ABOUT a year ago the future of Sydney indie-dub band Bootleg Rascal was anything but rosy.
They might have had a celebrated EP Psychotica (2014) and two albums in Asleep In The Machine (2016) and Anonimo (2018) in their back catalogue, plus an established fan base, but the petrol levels were running dangerously low.
Drummer Jack Gray had just left the band, following the exit two years earlier of bassist Scottie Grills.
It left just vocalist Carlos Lara and guitarist Jimmy Young to carry on Bootleg Rascal as a duo.
"For us we hit a point where it felt like everything was starting to grind to a halt in terms of a lot of things, like our energy levels and the output from the people who were involved with us," Young said.
"The whole thing felt like it was starting to fizzle out a bit.
"Carlos and I had a chat and spoke about different options and one of the big things we came back to is we felt we still had a lot to offer and a lot of good music to create.
"We wanted to keep playing the songs we'd already put out and I think there's a lot we can still offer people watching the live shows."
However, deciding to continue was only half the battle. Both Young and Lara understood they needed to shift gears in how Bootleg Rascal was managed and run.
Last July it was announced Bootleg Rascal had joined upstart Sydney music agency Good Intent for the release of their new double A-side single Yin & Yang, featuring the tracks Get Over Yourself and Tryin' To Run.
"So far it's been the best decision we ever made," Young said. "It feels like things are as good as ever for us in terms of a lot of things.
"It definitely was the beginning of the second phase. Often there's a lot of phases with bands and sometimes you get to a crossroads and bands stop altogether. Luckily for us we changed things up and it feels good on every level so far."
One of Good Intent's main influences has been to lift the promotion of the duo, especially on social media.
One of the most creative promotions was to circulate a pretend riff through Facebook between Bootleg Rascal and their manager, Rob Carroll, over the wasting of their tour budget on booze and gambling.
It was so realistically done that one music website reported the supposed dispute as news.
"Everyone is a bit younger and I feel they're more in line with where we want to take things and our sense of humour and what we think is good artistically," Young said.
"The whole vision for everything. It feels like everyone is on board and in line with what we want to do as well.
"When everything is flowing easily you have more energy to put time and effort in. The whole thing feels like it's getting a better reaction, probably because we're outputting more and we're more enthusiastic and it all snowballs."
The origins of Bootleg Rascal started in 2013 when Young was recruited to be a live guitarist and roadie for controversial Sydney indie-dub band Sticky Fingers, while he was playing with the group Rogerthat.
Through Sticky Fingers Young met original frontman Dan Crestani and the pair began writing together and recruited Gray and Grills to form the initial Bootleg Rascal.
By the end of 2013 Crestani had left the band and been replaced by Lara.
Since then Bootleg Rascal have mixed their love of hip-hop acts Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre with reggae and indie to create chilled party favourites like Overflow and Asleep In The Machine.
Newcastle has been a regular haunt for Bootleg Rascal, with several legendary performances at the Cambridge Hotel and Dudley's Royal Crown Hotel.
Last year Young and Lara also spent time in the Hunter Valley for a writing session which eventually produced the singles Get Over Yourself and Tryin' To Run.
"We hired a little shack in the Hunter Valley beside a winery, so we could stroll over there and do a few taste tests and get a few bottles and come back and lock ourselves away in this little shack and start churning out ideas," Young said.
Bootleg Rascal will be returning to the Hunter again shortly for their 15-date regional Booty Camp: Summer Vacay Tour.
Young recently wrote an editorial for music website Pilerats outlining the importance of regional touring, and as a Gold Coast local, he's passionate about getting beyond the capital cities.
"You have to be willing to do it and sometimes it does take you three or four times going through a place with not many people there and building the audience and doing it from the grassroots," he said.
"I think it's more important than ever. Too many people have gotten in this mindset that I'll sit back and wait and record a few songs and once it's ticking over and I'm making a million dollars I might start thinking about doing a bit.
"But really it's got to be the opposite. They should be doing the touring first."
- Bootleg Rascal return to the Cambridge Hotel on January 18.