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Interview: 2022 Must-Know - boylife

Interview: 2022 Must-Know - boylife

From the opening few seconds of boylife's (a.k.a Ryan Yoo) 2021 record, 'gelato', the world he creates sticks onto you like glue... so that by the time his vocals emerge, you're already convinced, and fully committed, to anything he might ask of you. 

The LA-based singer/songwriter admits to his wrongs and peels back the layers of his humanity - with lyrics like "Oh love, I'm sorry for promises I've made with no intentions," and "I been off my meds / I really wanna try /Thinking on my parents makes me cry," establishing themselves through the record as notches of candour from Yoo. 

Down on both knees in a confessional booth of his own making, Yoo bookends conversations and memories with 'dio' desiring warmly for someone to come back ("I've been dreaming of your back / Won't you come and take me back?"), and pleads for a second chance in 'baddreams' ("I know you don't want me right now / But could you think about it?").

We spoke to Yoo via email about all things to do with memories, the spark of songwriting, and great songs being boring...

MUST-LISTEN: 'Amphetamine', 'Dio', 'Superpretty', 'Hoon'.
YOU WILL LIKE, IF YOU LIKE: Dijon, Kevin Abstract, The Blossom, No Rome, Cautious Clay... and meaning what you say so that you say what you mean.

COUP DE MAIN: We talked to you last year about the record - have any of your feelings changed about it since it's out in the world now?
BOYLIFE: It's just gratitude. I'm glad it's out there and people can hear it. There's a measure of closure now that it's out, since I sat with it for so long.

CDM: Memories are a large part of your album and run thematically through the record quite deeply. When writing about memories, do you play them back like a film in your mind? Or do they come through in flashes?
BOYLIFE: It's small details, a lot of the time. I remember random bits and pieces. I'll think back on a big fight I had with a friend and remember a crease in the brown pants they were wearing before I remember what we were even fighting about. I'm not good about taking pictures or keeping a journal, so if enough time passes, it's just the smallest details and the silhouette of the emotions that stick around.

CDM: The visuals with the videos and visualisers for this album work so well with the songs and connect you more to the songs. Was there a big plan for what they’d come to look like? And how involved were you in that?
BOYLIFE: Hey, I'm happy to hear that, thank you. Cory created both the cover art and the visualizers - she is a genius. The videos were done by my friend DJ - also a genius. There was basically no plan at all, as I hadn't really planned on making an album. Everything was put together as we went along. I told them both how I felt about the music and how I wanted the visuals to make me feel. Then I just let them do what they do and trusted they could execute it better than I ever could.

CDM: In 'peas', you talk about wanting to know someone and their whole selves. Do you think we can ever truly know someone?
BOYLIFE: Probably not, sounds like a lot of pressure... if I try it, I'll let you know.

CDM: In terms of your songwriting style, do you find it easier to write from your own experience or write from something other than yourself?
BOYLIFE: It's always easiest to write from my own experience, but not in a strict journalistic sense. I'll make up stories in my songs if they make me feel exactly the way I feel in real life. Emotional resonance is both the goal and the barometer. Fiction can be a shortcut to truth in that way. That being said, not everything is autobiography. These days, less and less so.

CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
BOYLIFE: I haven't really found a method that consistently works. In the broadest sense, it usually starts with a spark, whether that's a lyric or a melody, or a sound or an image, that I can see a world in. Then it's a matter of unearthing it. I do wish it was as simple for me as "I always start with chords" or something. I get bored really quickly and I hate repeating myself.

CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically for the songs, or do you write poems or prose and then evolve them into song-form?
BOYLIFE: Ideally, the lyrics and the sounds work in concert. If the lyric existed first, I'll build the sonic world around that. If the sounds existed first, I'll build the lyric off of what that makes me feel. Regardless of which comes first, nothing is sacred and they change each other along the way. 

CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song?
BOYLIFE: I have no idea. I find a lot of joy in terrible songs, sometimes even more than in great songs, so who am I to say these are terrible songs in the first place? Great songs are boring. But then there are also great boring songs like 'Don't Talk' by the Beach Boys that are just perfect music. I don't know what I'm talking about. Just enjoy what you enjoy and don't feel obligated to enjoy what others deem classic. But also be open-minded because maybe that's your shit and you just don't know it yet.

CDM: If B.O.Y.L.I.F.E. were an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
BOYLIFE: Bulbasaur, Oddish, Ypikachu, Lapras, Ivysaur, Flareon, Eevee.

CDM: You’re one of our 'must-know’ artist picks for 2022… who are yours?
BOYLIFE: cehryl and the artist formerly known as bearface.

CDM: What's next for you? Will you be touring next year?
BOYLIFE: Tour is in the works, and we'll see what else. I don't feel pressed to make any particular move or stay in anybody's Twitter feed. But for sure every time I have something good to share I'll pop my head back up.

Watch boylife's video for 'superpretty' below...

Check out more 2022 Must-Know artists here.

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