Indie duo Boyish talks single ‘Congratulations,’ sapphic yearning, ‘Euphoria’

Illustration of the two members of the queer musical duo 'Boyish'.
Karissa Ho/Staff

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“I have a bad history of dating friends,” Claire Altendahl laughed. In an interview with The Daily Californian, Boyish — composed of guitarist Altendahl and lead vocalist India Shore — discussed inspirations behind the duo’s newest song “Congratulations.” “It’s about that moment of ‘Oh, s—, I’m in love with one of my friends! And she’s straight!’ ”

The song is universally relatable, but it also comes from a very uniquely queer experience. Scrolling through the 294,000 playlists on Spotify that feature one of their songs, Shore pointed out the best titles — mostly related in some way to being gay, sad or both.

“This one’s called, ‘I’m not lactose intolerant, I drink oat milk because I feel like it matches my vibe better,’ which is me,” Shore said. “And there’s some sad ones — ‘Sapphic yearning and sadness for lonely days.’ ”

On their upcoming LP My Friend Mica, the two borrowed elements from many other pieces of media: the writing style of Joan Didion, the production sound from the band The 1975 and themes from the TV show “Euphoria.”

“The relationship between Rue and Jules is just so interesting, and there’s not very many lesbian relationships depicted on TV,” Shore said. “I loved seeing the love they have for each other. I found that super inspiring.”

Just as Rue and Jules toe the line between friendship and something more, “Congratulations” sits on the same uncertain precipice of relationship ambiguity. “I wanna tell you I’m scared of the way you’re holding me so f—ing close,” Shore sings at the chorus. Her voice is soft and gentle, paired with heavy drums and bittersweet lyrics.

“Our queerness is just so apparent in our music,” Altendahl said. “When you’re a straight female musician, a lot of times there’s stereotypes about the way you should look, what you should sound like. You can get a lot of pressure on you. Being a queer band — it’s like, woohoo! You just get to go nuts.”

In fact, “Congratulations” was born from a sort of creative frenzy. The band entered a contest last summer and won 10 free hours of studio time, which they intended to use to record the single “Smithereens,” released in December. But after finishing in just four hours — and not wanting any time to go to waste — they decided to stay and write “Congratulations.”

“It was just out of, like, pure panic,” Shore laughed.

For Altendahl and Shore, collaborating in a studio felt rather unusual considering their typical creative approach to their DIY bedroom pop.

“We usually record everything in our rooms,” Altendahl added. “So to be able to work in a huge studio, all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Who’s this other person in here with us?’ You know, we’re used to just being us two.” 

The music video for “Congratulations” was also shot in just one day at several of their favorite places in New York City, from the Brooklyn Heights promenade to someone’s front porch stoop. The dual-sided film is simple yet vulnerable and intimate. In post production, it’s inverted to create a mirror effect, effectively showing two different perspectives regarding the same experience.

Just as Boyish’s last LP We’re All Gonna Die, But Here’s My Contribution was written in quarantine as a reflection on the state of the world in 2020, My Friend Mica is also a specific snapshot of the duo’s life right now. The format of an LP is more conducive to this kind of storytelling than a full length album, the two explained.

This month marked one year since Altendahl moved to New York, and this new collection of songs is a love letter of sorts to the present.

“This whole album is a dedication to this time in our lives, and our friends here, and this kind of beautiful community we have around us that I had never had before,” Altendahl said. “This whole thing is all for them, in a way. And it’s really special to me for that reason.”

Boyish’s hope is that fans will listen to it and reflect on their own stage of life.

“I had this vision, because it’s going to come out right before summer, in May. And I really want people to have a Lana Del Rey, hot summer nights experience listening to it,” Altendahl said. “When it’s late at night, you hear it, and it just hits you and locks you in that moment.”

Contact Asha Pruitt at [email protected].