Chattanooga, Tennessee musician Nick Lutsko makes absurd songs that are better experienced than explained. But in chaotically-edited videos uploaded to Twitter, Lutsko has been skewering political figures, recent events, and late capitalism through songs that boast relentlessly catchy melodies and dark, self-effacing humor.
Just take his latest “I Gotta Go on the Joe Rogan Podcast,” a jaunty piano jingle that finds Lutsko imploring Rogan to let him promote his new album on his popular Spotify show by singing, “I’ve been eatin’ raw meat for 11 days straight” poking fun at the unorthodox diets of some of Rogan’s guests. Later in the song, he pleads, “I’m no more dangerous than your average guest,” and notes, “you’ve had Proud Boys, whitе nationalists, QAnon, insurrectionists, and Alex Jones on your show.” More than just being trenchant political commentary and good zingers, the song is an undeniable bop.
“I always want it to be a good song first,” the much more subdued, real-life Lutsko, a 30-year-old soft spoken expecting father, told VICE. “There are a lot of great comedy artists, but sometimes the joke is the priority rather than the music. I really want to treat it like I’m just trying to write a really memorable song.” Since he first started releasing these comedy songs on Twitter, he’s quietly amassed a great catalog that’s also filled with some incredible storytelling and world-building.
His first songs were low stakes bits about Chrissy Teigen unfollowing him on Twitter or his cats peeing on furniture, but Lutsko’s material has gradually gotten more deranged, political, and self-referential. One plucky acoustic-guitar based song speculates that the reason Donald Trump “looks like shit” is because he doesn’t drink baby’s blood, while another features a beet-red Lutsko screaming over raucous punk riffs about attending a Trump boat parade. There are recurring fictionalized characters in these songs like Dan Bongino, Jeff Bezos, and Donald Trump. Jr, but the more prominent character is Lutsko, who sings as an increasingly erratic and careerist aspiring musician who lives with his Grandma. It’s completely unhinged, but Lutsko’s music has garnered millions of views and tens of thousands of retweets.
These songs culminated in December’s LP Songs on the Computer and February’s EP America’s Boy, which as of press time, the former has raised an astronomical $42,000 for a Bandcamp vinyl pressing of the album. “It’s really wild and beautiful that these really dumb, bizarre songs are resonating with people,” Lutsko said. “It’s the first time I’ve done any sort of comedy music with my face directly attached to it but I realized really quickly that people are actually enjoying this more than anything else I’ve ever done.”
Before his brush with internet virality, Lutsko had been a longtime musician self-releasing serious music across three albums including 2019’s Swords, an album that tackled Trump’s administration through incisive lyrics and big choruses. His foray into comedy started as an accident. In 2016, after watching Super Deluxe videos of comedians Tim Heidecker and Vic Berger attending the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, he sent the two an unsolicited theme song for their videos. Heidecker loved the ditty and Super Deluxe enlisted Lutsko to produce parody songs for their website. “On a Sunday night, I got an email from a Super Deluxe producer that said, ‘Trump’s tweets in the last 24 hours have been like super emo. Do you think you could turn them into like a mid 2000s emo song?'” said Lutsko. By Monday morning, Lutsko sent over the finished product and later made several successful parody songs, including several Emo Trumps, Kanye West as a Tame Impala Song, Eminem as a Talking Heads song, and a Bon Iver parody of Alex Jones.
Working with Super Deluxe allowed Lutsko to hone his comedy chops as well as his newfound video editing skills while also focusing on writing his own music. But when the pandemic hit and the Black Lives Matter protests took over the summer following the killing of George Floyd, Lutsko began to feel listless writing serious songs. “I had the realization that I don’t think I could have fun just pulling from what’s going on right now for my writing,” said Lutsko. “I really wanted to write something more light and uplifting with these crazy Twitter songs that can still talk about what’s going on while having fun.”
While his early Twitter songs got small support, his track “I Wanna Be at the RNC” was his first breakout. In the clip, a perspiring Lutsko sings over screaming vocal harmonies about wanting to attend the Republican National Convention and befriend right-wing pundit Dan Bongino. He sings to him increasingly deranged lines like, “I wanna tell him about the man in the stairs / He kinda looks like Dan Bongino / Grandma tries to tell me not to go down there / But I would be safe with Dan Bongino.” It’s spooky and creepy, perfectly capturing the grotesque vibe of the RNC. “The moment I posted that song was right when Donald Trump Jr. gave his convention speech where he was red and sweaty,” said Lutsko. “It was almost like I had some kind of premonition of what was actually going down there.”
The track springboarded Lutsko into fully embracing the character. In the follow-up installments, he becomes somehow more sweaty and more out there with videos about his horrifying idea for a Gremlins remake and his pitch for his own Nick Jr. show (“I’m not strange / I’m not a loser / I had a lizard but I lost it in the sewer / Give me a show on Nick Jr.”). “If I needed to put my formula in a nutshell, it’s usually taking whatever is relevant that week and weaving in these really bizarre, ultra-personal things for this character,” said Lutsko. He points to something as simple as noticing Spirit Halloweens were suddenly popping up everywhere and writing a song about it. In September, he released “Spirit Halloween Theme Song,” where he sings, “This is the theme for Spirit Halloween / Grandma went and can’t stop screaming / Here’s the thing about Spirit Halloween / They got skeletons.” The company liked the bizarre track so much they paid Lutsko to make a follow-up.
For Lutsko, writing these joke songs has been not just professionally rewarding but also creatively. “My last album was probably in development for maybe four years where very little thing was this constant labyrinthian, lengthy process,” said Lutsko. “These songs are the opposite in that it’s literally my first idea and I don’t question it. That has been so liberating to realize that I can just trust my first instinct, put it out there and then realize that people still like it.” While Lutsko has been only making these Twitter for just a few months, his off-kilter lyrical storylines have been building as quickly as his following. As he looks to 2021, he’s taking time to truly plan out where he’s going to take the character next. But right now, he’s grateful that his unhinged political satire is resonating.
“I’ve been getting a lot of messages from people saying that since the pandemic has been so rough that these songs have been so fun and almost therapeutic,” said Lutsko. “We all experience these traumatic cultural events but we can still have fun and we can still find a way to laugh at it.”
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