Photo: Jay Fisher

Boy Bleach

No matter what country Boy Bleach finds themselves in, London is the place they will always call home. Whether it is the DIY element when it comes to creating merch designs, the influence Brit-pop has had on the band growing up or just the city in general, Louis, JJ, Nick, James, and Jimi have taken themselves back to their roots with their upcoming EP. Having had time to experiment on previous tracks in terms of their sound and also reflect on the direction of the band’s upcoming project, it came down to wanting to capture a moment in time on a record, as well as the live aspect that their fans know and love. 

“For us, this EP sounds like it’s defining our sound, but in the way we wanted to in the first place.  Because it was post-COVID when we recorded our first EP, or are you normal?, we couldn’t go to the studio and when we were recording, it was programmed so it forced us to be a little more electronic. But now we have the freedom to go to the studio, it felt like a natural progression into what we used to do which was play almost alternative rock music,” Jimi explains.

“It was important to us because, with these tracks as well,  we started writing with kind of the idea of wanting to play on the tracks rather than programming. It kind of changes how you write the song as it changes with the type of energy in the music. I think they sound intense and a lot of them are a step above everything!” 

“It is a slight departure from our first EP sonically as we’ve dived more into our band roots again,” adds Louis. “After playing so many live shows since the first EP’s been out, we wanted to start to incorporate more of those elements into our music. We wanted to sound similar to what we do live. It just feels the most authentic and raw while still maintaining the clean and polished sound. On the songs themselves, it’s nice to have the band’s instruments at the forefront. It fills the sonic range, and we’re not adding unnecessary layers. It’s just the fundamentals of a band which is what you’re hearing and that’s really exciting.”

Congratulations were in order when the band took to social media to announce they had finished recording their EP. But that all changed when the decision was made to add a new track. “We were thinking it’s now or never. It makes it more of a surprise for the fans. For us, we played a lot of the songs live before so a lot of the fans will be used to the EP before it comes out. Recently we just finished three songs they never heard so they’re new compositions so those three are going on the EP,” said Jimi proudly. “They captured the energy at the time, they felt like it was right for this project. When we were listening to them with the rest of the EP, it felt like they went with the vibe and completed the story.” 

“Your mind is just on the project, so anything you write is just linking to that regardless of whether you mean it to or not,” explained Louis. “It just turned out that we wrote 7 that felt the best together.” 

As the band’s discography increases, so does their fanbase.“We have a lovely, dedicated but small fan base,” they explain. “It’s nice they’re growing with our music and allow us to experiment in the way that we do. These songs have a lot of feelings which is the main thing that connected us with them in the first place. The next batch of music is more about us as in our day-to-day personalities. We’re just a group of guys from London just doing what we love. We take our art seriously but don’t really take ourselves seriously.”

“I think it’s because we are mates. We’ve been each other’s friends for 7 years or so, so it never comes into it,” says Louis on the band’s relationship. “We know that we’re not alike at all, but when we come together, we are one. Even before doing music, when we were together, we acted as a unit. “We’re so used to each other anyway. We genuinely love each other as people. Everyone’s personality is necessary in the band, and that’s what gives us the environment to create how we do. When we met, we were all teenagers so we’ve all grown up together.”

As Boy Bleach experimented with their sound, one thing that stayed consistent was their authenticity within their music and also the band as a whole. From Liam Gallagher and David Tennant to Banksy, (who Jimi thinks he knows who he may be), and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), it’s the ability that these individuals have to stay genuine in the ever-changing music/entertainment industry. “For us, Justin Vernon is everything music should be. He has a beautiful way of writing,” says Jimi. “His self-titled album is one of those albums that I can listen to every day and never get bored. He’s one of our musical idols. He’s an incredible artist.

“We’ve had so many eras of art where the artists have tried to separate themselves from who they’re selling art to,” adds Louis. “He doesn’t do that and it’s a beautiful thing to see.”

Things have changed since the days of David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and Freddie Mercury in terms of the rockstar perception. Not having to work day jobs to fund the lifestyle for years and then playing shows in the evenings until they reached noticeable success. From the outside looking in, we see these individuals at their highest in their career and everything that goes on behind the scenes stays exactly where it is. For Boy Bleach, they want to be as transparent as possible when it comes to where they are and this is what they did with “21st Century Rockstar”. “We wanted to be honest in the place we were in our lives and not sugarcoat things too much. We like to tell it how it is, as beautifully as we can,” said Jimi, about their latest track. 

“It was meant to be about the new step we’ve taken in our lives. We’ve all recently quit our jobs. We were all at uni because that’s what we felt we had to do. We all dropped out. Only James graduated. We always put music before our degrees. We were literally doing something we liked but didn’t have a burning passion for it. It wasn’t replacing the need to do music. It didn’t make us feel like we were moving on with our lives,” Jimi explained.

“That’s kind of where the song came from. As a kid, you build up the dream of having your dream job and then you look at signing a deal as a goal, but it’s not the goal. It’s just the first step. It’s hard and we’re grateful. It was like a step and that’s when the real work started. We love it so much but there’s an added pressure. We thought the best way to approach it would be through the satirical things we do in our videos. It’s kind of unspoken comedy that resonates with our fans.”

“It was by writing a song that felt self-indulgent but was about really struggling to cope with the transitional period, where we didn’t have any of the cliches of rockstar at all. We have a lovely, dedicated but small fan base. For us, it felt like the most natural way to do it.”

For the majority of people, it is the music that you grow up listening to that plays a part in the people you become. From Depeche Mode and The Sex Pistols to Kano and Gorillaz, these are just some of the artists that have diversified the band’s music taste over the years due to their originality and the impact they made in the industry.

“I think music is all about inspiration. It’s hard to be original these days because everything seems to be done already. The music you listen to is informative and necessary to catalyze originality, “ Jimi mentions. “We both grew up on Depeche Mode and we had a really 80s upbringing. It was all very experimental. We always ended up writing music that felt nicely referenced but never sounded like anything we’d heard.  We always take inspiration from bands and artists that we attach ourselves to. Whether it’s literal influences or we just like the process, there’s always something to take away.”

“Because of streaming, genres are rendered useless because everyone listens to everything. But it’s got to the point where you don’t need to stick to genres even in one song to create something worth hearing, said Louis. “If you can take influence in someone like Kano and then someone like Keane, you can make it work as long as you know how to. That’s where the new originality comes from, taking from multiple genres and styles and blending it.”

Taking it back to where it all began is what Boy Bleach decided to do this time around for their upcoming EP. Even though this has always been a core aspect for the band, especially with authenticity and originally playing a large part in their growth, it just felt right this time to bring it back for a full-circle moment. “The way to be more original in this market is to actually go back to the roots which is kind of what we’ve done for the EP. Kind of like Brit pop or punk and from there, we’ve just done what we wanted to. We’ve laid a foundation for a general genre and style and then we’ve just developed a way that felt natural without overthinking.”

“We take influence from everything. From the city that we live in. Sonically this EP sounds like London, as a place. Even England as a country, this EP feels like it’s set in space and time and captures a moment that everyone lives through, especially here,” they say proudly. “It’s got a heritage feel to it. We tried to capture the niche element of the culture we live in. That’s what drove the art of the EP, more than the music or artists that we liked. That’s the biggest influence. Our surroundings.” Even the way in which they came up with their name ties things all together. 

“We rescheduled the first tour, and fans had brought tickets already so we put on an event for the day where we went to The Engine Room. We had a meet-up, played some acoustic songs, and unreleased music, and had a Q&A. And that was one of the questions. We came up with the name randomly. There were a few names, but had to change them because they didn’t feel like they reflected us. The one we had was already taken,” Louis and Jimi both explained.

“We liked the idea of making it sound like a solo artist. We were throwing out words randomly and I (Jimi) threw out the word bleach because I had bleached hair! It’s just a cool word. Then we came up with the name Boy Bleach and we were like it’s alright. We cut up loads of magazines and did a David Bowie lyric technique, which I learned from Luther! We cut up loads of words and paired them together. Weirdly enough, the only one that stuck was Boy Bleach.”

Having supported bands including Simple Plan, The Band Camino, and Only The Poets, and building a reputation for their energetic, chaotic (in a good way) shows, “we found a lot of our fans through playing shows where no one knew who we were. So the music that we’re coming out with sounds more like we do live which means the reason they fell in love with us, through the live aspect, is now on a record.”

Alongside festival performances at Truck Fest, which the band claims to be their “worst and favorite show we’ve done. We thrive under that pressure when we’re together because we have a tight relationship. For us, it felt like home. That complete mess of a show where technical issues happened took us back to our humble beginnings,” and Reeperbahm Festival in Hamburg, this year also saw Boy Bleach head out on their UK and European headline tour. “We always want our shows to be a moment our fans don’t forget. Give people a moment to hold on to for as long as possible.”

Other highlights so far include “probably three or four shows that hit home for us and defined that moment”, Louis explains. “Cologne on the Yungblud tour. It was the last show of our run with him and it was the biggest one we had done. That felt like home and it was big and the crowd was there for us. Then our headline shows in Hamburg, Prague and Berlin. Wild. After spending time away from those places and then coming back into it, and it’s your show with your fans”. Jimi added, “It’s still weird that we have fans that do that. The London show on The Band Camino tour was another one. We grew up going to shows at the roundhouse so it was special for us.” 

2023 has been an exciting year for Boy Bleach so far, and no doubt will this continue. With the anticipation of their soon-to-be-released EP and the support of their dedicated fans along the way, it’s only onwards and upwards from here for Jimi, Louis, Nick, JJ, and James. With that said, in this ever-changing industry, here are a few positive changes that Boy Bleach would like to see happen. 

“Pay artists, writers and producers. Streaming, as amazing as it is for reach, bringing more artists into the fold too, especially artists that wouldn’t be seen otherwise,” states Louis.”Ultimately the industry is the writers, artists, and producers. Without them, the industry doesn’t exist. So it’s only fair those people are given what they deserve. “We did a video with Music Declares at Reading Festival a while ago, so it would be nice to see people taking more of an active stance environmentally. It would be great to see more artists in the upper echelon taking more of an active approach to the environment. It would be lovely to be in an industry where that’s at the forefront of the fight,” said Jimi. “And just more good music! Seeing it being released and not just because it could be a commodity at some point.” 

“And more bands talking about the government! More artists like Kid Kapichi who don’t mind saying it. I’m in love with music that’s escapism, but we need that dose of reality that tells it how it is.” Louis concludes, “Art needs to say something and I think it’s time we start saying it.”