Welcome to the world of Boyish! Queer indie duo Boyish have just shared their new single and music video for “Smithereens,” a cathartic alt-pop song that will make all your worries disappear. The first of new music since their EP We’re all gonna die, but here’s my contribution this past May, “Smithereens” marks a new era for the duo that is even more honest and introspective than before.
Boyish members, singer India Shore and guitarist Claire Altendahl, began collaborating together after meeting at school at the Berklee College of Music. Graduating only two years ago, the pair have gone on to receive nominations at the Independent Music Awards and were also recipients of this year’s LGBTQ+ Emerging Artist Award from the Music Forward Foundation. Effortlessly cool and refreshingly candid, Boyish are letting listeners know exactly what they think and how they feel, and they’re not holding back.
“Smithereens” is about “knowing that someone is not good for you and that you deserve better, but sticking around because you’re a masochist,” Altendahl describes. It’s a track that builds both lyrically and sonically, leading into an infectiously euphoric and fun chorus.
In the track’s official video, we find Boyish at the scene of a busy house party. Inside, the duo are seemingly invisible to the people around them, a metaphor for not being appreciated enough by an ex, the group explained in a press release. Still, Boyish decide to rock out anyway — performing around the house and even having an iconic performance on the front lawn, which perfectly captures the cathartic energy of the track.
We sat down with Boyish to discuss their new single “Smithereens,” growing into themselves, and what 2022 holds for them! Read our full interview below.
Hi Boyish! Could you tell us a bit about your new single, “Smithereens”? Where did the idea for the song’s name come from?
Altendahl: I think at its core, “Smithereens” is a song about knowing that someone is not good for you and that you deserve better, but sticking around because you’re a masochist. It’s about an addiction to a person and allowing them to come back because the pain of being with them is better than the boredom of being without them. At the time when we were writing it, we were listening to a lot of The Replacements and Better Oblivion Community Center.
I think this was the easiest song we’ve ever written. We started with a drum groove in Logic and a simple chord progression and then suddenly the melody and lyrics popped out. It typically takes us months to write a song, but “Smithereens” was literally 20 minutes. I think it really surprised both of us and I second guessed if it was actually good for a long time because it was so easy to write. We used a lot of Smiths references throughout the song, so for a while we called it “Smiths” but “Smithereens” was a little more brutal sounding.
Shore: “Smithereens” is about the one person you’ll love no matter what, the one person who could do anything and somehow you still have time for them. Like Claire said, I think it’s also about being addicted to the pain a person can cause you, just so you can feel something. The title “Smithereens” was actually our manager’s idea, and we fell in love with it, it sounded so hardcore.
The music video for “Smithereens” is also really fun and colorful! What was it like filming? Do you have a favorite memory from set?
Altendahl: We filmed the “Smithereens” music video on my first trip ever to Los Angeles. I felt like I was in a dream that whole trip because I saw LA on TV so much but never in real life. I felt like I was a gay little Kardashian. We worked with Axel Kabundji to shoot it with the idea that we wanted to feel like we were cleaning up after a party and were invisible to those around us. Axel was so energetic and inspiring and he showed us how fun a video shoot can be.
I think my favorite memory from the set was when we drove up to the second house location we were shooting at. The owners had left this crazy ATV car thing in the front yard so we loaded it up with a bunch of our friends for the video. It looks so badass.
Shore: Filming “Smithereens” was such a cool experience. I usually really don’t like filming music videos; I get so nervous in front of cameras and feel super awkward. Axel, our director, was amazing and was yelling inspiring things at us from behind the camera and filling everyone with so much energy. We all felt so comfortable and had so much fun, I was sort of able to let go of being so self conscious and stop overthinking everything. My favorite memory from the shoot was definitely filming the scene on the front lawn with the ATV and the inflatable pool. We had no idea the ATV was going to be there, and when we got to the house and saw it, Claire and I just screamed.
You guys met when you were both in college. How did you know you wanted to make music together after getting to know each other?
Altendahl: India wanted to audition for a singer’s showcase at Berklee and asked me if I would play guitar. We didn’t get the audition, but we decided to keep playing together at this restaurant’s open mic night every Tuesday for a free burrito. I think India and I always liked the same music and wanted to write in the same genre. From the beginning we were both really inspired by the other’s writing style. Immediately I was drawn to India’s lyrics; I really struggled to find my voice when we first started out and I’ve learned so much from writing together.
Shore: Like Claire said, we met because I needed a guitarist for an audition. It was within my first two weeks of school, and I didn’t know that many people, but everyone I did know always talked about how good Claire was at guitar. We did not make it through to the next round of auditions, but we kept meeting up to make music together. I was so intimidated by Claire, that it took me a while to actually become their friend because I literally would refuse to speak to them outside of making music, because I just thought they were too cool.
You’ve talked about how your past music felt very “coming-of-age.” Do you think “Smithereens” fits into this narrative as well, or does it describe a new chapter of Boyish?
Altendahl: I think we’re entering a new chapter of Boyish. Our energy still feels very young, but content-wise I think we’re becoming more and more honest. Our new stuff is showing a more authentic version of ourselves. I feel like with this new chapter you’ll be able to understand us as people. One of the big differences is this time I want you to see into our world, whereas in the past I think I wrote songs to fit into other people’s worlds.
Shore: I think “Smithereens” definitely feels like a new chapter. I still feel like I’m coming of age, so I think the music still reflects that, but sonically I think we’ve evolved, and I think we’re more frank on this song and more concise and sure of what we want to say. I think a lot of our old music is about trying to figure out how you feel, and on “Smithereens” I feel like it says we know exactly how we feel, and how to say it.
What has been your favorite part of growing into yourselves as both young adults and as artists? How has your music played a role in how you view the experiences you’ve had thus far?
Altendahl: This sounds really sappy, but the more I grow, the more confident I get and the more I start to realize my self-worth. It seems so dramatic, but I don’t think I knew how to trust myself when we first started out. I didn’t think I knew enough to produce our music, I didn’t think I was a good enough songwriter, I didn’t think I had “the look” to be a musician. I struggled so much with my gender too that I had no idea where I fit in the world. At the end of the day, I just loved making music so much that I didn’t care at a certain point if I was good enough. Once I stopped caring so much about myself and put more passion and excitement into my music, things have gone a lot better. Over time I think I’ve learned to believe in myself a lot more, and to not be too hard on my ideas or my performance.
Shore: I think I used to be really afraid of changing. Anytime anyone would comment that I’ve changed, or seemed more grown up, or seemed different it would send me into a bit of a spiral. I think that also applied to music I was making. As I’ve grown up, and grown into myself a little more, I’ve started to like that feeling, and get excited to evolve, especially with music. I know the person I am right now is not the person I’m going to be next year, or the music I’m making now, will definitely be different in the future, and that’s exciting.
Finally, in one word, describe what listeners can expect from Boyish in 2022.