Growing up in suburban Philadelphia, Whitney Peyton led a musically sheltered life, oblivious to horrorcore acts like Insane Clown Posse, Twiztid and Tech N9ne.
But that all changed after Peyton donned a straitjacket for her “Crazy” music video, which went viral and attracted the attention of Twiztid just in time for their asylum-themed 2013 tour.
Peyton has since played the Gathering of the Juggalos not once, but six times, while recording a steady stream of albums that find her dabbling in a variety of genres. Earlier this month, the 28-year-old rapper further diversified her musical portfolio as featured vocalist on “Won’t Be Back,” a single by European EDM artist Cassetter.
Peyton recently talked with the Indy about mixing rock and rap, collaborating with her friends, and crowd-surfing in an inflatable raft at this year’s Gathering of the Juggalos.
Indy: The Cassetter single that was released last week kind of came out of left field. Is that the most EDM record you’ve done so far?
Whitney Peyton: Yeah, I’d never done anything in the synthwave genre before, and I really enjoyed it. I kind of rapped on it super old school, like this very ’90s flow over a super-modern beat. I just thought it would be cool to do something really different. It’s great to be able to show your versatility, but at the same time it can be confusing to fans. So that’s definitely worked for and against me, but I like the challenge. I don’t want to be the artist that has cookie-cutter songs, where you listen to an album or a playlist and it’s basically the same song repackaged.
How does that translate to the stage? Are you bringing a deejay along on this tour?
I’m touring with a live drummer, and he kind of deejays on songs when we use tracks. And then I also have live guitar for a couple of songs — so it’s a good mix. I’ve always kind of looked at myself as a female version of Machine Gun Kelly. I mean, I’m my own artist, but if you had to compare me, I think the fact that he is a mix of rock and rap, and uses a mix of tracks and live instruments, that’s also what I’m doing.
Last year’s Alpha album has a lot less features than you had on [2018’s] Iridescent. Do you feel a growing sense of confidence as you go on?
Yeah, I mean, I kind of go back and forth. I love being a solo artist, but I also want to make music with my friends. I don’t think about it as marketing — I mean, it’s great if there are people on it that are big artists and we’re crossing over fans — but a lot of the time I’m just doing it because I want to rap with my friends and the different people I’ve toured with. But then, when I’m part of a big festival, I’ll see comments underneath the announcement like “Can she even make songs without other people? Is she just gonna do pieces of songs?’ So with Alpha, it was like, ‘OK, now I need to show them that I don’t need the collaborations.”
So what was it like when you started touring with Twiztid?
It was cool. I’m 5-foot-3, so I kind of felt like their little sister. And I remember the first time I played a Juggalo event, it was like, “Whoa, they all have painted faces, what is this? Are they like Kiss fans or something?” At first, it looked kind of menacing and scary, but they’re really cool about supporting independent music. It kind of opened my eyes to the idea that people can have really big fan bases without being household names. It’s weird, you know, that this whole kind of mid-level limbo exists. And it’s actually really important, because what they put out isn’t being controlled by anybody else.
I’ve been lucky to play all different kinds of festivals, like Warped Tour and Northern Invasion with Tool, and Pot of Gold with Post Malone. But the Gathering is really special. It’s like a no-holds-barred, anything goes kind of festival.
Speaking of which, did you go crowd-surfing at this year’s festival?
Yeah, I try to do that every time. I love riding the rafts out there — it’s a whole different vibe.
I know it’s outdoors, but were people wearing masks at all?
No, I don’t think anyone was wearing masks at that point. I mean, we’re vaccinated, but we’re still as confused as anyone else when it comes to what’s the right thing to do. I definitely had some people in my family and in my corner that were mad at me for going crowd-surfing on a bunch of people during all this, and I can definitely understand that. And at an indoor venue, I’d be a little more concerned about it. But venues and festivals all have their own rules in place, and we just kind of go along with whatever their rules are.