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Getting Real With ‘the Boys’ of Boygenius

Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker—who refer to themselves as "the boys"—talk their new record, their friendship, and potential matching lip tats.

If you really want to understand the supergroup Boygenius, watch the music video for “Not Strong Enough,” the fourth single from their debut album, The Record.

In it, the singer-songwriters Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker distill in just under four minutes the whole essence of friendships in your 20s—and they do so without a massive production budget, actors, or a sweeping narrative arc. In fact, the whole thing was filmed on an iPhone in a little over a day. 

The bandmates took turns filming each other doing “hooligan shit” (Baker’s words) around Los Angeles, with stops at the Santa Monica Pier amusement park, an arcade, and a museum. While the concept (“women laughing”) may sound contrived, their genuine love for one another transcends the screen, infecting the viewer with secondhand joy. Watching the video feels like watching the outtakes of your favorite ensemble TV show, where all the actors are friends in real life. Three besties, just hanging out. 

Or, as Dacus put it so eloquently, “We dead-wifed each other.”

“We realized that it’s like the dead-wife trope in movies where you have the flashbacks of her cooking or being at the beach,” she says. The boys, as they call each other, begin bantering back and forth, referencing high school AV clubs and amateur music videos shot on digital cameras and posted to YouTube—a specific slice of time that only children born in the mid-’90s will understand. “I did [a music video] for the song ‘Now That We’re Done’ by Metro Station,” admits Baker sheepishly. "

To speak with Glamour, Dacus, who is based in Philadelphia, and Baker, based in Tennessee, share one Zoom square, phoning in from an Airbnb in LA. Bridgers, though in the same city as her bandmates, calls from the home she shares with her pug, Maxine. The trio are most engaged when they’re speaking to one another, and that’s just fine with me. To be a fourth party on the Zoom feels like both a privilege and an intrusion. As if the coolest girls in your high school invited you to sit with them and you’re just happy to bask in the glow of their intelligence, their shared stories, their laughter. 

They have a disarming relatability about them, riffing on Broad City memes (“I’m only 27. What am I, a child bride?” quotes Bridgers) and lightly roasting one another’s reputations (“You’re scary,” Dacus tells Bridgers, to which she replies, “Hype me up. I like being scary”), though they’re far from your average 27- and 28-year-olds. They are indie rock darlings. They are heralded as the voices of their generation. They’re just so talented. It takes as much to be labeled a supergroup when they first joined forces at just 23 and 24 years old. 

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The boys released their self-titled EP in 2018. The record was famously written and recorded in just five days and instantly met with rave reviews. In the intervening five years, they each released a solo record on their respective indie labels (Bridgers is signed to Dead Oceans, Dacus and Baker to Matador) and gained more prominence in the public eye. But the BFFs, three queer women navigating the notoriously male-dominated music industry, continued to raise each other up, sharing their music and reflecting on the good and the bad of their mutual career. 

It was during quarantine that they decided to collaborate once again as Boygenius and release their first full-length album, out today. Here, the singer-songwriters open up to Glamour about their friendship, their songwriting process, and why they refuse to name the group chat. 

Glamour: Tell me a little bit about how you guys reconnected and started working on music together again. 

Lucy Dacus: We never reconnected. One could conclude that we did this cool project, and then we’re…but we do talk incessantly and send our own ideas or what’s going on in our own lives.

Phoebe Bridgers: If I write a song I send it to y’all, that’s just part of the [deal].

Julien Baker: Yeah, when I was making Little Oblivions, I sent y’all the whole thing, like, “Is this good?”

Phoebe: It was really just, I don’t know, the stars aligning as the hellfire of the globe was taking over [during the pandemic]. We all had time to ourselves, and I think were reflecting and thinking it would be so sick to come out of COVID and make a Boygenius album.

Lucy: Have an excuse to hang out a lot.

You released your first EP five years ago. Has any part of the dynamic in terms of making your music changed in that time?

Phoebe: Yeah, tons. But it’s hard to know what. I think just the comfortability of having done it more. It was fun being in the studio with Lucy and Julien to make our first record after having been in the studio so much either for our own albums or when we recorded on Haley Williams’s solo record. We just believe in each other’s space in that way, so it was a comfortable transition.

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Has anything changed in the way you guys write songs together, or even your taste and what you wanted this album to sound like?

Julien: When we had five days to make a record, every decision was just off the dome, yes or no, a knee-jerk reaction. It was really illuminating to me and valuable to see y’all’s distilling process, to watch what y’all need to do to arrive at an idea. Because I hadn’t had time to observe your process, because how can you observe someone’s process in five days? 

When we had years to write, and hours and days to arrange, it was really interesting to learn about y’all’s impulses or where you’ll start with a song, what isn’t working for you, what’s sticking out for you. Is it that the lyrics are fucked up? Or is it that the drum tone isn’t…stuff that I wouldn’t notice. 

I was just watching your “Not Strong Enough” music video and wanted to know the story behind it. How did you come up with the concept? It looks like it’s shot on an iPhone?

Lucy: It was shot on an iPhone, and it was shot by us of each other. We had this other idea that was more…we were getting mood boards, and it had a storyline, and it was just getting complicated and expensive and just wasn’t making us that excited. 

Julien: It was a little contrived.

Lucy: And that's on us too. We weren’t having good ideas. Then we were like, What if we just make it ourselves this way in a day? And then Phoebe’s brother edited it together. After we started to make it, we realized that it’s like the dead-wife trope in movies where you have the flashbacks of her cooking or being at the beach. So we dead wifed each other.

Julien: Y’all always say it’s the dead-wife thing. I think of it as, when you gave a 16-year-old a camera for AV services—did y’all have TVs in your high school and it would be like, “Arlington High School TV,” and then it’s dumb kids making videos of themselves doing dumb shit?

Lucy: Nope.

Julien: People did that on YouTube too. They would make music videos for their favorite All Time Low song or whatever the fuck when they were 12.

Lucy: Yeah, I did do that. Did I tell you that I did that?

Julien: I did that for the song “Now That We’re Done” by Metro Station.

Are these songs on YouTube? Or they have been wiped from the internet?

Julien: No, they’re not on YouTube any more….

I know what I’m going to search for after this.

Julien: There’s no need to do that.

The “dead wife” idea is funny because I feel like it’s kind of a thing now. People on TikTok are like, “I need my girlfriends to film me in this light so that if I die, my boyfriend or my husband has something to play at my funeral that makes me look good.”

Lucy: Oh, my God.

Julien: Yeah. Did you also have a thought of a terrible slideshow at a serious funeral? Where I was like, I can’t believe they let them do this?

Lucy: No, I was going to admit something way more embarrassing. One time I was like, I wonder if I died today what images people would be posting? I Google Image–searched myself. I was like, Yeah, you just turn so many things to black-and-white and it’s sad. I’m snitching. That”s just so embarrassing.

Not embarrassing! So the video was all shot in one day?

Phoebe: There’s stuff from some other days, but when we had the idea for the video, we’re like, “We’ve got to plan today around this.” It was fun to get out of work mode.

Julien: It was also sweet because the parts of the video that were shot before the idea had fully coalesced in our minds were things like getting into the storm drain. I was like, “Yeah, dude, this is stuff I did with my boys when I was 12.” We went and taped a bunch of lighters together in the storm drain and set them on fire because what else are you going to do in Tennessee for fun? You know what I mean? So it’s just doing hooligan shit with y’all. 

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Tell me about the song “$20.” It feels like such a great blend of your strengths. 

Lucy: My favorite writing moment of that song was Phoebe saying, “The only thing that I’m going to say that’s just me is, ‘Can I have $20?’” I originally was supposed to sing the second verse, but then it was like, This really feels like a Julien song. So originally we had individual moments. Phoebe’s only original moment was going to be that, which I thought was very funny.

Phoebe: The main vibe I was thinking of is hitchhikers in San Francisco, just some buds hanging out with their feet sticking out of their van camping. Or I guess, hitchhikers wouldn’t be in their own van, but you know what I mean?

Yeah, the vibe.

Phoebe: The vibe of traveling friends and my only contribution is needing 20 bucks.

Julien: Also, we talked about this, too, when you brought that lyric because I was like, 20 bucks…when I was a child and I was like, “Can I have $20?” I was like, “I’m rich right now.”

Phoebe: You’re asking for the full kingdom.

Julien: This is $1.86 short of a Hot Topic T-shirt. You know what I mean? $20! It’s a lot. So much of my own music is deliberate and meticulous and thoughtfully crafted songwriting, I wanted to write something that was riffy. I wanted to have something that I would have fun playing. 

And then the boys took the pathos and constructed this whole world around it, which was pretty beautiful because now this song is a narrative about a story I didn’t know I was writing. You know what I mean? It’s like finding out. It’s like an exquisite corpse. Oh, my God, beautiful.

I love that. Real quick—do you guys call each other the boys?

Julien: Yes.

Do you have a group chat name?

Lucy: No, it’s just a group chat.

Phoebe: It’s tight that we don’t. We’re in so many group chats, the three of us and other people, that all have names. We have Maliboys from when we were making the album because it was in Malibu—

Julien: Then there’s “Live Laugh Love,” which is all of our managers. But our group chat is just our names, which is sweet. I think about that all the time. I’m like, There’s not something funny, clever enough to rename this that’s not just, “I want to talk to Phoebe.”

You guys are going on tour later this year. How do keep each other sane, keep individually sane?

Lucy: I feel that actually happens pretty effortlessly by hanging out. We do need to protect our time, though, because our managers will just be like, “You’re awake? Time to work.” Or, “Oh, you’re asleep? Wake up, it’s time to work.” 

All of us have our own ships, apart from Boygenius, that we’re trying to command. So yeah, we have tried to build in extra days to our trips. And often they do get eaten up. We’re getting better at defending our time. Even if it’s not doing much, sitting around and talking or just getting food or walking around—not “productive” time.

Julien: Something that’s helped me a lot is Phoebe, when you’re like, “I’m taking a lap, bye.” I need that sometimes and won’t ask for it. Because caring for other people, sometimes it begins as an inside job.

Julien, you’re a runner. Lucy or Phoebe, do you have any stress relieving activities that are just your go-tos?

Lucy: I had some vocal problems a couple of years ago and had to be silent for a month. And then I learned some vocal behaviors to not have it recur. Which it hasn’t, which is awesome. The one thing that I try to do is not speak for as many hours as I can in the morning. On tour I try to get at least a full hour of being awake in silence. Sometimes I’ll get three or four. At home all my roommates know that it’s happening, so people don’t ask me for things. It’s nice to just maintain that silence for a while. Also, reading tarot, journaling, reading a book, going for a walk, making a phone call you’ve been putting off, things like that.

Phoebe: I like yoga. I’ve been doing yoga for years. It’s just exactly the kind of exercise that I like, which is you don’t really notice it’s happening. I hate core work and everything Pilates. I hate fucking Pilates.

Tell me something I don’t know about the first time you guys met. 

Phoebe: We met separately.

Lucy: [To Julien] Did I meet you before Phoebe, or did y’all meet first? 

Julien: I thought I met Phoebe first because I was hyping Phoebe to you. No, maybe it was other way.

Phoebe: Yeah, I thought it was the other way around. I feel Lucy was ever-present in your scene, which is so weird. 

Julien: I found [Phoebe’s] SoundCloud, I thought, This person looks cool. I hope she’s nice to me when I meet her on stage.

Lucy: I was intimidated to meet you, Phoebe, because you were hyped so much by Julien. Are you surprised by that?

Phoebe: Yeah. Just the idea of me being intimidating. But that makes me laugh because one time I was talking to my band and fucking Marshall said I was scary, laughing. And everybody was like, “You are fucking scary.”

Lucy: You are.

Phoebe: Thanks, guys.

Julien: You’re scary.

Phoebe: Hype me up. I like being scary.

Lucy: I know, I feel you wield it on purpose.

Phoebe: That’s so funny.

Julien: This is your shit! No, of course. Because you’re like, “Ah, this song is so dumb”—most beautiful shit I've ever heard. You’re like, “No, I'm not scary.” And then you’re terrifying.

Lucy: Yeah, I was intimidated to meet you. And I just didn’t. I saw you play at Julien’s manager’s record store in Richmond. Which was a brief hello and then I left. When Julien and I met, we did a secret handshake that we haven’t really done maybe—

Julien: I don’t remember how it goes.

Lucy: I remember how it goes. We did a hand thing, and then we went in a circle and slapped the other arm.

Julien: I was like, “Hell yeah.”

Lucy: Double eagle.

Julien: The first time I heard “Motion Sickness,” Phoebe played it at the El Rey.

Phoebe: That’s the first time I ever played it.

Julien: And then when you sent me the final recording, I was like, “This is a Fleetwood Mac song that is going to be a classic song forever.”

Phoebe: It was only because I was using you as a…I’d just gotten off tour with you when I wrote that and was like, “Oh, these old guys don’t understand, I just want to be playing quiet at the beginning and then be screaming at the end. Everybody leave me alone.” I was just so trying to do Julien Baker because your songs do that. There’s a refrain at the end that is really earned. 

I love getting to know how you guys were influencing each other at this time. That was what, 2016?

Julien: Was I still whipping the Accord?

Lucy: No.

Julien: No. I was in the Hyundai, so it was 2016. I’ve totaled four fucking cars. That’s how I measure time. I’m like, “Was this Hyundai era or was this.…”

Oh, my God. I don’t think we have enough time to get into your car—

Julien: No, don’t worry. It’s because I’m bad at driving. That’s the end of the story.

Who’s the most likely to show up late? And who's the most likely to show up early?

Lucy: Phoebe’s late. 

Julien: Lucy is early. I say that I will be early and prepared and I show up late and kind of prepared.

Lucy: I’ve been realizing that your world doesn’t fall apart if you’re late to things. That was something that was driven into me [growing up], that if you’re not five minutes early, you’re late. I think I have a healthy dose of chaos addiction and I’m overworked. So sometimes it’s an act of violence on my schedule to throw it off. 

Julien: There’s an argument for punctualism being capitalist. There are cultures where you show up to stuff on time because someone’s trying to optimize your usefulness to them in a situation, and there are cultures where you show up to stuff when you’re done with the other thing you’re doing because doing a thing right, no matter how long it takes, takes precedent over you meeting other people’s whatever. Fuck it.

Oh, my God, a puppy. [Phoebe holds her black pug, Maxine, up to the camera.]

Lucy and Julien in unison: Little bub.

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Last question—would you ever get a group tattoo and if so, what would it be?

Lucy: We have two.


Lucy: Yeah. The album art has us showing the teeth that are on our wrist.

I didn’t look close enough.

Lucy: The second is Three of Cups, which is a tarot reference. I feel we stop ourselves from getting more.

What’s the idea that’s percolating?

Lucy: “Live, laugh, love” lip tats, which I’m still game for.

Phoebe: I’m still so game, it’s just real estate that won’t be used.

Julien: It takes zero effort to convince me. Let’s fucking go.