An Interview With the Band Boyish

Posted inDebbie Millman

The band Boyish was formed by India Shore and Claire Altendahl in 2016 at Berklee College of Music. Since then, the duo have accumulated over 15 million streams across their catalogue and have received praise from Billboard, Paper, Office Magazine and Pigeons and Planes. The singles from their 2022 EP My Friend Mica landed a spot on New Music Friday, All New Indie, and the focus track “Legs” crept up to a #1 spot on Spotify’s Lorem playlist. Most recently they released an acoustic version of their track “Smithereens” with UK indie powerhouse Rachel Chinouriri. Earlier this year, the band released the third single from their EP, Little Demon Boy, entitled “Kill Your Pain” featuring King Princess. The track received praise from Rolling Stone, Billboard, Ones To Watch, GLAAD and more. I was able to interview India and Claire to talk about their origin story, why they were first intimidated by each other, and what it was like to work with superstar King Princess.

DM: Is it true that you met because India needed a guitarist for an audition for a singer showcase at Berklee College of Music? Did you get what you were auditioning for?

IS & CA: We met within the first month of being at Berklee, India was auditioning for a songwriter’s showcase and I was friends with her roommate at the time who suggested I play guitar on the audition. We ended up not getting a spot in the showcase, but the judges said “this works, you guys should keep working together” and we’ve been playing together ever since.

India, you were a competitive gymnast and were injured right before you went to high school. What made you turn to music?

IS: Gymnastics was my whole life for so long. I would leave school early and train 5 hours a day every day, and compete on weekends from a really early age. I was injured one day right before high school started, and I would’ve had to recover for a year before being able to compete again. I auditioned for a performing arts high school in New York for dance, and on a whim also music. I think it happened at such a turning point in my life, just when I had lost the thing that I felt made me who I am, that music felt like another thing I could put my whole self into.

I understand when you first met you were intimidated by each other. Why?

CA: I think I was scared of people from New York in general. I had only lived in Minnesota my entire life and was really intimidated by being in a city and felt really naive. I also thought that people from big cities were all going to be prodigies and when I met India I was so blown away by her talent that I was really shy and wanted to make sure I wasn’t ruining the songs we were working on.

IS: I just thought Claire was so talented, and knew so much about music theory and about music in general, that I was scared to sound stupid in front of them, which I’m sure I did.

The original name of your band was The Blue, and you changed it to Boyish. Why did you change the name and why the name Boyish?

IS & CA: Naming a band is one of the most difficult processes in the world. We started our first band “The Blue” halfway through college and never really liked the name. It became impossible to find it online because if you google “The Blue” it shows about every shade of blue that’s ever existed in the world. People were constantly telling us “I tried to look you up but you don’t exist on the internet”. We started off as an alternative country band but after a couple of years realized that’s not the direction we wanted to head, and we started fresh as Boyish with our release of Garden Spider in 2020. We named ourselves after the Japanese Breakfast song “Boyish”.

You’ve been described as, “relatable music nerds making great songs for other music nerds.” Would you say that is accurate? If so, what is it about nerds that you find most appealing?

CA: We named ourselves Boyish after the lyrics “here we are we’re just two losers”, so I would say I’m a nerd. This year I got really into wildlife photography and the Lord of the Rings and I spend most of my free time reading when I’m not working on music, being in a band is the coolest thing about me. I think being a nerd is just being really passionate about something, and that’s all I want to be in life.

I read that the lyrics of your song “Superstar” were inspired by the characters Rue and Jules from the show Euphoria. Why those particular characters? Was it a particular scene that inspired you or the overall dynamic of their relationship?

IS: I love the first season dynamic of Rue and Jules. A lot of it felt really innocent and pure, and was really reflective of a first queer relationship. It’s so intense and can be so painful, but below all that there’s so much care and humanity.

Your song ‘Fuck You, Heather’ has inspired some spirited fan fiction. Why do you think that is? How much does anime inspire your songwriting? Can you share why Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away is such a favorite?

IS & CA: We had no idea that was happening. One day we just noticed way more people listening to us than ever before, and could not figure out where it was coming from. I don’t know a ton about anime, but we’re so grateful for the support and love watching the edits. Spirited Away never fails to make me cry, the music is so beautiful, and the actual visuals of the movie are incredible.

I understand the band The Replacements have been a big influence. They’ve been showing up in some blockbuster film soundtracks of late. What albums or songs influenced you most?

IS & CA: There’s nothing more rock n roll than getting banned from SNL. The Replacements are one of my favorite bands from Minneapolis and “Swingin’ Party” is probably in both of our top 10 favorite songs. It had a huge influence on our song “Smithereens”.

How did you first meet King Princess and how did your collaboration come about?

IS & CA: We first met because her bass player Logan brought her to see us play in 2018. We were a different band at the time, and were completely gob-smacked looking out into the crowd and seeing her. She’s been incredibly supportive and inspiring through the years. We wrote “Kill Your Pain”, and knew the song needed an extra level of grit and energy, and thought she would be perfect for it. We were totally blown away watching her record, and are still in awe every time we listen to the song.

You are performers and producers. Do you separate the disciplines when you are producing your own music?

IS: I’ve never been able to separate writing from performing from recording/producing. I think they all bleed together. One of my favorite parts of making music is imagining what it will sound like live. However, I don’t worry about how a song will be played live while we are producing it. I never worry about how we will recreate a part live, I think the song needs the freedom to be recorded any way it wants to be and afterwards it’s like re-producing it to be played live.

You are now traveling, doing your first-ever headline tour. Where are you looking forward to going most?

IS: I always look forward to going to Minneapolis. It’s my hometown and playing there feels like a dream come true. These are venues I grew up going to and dreaming of playing with my own band one day, and it feels really magical to remember all the bands before me that have played in these venues. I think Minneapolis has the best music scene in the country, nothing inspires me more than being home.

Pretend it’s ten years from now. Describe your career, if you can!

IS: Ten years from now I want to have won a grammy, played Madison Square Garden, performed at Glastonbury and toured in almost every continent. We want to be doing this for the rest of our lives and on the biggest scale possible. Claire hopes to have an extensive Gibson SG collection.