Like, be more Livejournal.

BAKER: The thing is, they don’t want more depth! They want more of the brand which they’re trying to create, which is in fact so shallow.


DACUS: Yeah, I had a label once who really early on, before I had anyone on my team period, get on the phone with me and say, “What we’d really love to do with you is help you find your story and consolidate what’s going on with you.”

BRIDGERS: [Laughing] Please consolidate your personality.

DACUS: This was a pretty major label and they were like, “We do this with all of our artists.” It sounded good, like, play on your strengths. They told me the story of one of their artists who was this robust person and they said they picked things [to focus on], like her hair was a big part of her iconography; they said they got other people to be the producers so she could just focus on the writing. Basically, they were saying it would be good for [me] to be simplified into something really tangible thing for other people, which I guess is like a marketing ploy, and would be good for a start-up company who, I don’t know, was selling mattresses.


[All laugh]

But even though art is something to make money off of, it doesn’t mean you can treat it like something you’re going to buy at Target.


BRIDGERS: Especially when it’s something as dark as mental health. It makes me so sad when people come up to me and are like, Come to tonight’s show, even though what I usually do is stay inside with my crippling anxiety, ha ha ha! We’re the same! And I’m like, let’s talk about that. I don’t want it to be a Forever 21 t-shirt that’s like, “I’m Sad AF.” I don’t want to sell people the idea that wallowing in your own misery is the thing. I feel very conflicted about merch that’s like that because one, talking about [mental health] is amazing and relatively new in the grand scheme of things. But also, monetizing it in a way that’s like, picking things and [saying], “Yeah, that’s your thing”... I don’t know, I had a couple of dark conversations with labels, similarly. I don’t know why I keep bringing up Elliott Smith, but it means what it means, but [people said], “You should do an Elliott Smith karaoke night that you host!” It’s like, you just want to sell depression in a funny way.


BAKER: And then, the converse of that is you start to develop a reactionary unwillingness to share dark songs. I’ll go through the trouble of crafting a nuanced, hopeful song that still comes across sad. You start to censor yourself, like you don’t want to write a violent song, even though this imagery serves what you’re trying to convey [because you’re] at the risk of being pigeonholed.

DACUS: Like, you’ve probably seen people posting, “Going to see the queens of the Sad Girl Club” [about boygenius]. But I actually have one sad song! “Historians” is the only sad song. Other songs are hard, but they’re about confidence and getting through it and I think it’s because people think emotional girls are sad. That’s the emotion we can allow for girls, that’s the emotion we can understand.


I wonder as well, I feel like there’s a tendency to characterize women artists as having their craft come strictly from their emotions, but with male artists, people are more inclined to recognize their process as they sat down and wrote and composed a song. But with women, it’s talked about as if it just pours out of them. 

BRIDGERS: It is crazy, and it’s like delicate, like a flower. Like, nobody could possibly be bothered with producing their own thing because if they focus on too many things, it’s not going to be as good if they’re just free.


BAKER: When really, if you look at some amazing poets like Neko Case, Gillian Welch, their craftsmanship is maybe the most important part of their musicianship, and their dedication and the ways in which they’re a part of every aspect of forming a song. It’s not like women are this raw, magical force that then needs to be harnessed.

Regarding how the process worked in the studio, that you each brought in a finished song and then a not as finished song, it sounds kind of like a workshop. I wonder how much each of you used the boygenius project to push your songwriting?


DACUS: Oh hell yeah, it was for pushing. For me, the second song I brought in was “Salt in the Wound,” which I wrote in the studio, day two. I think it was a product of the place. We played it live once now and Julien is doing this ripping solo that I would have never allowed on my album, but it’s my favorite moment and you didn’t even want to do it.

BAKER: In the studio, I was like, this is cheesy.

DACUS: And we were like [wags finger] nuh, uh, uh. You have to do this. And you too, [Phoebe], were like, I’ve never belted this high at the end of my range, and me and Julien were just fist-bumping while you were recording.


BRIDGERS: Because at the end of the take, I’d be like, oh my god, I’m so sorry, it was horrible.

DACUS: And I’d be screaming. So that felt like a true victory, to me.

I wanted to ask as well about the concept of “the boygenius,” the dude who’s been told his whole life that he’s a genius. How do you deal with those men in your life, or how have you dealt with those personalities in your life?


BAKER: I feel like previously, I have either deferred to them out of, I don’t think fear is the right word, but discomfort and intimidation. It’s a feeling that’s sort of like being gaslighted into believing that your opinion is not legitimate, so then you just minimize yourself in order to accommodate that person. Now I feel like there have been situations where I just exit the relationship or interaction.

DACUS: I want to say deference is the initial thing that happens. The next step is deletion, like you don’t interact with that type of person. Next step, if you’ve got the energy, is engagement. Because I think a lot of boygeniuses are just ignorant and don’t know.


BRIDGERS: And it’s fun to have the confidence to kind of push back because it’s fun seeing the expression of: this has never happened! It’s so rewarding to me. God, the amount of times recently since this project, because I’ve been learning just to speak up more from you guys, is the amount of times I’ve heard [says in a nerdy voice], “What an inspired idea!” And it’s just with this tinge of, I’m amazed! You see the blank expression of, oh, an idea that wasn’t mine.

DACUS: The only way to diffuse that thing once it’s implanted in someone is to compassionately and lovingly welcome them to... reality.