‘No matter I do, I do an excessive amount of of it’: the troubled rise of Dominic Fike

For singer-songwriter and Euphoria actor Dominic Fike, jail is arguably worse than jail, even when the latter means longer inside (“jail” within the US is for these on remand or serving brief sentences). “It’s extra of a purgatory, it’s the holding [pen] between freedom and jail,” says Fike. “It sucks, dude.”

Fike was already underneath home arrest for assaulting a police officer in 2016 when he failed a drug take a look at, breaking the phrases of his probation and receiving a yr’s jail sentence consequently. He might be forgiven for spending that point wallowing in his personal misfortune – or stupidity – besides Fike had one thing else occurring.

Earlier than he acquired himself busted, Fike made the smarter resolution to file Don’t Overlook About Me, Demos, a six-track showcase of his apparent skill as a singer, rapper and guitarist. The EP performs like a 15-minute indication of music’s genreless future, with particular person tracks mixing pop, rock and rap with heaps of dirtbag attraction. Certain, it owed a debt to the Purple Scorching Chili Peppers (he has a tattoo of their guitarist John Frusciante on his hand) however his charisma – whether or not singing or rapping – was simple.

Fike’s first six months in jail had been robust going. “I used to be not doing too effectively. I needed to launch music and I used to be unhappy about it,” he says. However when his supervisor dropped the EP on SoundCloud, the complexion of Fike’s time in jail modified fully. 3 Nights, the primary tune on the EP, went viral (it at the moment has 870 million Spotify streams) and spying gold, the most important labels rushed for his signature.

Dominic Fike at Coachella festival in California this April.
Staging put up … Dominic Fike at Coachella pageant in California this April. {Photograph}: Daniel DeSlover/Zuma Press Wire/Shutterstock

Not had been his days empty. Meticulously planning what you’re going to say to salivating label executives is one approach to get by a stretch, however for Fike it wasn’t a lot the potential riches on supply because the sense of stardom as a lifeboat. “Idle fingers are the satan’s work … the cool half concerning the label factor is that it helped me preserve my shit collectively in jail.”

In the long run, the demos resulted in a reported $3-4m deal. The massive determine has led to accusations that Fike was an “trade plant”: a manufactured mix of pop, rock, rap and cheekbones – besides with added authenticity through his face tattoos, struggles with habit and jail time. “All I do know is I’m pushing ahead no matter expectation,” he says. “Once you have a look at someone like fucking Harry Kinds, that’s only a well-oiled machine, they actually simply have perfected a method that’s becoming for this one man or this one thought.”

The position of Dominic Fike: Pop Star is one he has tried to play on songs with Brockhampton, Halsey and Justin Bieber. He even lined Paul McCartney’s The Kiss of Venus; the tune was launched because the lead single from the remix album McCartney III Imagined and drew lavish reward from the person himself. “I spent a few days taking a crack at it after it was confirmed to be an actual alternative,” Fike remembers. “You’ve acquired to factcheck issues like that. It’s like [a pop-up] you’d see in your pc: ‘You’ve received 1,000,000 {dollars}!’”

Fike, who’s of Filipino, Haitian and African-American descent, grew up within the retirement city of Naples, Florida. Each his mother and father had been heroin addicts, though his father was barely current. His mum was out and in of jail and her frequent absence meant he and his siblings needed to deal with one another from a younger age. Fike’s traumatic childhood was exacerbated by his personal “overdoing it” with medication and alcohol. “No matter drug I’d do, I’d do an excessive amount of of it – to [the point of] a near-death, surreal expertise. I simply sort of thought that was how you probably did medication – to go all the best way there with out dying,” he says.

If Fike’s music has not fairly turned him right into a family title, the identical “it” that made him catnip to label executives additionally caught the eye of Hollywood casting brokers. And in Euphoria, Fike hit the jackpot. The present is arguably the defining portrait of gen Z and in Elliot, the mysterious guitar-playing drug addict who comes between Rue (Zendaya) and Jules (Hunter Schafer), Fike has discovered an ideal match – not least as a result of the position had putting parallels together with his personal scenario on the time. Was he in any respect nervous about managing his drawback on the set of a present about drug addicts?

“I used to be utilizing on the time, however I wasn’t nervous. I used to be extra like … psyched!” he beams. “After which Sam [Levinson, creator and showrunner] was like: ‘We’ll get you a sober coach,’ and I used to be like: ‘Yeah dude, that’s nice: sober coach.’ I simply didn’t care. I used to be fairly hooked on shit.”

Fike’s Euphoria co-star Angus Cloud died of a suspected overdose in July. Like Fike, Cloud was forged regardless of having no earlier performing expertise and in addition struggled with habit points on set. Regardless of being excessive throughout a number of of his scenes, and nearly getting kicked off the present consequently, Fike remained, and acquired rave opinions. Whereas his efficiency might owe one thing to methodology performing, it’s clear Euphoria’s affect has been life-changing for him.

If Fike’s music profession up to now has been much less satisfying, it’s as a result of his expertise as a singer, rapper and guitarist solely means a lot when set in opposition to a three-headed Cerberus of limitations: his habit points; the imperatives of the pop “machine”; and expectations so lofty as to be extra hindrance than hype. Press response to his music has, now and again, been savage. Take, as an example, Pitchfork’s withering evaluate of his 2020 debut album, What May Presumably Go Flawed, which described it as sounding “precisely like a label government’s thought of the long run”.

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The reception to his latest second album, Sunburn, has been equally combined. There are undoubtedly steps ahead equivalent to Dancing within the Courthouse, an appropriately hazy rumination on his traumatic youth that strikes from introspective verses to a defiant refrain, and the Rivers Cuomo-assisted Assume Quick, which showcases Fike’s vocal vary between strains of Weezer’s Undone (The Sweater Track). Elsewhere, the file is affected by respectable, if often anaemic, guitar pop, maybe the results of Fike’s want to get a bunch of tunes off his onerous drive, having given followers hardly any new music since his 2020 debut. “I had an unhealthy relationship with releasing music into the general public, and I wanted to recover from it,” he says. If Sunburn feels informal, effectively, that’s as a result of it’s.

After all, there’s nothing mistaken with releasing a unfastened, sunlit assortment of radio-friendly pop, nevertheless it hasn’t shifted the items Fike would have hoped, peaking at No 30 within the US and No 56 within the UK. However the album’s underwhelming efficiency has not shaken confidence in Fike. There can be extra music and one other collection of Euphoria to again up his simple expertise. However what may real stardom imply for a younger man with a historical past of habit and a household background as complicated and traumatic as Fike’s?

For now, he’s in restoration however he’s clearly aware that sobriety holds the important thing to the graceful functioning of the “Dominic Fike machine”. “If I’ve some coke, everybody round me feels it,” he says. “I’ll cease saying thanks, I’ll simply be hungover. It actually has a domino impact.” He even contrasts his scenario straight with stars within the highest tiers of the pop galaxy: “I’m taking a look at all my friends and even referring to habit, I’ll be hanging with my boy Justin [Bieber] and he’ll have a glass of tequila in his hand and it’s humorous. I’ll be like: I want I might try this … be this enormous pop star and have a drink and never have a bunch of hysteria. However I fucking can’t do it: I attempted.”

There’s an thought of Dominic Fike, one which to date has been outlined by instability, habit and the load of different individuals’s expectations. To be that “well-oiled” machine as he calls it, he wants extra time away from the highlight: days within the studio, within the fitness center, or just messing round at his pc, guitar in hand. The issue then is that between his origin story, his position on Euphoria and, fairly frankly, the face tattoos, there’s a hazard he has already been typecast in actual life. He is the mysterious addict with the Florida drawl and the attractive thick mane, seemingly despatched right here to drive youngsters and their algorithms wild. Whether or not a everlasting stint in that position will enable him the area to pursue sobriety stays to be seen. If he can, there’s a hazard that real stardom is imminent.

Dominic Fike excursions the UK from 18 to 24 September; tour begins Glasgow.

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