D I S C U S S I O N – M U S I C
Arwin Shams Siddiquee
So, what is boygenius (yes, it’s all lowercase) and why am I talking about it?
It’s the trio of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus — an indie rock band formed in 2018. They’re all successful solo acts, some of the leading women in indie rock right now, and of course, close friends with one another. Their self-titled EP was released the same year.
The formation of the band was almost accidental — it all started with Julien introducing her friends Lucy and Phoebe to each other. The developing friendships quickly turned into plans for a small collab for when they would all be on tour at the same time, possibly in the form of a single. Once the collaboration was in the works, things got interesting. As Phoebe explained in a Vogue interview, “…it was kind of an accident. It was just like, ‘Oh, we’ll do a cover song and maybe one original song for this thing.’ And then it turned into like, ‘Oh shit, our dynamic is so sweet together.‘” The recordings were scheduled over group text.
As for why I’m talking about them — I just think they’re neat.
“What even *is* a boygenius?”
The name refers to the trope of the male artist who’s been hearing all about how his every thought is brilliant, every bit of his work deserving of praise, and how he’s always been destined for greatness since birth. In contrast, women are historically told to be small, to exercise self-doubt, and to get used to being second fiddle to the men in their fields.
Let’s talk about that EP
The eponymous debut EP features six tracks. As for the songwriting process, each member traded ideas through texts, brought partly-finished songs and song ideas into the studio, and went from there. Julien wrote the solemn “Souvenir”, Lucy wrote the grungier “Bite the Hand”, Phoebe the bleak “Me and My Dog”. My personal favourite off the EP (and the band’s too, actually) — Ketchum, ID — was built around a guitar lick Phoebe got from her friend, indie folk artist Christian Lee Hutson, with all three artists putting bits of their lived experiences into the finished product. The foundations of the group are solidarity and friendship, and the way their songwriting process revolves around being complementary to each other — from Julien preferring to play a wide variety of instruments to Lucy focusing on being the rich choral base of the vocals, to Phoebe’s willingness to explore darker themes and add a layer of calm melancholy to their music — really proves this.
But there’s more to be discussed before we get into the music itself. Every part of it (practically speaking) was done by women — the mixing and mastering, every instrument, the production (self-produced by the trio in the legendary Sound City studio in Los Angeles), and the vocals, of course. The production of the album is, in a way, an act of defiance in the face of the very archetype the group is named after.
I like their music. You might too. Here’s what you should know about it
My thoughts on boygenius’ music? It’s great. The band is a confluence of three similar-yet-distinct styles, and that is well and truly reflected in what they create. Phoebe makes wispy, often even happy-sounding music with depressing lyrics and morbid themes, Lucy has a deep, rich, booming voice that suits the more conventional songs she favours, and Julien’s songs draw from her life as a queer Christian and a recovered opioid addict, often venturing into themes of death and loss, sung with both quiet, fragile reverie, and gentle rage.
Boygenius draws on every aspect of these different branches throughout their songs, with tracks ranging from campfire ballads to folk/grunge pieces to stripped down confessionals. The vocals complement each other beautifully too. Lucy is the rich, booming base of the chorus, Julien’s piercing voice cuts through to the surface, and Phoebe’s airy, light vocals harmonise beautifully with both — and, of course, each stands out on its own when needed. They’re a joy to listen to. Also, I happen to like all three artists on their own as well, and I highly recommend you try them all, especially if you like this band!
Where are they now?
Pandemic hiatus, most likely. They’re still releasing music individually and doing interviews and other Professional Musician things. They do still feature on each other’s work and come in as backup singers for one another from time to time. Still no word of additional boygenius content though. I hope the wait is worth it.
Closing thoughts (and some recommendations)
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to give the band a try, and I hope you’ll like them as much as I do. But before you click off this article, a few recommendations. Firstly, definitely give the whole EP a try. It’s only six songs, but it’ll be worth every second.
Beyond that though, try their live performances at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk, KEXP, and Brooklyn Steel — they’re all available on YouTube. And if you prefer Spotify (why even), I guess you can try and find them there? Additionally, try their solo work! For one, they all have their own Tiny Desk appearances, for another, their albums and EPs are really cool.
That’s it. Hope you like the recs c:
Arwin Shams Siddiquee, also known as Fish Person, is a writer and artist from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Their work generally contains explorations of the mundane and of nature, morbid themes, and imagery of everyday life. Additionally, they think frogs are very epic.