Juiceboxxx on “Coinstar Song” and Why He’s Stuck with That Name

The rapper/rocker/whatever-er went to TikTok and the coin machine for inspiration.

“I go to the Coinstar machine a lot.”

That was my response when someone on social media sent me a message asking about the inspiration behind my recent single “Coinstar Song.” I’m sure that was an underwhelming response, but it was also the truth. Every couple of months, I end up at one. I tweet about the Coinstar. I dream about the Coinstar. So it was only natural that one day, when I sat down in front of my laptop to try to write a song, I would just start freestyling some shit about going to a Coinstar machine. 

No doubt, the song is about a bunch of things. I could say something like, “I use the Coinstar Machine as a jumping off point to talk about millennial precarity, American pop culture, and my own struggles with mental illness,” but I don’t think I’m smart enough to really stick that landing. I’m not even smart enough to realize that I would save money rolling up my coins and taking them to a local bank. Truly, when the first line of the song came to me fully formed, off the dome, I wasn’t really thinking about anything.

Much like life itself, “Coinstar Song” is both bleak and uplifting. It is also a pop-rock song. I used to mostly rap, but over the years, guided by my live show, I’ve become interested in writing something approaching rock & roll music. Which is funny: as the genre becomes less and less culturally prominent, I’ve become more and more excited about its possibilities. Stagnated innovation within the form has led to a weird flattening effect wherein all of rock history feels like it is on a level playing field. The distance between Mark E. Smith and Mark Hoppus has fully collapsed. Within this, I’m trying to make anthems.

When the director Eugene Kotlyarenko pitched the idea to make a video for “Coinstar Song” using only the social media app TikTok, I was instantly in. TikTok is a short form video app used for dancing, skits, and lip-syncing. I first found out about it through my friend, the legendary rager Kyle H. Mabson, who for some time now has been reposting his favorite TikToks on social media. Often these videos would be a pure celebration of music — just one person in their room, lip-syncing to their favorite song through a bunch of augmented-reality filters. The app is hyper current, but in those videos I saw something as old as rock & roll itself: people freaking out with no reservations.

As a director, Eugene is one of the best in the game at merging old school chops with an awareness and understanding of how people are using technology right now — you can check his recent film Wobble Palace for proof. There was no question he was the person to make the concept more than just a gimmick. He straight up delivered: the video is a total barrage of multi-screen positive American damage that warrants repeated viewings. It features myself alongside a crew of friends and strangers, all having fun in the spirit of the song and the app. The video, like TikTok itself, is both over the top and life-affirming. 

Over the years, multiple people smarter and more successful than myself have told me to change my name. It’s obvious why: “Juiceboxxx” is a pretty embarrassing thing to call yourself, especially as you enter your 30s. There have been many points where I could’ve bailed on the name, but I keep doubling down. In my 20s, I was gunning for success, but I had no clear vision on how to get there. I wanted to make pop music, but I also wanted to play basement shows with noise bands. I had a weird vision, and I somehow expected the world to bend to that. It didn’t really work, but for whatever reason I didn’t stop. Sometimes I am embarrassed by the fact that I continue on, but other times I’m proud of the minor miracle that I am still standing. 

I don’t have any tattoos, and I don’t think I need any tattoos, because if had any, I would surely regret them, and I have enough regret in my life, thanks to Juiceboxxx, which for me has been like the ultimate bad tattoo that I just have to live with. We all have baggage. I keep this name in part as an acknowledgement of that — of all the shit we go through, and the fact that we have no choice but to keep going. 

Every day I plow through self-hatred, anxiety, and doubt in order to attempt to function on a baseline level. I know I’m not the only one. Now that I think about it, the message of “Coinstar Song” is actually really simple, and embedded the lyrics themselves: “people everywhere just trying to get by.” 

I’ll see you all at the Coinstar.

(Photo Credit: Brad Dececco)

Juiceboxxx is an American artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His forthcoming LP is slated for release on Dangerbird Records in early 2020.

(Photo Credit: Brad Dececco)