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When Koe Wetzel and the Konvicts landed on the music scene, no one in the band had a single criminal charge under their belt despite their clever moniker. That, however, quickly changed. It could be that there was one bad influence, or maybe their combined powers just invited hell-raising, but by the time the group dropped their first two albums, “Out on Parole’” and “Noise Complaint,” Wetzel had an extensive rap sheet. “I think evading arrest was the crime my mother’s not the happiest about,” Wetzel says. “We’d planned a show in San Marcos, Texas, and we were given a house by the river. On July 3, we got really tanked up drinking Rumple Minze straight out of the bottle and a boat came by blaring my music. So I got on the boat and we got drunk as shit, then we went to the bar.

“The bouncer was like, ‘You can’t come in, you’re too fucked up,’ and I was being a complete asshole,” he continues. “I brush by him and go straight to the bar, then a cop comes and drags me outside. In my drunken stupor I’m thinking, ‘He’s a fat dude, I can run away from him pretty quick.’ So I start running, then I run into this dude and that asshole fucking tackles me. So the cop comes, puts his gun on me and says, ‘Don’t move!’ My lawyer made me watch the video over and over again.”

The incident may have placed a blot upon his previously sterling criminal record, but those who know Wetzel understood it was a matter of time before his rebellious nature bit him in the rear. Growing up he always veered toward anarchistic music, fostering a love for Nirvana at an early age. When it came time to write rebellious tunes of his own, he had his heart set on shaking things up in the country genre. “I just think it’s cool being different from everybody else and not conforming to what everybody thinks you should be,” Wetzel says. “When people listen to our music, there are people that hate us because we’re in the country genre. But there are also people that love us just for being who we are.”

Photos by Jody Domingue

Photos by Jody Domingue

Wetzel has faced backlash from the country community for refusing to make family-friendly music and the controversy has only fueled his fire. The support from his diehard fans has allowed Wetzel to not only continue making music as an anomaly within the genre, but to grow and thrive. “I don’t think anyone should expect you to be the same as you were whenever they found you,” Wetzel says. “From our first record to this record we’re cutting right now in the studio, it’s like night and day. I know with our last record, ‘Sellout,’ some of our first fans were like, ‘This isn’t like the original Koe,’ but I don’t think artists should be that way. Fans should want artists to grow, get better and try different sounds.”

“Sellout” is Wetzel’s fourth studio album and the name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to his signing to Columbia Records in 2020. But, don’t let the name fool you, Wetzel didn’t alter his personality one iota to fit in with the suits at Columbia. “A lot of wine, a lot of bourbon and a lot of chaos went into making that album,” Wetzel says. “Once COVID hit and everything was shut down, we basically went to the studio and quarantined there for four to five months. It was our first time going to a studio and making a record from the ground up. Before that, we’d tour year round and go back and forth between being on the road and going to the studio. This time around, we would wake up in the studio around 1, fuck around all day with sounds, start recording around 9 or 10 and finish recording around 4.”

Wetzel was able to show plenty of range throughout the project—spanning from his tried-and-true party bangers to cautionary tales. One of his most successful tracks from the album, “Good Die Young,” touches on both themes. “I’ve had a couple of buddies who have passed away well before their time,” Wetzel says. “[‘Good Die Young’] was a song I’d started writing five or six years ago, but I never got around to finishing it. Then I had a friend pass away in 2017 and another in 2020. After my buddy passed away in 2020, I went ahead and finished the record. I feel like it hit hard for a lot of people, you know?”

Photos by Jody Domingue

Photos by Jody Domingue

While the song has an inherently somber tone, Wetzel and his crew went balls-to-the-wall for the music video. The entire theme of the video was how you’d spend your last day on Earth and for Wetzel, that day would be spent drinking, doing drugs and getting lap dances. “We took a lot of ecstasy and just went crazy,” he says. “We shot the video at my house and I had this ecstasy from I don’t know how long ago. I was like, ‘Y’all trying to trip X?’ so we popped it and the entire day we were just acting stupid as fuck. That X, it really kicked off a lot of ideas for us and let us have a lot more fun.”

After two years stuck at home, Wetzel is finally making it back onto the road. He’s setting out on a 33-city tour around the country, reaching every country fan from North to South and East to West. Touring is one of the things Wetzel does best and on past tours, he’s taken the opportunity to get tattooed along the way. “We were coming up from Midland and heading to Amarillo, drinking the whole way there,” Wetzel says. “There was a tattoo shop next door to the place so we walked in and were like, ‘Hey, we want to get something to symbolize Amarillo. I want “Amarillo by Morning” with a tumbleweed above it on my ass.’ The tattoo artist was like, ‘Dude, you seem like a fucking hairy guy and I might have to shave you, gimme an extra 20 bucks.’ So I handed him an extra 20 bucks and now I’ve got George Strait lyrics on my ass.”

Photos by Jody Domingue

Photos by Jody Domingue

During the past two years Wetzel has missed more than looking out at a sea of people singing his songs—he’s also missed seeing the countless tattoos fans have inked to honor their favorite musician. It takes something special for a tattoo to stick out in Wetzel’s mind. “A girl got my tweet tattooed on her,” Wetzel says. “I’d tweeted, ‘I’m drunk as fuck right now, but if I put on this cowboy hat shit will turn.’ She got my header and the tweet busted out on her leg. I was like, ‘This is fucking awesome.’”

After Wetzel and the band have satiated the needs of their fans with the long-awaited national tour, they plan on hitting the studio. Wetzel plans to release a new album within the year and show audiences a brand-new side to his sound. “We’re out here in El Paso, in the middle of fucking nowhere, and we were kind of worried that we weren’t going to have enough songs,” Wetzel says. “Then once we got out here, we set aside the songs we’d planned on recording and came up with a lot of new stuff. It’s a lot heavier than anything we’ve done, but it still has the same catchy-ass country shit that we’ve been putting out for a little bit. It’s out there, but it’s fun.”

Wetzel’s shift into rock has been a long time coming, with influences of grunge creeping into his work as far back as his 2019 album “Harold Saul High.” However, if you’re reading this right now in a panic thinking your favorite country artist has abandoned the genre, don’t be scared. Koe Wetzel has you covered. “I think with this record, we were listening to it and we were like, ‘We can’t put out this album as country. It would just be us lying to everyone,’” Wetzel says. “I think it just happened on its own. But I’m also planning on putting out a country album, maybe at the end of this year.”

With a tour underway and two albums coming down the pike, Koe Wetzel sure knows how to keep his fans happy. He’ll always be a rebel and an outcast—that’s never going to change—but at heart, he’s just a guy who loves making music for the world. 

Photos by Jody Domingue

Photos by Jody Domingue