“A Little Less Broadway, A Little More Basement”
Band: Boyfriend, Wanda Doomy’s Pandoomy’s Box Drag Show
Date: Friday 7th October, doors at 9pm
Location: Alabama Music Box, 12 S. Conception St., alabamamusicbox.com
Tickets: $15 available through the venue’s website
Since her debut in Azalea City, New Orleans-based artist Boyfriend has used her infectiously eclectic sound and unforgettable live shows to draw Mobilians into her allegiance. However, your upcoming visit will be cause for celebration. Having spent her career releasing EPs and singles, Boyfriend will be performing in support of her debut album, Sugar and Spice, which features a number of special guests including Big Freedia, Pyra, Death Valley Girls, Pussy Riot and many more.
Music Editor Steve Centanni’s recent chat with Boyfriend offers Lagniappe readers not only a fitting preview of their new album, but also their revamped stage show for this tour.
Steve Centanni: Having spent most of your career as an artist releasing exclusively singles, what made you finally take the plunge and release a full-length album?
Friend: Money is the short answer. [Laughs.] It’s not that I never wanted to make an album, but it’s a lot more expensive to make an album. You really want to have everything lined up and planned out so that all the time you put in will pay off and you make sure it gets in front of people. Just the ability to plan, put resources in order and put a team in order. All of these things are difficult for an independent artist.
I paid for everything out of my own pocket, including a publicist, a producer, studio time, a mixing engineer, a mastering engineer, and cover art. If it’s a lower pressure single, you can release it without the catwalk time it takes to release an album. For example, I didn’t want to release an album without a publicist on board. It’s usually me and my boss. We don’t usually have other team members. This was an attempt to recruit “Team Boyfriend”. I had to get all of these parts in place, which takes longer when you’re independent.
I prefer to consume albums. So I’m looking forward to producing something that suits my preferred way of consuming [music].
Centanni: Another thing about Boyfriend is that it’s not just about the music; it’s about a message or a philosophy or an insight. Would you say there is an underlying theme that you want your audience to experience?
Boyfriend: I think for those who have never interacted with Boyfriend before I would say there is a thesis. I’m saying a lot of the same things I’ve said to my fans who have been with me since the beginning. You know, obviously there’s a lot of feminism happening on the album. [Laughs.] I also go to a few different places.
With my earlier music I embodied what I was trying to criticize. So the Love Your Boyfriend project, which was a series of EPs, was filled with intentionally aggressive love songs to point out that the message we get in most songs is typically problematic and unhealthy. So I wrote love songs to take that to the extreme, instead of coming out in a song and saying, “Love songs are a problem.” A couple of times on this album, I come right out and say, “that thing.” So it was a new exercise for me, not only to do irony and satire, but to get a little more on the nose with the messages.
For people who have been paying attention to Boyfriend since the beginning, I think it will be like watching a show. The singles are fragmented slices of the bigger picture. When you watch a show, I’m confident that someone will walk away with a real sense of who I am as an artist and what I’m trying to say. I couldn’t feel that way with my Spotify page. I have no control over how anyone consumes these singles and in what order they listen to them. When someone listens to the album, I feel, “Okay, now you’re getting a real feel for me and what I’m trying to say.”
Centanni: Let’s talk about the musical side of it. You’re known for having everything from rock to hip-hop in your repertoire. How will that be on this album?
Friend: I’ve definitely refined it. It’s funny to bring that up. I think the sonic variance in my catalog held me back. I think it confuses the industry players who might otherwise help and encourage me. You know, my agent will say, “Okay, you released a song with Galactic, but you also released a song with Preservation Hall, but you also released a song with Big Freedia, so what tour do you want me to do?” It took a long time to learn this lesson.
A more focused sound package will be easier for people to understand, although I’m able to do a lot of different things. I think that’s more in line with the way people consume music these days. I don’t think people are that loyal to one genre. Now I can work on other genres from project to project. There’s hyper-pop, rap, and alt-pop for this project, and it’s gritty. Now I could link it to a new room for a later project.
Centanni: I think it’s safe to say that you’re planning an impressive live show when the album comes out. Can you give us a preview?
Friend: It will be different. There will be none [hair] Roll. This is actually more slimmed down, back to what Boyfriend was when I started. I would have come to the venue with a suitcase and driven myself with no one else to help me and just asked the front of house guy to queue up each song while I went through the show. It was way more punk rock and DIY. It’s going to be a little less Broadway and a little more basement.
I’m not fully committed to it yet, but I won’t be wearing makeup. I just let my soul be free and my hair long open. I’ll still have choreography and costume changes, I can’t resist. Overall I’m going to make it a little more interactive and more like a party. That’s not to say I won’t have my super high theater shows back. On this tour I just want to get back in people’s faces and have people come on stage and shave my armpits instead of having my dancers do it. It will be like 2014 again.