Violence, OCD, Misanthropy: Inside Poorstacy's Cult of Brutal Honesty | Revolver

Violence, OCD, Misanthropy: Inside Poorstacy's Cult of Brutal Honesty

Bring Me the Horizon-approved emo-core genre-buster is here to make honest music, not fake friends
poorstacy_2021_credit_joseph_morrison.jpg, Joseph Morrison
photograph by Joseph Morrison

"You look like a fucking mad man."

Those were the first words out of Oli Sykes' mouth when the Bring Me the Horizon frontman initially laid eyes on his new protégé Poorstacy. It's a characterization that the 22-year-old musician took as a generous compliment, and since then, the two have acted like they're preparing for the lead roles in a metal-themed buddy comedy.

"Oli sends me clothes that he thinks would look good on me," Stacy enthuses about his longtime idol. "He sends me handwritten letters and we play Call of Duty until six in the fuckin' morning."

The English shapeshifting-metal king and the Floridian emo-core eccentric won't actually meet in person until they tour European arenas together in early 2022, but they've already formed a deep bond that yielded multiple collaborations on Poorstacy's raucous new album, Party at the Cemetery — a theatrical whirlwind of snarling mall emo, industrialized cyber-punk and beastly metalcore strapped with confessional lyrics directly inspired by the writings of Anton LaVey and Aleister Crowley.

Over the years, Sykes has metamorphosed from a deathcore pioneer to an alt-pop provocateur, and the similarly chameleonic Stacy — whose new music is 10 shades darker and heavier than the stuff he was making just two years ago — sees a tenable trail in the one his hero blazed for BMTH. But don't let his chuminess with the 35-year-old make you think he's some kind of friendly back-slapper. Stacy is a fucking mad man who's known to go so hard at his shows that he passes out in the crowd, and he's so dedicated to achieving his artistic vision that he'll mouth off (or worse) to anyone who tries to get in his way.

"I can communicate properly, I'm perfectly fine," Stacy assures Revolver while dropping into our Zoom call from behind the wheel in Coral Springs, Florida. By the time he gets back to his apartment, he never once sits down or even stands still for more than a few seconds, bouncing from room to room, completing tasks while simultaneously offering up detailed schematics of his creative plans and intimate anecdotes about his troubled upbringing.

Although he was born in New York and spent almost a decade of his life between Brooklyn and Queens, Stacy's family was eventually priced out of the five boroughs and he moved to South Florida, where he's lived ever since. He describes his personality as a kid as "pure child-like deviance" and says that between his mother falling ill and an overall lack of financial resources, he developed behaviors that frequently landed him in juvenile detention centers. "I was just really violent," he explains. "I would act out irrationally. I would either hurt myself for attention or I would hurt somebody else for attention."

Things didn't get any easier in his teenage years. He dropped out of high school in ninth grade and quickly turned to committing petty robberies to scrape together enough money to get by. At 16, he mistakenly consumed a synthetic hallucinogen that he believed was LSD and ended up being stuck in psychosis for three days — an experience that he compares to "being possessed." Ever since, he's suffered from debilitating OCD.

"I wake up in the morning and sweep the same exact spot and organize everything in the same position that I had it in before," he explains. "If anybody disturbs that process, it drives me crazy to the point where I feel like I'm going to have an aneurysm."

Despite the formidable mental and material obstacles, Stacy transformed his lifelong love for music into a career in his late teens, developing an intuitive understanding of how internet virality works and using it to his advantage. After one of his first songs under the Poorstacy moniker blew up online, he signed a deal with Internet Money — a highly influential rap label and producer collective who helped launch Soundcloud royalty like Juice WRLD and xxxtentacion — and began making music that could feasibly cross over into mainstream audiences. His 2020 debut, The Breakfast Club, was a competent yet impersonal spread of mild-mannered emo rap and nasally pop punk, and he seems intent on moving beyond that phase of his career. "[There were] a lot of things restricting me from doing exactly what I wanted to do at the time," he notes.

For both creative and personal reasons, his relationship with Internet Money dissolved sometime within the last year, and he's since developed an unsavory view of the internal politics and corporate incentives of his chosen profession. He's already had his fair share of beefs with household names, and he openly vents about the business side of the industry with the boiling disgust of a haggard vet who's perfectly content with burning bridges.

"I'm cut from a way different cloth," he says of his visceral reaction when he feels like he's being taken advantage of. "I've even let my business associates know that I'm not the type of person who can take everything and just sit there and act like it's all good for the camera. People will physically get hurt."

Party at the Cemetery was his outlet for all that pent-up anger and disillusionment. Channeling influences like Slipknot ("Corey Taylor's frustration and angst has always been [with me] since when I was in middle school screaming in the fucking hallways"), My Chemical Romance and modern metalcore outfit Bloodbather, the genre-bucking album is as fiercely confrontational as it is joyously catchy.

Rousing emo-core bangers crash into spastic bouts of industrialized drum-and-bass madness. A song like "Día De los Muertos" drops skittering drum breaks and a staticky bass line in between screams of "Die! Die! Die! Die!," chanted ad-infinitum. On the metalcore thrasher, "Knife Party," he even manages to get Sykes to scream like he's laying down vocals from BMTH's guttural 2008 opus, Suicide Season. It doesn't just sound like a lazy cash-out feature, but a genuine collaboration borne of mutual artistic respect.

"Oli will blatantly tell me if something sucks," Stacy says of their healthy working relationship. "I love his brutal honesty and his commitment. He's not doing things because he wants money, he's doing it because he likes the art and he likes the person who he's working with."

The whole record reeks of an artist who's truly coming into his own, and Stacy says that the songs he's already cooking up for his next record are shaping up to be even more intense.

"It's going to be heavier than this one, for sure," he promises. "It's going to be a lot angrier and it's going to be a lot more — I would say it's almost going to be religious. I'm trying to turn Poorstacy into a cult. Poorstacy might end up being one character in the big grand scheme of things."

"I don't want to spill many beans," he adds, marking the only time during our conversation that he seems to be withholding something. "The collective might grow, and things might get wider."