortage of goals for the future. He wants to try his hand at making music like JPEGMAFIA, one of his current favorites, and is also using his platform to speak about the importance of consent at shows, something he addressed at Rough Trade.

“I think every artist who has the honour of a stage, they have a responsibility to do that. You’ve got to do it, because there are too many fucking creeps out there,” he says. “I’ve been to so many DIY shows, it’s just people groping on one another and that’s fucked up.”

Finding a receptive audience has never been the hard part for Victor, from the days when he was selling CDs to him now racking up millions of streams. He takes that platform incredibly seriously, and for young kids who are finally starting to see themselves reflected in popular music, it’s hard to think of a better role model than Victor Internet.

“I think [there’s been a] lack of representation in kids having Mexican artists to look up to, I’m just really fortunate to be part of that,” he says. “I think they’re going to root for me because I represent them and I’m here for them. It’s a blessing.”

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'Victor's Debut' is out now.

Words: Grant Rindner // @GrantRindner

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