New York alt-rockers Boyish are gaining strong momentum in the New York indie scene. Originally formed at the Berklee College of Music as a folky country duo called The Blue, the band began adopting a heavier rock-inspired sound and rechristened themselves with a new name that reflects the ambiguous queerness that never feels ostentatious, but rather just another facet of everyday life.
Their latest EP, We’re All Gonna Die, But Here’s My Contribution, contains a multitude of themes and topics including escape from awful jobs, the whimsy of anime, heightened emotions, and obsessive fandom filtered through the duo’s renewed collaborative songwriting process. The results are experimental, catchy, and most of all exciting.
But at their core, the band are relatable music nerds making great songs for other music nerds. They geek out over production and distortion, watch football, respond directly to their Twitter DMs, and are occasionally horrified to read some of the more… creative outlets that their fans take in interpreting their songs.
We caught up with Claire and India from the band to talk about how Covid impacted their songwriting process, why corporations like Target are not allies, how We’re All Gonna Die compares to their past material, and why the Dallas Cowboys don’t have a bigger LGBTQ+ fanbase.
Far Out: First off, congrats on We’re All Gonna Die, But Here’s My Contribution. I thought that we could go through the four songs on the EP and talk about the inspiration that went into the writing, starting with ‘Superstar’.
India: “Yeah, ‘Superstar’, we wrote in Minnesota over the summer, and it’s sort of about intense fandom love, especially One Direction. I’m a huge One Direction fan. So it started off as kind of that feeling when you’re just such an intense fan of someone and how you can never really recreate that feeling of like the way you love that person or that band you loved when you were 13. I think it means something a little different to you because you’re not one direction stan [laughs].”
Claire: [Laughs] “We had written a melody and the chords and everything, and then we were like, ‘What do we want to write it about?’, and India is like, ‘Harry Styles’ and I just didn’t understand that devotion, you know? So the way that India got me, she was like, ‘Oh, think like [TV series] Euphoria, we put it to a scene from Euphoria‘.
“I think it was like a montage of Rue and Jules and just watching them together. So for me ‘Superstar’ has always kind of been about their relationship. I think from like Rue’s perspective of seeing Jules as like this whole, just like a superstar, you know, just someone otherworldly just cause they’re so cool.”
Have you had any fans that have reacted to you guys that way?
India: “I don’t think so.”
Claire: “That would be really crazy.”
India: “We’ve gotten like really sweet DMs and people being like, ‘I can’t believe you responded’, and I’m like: ‘We have like 3,000 followers. Like, of course’. We did see ‘Fuck You, Heather’ fan fiction on Twitter the other day.”
Really? Was that shocking or was it like, “This is good writing. This is good stuff.”
India: “It was shocking in a good way, but it was really intimate [laughs].”
Claire: “When they said our names in it, that’s when I was like, ‘Whoa!’ [laughs].”
How about ‘what’shisname’?
Claire: “‘what’shisname’ was, again, over the summer. It was weird, because for quarantine up until July, India and I were in different places. I dipped out of New York. I was like, ‘I’m not going to be here for this. I’m going to go to Minnesota, have some space’ and India stayed here. So it was a lot of just like writing back and forth.
“But when India finally came in July, when we finally get to work on things, ‘whathisname’ started when I started my quarantine job. Because I had nothing else to do, I was like, ‘I gotta make money somehow.’ So I started this job in a landscaping supply yard. I was running a forklift. I hated it. It was the worst, worst job ever.
“I know nothing about landscaping. I don’t care about landscaping. I just wanted to be outside and not get Covid. And so ‘whatshisname’ was a lot about that job and just feeling pointless and like thinking back to your life before. And then of course when India got to it too, it changed around and everything too. I think it became a little more like melancholic and a little more nostalgic too.”
You miss that job at all? It doesn’t sound like it.
Claire: “Oh my god, no! Well, you had to get up like five. I got up at 5:00am. You know, I like got there at 6:30. I sat in the sun all day. I went home literally covered in dirt.”
Yeah that sounds awful. How about ‘Your Best Friend’?
India: “I would say it’s the first song we started to write during quarantine. I would say it’s the most melodramatic song of all of them just because I feel like at the beginning of quarantine, like every emotion was so intense, because no one had experienced anything like that kind of event in our lifetimes.
“So I think there’s a lot of imagining yourself in the scenario of like saying goodbye to someone you love and not being sure when you’re going to see them again. And so that song, we started like sending back and forth to each other in March and finished it up in July or? I think it was the first song we finished from the EP.”
Claire: “Yeah. It was very much that. And even just being like, ‘Would you even like me again when you see me?’ I think that it’s about just that long distance relationship in that sense.”
And then ‘Howls’. So who’s the big anime person? Who was responsible for that specific idea for ‘Howls’?
Claire: “It’s hard to say who loves that film more. India, when you got into anime younger, I didn’t really get into it until college.”
India: “I was so obsessed with Howl’s Moving Castle. When I was little, I used to watch it every day for a period of time. I just loved love, love, love that movie and Spirited Away. So I think at the beginning of quarantine, I just was, like everyone, looking for kind of ways to fill time, like an escape from reality.
“And so I watched a lot of those movies. Howls is this such a magical story and film and amazing visual, and so it was really inspiring that way. I think that was one of the first songs that I started writing too over quarantine, just like that was the only thing really like going on: I was just watching a lot of tvs, so I was like ‘might as well write about something’.”
Claire: “Howls is weird because India came up with this idea and she was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to write a song about Howls. And then we both kind of went off and did it. So we wrote two different songs, but it’s so interesting because the final product was just like glued together.”
Well, so which sections belong to which one of you guys?
Claire: “You had all the verses.”
India: “I wrote the verses and Claire had the chorus and then we sort of came up with the ending together. You like changed the key too, you threw it up higher. And then I thought, like, ‘What are we doing with this?'”
How collaborative, generally, is the songwriting process? Does somebody brings something in and you both work on it. Is it one person’s song then another person’s song?
Claire: “I think it’s changing…”
India: “I think in the past it was very much like one of us had an idea, would work on it, and then bring it to the other person and finish it together. I think right now we’re kind of starting songs together and working on the more at the same time, which I think ‘Superstar’ was the first song we ever really did that for.
“I honestly really liked that more, it’s working better. So I think it’s changing a lot as we’re changing as songwriters.”
What would you say is the main difference in the writing and recording process between We’re All Gonna Die and Garden Spider, or maybe even all the way back to Carnation?
India: “Well, I think we just had sort of more of an idea of what we wanted to sound like. I think Carnation was just our first ever musical project that I ever put out in my whole life.”
Claire: “It was kind of like every idea you’ve ever had, I was like, ‘I need to put everything down!'”
India: “And then I’ll say with Garden Spider too, I feel like we’re getting kind of closer to what we wanted to sound like, but still a lot of that album was kind of figuring out how to produce and different ways of songwriting. So I think the difference with this one is we have a lot of time to figure out what we wanted it to sound like and spent more time kind of being meticulous with details I feel like it was another big difference.”
Claire: “Even on Garden Spider, sometimes a part wouldn’t totally feel like it was working and we’d be like, ‘But it fits.’ So like, we’ll move on. Whereas now, and on the last EP, it was like, ‘If that doesn’t work, it’s out.’ We’re gonna fix it and we’re going to take the time to make sure every part is right and make sure the energy just doesn’t like drop off and die.
“Because that was something I think we fell victim to… [laughs] it sounds so dramatic. We fell victim to in the past. The song would be going somewhere that it would just kind of die and we’re like ‘what’s happening there?’ So a lot of this was taking the time to make sure that everything has a purpose. Everything has a meaning and a feeling more than anything.
“You know, it feels very much like its own new direction. It’s like we finally found that path that feels right for us. Because so much of it was us kind of running around, figuring like, ‘Well, who are we? What do we want to write?’ I think we love so much music that we never really tied ourselves down to any sort of genre. So it took us a while to figure out what the hell we wanted to do.
Who would be an example of a major artists that influenced the EP that maybe somebody listening for the first time wouldn’t pick up on?
India: “Ooo… I feel like The Replacements was a big one. I hadn’t really listened a lot to them up until recently. And I was like, whoa, this is really good. Obviously, Phoebe Bridgers is so inspiring, so she was a big one. Beabadoobee was a really big one.”
Claire: “And then weird ones like Bruce Springsteen and like a lot of eighties stuff too. Not like synth poppy, but like rock eighties, shoegaze and all that stuff. But you can kind of hear that.”
What, if anything, does Pride mean to either one of you guys?
Claire: “Ooh, that’s a good question. It’s funny because I’ve never actually been to a Pride parade. I’ve never made it, I’m always doing something so I’ve never made it. And so it’s interesting because I’ve never felt like I’ve actually celebrated Pride in June.”
India: “Just in life [laughs].”
Claire: [laughs] “Like what the hell? So I don’t know, honestly, I don’t even know what I’m missing out on, yet. But it’s so nice to see like fellow queer people being like, ‘woo-hoo!’. You know, like I love the memes that come up.
India: “Joy, I think is the biggest one.”
Claire: “It’s interesting, because sometimes you can feel like the corporation’s selling out and being like, ‘Oh, it’s June 1st! Guess what?'”
India: “Yes. Target.”
Claire: “‘This is gonna make up for all the shitty things!’ You know? And so, there’s a little bit of that too, where I think sometimes I’m a little sceptical of Pride, but in general, I feel like Pride coming from queer people is so fucking fun and so nice to see everyone out and proud of who they are.”
Are brands that post a pride flag for a month allies or are they harmful?
Claire: “The weirdest thing I saw today, maybe this is on my mind, but I’m a big football fan and the NFL posts all the logos in the Pride flag. And I was just like ‘Whoa, did not see that one coming.’ I was like, ‘These comments are going to be off the rails.’ You know, of course, they were awful, but it’s stuff like that. I don’t know that the NFL has done much for the queer community. That was a surprise.”
You’re telling me the Dallas Cowboys don’t have a huge gay fan base? That is shocking to me. When I got the press release for We’re All Gonna Die, the header in the email was ‘new queer group’ and I was just wanting to know how you guys feel about monetising or commercialising your own personal identity, or is that just part of being an artist?
India: “I don’t know. I feel like ‘queer music’ isn’t necessarily a genre of music, but I feel like it’s important to say who you are. It was always nice to see other queer artists growing up and to know that they were queer. So I feel like that was probably a part of it. Just like letting people know, because I feel like it’s a big part of people’s identity, and it’s always nice to see that being celebrated in music and an art in a very open way.
Claire: “Yeah. It’s interesting, because like, it’s funny. A lot of times I feel like we don’t even always market ourselves as a ‘queer band’, but it’s just us, you know, there’s no way to separate that from our music.
“Because our music stems from queerness, you know, that’s the base of it. Like if you took that away, it’d be like we miss our whole selves. It’s just like that’s the essence. Like you won’t understand our music I feel like if you don’t understand that about us, I think that’s a really important part of why, you know, it’s we really want to be open about who we are.”
When you guys do interviews like this, what is a question that you never ever get asked you wish people would ask you?
Claire: “Ooh, there’s always something in the back of my head I wanna say.”
India: “I feel like we were just talking about this. I forgot what you said.”
Claire: “I’m just thinking. I love geeking out a lot about like production too. That’s something, I think not a lot of people ask about: the ins and outs of that, but that’s something I feel like I could talk about forever.”
Well, what was the production like on We’re All Fonna Die? Let me ask the question. Let me give you the platform to geek out.
India: [laughs] “I think it was so fun.”
Claire: “Yeah. The fun thing that’s happening in music right now, that is making everything else we’re working on right now so funny too, is people are really playing with distortion, like fuzziness, and it’s so fucking fun. It’s kinda like, I don’t know, I would say balls to the wall, but that’s totally what it is. It’s just like all out. I love that right now about production and especially one of the things that changed a lot from the records before to the EP now, there’s tons of little pieces that come and go constantly in it, like just a random new snare sound every now and then, like the kick drum changes for these two bars and little things like that I love. Because it’s like you have your core song and then you just get to polish it up with just like fun little embellishments.”
India: “I feel like we also learned a lot through this, at least I did, because I like I’m very, I wouldn’t say new to production, but like being kind of independent in production, this was a big learning experience for me, just like figuring out how to make different sounds by myself and actually liking them as a finished product. But this is the first time that’s ever happened to me. So that was a lot of fun.”