Music News

For Boyfrndz's Experimental Rock, Instinct Means Everything

Pushing any kind of artistic endeavor through to the finish line is a process destined to involve evolution. Practically no book, drawing, film, album, Play-Doh sculpture, or whatever comes through looking exactly the way its creator originally envisioned it. If Scott Martin wasn't already aware of this reality, he experienced it firsthand as his band, Boyfrndz, came together in 2011. Initially, Martin imagined the outfit as "a weirdo punk-type band" — think aggressive instrumentals and melodic vocals — inspired by the likes of underground stalwarts Fugazi and the chaotic Tera Melos side project Bygones. "Those kinds of things together is what I wanted to do. I was way off," the guitarist/vocalist, 28, says with a laugh.

As it so happens, Boyfrndz ended up making aggressive and melodic music, but punk definitely isn't the first term it brings to mind. The four-piece from Austin trades in a distortion-filled and voluminous but airy sound that lends itself to dramatic, grandiose descriptions because it's so unusual. Sometimes, the songs are earnest enough to power campfire sing-alongs; others stir up imagery of galaxies collapsing on each other in staggering ballets or of ominous chants being sung right above canyons. Boyfrndz's output exists somewhere between post-rock, shoegaze, math rock, and post-hardcore. Martin identifies most with "experimental rock." "We're certainly a rock 'n' roll band, but we're not set in one certain spot," he says. "[Calling ourselves] experimental leaves us open to experimenting with whatever the fuck we want."

The more Martin discusses how his group functions, the more surprising it is that he even made that mental plan to be punk in the first place. Above all else, he reiterates that improvisation is crucial to the group's process. Boyfrndz abides by a steady practice schedule, meeting up at least twice a week — if not three or four times — even if the band is just coming off tour.

"I think [practicing is] very important for bands, and a lot of people forget about that," he says. The group's focus on improv also means that Martin tries to not let his songs spend much time living inside his head; coming together to jam means that his bandmates can rely on instinct and bump into concepts they wouldn't have considered on their own. He doesn't visualize his music, either.

"I don't want to overthink anything we're doing. [I prefer] letting it be on its surface level. I go in there with Aaron [Perez, drummer] and Joe [Raines, bassist] with a blank slate every day, and then things happen," Martin says. "That's my own way of trying to control the process without putting any control onto it."

As he discusses Breeder, Boyfrndz's second proper full-length (due April Fool's Day), Martin notes that he didn't write a single guitar part sitting alone in his room. "It's a psychedelic record for sure. The mood is really dark, and the lyrics are on the darker side. Not that we intended to go that way," he says, referencing that element of improv again, "but it just ended up going that way." Breeder's "Design" exemplifies that psychedelic side, juxtaposing ecstatic, unthrottled blasts of guitar with slower moments of whirlpool-gazing pensiveness — all before the track rockets into the atmosphere again.

The importance of improv aside, Martin emphasizes that Boyfrndz's M.O. is making something fresh — a far cry in ambition from just wanting to be a punk band. "We just want to do something that doesn't sound like something that's been done before, something that's not, 'This is a blues rock band. This is a math rock band. This is a folk band.' We don't want to create something that just fits into a niche and you can move on. We want to create our own niche," Martin says. "It's kind of self-centered, but so's art."

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Reyan Ali
Contact: Reyan Ali