Photography Maxine Imbert
Styling Cristina Firpo
Interview by Nicolaia Rips
Phoebe Bridgers. Julien Baker. Lucy Dacus. What happens when three of the most talented solo singer-songwriters of a generation get together? You get something disarmingly funny, haunting, queer, something sui generis. Plus the best love song playlist ever. Meet The Band— a.k.a. boygenius.
From left: CHOPOVA LOWENA fringe denim jacket. PAOLINA RUSSO bodice mini dress and knit top. CHOPOVA LOWENA zip cardigan and fuzzy skirt; FALKE tights.
Nicolaia Rips: How are you guys? You’re all individually at home hanging?
Lucy Dacus: Phoebe and I both just got back from, what, five weeks of being away or more. I’m jet-lagged. I was sleepy at 7 p.m. and I had a friend come over and kind of push me until 10 p.m. so I wouldn’t fall asleep while the sun was out.
Nicolaia Rips: How’s tour?
Lucy Dacus: The tour, like, all of it has been awesome. Our next show is Boston. Right? Or is it New Haven? I don’t know. (Julien pops into the zoom, just the tip of her baseball hat as she slowly emerges into frame.)
Julien Baker: My phone died and then I just...Hi, I’m here now.
Nicolaia Rips: If boygenius was a family who’s the middle child, who’s the eldest?
Phoebe Bridgers: Am I the youngest?
JB: No. You’re not youngest! I’m youngest.
LD: Julien’s youngest.
PB: You also are literally the youngest.
LD: Is it boring to say that it’s just how the ages are? Me and Phoebe are both older sisters to younger brothers and Julian is an only child. I think you’re big sis Phoebe. Big brother. Big sis was weird.
PB: My brother calls me sis to give me the ick. He’s like, I love how they do it on TV. They’re always like, “what’s up, sis?” Who the fuck calls their sister that?
NR: The film [directed by Kristen Stewart]. The record. Can you talk about the finality of “The.” What other “The” would you want to do in the future?
LD: The amusement park, uh, the strip club...
JB: The musical!
PB: It’s cool because we wouldn’t do that in our solo work. I think it just highlights the specialness of the time. Like we’re setting out to make the boygenius things right now.
LD: It’s also acknowledging a bit of hype, which is fun because we’re members of the boygenius fandom ourselves. So, people asking for the record, we’re able to give them the record.
NR: What makes something a boygenius song versus a solo?
LD: At least for me, context changes what I write about, and how I write. So, we just decided to be each other’s context for a couple years. It’s not some big secret, we chose to do this, to devote space and time.
NR: Your music feels so vulnerable yet there’s always this play. How do you feel your senses of humor factor into your work?
PB: It’s silly. We kind of enable each other. I feel like there have been several times where I’m like, am I allowed to write this? And the boys were like, yeah, obviously.
NR: What’s on the essential boygenius book list? The Book Club?
LD: Myth of Sisyphus.
LD: What are books that we’ve all read? Like Carmen Maria Machado, both of her books. The Sympathizer, we all loved. Letters to a Young Poet.
JB: I’ve heard y’all reference a lot and it’s nice to feel like ideas, instead of slipping into like a landfill or whatever, get recycled to me. I don’t know, I just like hearing y’all talk about books that I haven’t read too.
PB: That’s my main experience. I’m always the one that did not read the thing. I read way more because of this band which is so tight.
JB: I feel like you’re always reading essays on some lane of art and I’m just like, dang, all I read was a graphic novel and Sartre again.
LD: Sartre again. Y’all have podcasts. I’m completely out for the podcast conversation.
JB: Phoebe got me into podcasts. I used to just be like, it’s not radio, I don’t understand it. All the podcasts I listen to are just things [Phoebe] told me to listen to —99 PI, Hidden Brain.
PB: I do not have the strength to have thoughts when I’m doing things.
NR: I was listening to My Favorite Murder a while ago and was like, wait a second. Is that Phoebe Bridgers??
PB: I felt so nervous. I think that’s the last time I had actual stage fright.
LD: Is that the one where you say, “yeah, me and my friend Lucy kissed” and then everyone freaked out?
PB: Now, no one could possibly get freaked out by us kissing. It’s just part of it. “I went to a Boygenius show and Julian and Phoebe or Lucy and Phoebe kissed.”
JB: There’s a picture of me and Lucy and my mom asked if it was the guitarist from Muna because I think she saw one picture of me and Joe [Maskin] kissing and thinks we’re dating. Mom, you’re on Twitter? Like she’s following me? I felt love.
From left: S.S. Daley monogram tailored jacket. JEAN PAUL GAULTIER vintage top courtesy of Haut Archive. SIMONE ROCHA cotton stripe pointed collar shirt; JOHN LAWRENCE SULLIVAN wool stripe jacket.
NR: Who are your favorite unsung girl geniuses of history?
LD: Nick Drake’s mom, Molly Drake. She is an incredible poet and songwriter and pianist. They re-released a collection of her works recently. You can hear how Nick Drake was obviously inspired by her as
PB: Emily Bronte’s brother.
LD: We went to the Bronte mansion. Mansion. I just mixed up the Biltmore Mansion and the Bronte house because we also...
PB: We love to go to old places that people lived in.
LD: It’s like we’re trying to get haunted. We all showed up upset to the Bronte Museum and then in the first room they were like, “here’s the couch where Emily Bronte died of tuberculosis at age 30.” Now
whenever we’re all upset and it’s hard to get out of, we call it Brontitis. Emily and Anne had a brother named Branwell. Branwell Bronte who was a great artist. But he was underappreciated and wished he could be more like his sisters. (Phoebe has been roaming her house for the entire interview, white blonde hair streaming behind her, angles the camera down at a pug sitting alone on a large baroque couch.)
PB: Maxine Bridgers.
LD: I think Maxine’s pretty sung. She’s not unsung at all.
JB: Maxine’s sung.
NR: What were you about to say?
JB: Hilma af Klint. But obviously things come in tides of awareness. Something that’s unsung to me doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsung in fine visual art.
PB: She was unsung in her life.
JB: But that was a choice, right? She was like, don’t publish anything or show my work until fifty years after my death.
PB: So sick.
NR: Going back to this haunting thing. Have you ever been haunted?
LD: We’ve been talking about this. Unclear.
JB: I was haunted! I was haunted!
LD: Julien was haunted.
JB: I was haunted. It was...demon. I don’t think it was a ghost.
LD: I have witnessed haunting but personally, I’m a clean vessel.
JB: What the fuck. This [interview] is so...
PB: My dating life in my early fucking twenties for sure was haunted.
LD: Are we just calling abuse haunting now? Ok. Well, I was haunted when I was in my early twenties too. (They all laugh.)
PB: Born haunted, dude,
JB: Born haunted just took me by surprise.
LD: That’s generational trauma babe.
JB: I had an apartment with bad vibes.
LD: Julien had an apartment where someone was murdered and rolled up in a carpet and put in a closet.
PB: Wait, was that the apartment that I was in? Yo? OK. UM. (Immediate chattering over each other.)
LD: How have we not talked about this? Julien recently said that she was told [about the murder] upon moving in and was like, bet, I’ll just be here.
PB: That does not surprise me.
LD: And then all that shit went down and you didn’t move. I can’t believe it.
JB: Let me tell you how metaphorical this shit was. Basically, they [realtors] just painted some stuff a hip color of green and put a pool in and doubled the rent. And I was like, okay, I’ll mime being an adult and pay way too much money for this apartment in the right part of town, to be the right kind of person, with all my cool East Nashville friends or whatever. And it was just full of murder and history. I did not have a good time there and I was all alone. That place had bad vibes. Top to bottom.
LD: Bad vibes is the most, like, inane way you could say what was happening in that apartment.
From left: CHOPOVA LOWENA dress. RAVE REVIEW fleece jacket; stylist's own BURBERRY vintage pants. SIMONE ROCHA nylon single breasted car coat; GUCCI shirt.
JB: Before I’d only ever lived in houses like on a yoga mat or with five other people who were in six different bands. Moving there and being like, nice a dishwasher, and it was this spot where somebody had been like, “I think there’s a murder” and the cops came and were like, no murder here. But there was! He was just rolled up in a carpet, and then the cops came back because of the smell and then they were like, oh, there was a murder. Anyway, that’s where I lived.
LD: You got way more info than you bargained for with that question.
NR: I don’t know how to transition here, wow. Do you feel like you’re optimists or pessimists?
LD: I’m an optimist.
NR: Didn’t sound very convincing.
LD: I’m the devil’s advocate for the best-case scenario. I don’t think it’s gonna be like that, but I might as well petition for it.
JB: I would like to say I am a present tense pessimist and a future optimist. I’m like, let’s not make light of how much it sucks right now. It does not help the situation to say, “it could always be worse” or to say, “it’s not that bad.” I’m an optimist when I’m with you guys. Like, this is a pretty sick day we’re living,
LD: Our whole Europe tour was awesome. And then we all had one terrible day.
PB: That is so true. I was like, this day isn’t hell, this is actually my usual self on tour. We had one day like that in our whole time together this year. (Phoebe cleans the crust out of her dog’s nose.)
NR: Are you cleaning your dog’s nose?
PB: She’s been with her grandma and her nose fold is so full of crust. I can’t believe it.
LD: I love her. I want her to come sneeze on me.
(Now Julien shows her dog who’s “camera shy.” Lucy sings, “I love you” to both dogs.)
NR: What’s your ultimate love song?
LD: I have a lot of answers. I Went To The Store One Day by Father John Misty. I think that’s a great song. There’s a compilation of love songs of Nina Simone. A lot of perfect love songs on that.
PB: For You by Laura Marling is a great song.
JB: I’m trying to think of an answer that isn’t Options by Pedro the Lion.
PB: That’s not a love song, dude.
LD: We’re not accepting that answer anymore.
JB: That’s 100% a love song.
LD: Don’t say that. I have a playlist called “Perfect Love Song”. Who Knows Where The Time Goes by Nina Simone. I Need Your Love So Bad by Irma Thomas. Dance Song by Dijon. P.S. I Love You by Billie Holiday. I Love You Always Forever, Donna Lewis. Bless the Telephone, Serpentwithfeet does a great cover.
From top: S.S. DALEY monogram tailored jacket and pleated skirt. JEAN PAUL GAULTIER vintage top courtesy of Haut Archive. SIMONE ROCHA cotton stripe pointed collar shirt; JOHN LAWRENCE SULLIVAN wool stripe jacket.
NR: Are you specific with playlist names?
LD:No, I’ll make the playlist name and then I’ll wait for the songs.
PB:I agree and then I’m curating forever.
LD: Never finished, always growing. It’s more of a catalog or an archive than a playlist that I would send to somebody. It’s a research tool.
JB: I have a playlist called “Queerly Specific” that’s all about coming out from a place of being in love. All songs about that. Casimir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens. The one where he kisses his friend.
PB: My mom banned it from the house. She was like do not play the cancer song ever again.
LD: Reservations by Wilco. Modern Romance by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
JB: Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod by The Mountain Goats. Do you know that tune?
JB: Oh, ok. It’s a good one. They have a lot of good love songs because they’re like little vignettes of like living with a person and all the little intricate weirdo shit they do, which is what I ultimately think comprises a lot of love. Just checking out somebody’s weirdo shit.
(As we sign off, Phoebe nods, “Bye, Boys.”)
Makeup Tabitha Thomas
Hair Linnéa Nordberg
Set Design Julia Dias
Casting Greg Krelenstein
Production CEBE Studio