By Joey Lopez
Massachusetts duo Boy Harsher is the embodiment of a David Lynch film; a sound that implies a budding madness from witnessing an unfathomable horror. With deep industrial percussion and hazy haunting vocals, punctuated by the occasional scream, Boy Harsher sounds like what you would listen to on your way to hell if hell was hidden in an abandoned warehouse.
“I love Lynch,” says frontwoman Jae Matthews, who started her music career scoring her own experimental films in film school with producer and founding member Gus Muller. “The music we make, we want it to be very evocative and that comes from making films or writing for films that have an illicit emotive response. You know, things you’re trying not to say exactly. We’re trying to point to emotions and not be explicit about it. What makes David Lynch films so great is that they’re not explicitly violent or scary, but they point to these frightening feelings.”
When Matthews and Muller began collaborating, everything they did was purely improvisational while trying to recreate reactionary emotions, evoking reactionary response from their audience. That original sound barely resembling the nightmarish soundscapes that Boy Harsher is known for and have become more organized since then. Their latest outing Careful reaches into Matthews’ personal fears and recent tragedies.
“My step-father died suddenly when we were in the middle of writing,” says Matthews. “I took a break and then when we got back to the writing room it was hard to not think about him. Some content is directly influenced by the PTSD of losing someone so suddenly.”
Through that tragedy Boy Harsher wants to help their listeners escape into a visceral environment that’s transportive and lose themselves to the experience. Relating through fear and pain, Matthews channels her struggles into a bone-chilling sound that can only be brought to life after emerging from the dark pitfalls of loss.
“The way that we write is by internalizing a lot of what’s happening in our lives and our personal process of life is where the music comes from. I’m always so flattered and surprised by what our music can do for other people.”
Carefree is the scattered mind making sense of the pain; anger weighed down in the pits of your gut, twisting it into knots. Overwhelming and intrusive thoughts shaken away by swinging one’s head around as fast as possible or just absolutely losing it in the darkness of a smokey underground club.
On their current tour, Boy Harsher is creating an alternate experience compared to what their albums usually create. Exchanging the slow, methodical sound of impending doom for intense and anxiety inducing performances.
“We’ve been working on a vibe. We definitely want our performances to be a harder, faster version of the album. We like the live sets to be super visceral,” says Muller on what audiences should expect from their upcoming performance at Vancouver’s darkwave focused Verboden Festival. “We want it to be about letting go. Playing live is really only effective when you disassociate.”
Boy Harsher perform Sunday, April 14 at the Astoria as part of Verboden Festival