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Boy Jr. on Genre Bending and Playfulness - Tunes Tuesday Transcript

Maud Mostly: Hi, my name's Maud Mostly my pronouns are they/them, and welcome back to Tunes Tuesday — a weekly series where I interview Queer/2SLGBTQ+ bands and musicians to talk to them about their music, their experiences, and so much more! This week, joining me is New York-based garage pop artist. Boy Jr. Thank you so much for being here. Would you like to share a little bit about yourself?

Boy Jr: Totally. Thanks so much for having me. I'm Boy Jr. or I'm Erica. Pronouns, I'm cool with she, they, any pronouns. I really wanted to come up with a fun fact about myself by now, and my favorite kind of way to have eggs is scrambled in a wrap.

MM: That is unique, I will say that is a fun fact I was not going to expect, but that was your favorite way to have eggs. So thank you for sharing that.

Boy Jr: I like to keep people on their toes.

MM: Amazing. Well, first and foremost, I'd love to get into something that you frequently release that I just think is incredibly cool, and that is your cover of covers per se. You cover a song as if another artist was covering it, for instance, you cover ‘Genie In a Bottle’ if it was sung by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or ‘Blinding Lights’, if it was by The Smiths. Can you share more about your creative process for putting those pieces together?

Boy Jr: Yeah! Mostly I do it because it's fun and I've been really enjoying challenging myself to try out different styles, trying to challenge myself to just keep learning production stuff, just be a better mix engineer, and it always just kind of keeps me — I don't know, it keeps my brain working about what makes a song really memorable and good, and what arrangement elements are the blueprint for making a style recognizable as that style, it's just sort of helped keep my ears honed, plus I love dressing up in costumes and being other people, so.

MM: That definitely is a fun advantage do you feel like you have any key learnings from your experiences making these so far that you'd maybe like to share with others?

Boy Jr: Yeah. I think a big part of like — to both answer the creative process and also like a big takeaway — has been sort of just sharpening my ears. I've definitely gotten, like allowed myself to get to in the rabbit-hole of trying too hard to perfectly combine several songs that make up an artist style. A lot of artists are not known for just one song, and you get people who are like “Oh, somebody only listened to their most popular song and thought that that would work”. And I'm like “yeah, it's what I did. That's exactly what I did”. So I've really tried to make the process shorter so I don't get stuck in these perfectionist rabbit-holes and I think that has helped me kind of remain in a clear path of what do people hear? What are their big takeaways when they hear a 1980s post punk song? And I try to keep it as simple as I can, both for my own sake, so I can allow myself to continue enjoying the process and doing these things for fun. Not big assignments that I’m like, I'm scared I can't finish, But also because I like to keep it simple so it gets maximum enjoyment.

I find that if I get too specific, I don't wanna lose people, I don't wanna make people feel like “Oh, this isn't for me. 'cause I don't know music theory / studio talk”. So I try to keep it fun in that way, describing the different parts for the feeling they give and not necessarily the technical attributes that I like did to make the guitar sound that way. Although I do like finger it out and go in-depth if I can about how I made it.

MM: Absolutely, and I would love to talk to you more about that playfulness and silliness that you can bring into your songs and music, and we'll get to that a little bit later. Because first I wanna talk about, you mentioned how you enjoy the idea of being able to play with different styles and genres, which is why alongside your covers of covers, you also do these genre bending covers, such as your recent hyper-pop covers of ‘Mr. Brightside’, of ‘Mystery of Love’ and your bedroom-pop version of ‘Mambo No. 5’. Do you feel like experimenting with all sorts of genres through covers has given you more freedom to bring all sorts of styles and influences into your own music?

Boy Jr: Totally. I guess that's also a big reason why I just, I can't stop doing this, I just have too many new ideas. It's been the most freeing thing, like having this as an outlet for ideas has been wonderful. I'm plagued with silly little ideas all the time. And prior to this, it was just like, I would put a lot of pressure on myself to feel like anything I make, any idea that I have has one outlet, and it is Boy Jr. The Music Project, and I hadn't put out a lot of music, and I was really pressuring myself for like I have to have a perfect career trajectory, and if I'm gonna put out a debut album, it's gotta be the most perfect representative thing of all aspects of my personality. But having a playground to sort of get these ideas out on is really helpful and fun, and I think has helped me — just helped grow my musicianship a lot, a lot more than not having these things would. You know, there's no unit of measurement for musicianship, but I've been very happy to have this as an option, and I've been happy to like, the rare times I do actually take a step back and look at all the things I've made in a year, I'm like, WOW! There's a lot of things!

That's pretty cool. And I definitely have seen it spill over into my original music, which I am slowly but surely also releasing alongside all of the TikTok stuff.

MM: Absolutely, and as you kind of slowly but surely release more original music, are you ever worried that kind of your work with these coverS is going to overshadow original music? Or do you think they work really well in tandem?

Boy Jr: I'm very worried about everything being overshadowed by the joke content. I am thinking a lot about how I'm going to promote these songs for my upcoming album. The nice thing about all of this is that by just getting myself out there more, there's more people who have been not only interested in the covers, but that's been a nice introduction into like “hey, here I am as an artist as a whole person, and I got more to offer then—”

MM: Absolutely. So it's nice that—

Boy Jr: —get random strangers to be interested in something that is just like “hi, this is something I made from my soul, I don't know how it'll relate to you, because it's not based on anything you've heard before, it is very important to me. So please listen”. I'm trying to come up with ideas for how I'm going to present these songs as TikToks. Probably going about it by just being like “I wrote a song that I think sounds like if St. Vincent and Glass Animals were stuck in an elevator together. This is what they’d make. Except I made it” I don't know how that'll go over, but that is something I've learned from doing the covers is like, if it's got a thing people already know, I think they're more interested.

MM: Definitely, yeah, so it's cool to see that this can also just be used as a way to relate to people and bring people in and kind of get their attention. Particularly, we unfortunately, currently live in this world where it's like “Oh, you want to make art? Impress people on social media every single day, or else you don't get to make art”. And it's really unfortunate that we have that, but it's also really cool to see what people and artists like you are kind of doing to take that tool and have fun with it and bring in people that care about the same stuff you do and have fun in the same way you do.

Boy Jr: That is like, at my core, that's my outlook on just like the internet world and stuff like that. I really do enjoy it, and every now and then there's like, I'll get comments from people that just really hit the nail on the head with like, this is why. This is why we do these things, and this is why it's good that we have the internet. Because there's, of course, so much negativity, and I've had a couple of videos that have gotten really popular to the point where now they're just getting hate comments, which is silly. But it's been really nice when I've gotten comments that are like “Wow, here I was like just…” There's a comment I got recently that was like “See, this is why I love the Internet. I'm just sitting in my house in whatever location that is far from me in Rochester, New York. I'm just sitting here in this other state scrolling through Instagram reels, and now I've found a new artist whose music I really like, and I feel really happy and inspired by something that you made”. And I'm like, that's so beautiful! I can't even wrap my head around it. That's what it's all about! Human connection and just like...

Just like having fun. Wherever you are. Whatever your location is.

MM: Yeah. Absolutely, and speaking of having fun and your original music, you know, one of your songs ‘Are They Actually Attractive?’, released in December of 2020 took off on TikTok and was a hit with so many queer people as you know, I think we all kind of felt playfully attacked by the song,l as it asked us: are they actually attractive or do they just skate, have tattoos, wear funky earrings? And more of the stuff that kind of gets our heart fluttering a little bit in really easy ways. And when you released the music video for this song, you mentioned that you'd kind of been hesitant to release the song because it's silly, but you were excited that people enjoyed it. How do you feel now about the song? And potentially on a greater scale, how do you feel about the way that silliness and playfulness can be brought into music?

Boy Jr: I like that question a lot. I mean, with the song, I’m still just like, God, that's so silly. It's the most listened to thing on my Spotify, and I'm like, I'm happy that it’s something original I made is one of the more popular things, because I don't think it's an unfair representation of my artistic sound. It's a fun song, it's got some quirky production elements. But I do feel so funny about it because I didn't expect it to blow up or go anywhere at all. I don't think I was very choosy with my choice of words. Or rather like I was choosy in the syllabic sense. Because the words that, like I thought about that concept and that's how the words kind of like flowed when I was like oooh how can I make this into a little melody? But I think because it was like an emotionally incorrect statement, a lot of people were like,”That's not how I experience it. It's not a question of whether or not someone's attractive. It's — attractiveness goes way beyond physical features”. And I'm like no, no, I know, I know. No, I literally, I agree with every single person who said any of this. Like if somebody else made that video, I'd be like, That's so — that’s silly.

Showing your personal style is what makes someone attractive or what can be one of the things that makes someone attractive. But the idea had originally come to mind because I was like, oh, you fool, you're so, you're so, the folly of man and hubris are your downfall. And all it takes is you see one person with interesting personal style, and it's not so much that I'm like, I'm attracted to that as my brain will be like “That's who I’m meant to spend the rest of my life with! I am in love with this person now!” And that's what I'm making fun of because that's what I experience. But attractiveness is the word that came out and then got passed around, and I'm just glad to see that people have fun with it because I'm like, it worries me that it's like, I don't want people to think that my magnum opus as an artist on the whole is like, let's talk about if people are actually physically attractive or not. I don't want that to be what I'm all about. But I do have a lot of fun with all the things I make, even the serious songs, and now that I'm back to playing some live shows again, and the live shows really are comprised of my full-length original songs.

I'm pretty silly on stage, I'll be talking about a lot of serious stuff that I like, I don't know, a lot of the things that I've made and I made in a really anxious state or really emotionally distraught state. Not that I am like super emotionally distraught, but it comes from those deep emotional places as art often does. But I can't help but make jokes out of everything, and I hope that's something that kind of ties the whole experience together as I start putting out some of this new music is that I don't want to wallop people with something that's like a totally different tone like “Oh, we thought Boy Jr. was a fun artist. Why are you so sad now?” I hope that that thread kind of ties everything through that like I’m just having a — I'm in a wacky, silly mood. You know?

MM: Absolutely, it's nice to have that balance. And I think you were talking about earlier with the covers, how that kind of has helped you fight that perfectionism and just kind of have things be fun and work. Do you feel like being able to bring this playfulness into your original music now, also kind of helps with that perfectionism? Because I think a lot of artists get kind of caught in that cycle of the things I write have to be deep and important and mean something to other people. So do you think that kind of creates a more balanced outlook on the things you put out by yourself?

Boy Jr: Yes, I do. I think having had the experience of making things to post to TikTok and having the idea reinforced to me that people do like it when things are simple. People like it when it's just fun and straightforward. I think a big lesson that I learned that way, was like, I really love St. Vincent’s music. And a few years ago, I was like the be all and end all music I would like to write is something with lyrics, like Annie Clark’s lyrics. I don't know what she's talking about, but it sounds beautiful, and it means she's smart and I want to sound smart. And Julian Casablanca writes about a lot of stuff that sounds like it's political, but it's also pretty personal and angsty and it just sounds cool. It flows off the tongue. But then I got really into Knower, and they have some songs that are just like, they stick with you on the first listen because the lyrics are straightforward and the music has a lot going on, there's a lot of angular chords and jazz influence and Louis Cole’s drumming that's like, just like *immitates fast drumming*. That just makes you run really fast, but the lyrics are just like “butts and tits and money”.

And I'm like, Yeah, I can remember that. And then making stuff for TikTok, it's just like the simpler, the better. People like to hear little anthems that relate to the things that they feel, and I like to sing little anthems about the things that I'm doing and feeling throughout the day, and it's really fun to share that with people. And I think that's helped me streamline some of my ideas in my songs is that I've allowed myself to say less in the chorus where it's like that can just be a place for me to, I don't know, just like word vomit a little bit, whatever will feel good to perform. But not everything needs to be like — it's not that deep. It can be simple and it can be fun, or it can just be ridiculous. I feel like actually, now that I'm thinking about it, a lot of the songs on the upcoming album, are, like these choruses are a little bit more quippy. One of them is just like, “my mother always said that I would be a good therapist. Do you really like me? Or do you need a therapist?” But the verses are a little more like story-telling, like, what are you talking about? A little less straightforward, it's more like I knew what I was referencing there, but it kinda just comes across like this is vaguely about a relationship.

MM: Absolutely, and I think that means that there is so much to look forward to, I mean, there's already so much in your discography that people can go check out out of everything we've talked about today, but it sounds like there's amazing stuff coming up. Are you able to share any sneak peaks or potential dates for when people can start expecting either more single releases or the album?

Boy Jr: Yeah. Actually, after this call, I think I'm going to get my next single and B side uploaded to my distributor. My plan for the next thing, I have a song ‘Narcissist Baby’ that I've teased a number of times on TikTok. I'm going to aim to get that out in the world, maybe, I think I'm gonna try for Friday, November 19th, because I have a show in New York City on November 20th, and I feel like that would be like, that's too convenient not to do, it's like a single release party. So I liked what I did this last time, did a single and B side with two songs that went places on TikTok. The hyper-pop version of ‘Mr. Brightside’ and ‘Simping for the Villain’. So it was like the two pretty different things, but it's a little bit like, hey, something for everybody, I mean, I made both these things. I hope that's enough to make it feel like there's something in common with the two songs. And I was like, great! Now, I'm going to start releasing things for my album, and then I made this vent diss track about the last person I dated, which is very quippy and just poking fun at manchild kinda boys.

MM: Is this the one where you're like, I'll destroy his PS-5?

Boy Jr: For legal purposes, I did not say that I will destroy his PS-5. Because I don't think he even got one yet. But my point with that, it was literally a tweet that I made that I was like: what are you even supposed to say back to someone who's made it so clear that they don't care about you? Or just they don’t get the emotional words you're saying, they don't feel that same way. What can you say back that would get them to understand what you're feeling? Probably something just like, I hope your PS-5 breaks. Or I hope you never get a PS-5. That's gotta be the ultimate diss to somebody like that. And that's my most viewed thing on TikTok, and of course, having that drive to alright, maybe I’ll make a full version, which is a good coping mechanism for the feelings I've been feeling. So plus people were asking for a full version, so my hope is that by doing a single and B side ‘Narcissist Baby’, my original song is gonna be the first single off my album, ‘Pay Attention To Me’. And ‘I Hope Your Chicken Nuggies Get Soggy’. I'm hoping that by having both out there, having the existence of one will get people to listen to the other one.

Plus, I just aim to please, and people were like, FULL VERSION PLEASE. And I was like, I'll do whatever you want, yeah!

MM: For sure. Well, that sounds amazing. If you would like to stay up to date with Boy Jr’s releases, the fun stuff, the more serious stuff, all of the amazing videos that we've talked about and covers and originals, make sure to check out all the links below to check out what's out there and stay updated. Thank you so much for joining me this week on Tunes Tuesday. And Boy Jr. will be playing us out.

*Narcissist Baby by Boy Jr. begins playing*

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