When Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker formed boygenius in 2018, nobody could have predicted the hysteria that awaited them. As three queer women in their early twenties, signed to indie labels and touring their first albums, they bonded over a shared experience. A collaborative single, recorded on the road, turned into a self-titled EP and tour dates followed: their name a knowing nod at the “genius” status so often afforded to male musicians.
Fast forward five years and the band are one of the most exciting groups on the planet. Recent singles have been streamed 30 million times on Spotify alone. A low-key UK gig sold out in four seconds. Next month, they will play third from top of the bill at Coachella. Not bad for a side hustle.
In the time they’ve been away, each artist has proven their abilities: not only as songwriters, with a knack for poetic and melancholic storytelling, but as accomplished musicians, crafting nuanced and complex indie pop compositions.
Whether willingly or not, Bridgers has also reached a new level of fame: the type that sees Deux Moi post about her relationship status. As such, the boygenius buzz is louder than ever, reaching corners of the industry that don’t usually make space for indie outliers.
But despite the fan base’s salivating fervour meaning any objectivity regarding the band has gone out the window, the hype and anticipation around their debut album, ‘The Record’, is far from undeserved. On ‘The Record’, each of the women’s talents – Dacus’ poetry, Bridgers’ wit, Baker’s “sick riffs” – are afforded their own space, a respect that comes from the genuine friendship between the trio, but it’s the magic that happens when these things come together that makes boygenius, well, genius.
Bridgers’ one-liners are present throughout, her bandmates attesting that her special skill is making a last-minute tweak to a lyric to really make it land. On ‘Revolution O’ – a track that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Grammy-nominated ‘Punisher’, Bridgers, in hushed vocals, sings: “I just wanna know who broke your nose/ figure out where they live / so I can kick their teeth in”. A voice that serene has no business singing abut curb kicking, but that’s precisely why it works.
Dacus’ diaristic lyricism, something she honed on 2021’s ‘Home Video’, is present in abundance, the singer taking the lead on a couple more tracks than her bandmates. On ‘We’re In Love’, she tentatively asks her them “will you still love me if it turns out I’m insane?”.
The Baker tracks – if we are to assign them that way – rock a little harder and offer some of the album’s most festival-ready and euphoric moments. ‘Satanist’ has a Britpop-indebted guitar line, ‘$20’ is positively head-bangy. Anyone who finds each of the individual artists’ work a little one-note, will find plenty to grab on to here, that magic blend of similar-yet-different-enough styles meshing in perfect harmony (quite literally, on the album opener).
At the core of ‘The Record’ is a desire to be understood – by loved ones and ourselves; a daily concern for therapised zillennials and life’s overthinkers. It’s this questioning nature and vulnerability that has earned each member of boygenius armies of fans in their own right but in this band, their doubts are being held up by each other – for every spiralling moment one has, the others are there with arms wide, saying I know you, I see you, I love you.
On ‘Not Strong Enough’ – a song itching to be played live – the three women bellow “I don’t know why I am, the way I am”. On ‘Leonard Cohen’, Dacus tells the story of a car journey where Bridgers so was so determined for her bandmates to listen to a song by Iron & Wine, she drove the wrong way down the interstate, the others too scared to interrupt the nine-minute track to point out her mistake. “But it gave us more time to embarrass ourselves, telling stories that we wouldn’t tell anyone else” Dacus sings, of the memory. “You said I might like you less now that you know me so well”.
For every self-analysing moment on ‘The Record’, we are reminded of the power of unconditional, platonic love. In recent interviews, boygenius have spoken about how tentatively they approached working together, for fear of anything that could upset their sacred friendship, but if the lyrics are anything to go by, it’s proof that even if you go through life questioning yourself, questioning every partner you ever have and asking if you’re capable of love at all, sometimes you meet people who make all that doubt dissipate. Like ABBA and Fleetwood Mac before them, boygenius have made a record about each other: but unlike their predecessors, ‘The Record’ is a celebration – and a worthy reminder to treasure our friends, because they might just be the ones that last a lifetime.
NEXT: Listen to a podcast with Julien Baker