As our beloved Fan Fiction once said: “Dance music from the South is a rare and beautiful thing,” and Boy Harsher is exactly that. The experimental duo began from necessity, but has patiently evolved into a project with its own voice and stride, and now sees growth in several underground pockets. It’s been hard for me to escape their music, and I find it being played out at house parties, goth fests, and underground techno shows alike (seriously, guys, I heard “Motion” like 10 different times after hours over the last five months). I had the chance to ask them a couple of questions about their start, their process, and their future, so read on below to learn a bit about the world of Boy Harsher.
Tell me a bit about Boy Harsher — how’d you guys get started?
Jae: We met in Savannah. We started throwing weird shows in this really small corner gallery. We needed a local act that did not have live drums and appealed to a more avant-garde crowd, so I started reading some of my silly poetry while Gus played ominous synths behind me.
That’s really cool! Can you tell me a little more about these shows? What kinds of acts were you booking, and are any of them still making art that you’re really stoked on?
Jae: The shows were pretty shoestring, we did everything. But the acts we booked were so great. John Mannion brought this wild show, where he scattered lavender across the floor then played a hand-fan into the microphone. Forcing the (typically rowdy) crowd to be quiet and still. We also developed a strong connection to several Florida musicians such as I_like_dog_face, Fjsh Wjfe, and Naga. We still share bills with them — they are all stunning, great performers.
Augustus: Some of my favorites were The Pen Test and Daniel Bachman. We also did visual art, mostly locals. We had a few shows with this collective called Fist City. Their work is incredible.
What are some of your biggest influences musically?
Augustus: I got into making music in high school through hip-hop, stuff like A Tribe Called Quest and Cannibal Ox was a huge influence. The last few years I’ve been obsessed with Yello’s “You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess” and “Stella.”
Jae: I got into Kenneth Anger and Harmony Korine when I was younger, I wanted to create things that felt like those films. Two vocalists who I absolutely admire, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Nico, challenged what I thought a singing voice was supposed to be — definitely taught me that my voice didn’t have to be so shiny to be good. And then vocal performance — using it as a tool, wow. I remember the first time I saw Circuit des Yeux, I recognized that a voice can be this dynamic instrument. It totally blew my mind.
Will your new music have this same kind of dynamic, instrumental vocal approach, or are you guys considering writing more in more musically structured manners?
Jae: I can’t really sing, haha, so even if I wanted to belt out something in a pitch-perfect way, it’s not going to happen. I am curious about pop structure, but not sure if I understand that either.
How do you feel about the re-emergence of this neo-goth/new wave/post-punk scene? With DSPs moving the way they do, any genre has a pretty unique chance of gaining serious traction nowadays.
Augustus: We found it by accident and I feel really lucky we could fit in. I think DSPs help spread the word, but I think the main attraction is the party. People like dark music, they like hanging out in a dark room listening to weird music with a kick drum.
Jae: What’s DSP?
If you guys are willing to discuss it – I’d love to know more about your productions and gear. Is it mostly analog or digital in the box? Are your drums sampled or from machines?
Augustus: A mix of both. We use Ableton to record and sequence. We used to use the MPC for all the sequencing, but Ableton is like MPC1000 on steroids. The new album has prophet 6, SH101, and JU-06, but also really into sample-based soft synth. Love those old Ensoniq and Roland Rompler sounds.
Do you guys listen to a lot of industrial dance music? What’s your guys’ connection to dance music, and do you intend on staying so dancey for the music to come?
Augustus: If Chris & Cosey count as industrial dance music, then yes. I love to dance. I dance to almost anything. I lost my shit to Sandstorm the other night.
Jae: The old joke about us is that we danced to Bizarre Long Triangle one night before we knew one another and it was all over from there. Dancing is great, I love it — I love when people dance when we perform. I blast a lot of industrial when I’m working out or cleaning, gotta’ get that DAF aggression into it.
The new single has probably the most powerful artwork you’ve done so far. Do you guys do your own album art? Where does the visual inspiration come from for you guys?
Jae: We do all of our artwork, pulling stills from videos of mine or Gus. I created a series years ago in Savannah, where friends told me “first” while I recorded them on VHS. This project was called Teen Dreams, and although it did not go anywhere, I utilized most of the footage for Boy Harsher artwork.
What’s next for the band in 2019? Album? Touring?
Augustus: Careful is out Feb 1st. Hitting the road that day.
Jae: Hitting the road.