THE SOFT MOON
Boy Harsher, The Pirate Twins DJs
Saturday, March 31, 2018
Doors at 8:30 PM
The Empty Bottle
1035 N. Western Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
Their origins story might be the best or only way to adequately describe this sultry electro-dark duo. Imagine two young film students eyeballing each other from across the room. Or maybe just the intent gaze of the would-be vocalist having a profound moment as she watches her would-be lover dance to “Bizarre Love Triangle” in a dank and dingy church converted warehouse space in Savannah, Georgia. If this band had a scent it might the wafting Spanish moss as it drapes over two people walking down an isolated and eerie college town road. There’s lust and longing dripping from every one of Boy Harsher’s pulsating combinations of coldwave and industrial-dance. Boy Harsher is a band unafraid of wrecking genres and utilizes the residue like wanton witches blending love potions and poisons without care. I was lucky to have a little correspondence with Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller who are so giving and gracious with their story and sound. I hope you’ll all be at the Empty Bottle this Friday for a somber night of dark-dance.
Is it true you’re both big film buffs? Or have some history with film? Mind sharing a little about your relationship to cinema? Some influences? How does film inspire or effect your music?
Gus: I was one of those annoying teenagers who wanted to be a director. When I was eighteen I moved to Austin to try to “make it” in the film scene. I later decided to go to film school, and through scoring my own video did I come to music. I wouldn’t say that I am a film buff, but film and video are really important to me.
Jae: Film was really important to me when I was younger… But then I attended too much film school. And I worked on a couple indies, and got burnt out / depressed. Now my relationship to cinema is much healthier, hah. I still write and definitely want to keep creating video where I can. I’ve been thinking about putting out some weird experimental screenplays. Kenneth Anger maybe was my first ‘cinematic inspiration’ when I was sixteen or whatever — I love his films; they are sinister and sexy, but also oblique, unresolved. When I’m watching something that is frightening, but not overtly, I really get into it. Nothing is obvious. Like why the fuck is this scary? Or erotic? It’s fascinating. I definitely aspire to create content like that.
Do you think where you make music is important to the sound? You started making music in Savannah? How did you meet and decide to form music and how did Savannah shape that experience in comparison to where you’re making music now?
Jae: I do. In the way that your lifestyle is dependent upon on your environment and your lifestyle determines your emotional experience. In Savannah the heat and the moisture change everything. Life there is a lot more loose — wandering around, sweating, drinking, staying up for days. The birds sing all night and the palms blow in hot wind. It was creative for me; I liked living in a physical equivalent to my desperation. Where we live now, the cold is really dominant. We don’t walk as much, nor are we as social. It’s depressing, honestly. I joke that I am gonna’ move to Florida. Maybe. Our first two releases were written in the south. Country Girl (CG) was written up here. CG is both nostalgic and escapist, which makes sense, I think, considering.
Gus: My opinion on this changes a lot. There is definitely a subconscious impact from your surrounding environment, but I don’t think a location can ever be detrimental to your product. As long as I have space and time and resources, I feel like I could make music anywhere. I can’t imagine the outcome being vastly different from one place to another.
Where’s the music moving toward for you both? New tools, new sounds, new approaches?
Gus: I’ve learned so much about music and recording over the past five years. It’s hard to say where the music is going to go — but I feel like I have more control now over the sound.
You’re referencing a lot of nostalgia (sonically) and the personal really seeps through the vocals, but can you share a little about how you both feel about making music today in this world?
Gus: I can’t imagine making music during any other time. Genres are constantly reinventing themselves and I feel lucky to have so many contemporaries that are pushing the boundaries on the music that I love. It’s like Scorsese remaking Cape Fear.
Jae: I feel really lucky and surprised that we are able to make music. Kinda’ blown away that it’s garnered some excitement — that’s wild and totally unexpected.
What’s the biggest challenge for you both making such heavy and hard hitting music? Some descriptions online categorize Boy Harsher as pop —is it? Where’s the line for you between the upbeat moments and the somber vibes?
Gus: There is no denying that we make pop music — most of our songs are for on the floor. Though we like to explore ways to make things less conventional. I reference a lot of techno and dance music because it can be so abstract, far out, but also so familiar.
Jae: We’re pop, yeah, I think so. Somber pop … Sure. Sometimes, I wish that I could be harder, aggressive. My voice. It doesn’t really matter to me how we’re categorized, but the challenge is trying to be authentic to myself and reconcile what I want out of my vocals and performance.
I’ve interviewed Luis Vasquez from The Soft Moon before. I’m thrilled to see you both in the same bill. When talking to him I recall this sense of catharsis when discussing the significance of his writing lyrics, but a hesitance as to get to into any disclosure about the content. Are you all the same? Feel like there’s something magic or special about the poetry or experiences and that the message or reason you wrote/made something should be protected?
Jae: Lyrics are funny, feel a little hesitant to share everything. It’s combination of feeling protective and embarrassed and maybe the desire to be mysterious. A lot of my lyrics reference hopeless periods of my life where I felt really destructive and angry. I go over some of the lyrics and get thrown back into the cruelty I was trying to project at the time. And repetition is a fundamental tool in my performance. Just throwing a phrase over and over changes it, pulls out more meaning. On paper it doesn’t have the same effect — probably looks silly.
What can we look forward to for the Chicago set?
Gus: Our live set is pretty upbeat at the moment. I guess you could look forward to moving.
Jae: I think it will be fun!