While it has been a minute since Boytoy’s 2014 self-titled debut, the grunge-y, fuzzed out, garage trio (sometimes quartet) is finally putting the finishing touches on a new record. In March, founding members Glenn Van Dyke (guitars, vox) and Saara Untracht-Oakner (guitars, vox), along with new drummer Chase Noelle (Thelma and Sleaze) and La Luz’s Lena Simon on bass and keys, all decamped to Topanga Canyon, enlisting noted psych-rock sage Kyle Mullarky to capture the noise.
Between their debut and the recent recording sessions Van Dyke and Untracht-Oaknerhas have built a significant amount of momentum — as evidenced by their assemblage of a relative garage-rock supergroup and their hiring of one of the genre’s guru producers — by releasing a smattering of singles and touring incessantly, exposing as many humans as possible to their raucous live shows.
With the new album scheduled for release in the spring of 2018, the band says the new record has “traces of [sunny] California all over it,” which seems even more noteworthy considering the band — whose fuzzed out sound on previous recordings seems heavily drawn from the grit and urbanity of the band’s longtime home base of Brooklyn — is preparing to embark on this new era while each of its members live in different cities.
While between tours of Europe and the West coast of the USofA, the band agreed to answer some of The Squealer’s inquiries, dishing on the new record, the challenges and benefits of creating art in New York City, and the relevance of rock n’ roll in 2017 (a subject dear to our hearts, here).
The Squealer: First off, you’ve been working on some new material. What can we expect? When can we hear it? Tell us everything, please!
Saara: We recorded a new full length in Topanga Canyon in LA with Kyle Mullarky (The Growlers, Allah-las). He lives on a dream ranch up there with chickens and pigs and dogs and vintage trucks and a studio. It’s pretty much heaven. Lena [Simon] from La Luz played bass and some keys on the record. It’s super groovy and definitely has traces of California all over it. It should be out sometime early-late spring 2018.
Glenn: I think we should send out “We’re expecting” cards and take that classic belly-cradle-rub picture. Except it’s a square baby, we’re having a square. What’s your address?
Chase: We did some classic Stax Records Memphis tricks with percussion. There’s a couple songs where it carries the groove entirely. You hear the hands slapping on the congas. You hear the hands on the guitars too. It’s a human record, really warm and human and sexy. We made a warm, sexy, square baby.
Who or what has served as inspiration as you’ve been working on new material?
S: Definitely being up in Topanga was super inspiring. We got to surf a bit and be in the sun and warm weather, away from the cold, gray winters in New York. There’s been some heartbreak, some flings, a lot of travel, some shitty political events, which all lend well to inspiring content.
G: Growing pains and change.
C: An obsession with making people move their bodies uncontrollably. We indulged our God complex.
How was the European tour? How long were you there? Did you make new friends?
S: European tour is the best. The hospitality is amazing, mostly, and the food is great, mostly. We’ve done two European tours and they’ve both been one month long, pretty much a different city every night. And we meet so many amazing people. Our friend Rudolph from Brussels helped us out with some last minute shows and it ended up that he was touring with LA band Male Gaze and we were playing the same festival in Binic [France], so it was like worlds colliding across the ocean.
G: We made new friends in Dortmund [Germany] who helped us deal with our broken van. We got to hang out with these rad chicks who book shows in Lille who we met last year and then reconnected with. Tour is a humbling experience because you have to rely on the promises and then the kindness of people you’ve never met. Then you meet and become friends and it rules and you can rinse, lather, and repeat. There’s something special about Europe, not only the way they provide you with meals and a room for the night, but there’s something about the human interaction. By the end of the night everyone’s speaking broken English with some accent, gesticulating wildly and it’s either the best or the weirdest conversation you’ve had – which is a win, win.
C: Sometimes you feel like a colonial explorer, except instead of subjugating a native culture, you leave them with bits of your own. Like in Madrid, when Saara taught a group how to smoke weed out of a potato.
The challenges of being an artist in NYC in 2017 have been widely discussed. Can you talk about your own individual experiences being in a band and living in New York right now?
S: I’m actually the only one that has a place in New York right now. But being a band in New York is great. There’s so much to do and always a place to play and there’s always people around thirsty for new things. I’m actually always surprised when I hear about a band from New York that I’ve never heard of before. I feel like I know everyone until I realize there’s so many little sub-scenes and an endless amount of projects. Subletting my room when we tour makes it all possible. At least for now.
G: I lived in New York since 2008 and recently decided I was done paying rent there. I love New York and it’s a great place to start a band. There’s so much access and you can play a show on a Monday night and it will probably still be really fun. The struggle for me was rent. Through a few unfortunate circumstances I was stuck in an awesome apartment with a really cool roommate, but the whole place was more expensive than what I had originally signed up for. I had no skin in the safety deposit so if I moved out to get a cheaper place I would have to save up to put down another security deposit and two months rent. You have to work all the time and it’s a difficult place to save money since your overhead is so high. It’s definitely rewarding and I’d recommend trying it. I’ve wanted to build a studio for a long time and while living in New York right now it’s not possible. I’m bouncing between New York and Florida and it’s what I’ve wanted to be doing for a while. I’d get another place in New York at some point though, maybe when my bank account grows up.
C: It’s always a toss up. In New York City, I’m more stimulated, and I just feel more socialized, if that makes sense, because we’re riding on the pulse of the capital of the world. That’s important to me because I want to make art that’s relevant and effective. But I rent a cheap spot in Nashville that allows me to focus on stuff. I really love the culture down there, too – despite all the developers making it ugly – I can go to an empty bar in Madison and sing karaoke with Porter Wagner’s daughter, or spend three hours on a porch without feeling guilty. So when we’re not on tour I bounce between the both New York and Nashville. I thought that would save money [laughs], but maybe not. I still feel rich, though.
Why is rock, or garage rock, still relevant in 2017?
S: Rock and roll will always be relevant. It’s a direct expression from the soul through a tangible instrument that can speak in various tones. A computer sound can only sound the one way it’s programmed, but with guitars and drums and analog gear you can express emotion through the instrument itself. It’s a live experience, a heartbeat, a rump shaker and groove maker. It’s biological. It’s human connection, and we need that now more than ever.
G: It’s so easy now to make music on your own. You can even play rock n’ roll with prerecorded tracks behind you and a guitar in your hand. But the camaraderie of moving air with people is something that will only happen exactly that one way once. It’s nice to slow down and think about that. A human won’t ever play the exact same thing twice and it makes moments special. Midi is cool and there’s a lot of cool music made with modern technology, but for me nothing quite beats an analog circuit board, or strings pushing air, or watching a radical drummer keep time with their whole body. It’s physical. In a lot of ways there wouldn’t be Hip Hop without rock n’ roll and there wouldn’t be rock n’ roll without the blues, its a generational chart that moves through time. In 2017 rock n’ roll is counterculture and there’s always a whole bunch of soul in the underground.
C: Maybe garage is still here because it just looks cool. It has ebbed from the general public, but rock n’ roll is an attitude more than a sound, anyway. Tastes morph. I love to see bands harken back to the five-part harmonies and high-caliber studio musicians of the 1960s. There’s this band called Explorer’s Club that’s really putting that to test, and I think Daptone/Wick Records has built a scene of fantastic players.