Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The road from the EP to ‘the record’: Looking back five years 

Looking back on the “boygenius” EP that launched the band 
The road from the EP to the record: Looking back five years 
Photo from boygenius’ Instagram

The opening chords of “Souvenir” begin boygenius’ Brooklyn Steel performance. The soft lull of the notes anchors the story of the song’s character. Though it sounds serene, “Souvenir” narrates the opposite. The song begins at the end of the journey of someone driving back from an unknown destination that seems to have been distressing. They’re sitting in the liminal space of momentary solace from the ensuing chaos that seems to permeate into their subconscious. This person seems to have found a baseline and is reflecting on what has brought them to a point of no resolution. Somehow, in the same moment, they are learning to accept a lack of a resolution and the fact that one will not materialize. The strong imagery given to intimate stories is what drew the attention of the music world when boygenius dropped their debut EP in fall 2018. It left critics wondering what a full-length album from the group could sound like. 

In the five years since the release of the “boygenius” EP, the band released a full-length album, “the record,” performed a tour filled with effervescence, including selling out Madison Square Garden, and became six-time Grammy nominees. In an interview with CBS Mornings, it was noted how the group achieved more together than as soloists. During this momentous year, the group found themselves also celebrating a milestone for their debut EP. At the time of its release, there was no certainty that boygenius would release another project together. Collaborations on “Please Stay, “Favor, “Graceland Too” and Hayley Williams’ song “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” teased future potential, but in the moment, the EP was it. 

Boygenius started as a promotional project. Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus had booked a co-headlining tour in 2018 and planned to record songs together to help promote their tour. Recording joint songs would mean having shared songs they could perform together on stage. In preparation for their recording session, each person wrote their own song. Baker wrote “Stay Down,” Bridgers “Me & My Dog” and Dacus wrote “Bite the Hand.” Upon meeting to record, “Souvenir,” “Salt in the Wound” and “Ketchum, ID” were also developed and inevitably lead to the formation of boygenius.  

Five years later, the formation of boygenius sounds like fantastical lore. Their formation, however, highlights complexities that came with navigating the music industry in 2018. The EP comes out of the context of a changing music industry reckoning with itself about what music should sound like. Indie was bleeding into the mainstream and musicians were unafraid to be more experimental in the spotlight. In the changes around music, boygenius found themselves creating a space that could anchor their individual songwriting while producing collaborative projects. They rooted themselves in intricate songwriting narratives that would shape boygenius’ distinctive sound.  

From the offshoot, boygenius never sought to pigeonhole their music. Though associated with the indie music scene, folk and rock are also effortlessly blended into the EP. The EP starts with a boom in “Bite the Hand.” The isolated guitar strumming met with a chorus of more guitars and drums that drive up the emotional stakes being laid out in the song. An emotional tug of war that explores how one should be tussles through the EP before simmering to a soft landing in the heart aching “Ketchum, ID.” Production and sound are used to change the emotional temperature of the EP throughout its run. “Me & My Dog” is a prime example of this with its swooning intro that ends with a roaring painful unavoidable realization.  

The band’s resonance has proven to go beyond what they started five years ago. Their strength as individual songwriters are rooted in creating stark visceral scenes for their audience to apply as unique recollections for themselves. It’s amplified when writing as a group. The group creates an intimacy with an audience that may have labeled these scenes as unexplainable or better left unsaid. They write it so someone can finally feel it. The “boygenius” EP gave words and images to the experience of not knowing how to be. There’s an honesty that shines through boygeniuslyrics of ruffling through such an experience. They journey through what to do when the act of being falls into a state of unknowing, and explore the implications of finding solace to this in toxic situations. 

The EP was a launching pad for everything that boygenius is and will continue to become. An ode to the EP lives on through references in “the record.” “Me & My Dog” is interpolated in “Letter to an Old Poet” and “salt in my lungs” from “Anticurse refers to “Salt in the Wound.” Now, the boygenius EP is remembered as an introduction to the possibilities of a boygenius future. It’s a reminder of a time when the band gave everything that they could be and now serves as a point of reference for their evolution. The assembling of Baker, Bridgers and Dacus is what piqued interest, but it was the creation of worlds in the EP is what made boygenius.  

Suzanne Bagia can be reached at [email protected] 


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