On the eve of his 21st birthday, Griffin Washburn—already calling himself Goth Babe by then, in January of 2018—surrendered at gunpoint. He had recently left his native Tennessee after giving Nashville the old college try, choosing Southern California for its balmy plentitudes and skate-and-surf multitudes. Back home, Washburn had realized he was working hard just to pay his rent, with time to make music left only on the side. Why not, he thought like so many others at that nomadic moment, cut out work and home and just hit the road instead?
Griff, as you can call him, had been working late on early Goth Babe tunes in a Santa Monica storage unit before he climbed into his SUV to get some sleep that January night. He looked up to find two masked men on either side, wielding handguns and asking for whatever he had. He forked over his wallet and rightly insisted he had nothing, that he was just a kid living in his car, an hour away from turning 21. The robbers told him they “respected” that, handed over his wallet, and let him go. “They didn’t realize what they left me with,” Griff says, just more than five years later. “Months and months of mental illness and a PTSD diagnosis, just trying to get comfortable again.”
Neither for the first nor the final time, Griff slowly and unsteadily transmuted this awful situation into something beautiful, adventurous, musical. He found a new friend, a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd he named Sadie, on Craigslist. In Las Vegas, he traded the SUV in which he’d been living and $2,000 for a truck with a camper. And then he headed slightly north, living in a friend’s driveway as he alternately upfitted the camper in the yard and wrote music in the house when she went to work. Goth Babe wasn’t born there, but that’s where it grew up, taking a form that gave Griff the feelings he’d wanted. “Sometimes,” “Swami’s,” “Car Camping”: They all soon blew up online, but, more important, their bittersweet beauty suggested a relaxed, welcome nostalgia, as if Griff had finally floated in on some warm chillwave tide. Lola—both his new album and an accompanying short film about his life, named for the sailboat on which he now lives—is the apotheosis of his ideal in every way.
Five years have passed since Griff released the breakthrough “Sometimes,” a gentle and wining shuffle about the eddy of confusion that comes with love and life itself. Now 26, Griff has, somewhat unwittingly, built a massive following with a subsequent string of two-dozen charmers about living on the road, edging toward contentment, and trying to define home as part of a historically unmoored generation.
He has headlined Red Rocks and Stubb’s, played Electric Forest and Austin City Limits. And he has amassed a zealous audience online, with some of the songs he wrote in his most trying moments racing past the 100-million stream threshold. But none of that is actually the point as much as a side effect of the unconventional life he’s managed to make and that continues to shape the songs of Lola. “It would be terrifying for my entire identity to be my band, because so much ego is wrapped up in that,” he says of the rightful conviction that we are more than jobs. “That seems like a cycle of always trying to be someone you’re not to impress other people. I don’t just want to be Goth Babe. I want to be Griff, to not have all my eggs in one basket.”
That course, of course, hasn’t always been smooth or easy, but it has rippled with inspiration and renewal. Griff moved to Oregon, living in the camper until the damp Pacific Northwest did a number on its Mojave-acclimated interior. He started to become himself again, reconnecting with nature by rock climbing and hiking as he had done as a Chattanooga kid. He found a half-finished tiny house in Seattle and convinced a renegade Russian mover to drive it to Oregon, likely against safety’s better judgment. A perennial YouTube apprentice, Griff revamped the thing himself, raising a roof and changing the walls, shaping a home that offered stability and comfort but also allowed him to travel. In fact, he was on a surfing trip when he slammed his head into the shoreline, causing a severe concussion that he is still dealing with more than 18 months later. And then, well, the house burned down, prompting him to bail temporarily on landlubbing altogether.
“There’s no safety in this lifestyle. Bad things are bound to happen if you just experience that much excitement,” Griff says. “And you could sour about it and get callous, or you could grow from it and be grateful. That’s the road I’m trying to take.”
So Griff bought Lola, his sailboat, and again turned to YouTube to learn how to operate it. These days, he, Sadie, and his little mobile recording studio split their time between a modest house on the Oregon coast and, when the season is right, Lola on the ocean.
Speaking of Lola the boat, Lola the record is a splendid confirmation of Goth Babe’s story so far, all those shimmering sounds and topsy-turvy life dynamics coiling into songs that look for respite and redemption. (Not to get confusing, but a third Lola—that is, a short film about Griff’s wild times and persistent hope—makes this combination clear.) With its glittering sequences and luxuriant synths, “Bioluminescence” feels like a love song for an adventurous lifestyle, for having patience and faith in wanderlust and the wonders it reveals. “Sun Comes Up” balances a big, loping beat with a nylon-string riff, a musical juxtaposition that captures the possibility inherent in liminal moments like sunrises and sunsets, heartbreaks and new loves. And “Alone in the Mountains” is Griff’s earnest and endearing manifesto about work-life-joy balance, especially as Goth Babe continues to grow. “I find myself alone in the mountains/grateful for my life today,” he sings as the beat opens up like the big skies of the American West. “It’s just me and my dog most of the time/I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Griff naturally hopes that people like this new Goth Babe material. Maybe they find a few minutes of respite from hustle culture during “Alone in the Mountains” or a moment of sheer wonder in “Sun Comes Up.” Those feelings, after all, are the point, the reason he makes music for himself and anyone who needs it, not the vaulting ambition of careerism. “There’s so much beauty in the world, obviously balanced by a lot of pain and suffering,” says Griff, who has endured the latter to experience and then offer the former. “I would love if these songs allowed people, even just for a second, to escape the weight and heaviness of the world.”
He also hopes that folks can find connection in these songs—not just with him, of course, but with one another. He’s seen that happen online, with listeners talking not just about Goth Babe but about their lives and the world around them, too. When Griff was a Tennessee kid, his parents split. Many years later, when he was playing an early coffeehouse show, they reconnected, reunited, and remarried. If that’s not a testament to their kid’s songs and to music at large, and if that’s not a core purpose for it all, what is, anyway?
Publicity Contact: Dana EricksonFor tour dates and more visit: www.gothbabemusic.com/