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Josh Epithet May 2024 Brennan Bucannan 08

On the Rise
Joshua Epithet

27 May 2024, 09:00

With the creative conviction of a natural storyteller, Joshua Epithet is making music driven by both compulsion and instinct.

21-year old, Manchester-based songwriter and producer Joshua Epithet is driven, confident and ambitious - all characteristics attributed to those seeking stardom - but his fascination with fame lies elsewhere.

Epithet is obsessed with the internal and external factors that catapult people into the spotlight, and more importantly, how they deal with the fallout when they’re shunned from it.

This childhood preoccupation inspired his debut album, Boys And Their Video Cameras, released this week. “It’s miserable, it’s pretentious and it’s very good, so I’m happy with it” jokes Epithet, when speaking about the project. Contrary to his description, the album is an often upbeat listen, due to his cohesive combination of pop melodies, genre-blending beats, and mix of rap and vocals, all aided by an impressive amount of cross continental collabs with rising US and UK talent.


Boys And Their Video Cameras is a musing on the parasocial relationships we develop with celebrities, child stardom, and on how this can affect a person’s identity. Epithet explores this through the fictional character of Casey Ryan. The album follows the trials and tribulations of the genderless protagonist, unravelling the fantasy of their fame with a crash back down to reality. Boys And Their Video Cameras is not strictly a concept album; it’s more an album with a strong concept. Epithet wanted to avoid being too prescriptive, as he enjoys the reciprocal relationship between artist and fan, creator and listener.

“I don’t want it to be too boxed in,” he explains. “It’s sort of like a split identity thing. There’s Casey the star, and Casey the fan.” The record is a playful reflection on the duality of these states. Epithet sees the album as “a circle”, following Casey from cosy childhood, through an uncertain adolescence, and into adult mediocrity. “I think it’s kind of cool to portray a life through an album cycle,” he comments, “It’s like you’re growing up with the album.”

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But before we explore the growth of the fictional Casey Ryan, what shaped Epithet into their creator? Whilst his childhood fascination with celebrity and child stars like Corey Feldman was a strong narrative influence, musically, Epithet was exposed to a variety of styles and genres as he was growing up via his parents eclectic CD collection. His Mum was “big into Happy Mondays and Stone Roses, and a lot of Whitney Houston” whereas the “big four” for his Dad were The Libertines, The Killers, Jay-Z and Kanye West, which they would all listen to on family car journeys.

Epithet did briefly attempt a traditional route into music by learning an instrument. He signed up for free drum lessons at secondary school, but a broken leg stopped him in his tracks. “I took that as a sign that I should not be a drummer,” he laughs. Instead, he experimented at home on his laptop, teaching himself how to use sampling software Splice, initially creating instrumental music, as he was hesitant about how mature his voice would sound on record at the time.


The internet also introduced him to a world of US rappers with idiosyncratic style. He was instantly enamoured with Childish Gambino and Tyler, the Creator, as well as the solo work of 88Rising member Joji. Creating music then became a compulsion for teenage Epithet. It was a proactive way of making the solitary hours spent in his bedroom seem worthwhile.

“I always felt guilty if I sat at home doing nothing,” he recalls, “I was like ‘I need to get this feeling out of my head.’ I need to express myself in some sort of way.” Epithet elaborates on this feeling by alluding to cult sci-fi drama, Donnie Darko. He compares this instinctive need to create music to the translucent tubes that emanate from the chest of the eponymous character, a powerful force that guides Donnie through the overlapping universes he encounters. “That’s what it feels like making music. It feels like it just comes from within,” Epithet says. “It’s so weird. I feel like I have to be doing it. It just feels right.”

Following his gut feeling led Epithet to eschew university education. Instead, he got himself a 9-5 day job and committed his evenings after work to creating. “Music was always Plan A for me, but the first music I made was literally so terrible,” he laughs. “I had to just really work at it. You can’t just quit. I had this undying urge to prove something to myself and to my parents.”

Epithet’s trial and error approach was aided by the honesty of his friends and his Irish Mother. Their early feedback helped him to develop his sound. He rates the directness of his Mancunian mates, and believes it helped him to build his confidence as a songwriter and his ability to recognise a “good” song when he wrote one. “You want people to like your music. It’s cool to make music for fun, but you can’t just put yourself in a little bubble and be like ‘I’m safe in here’,” he comments.

This bubble burst in the best possible way for Epithet when he began recording his debut album. Travelling between Manchester and Michigan in the United States gave the artist a new perspective on connection and collaboration. “I think after seeing the vastness of America, your carpet just doesn’t look the same when you come back,” he reflects, “It changes who you are.”

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The change in destination gave some of the tracks on his album a different “flavour”, but Epithet’s time in the US also highlighted how being young and impatient can foster feelings of isolation if you don’t have a creative outlet like music. The miles in between towns and cities, and the ability to get physically lost in “the middle of nowhere” gave him both a new and a familiar feeling. “I felt that I needed to make a lot of music again, like, right now.”

As Epithet was losing himself in America, he was also discovering Casey Ryan. Whilst Boys And Their Video Cameras is told from this character’s perspective, Epithet wanted different voices to come through on individual tracks, which is where his desire to collaborate with other artists came from. “I don’t ever want to hear an album where it’s just one perspective on something,” he offers. Epithet likens the process of collaboration to getting the “feng shui of a room right”, he finds it exciting to “bounce off” other artist’s energy, as it brings him out of his own world and offers a bit of “variation” to the track.

His eclectic mix of collaborators includes Indiana-based hyper-pop artist Lucas Lex and UK-based artist pinkpirate on “Nickelodeon”; London-based alt-pop artist CoupdeKat appears on “No Place Like Stockholm”, whilst elusive beat-maker Mykel Online contributes to “‘Later’ is Just Another Word For ‘No’”. Epithet also worked with British act Zack Teale on “They Shoot Our Horses”, enlisted the aid of FINLINCE! and Mila Degray for “Poor Vanessa, God Bless Her”, and Nep’s soft vocals complete the collaborations list with her feature on “Like Dying Dogs On Tele”. Epithet took a long time to put together this features list, and he takes great pride in how it helped to bring Boys And Their Video Cameras to life.

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The artist initially had the idea for the record when he was eighteen years old, and was tempted to release it independently in 2021, after he attracted a healthy amount of attention for his quirky alt-pop single “Eight Years Old With an IPhone”. It was this release that impressed his now label manager, Korda Marshall, who got in touch to offer him some advice. “He’s a legend,” Epithet smiles when talking about Marshall, “He’s worked with everyone I’ve loved since I was a kid, so when he came to me and was like ‘this is amazing’ I was blown away.” Marshall advised Epithet to refine the record by adding more songs and features and to release it at a later date, which made Boys And Their Video Cameras “way more of a world” than it was initially.

Outsider perspective and validation is something which Epithet values, especially in a digital world where he teases that “everyone and their Mum makes music” now. It seems in order to get noticed, emerging artists also have to be expert content creators to keep people’s eyes and ears fixed on what they’re doing, and to avoid their music getting lost in the ether. Epithet has felt the pressure to continuously create and post “content” in the past, but now, he is keen to see his creative visions come to life in a more meaningful way. As a musician, and as a music fan, he prefers to listen to albums instead of a string of unrelated singles.

“The fact that all of these people, who probably 20 years ago, wouldn’t have had the means to make music are now doing it is pretty cool,” he reflects on sharing music online. “But I want people to listen to this music and be in this world and make their own comfortable space in it. You can’t really get in there deep enough with just singles. I love albums way too much.” This desire to create a “space” or a “world” extends into the visual side of Epithet’s new album too. He has created a “film” and visuals to accompany the record, enhancing the narrative of Boys And Their Video Cameras.

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Currently, Epithet is in the studio recording his second record, which will follow on the narrative of his debut. “Boys And Their Video Cameras is kind of the first chapter, but I have three albums planned,” he beams. “We’re trying to finish the second one so that we can release it within a year of the first record.”

Epithet’s brain is bursting with creative ideas, and his excitement for sharing them is infectious. “I just want to tell stories,” he smiles. “I go insane with all the ideas I have. I have to try and pin them down a bit, so that I don’t have to release a book explaining everything about the album and what goes into it. I’m very excited to tell the whole story.”

Boys And Their Video Cameras is released on 31 May via Liberator Music/Mushroom Group

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