LUCY and Surf Gang float in the deep end

On JACK & THE BEANSTALK, LUCY, Evilgiane, and Harrison strike a new balance between SoundCloud, Top 40, and basement punk shows

June 28, 2024
LUCY and Surf Gang float in the deep end LUCY. Photo by Alexander J. Rotondo  

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The gently fluorescent songs on JACK & THE BEANSTALK thrum and pulse like a constellation of fireflies, glimmering little moments thronged together in the night. Watch how they flutter between the trees, luciferin streaking through the dark. LUCY (Cooper B. Handy) glides from one contorted idiom to the next over a bevy of lush Surf Gang beats that thump and twinkle in equal measure. Six years in the making, this bioluminescent mixtape of humble anthems and charming lullabies marks a new high for LUCY’s mesmerizing synthesis of hip-hop, pop, and punk rock.

Back in February, LUCY explained his songwriting approach to me over the phone: “I’ll have a phrase that has a melody to it, and then I’ll make a song around that.” At the time, we were discussing “WHAT SHE’S HAVING,” his airy and danceable contribution to Evilgiane’s January mixtape #HEAVENSGATEVOL.1, which twists the cashier’s refrain “I can help whoever’s next over here” into an indelible earworm. The Western Massachusetts artist usually self-produces his own music, welding GarageBand presets into charmingly irregular forms, but he’s been branching out a little more this year (see: January’s 100% PROD I.V.). “It’s not so much a switch I’m making,” he says of the collaborations. “It’s more like experimenting, because when people send beats it’s always very different...] all the emphasis goes on what I do with the vocals, rather than composing music.”


The first hints of LUCY’s creative partnership with Surf Gang came in 2022 with the Ethereal-esque plugg ditty “HELLHOUND” and pulsing Beatles sendup “ALL YOU BLEED IS BLOOD.” They’ve largely collaborated over email, Giane and Harrison sending beats and LUCY cutting verses in his bedroom. Eight of JACK’s 11 songs were produced by Evilgiane, whose off-kilter percussion fits LUCY’s free-associative counterpoint like an iron glove on a velvet fist.

“Giane has a really good way about rhythm," LUCY told me. "Where he places the kicks and where he’ll throw in a clap — it’s not ‘hard’ to predict, but it’s also not easy to predict. I’ve heard a lot of beats where he’ll throw in some percussion sound where it almost offsets the rhythm, but it doesn’t actually.”

Broadly, Evilgiane’s production here is brighter and more diaphanous than the dense bangers he supplies Kendrick Lamar and FLEE with. Still he refuses to let the momentum lag, stuttering hi-hats and reverberating bass goading LUCY along. There’s the woozy chimes of “OLD FRIEND” and the bleary-eyed intro “SO BLESSED;” the 8-bit lurch of “SOMETHING WE LACK” and the thunderstorm ripple of lead single “SAME THING.” Harrison’s production swerves from the pensive title track to the levitating closer “LYING;” his work on standout “COMPATIBILITY” splits the difference between “Dip” and “Trust Me Danny.” These are definitely rap beats -- it’s easy to imagine 2016 Playboi Carti or KEY! finding crazy pockets on these tracks —and LUCY approaches them with a steely focus on bars and hooks.


That may seem a bold claim when you hear LUCY sigh, “I wanna see you, more or less / you wanna see me on a deathbed,” or wail, “a profit and a loss / is the saaaaaaame thing.” His vocals can feel pinched, even nasal; you may get the idea he’s unable to sing longer than thirty seconds without wavering out of tune. These conclusions wouldn’t exactly be wrong, but they would be boring, like hating on jazz. Listen a little closer to LUCY’s voice and you can begin to tease threads out of the weave: traces of punk rock from his decade-plus collaboration with Taxidermists-bandmate Sal McNamera, flashes of ILoveMakonnen and Young Thug.

“There was this whole thing in 2012 and 2013 where all of these rappers started singing, even if they weren’t really good at it,” LUCY told The FADER back in February. “It was a really cool moment because now it’s almost the norm to have... that integrated.”

JACK & THE BEANSTALK refracts mainstream trap into something plainer and more plaintive, a window into LUCY’s life of modest means and measured emotional outlook. “I walk in the sand / The sands of time / you can’t define / and take from me / what isn’t mine,” begins a typically meandering hook on the Red Hot Chili Peppers-interpolating “LESS I KNOW.” On the title track, an unhealthy relationship makes him feel so small, as if climbing up to a giant’s castle in the clouds; “I used to smoke a lot of weed, and I still do,” he grins on “HELLHOUND.” Elsewhere, he’s wondering if it’s love or the drugs on “COMPATIBLE” before tossing off the 03 Greedo-reminiscent couplet “I been pretty nice for a decade / I feel like a drummer in a parade.”

“I do think my music instrumentally is very hip-hop based, but I don’t consider myself a rapper or anything,” LUCY said in February. His lyrics more readily recall the readymade reconfiguration of David Byrne than the freestyle sessions of Lil Wayne or Chief Keef, but LUCY doesn’t belabor the process, preferring to finish songs in a single sitting. “Coming back to any art after you’ve started, if you’re in a different mind frame, you’re not going to have the same energy.”

LUCY’s dedication to keeping the energy up makes it blissfully easy to get lost in the wonky nightscape of JACK & THE BEANSTALK, its swaying rhythms and gossamer melodies. The swirling haze of “XTREMELY CAREFUL” is achingly gorgeous: “I love the way you turn around / and the reasons you do,” LUCY smiles. You might find yourself smiling right back.

LUCY and Surf Gang float in the deep end