This past Friday I found myself at Joe’s Pub in a sea of “industry people,” feeling rather excited and partially terrified to see the band BOY’s NY debut. I had done my research on the band, but it wasn’t easy-- search “BOY band” on the internet and you’ll be transported back to the mid-nineties when tips were frosted and clothing was named after food (spaghetti straps, y’all!).
In actuality, the mysterious BOY is two dames: Valeska Steiner (vocals) and Sonja Glass (bass). The duo made a splash on the internet when iTunes Single of the Week “Little Numbers,” went viral, and they're still making waves as the video nears 8 million views. February saw the US release of their first full-length album Mutual Friends with Nettwerk Records, and this month they will tour the country and play SXSW (did I mention they are playing BUST’s Grounded party at the Pussy Palace??). You can get stoked by watching the video below.
I had heard Mutual Friends before I went to see the performance, and I have to say that they were even more impressive live. I already have a soft spot for accents (I have a reoccurring dream about that bee in the Nasonex commercials), and when Steiner took the stage and said “It’s so nice you’re all here,” I was under their spell.
It’s apparent when bands are excited for a gig, and BOY was blatantly invested in the performance. Although they are clearly accomplished musicians, the duo was humble and intimate with their audience. “This next song is about a boy from my hometown, Zurich," Steiner confessed at one point. "I don’t like him very much, so if he ever comes to New York, don’t be very nice with him.” Girls, get your brass knuckles.
The concert set-up was simple: Steiner and Glass were accompanied on stage by a guitarist, and they apologized for the absence of their notably handsome drummer. I felt as though Steiner took more freedom to experiment with her vocals than on the album, and there was some serious sister chemistry going on. I mean, I wrote “too fucking cute” in my notebook at least three times.
Glass and Steiner met during a six-week music workshop in Hamburg that was specially designed to connect area musicians, and they jived immediately. “On the second day, I heard her sing and I was like ‘wow.’” Likewise, Steiner said it was clear that Glass really knew what she wanted in a band. Thus, BOY was born.
Most of BOY’s music is the result of a continuous email conversation in which they bounce ideas back and forth. Glass starts with the music, then Steiner writes the lyrics. I was curious about their decision to write in English as opposed to Swiss or German. Steiner explained, “As a singing language, it always felt the closest to me.” The album was recorded in a 12-square-meter children’s room at their producer’s home, which wasn't exactly a luxury setting, but Glass said the small studio “[felt like] freedom for me.”
Despite the sexism of the music industry, the duo said they're never felt extra barriers as female musicians. “[If anything,] female categories in the media are [just] more narrow," Steiner said. "It’s either that sweet girl that wears sunflower dresses or like ‘Fuck you. I hate men.'”
As I was running out of interview time, I decided to get to the really important stuff. “What are your spirit animals?” They immediately responded for one another. Valeska’s is a lion and Sonja’s is a wild horse: one that “has never had a saddle on its back.” BOY sounds like my kind of girls.
Download "Little Numbers" for free on iTunes.
Videos via youtube.com; images via glitchmag.com, einslive.de, sxsw.com, vimeo.com