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Lucy Dacus remembers that it was Phoebe Bridgers’ idea. The next time they’re all in the same room, Bridgers pitched, the members of freshly minted indie-rock supergroup Boygenius — which also includes fellow singer-songwriter Julien Baker — should recreate the iconic cover of Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s 1969 debut, “which is a classic Phoebe idea that she presents as a joke, but is actually a really good idea,” Dacus said.
When the trio shared the photo after the project was announced this summer, it registered as both a cheeky rock-geek reference and a sly nod to the baggage that’s inevitably affixed to famous (in this case indie-famous) musicians joining forces. The three members of Boygenius are well-matched — they’re all funny, thoughtful, and analytical about songwriting and the maddening nature of the music business. They also seem utterly bereft of the arrogant megalomania inherent to supergroups. While the original CSN quickly devolved from a utopian, hippie-era fantasy into a viper’s nest of backbiting and over-inflated egos, the members of Boygenius remain refreshingly nonchalant about what they view as a fun lark among recent pals.
“There were no band fights, no disagreements — just excitement and different ideas,” Bridgers said of the group’s self-titled EP, which was rush-released last week. (It arrives in physical form on November 9.) “Like, ‘Let’s try this, and let’s try this, and let’s try this. And let’s try your thing, and then we’ll pick what works.’ It was really productive.”
The band’s origin story has already been often told: Baker knew Bridgers from when they toured together in 2016, around the time of Baker’s debut Sprained Ankle and long before Bridgers put out her first record, 2017’s Stranger In The Alps. (“She could get on stage and silence a room,” Bridgers said admiringly.) When the idea came up to tour together again, Baker suggested getting her friend Lucy (whose recent album Historian is one of 2018’s best) involved; after Bridgers and Dacus met, they also became fast friends. With a fall tour in place, they talked about recording a quick 7-inch together, but that idea quickly snowballed into a six-song EP.
That freewheeling vibe, fortunately, comes through in the songs, which Dacus, Bridgers, and Baker worked on mostly together during a quick four-day swing through Sound City Studios in Los Angeles in June. The record manages to present each person’s strengths — Dacus’ wit, Bridgers’ melodies, Baker’s affecting vocals — while also melding them together into an entirely new and immediate package. Whether you love each member’s solo work, or you’re looking for an entry point, Boygenius works equally well.
“I guess it’s sort of like hearing another person describe you, or like seeing a sketch someone draws of you,” the 23-year-old Baker said of hearing her songs shaped by Dacus (who’s also 23) and the 24-year-old Bridgers. “To see your own creation refracted through another person was just very interesting. It gives it depth.”