Photo by Lera Pentelute

 

Meet the Three Women Behind boygenius

New trio combines the talents of emerging indie stars

By Linda Laban

10/29/2018

Profile



SHARE THIS

0

When friends and musical contemporaries Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus first pictured themselves recording together as the newly formed boygenius, they jokingly compared themselves to Trio, the group that united Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Dolly Parton in 1987.

“That was the first image we sent to each other in our group texts after we decided to record,” says Dacus. “It was like: ‘Who is who?’ I think it was Phoebe is Dolly, Julien is Emmylou, and I am Linda.”

Lighthearted as that comparison may have been, as with those female forebears, boygenius is already heralded as a supergroup. That is a flattering characterization for three mid-twenty-somethings who have wowed critics over the past two years with their individual album releases (and SXSW appearances), but who are hardly household names.

Dacus laughs at boygenius described as a supergroup, but she doesn’t dislike it: “It does feel better than side project,” she says thoughtfully.

L-R: Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julien Baker perform separately at past SXSW showcases. Photos by Aaron Rogosin, Robert J Johnson Jr, and Steve Rogers Photography/Getty Images for SXSW

 

“Supergroup is a powerful term,” she goes on, “and I do think it’s powerful that the three of us have come together to use our voices in tandem. That it will exist in the form that we’ve chosen to be in and having three ladies ready to support each other, I’m always comforted when other people do it. It’s nice to be on the other side now.”

Such claims will soon be confirmed with a November tour and the coinciding release of their eponymous EP on Matador Records, which both Dacus and Baker are signed to. The EP is a rich recording with six tightly-wound, intricately-woven, melodic singer-songwriter indie rock songs. A key touch point is Elliott Smith’s sublime song craft: “We all love Elliott Smith,” confirms Dacus.

The trio’s union came about after chance meetings over the past couple of years while treading the same touring circuit. Their like-mindedness grew into a shared musical appreciation – for each other as well as other artists – that drew the three tightly together. But any plans for collaborating were usurped while each was occupied with their own records … Baker’s second album Turn Out the Lights and Bridgers’ debut, Stranger in the Alps, came out in 2017, and Dacus’ Historian was released in 2018.

“The desire to record was initially put aside because we are all so busy,” says Dacus. “When we realized we were going to be together for a month, we texted each other and asked, ‘Is now the time?’ We managed to find four days that worked for each of us … that’s how busy we are: from May to November, there were only four days we could get together.”

Those four days were in June. “We thought we’d do one song for the tour,” Dacus adds. But the recording soon went beyond a proposed single: “Then we each had one song and thought we’d do that. But when we got together the energy was enough to provide six songs.”

 

Recorded at Sound City in Los Angeles over four days, the EP seamlessly marries three voices into a powerful statement. Dacus says the recording went as smoothly and effortlessly as the record sounds.

“It was easier than all of us even expected because we have similar lifestyles that many other people can’t understand,” she explains. “We have all had a really similar arc, what with putting our first couple records out over the last few years, being the same age, and written about similarly in the media. We didn’t have to rehash our emotional state, because we already get it.”

So, they just simply let the magic happen: “On ‘Salt in the Wound,’ when Phoebe sings the high harmony to the melody that I’m singing, me and Julien just jumped out of our chairs, like, ‘Yeah!’ ” Dacus recalls of the recording sessions. “It’s such a victorious moment at the end of that song. It was a bit different for all of us … it’s like an arena rock song compared to what we usually make. It felt really good to lean into that and let it happen.”

Mutual respect and trust – and no egos – meant working as equals, says Dacus: “[There were] No adjustments that felt bad. It did feel different, but it was purely effortless because we were all hyper considerate of the others. Nobody wanted to overpower anyone or take up too much space. If anything, because of that, there would be these blanks no one would step forward to fill. It was actually a bit of a relief to have three captains on the ship instead of just me.”

It goes without saying that boygenius fits these times when more women’s voices need to be heard. “I feel it’s being received so positively because it provides some release for people,” says Dacus. “I have been repeating this phrase to myself that you have to see it to be it. I hope more women will see this, especially a younger generation, and see it shouldn’t be an outlier, and that more women should do this together and more regularly.”

And will these women do this regularly? Will boygenius continue past November?


“We don’t have any shows booked past November or more plans to record,” Dacus says. “We all like each other, so if it were to happen I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Read More

Stay
Tuned

Sign up to receive the latest announcements, tips, networking invitations and more.

Attend

Join us for unparalleled discovery, networking, and inspiration at the 2019 SXSW Conference & Festivals in Austin, Texas from March 8-17.