How boygenius Became the World’s Most Exciting Supergroup
On their own, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus are three accomplished singer-songwriters. Together, they’re a one-of-a-kind band powered by friendship, sick books, and sicker songs
IT’S 10. A.M. IN MALIBU, and Zuma Beach is empty, save for a husky on the shore and a surfer waist-deep in the ocean. The late-November sky is the precise shade of a cerulean crayon, and the lighting is almost too perfect. It feels like one of Tony Soprano’s dreams. Or maybe I died and I’m in some kind of hazy afterlife, one where you get to hang out with the world’s most exciting indie band. When I express this thought aloud, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus — otherwise known as boygenius — erupt with laughter. “We’re meeting you in purgatory,” says Dacus, 27. “So, how’d you do in your life?”
It’s all real, though: The three generation-defining songwriters of boygenius got together last year for the first time since their debut EP in 2018, knocked off a fantastic debut album, and are here this morning to start talking about it all for the first time. The trio is strolling along the beach with the kind of swagger the Backstreet Boys had in their “Anywhere for You” video. Except these Boys don’t take themselves too seriously.
Bridgers: My mom got her first tattoo at my house last night.
Dacus: I designed a tattoo for my mom in high school.
Bridgers: I’m going to have a toxic tattoo year, I can tell.
Baker [who has many tattoos]: Welcome!
Dacus is wearing sunglasses with purple frames, and a white corduroy baseball cap. Baker, 27, is standing in the sand with a hot-pink T-shirt tucked under a black sweater. Bridgers, a 28-year-old L.A. native who recently bought a house in nearby Calabasas, is in her signature black attire, except for a beige baseball cap that reads “Lucy loves me, Dads fear me.” It refers to “Thumbs,” a track off Dacus’ instant-classic 2021 solo album, Home Video, where she fantasizes about murdering her friend’s shitty dad.
Boygenius love classic rock — after Bridgers spoke to Paul McCartney on Instagram Live in 2021, she broke down in tears. But boygenius also love to subvert male hero worship of all kinds — their band name is a reference for overconfident men who are praised for their every thought — and more than anything, they just want to be treated like famous bands of dudes. Just think of the cover of their self-titled EP, where they sat on a couch in the same formation as Crosby, Stills, and Nash did on their debut. Or just glance at the cover of this magazine, where they’ve replicated our January 1994 Nirvana cover.
Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus are all beloved solo artists, though Bridgers broke through to the music-your-dad-has-heard-of level during the pandemic with her sophomore album, Punisher (which earned her four Grammy nominations), and collaborations with Taylor Swift, McCartney, Lorde, and others (she’s slated to open for Swift in the spring). Yet equality has always driven the bandmates, all of whom identify as queer: There is no frontwoman, and everyone is encouraged to suggest or veto ideas. “Lifting each other up [is] how we create,” Bridgers says. “We all get to be the lead. We all get the high of each other being in the front, which is so sick and has been the ethos of this band since day one.”
Baker, the heart of the band, emotionally bulldozes you with her fierce vocals; Bridgers, the soul, eloquently brings lovesick, melancholic melodies; and Dacus, the brain, writes songs with a dramatic heft worthy of the Russian novels she tears through. (Her review of War and Peace, which she read during lockdown: “It’s sick.”) Together as boygenius, they’re “like the Avengers,” as their friend Hayley Williams of Paramore puts it (Williams may have crashed the boygenius photo shoot).
Dacus and Baker met in 2016, when they played a show together in Washington, D.C. “I came into the dressing room and Luce was in there, reading The Portrait of a Lady,” Baker recalls. “I was like, ‘We’re gonna be friends.’ ” They quickly bonded over Southern backgrounds (Baker is from Tennessee, Dacus from Virginia) that were deeply rooted in religion. Dacus ripped out the back blank page of the book and wrote down her email. Soon they were sending long missives back and forth, trading book recommendations, and developing crushes on each other, which they didn’t admit to until later.
Baker met Bridgers a month later, and when the three found out they’d be touring together on a triple bill in 2018, they decided to head into the studio, thinking they’d record a seven-inch single to promote the shows. “We set out to make one song, and made six,” Bridgers says. “It was not like falling in love. It was falling in love.”
Boygenius’ self-titled EP, released that fall, stunned fans and critics. Their emotionally intense guitar music tapped into the qualities that made rock the music of a generation — several generations back — making it feel like it just might be that again. They were acclaimed songwriters living parallel lives, yet they sounded like one cohesive, awesome unit — partly because of how much they relate to one another on a fundamental level. “We were able to commiserate about the less enjoyable aspects of this job,” Dacus says. “We have a shared experience that is not shared by a lot of other people in our lives.” For Bridgers, being around the Boys means “being constantly validated that my problems are real problems.”
It would take four years for them to cut a full-length album. During that time, they were asked about reuniting in nearly every interview. They tended to play coy, and today they recite their go-to responses as the waves smack the shore: Bridgers tends to say, “If it ever works out again”; Baker, “Probably in an undisclosed time in the future”; while Dacus utters a simple, “Gee, I wish!”
The Record, due March 31, will come out on Interscope — the first major-label release for any member. With crashing chords, whisper-to-howl vocals, and lyrics guaranteed to appear in a TikTok lip-sync by your younger cousin (cowboys have neck tattoos, someone is called a “winter bitch,” another falls down the stairs), it should go down as one of 2023’s best albums.
Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus could have kept charging along with their solo careers and personal ambitions. But they’d rather make music together. “There’s a realm in which I feel permitted to be ambitious in this band, in a way that I can’t for my own solo stuff, because it’s something shared with people that I love who are the greatest songwriters ever,” Baker says. “I feel an uncomplicated pride about it.”
Adds Bridgers: “We’re obsessed with each other. I like myself better around them.”
BAKER IS NOT a beach person. The Tennessee native can count the number of times she’s been to a beach on one hand, which is probably a good thing. During a Malibu writing trip, she went for a swim, ignoring Bridgers’ warning that the tide was too high. “I got pummeled by the waves to where I couldn’t keep my head up long enough to get my bearings,” she says. “I have this macho bone in my body that I was like, ‘I’m pretty fit. I can hold my own in the ocean.’ I could not. I could’ve drowned.”
While this was happening, Baker had a morbid thought: “I was like, ‘This is not the worst ever way to die.’ It’s not traumatic, lonely, some sort of weird violent end or a horrible disease. I was just having a great time on the beach with my friends. That’s like being smothered to death by puppies.”
The incident inspired “Anti-Curse,” a headbanging highlight of The Record, in which Baker looks back on that day while folding in several Easter eggs. The line “Salt in my lungs” recalls the Dacus-sung boygenius track “Salt in the Wound,” while later, a melody from Bridgers’ “Savior Complex” surfaces. “Fucking love a leitmotif!” Baker says. As if that wasn’t enough, she tops off the track with Bridgers’ favorite Joan Didion quote: “Was anyone ever so young?”
On an uncharacteristically cloudy morning in Venice, California, I meet Baker at a coffee shop that’s blasting Abbey Road on a loop. Her black skinny jeans are rolled above her Doc Martens. On the breast pocket of her hunter-green jacket is a patch from the Norwegian black-metal band Mayhem, and beneath its sleeves, knuckle tattoos peer out: One hand spells out “Hard,” the other “Work.” When a bee sneaks up behind her, she tenderly apologizes: “I’m sorry we built a house on your house.”
We meet here because they make espresso tonics, Baker’s favorite coffee beverage. At the home in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, that she purchased in March, she’ll make them with orange Angostura bitters and simple syrup, topped with a slice of orange. She loves to cook, and will grill vegetables and seafood: salmon teriyaki, tuna steaks, and fish tacos with tilapia and grouper. Mariah Schneider, her partner of three years, bakes bread.
Baker lights up when she talks about her two dogs. “I’ve been like a prototypical queer lady redirecting the conversation to dogs,” she says. “I feel like I’m going to be 50 years old and run a pit bull rescue or some fucking shit.”
Hardcore fans can instantly identify Baker’s role in any boygenius song, from her searing guitar to one-liners that rip your heart out. Take “$20,” the second track on The Record, which begins with “It’s a bad idea and I’m all about it” over a heavy riff. Baker says the track is about the “wanting-to-poke-the-bear impulse that I’m trying to mitigate”; it’s also a meditation on Bernie Boston’s famous Vietnam protest photograph “Flower Power.” “It started to remind me of the tension between unrest and discontent with your life individually and the world writ large as a child,” she says. “I had those conversations a lot as a child, just listening to Green Day and being like, ‘Screw George Bush! War is bad! No blood for oil!’ And my parents were like, ‘You’re literally 10.’ ”
Baker grew up gay in an evangelical household in Memphis. “There’s so much in common [with us], experiencing how oppressive the church can feel and growing up in the Bible Belt,” says Williams, who was raised Christian in Mississippi. “It was a heavy thing to connect on, but she’s such a great person to have those conversations with because she’s wildly intelligent and really fucking funny.”
After recovering from opioid abuse, Baker quickly found herself in the straight-edge hardcore scene. She was open about her sobriety while doing press for her debut, Sprained Ankle, and 2017’s Turn Out the Lights, but later, she says, “I started dismantling every dimension of my belief system and values,” she says. “Part of that was like, ‘Have I been sober all this time because it’s what’s healthiest for me, or because I have an obsessive-compulsive tendency towards extremities?’ It’s either all or nothing. I think my life is better sober. It’s harder to maintain, and it’s been an ongoing thing that requires a lot of humility.”
I wonder how Baker feels about fame — and whether she’ll welcome an increase in attention after The Record. “There is a part of me that gets very easily intimidated by stuff because I have a country-mouse complex,” she says, now sitting in a cozy restaurant nearby. “But so far the commitments that we have, they’re just my job at a different scale. I don’t think that my life can change and blow up without my permission. I could just go play these gigs in bigger venues than I’m used to playing, and then I could just continue to go home and go help my neighbors mow their lawn.”
She eyes the menu. “Add a Santa Barbara sea urchin?” she asks herself. “Do I want toast with a sea urchin on it? I don’t feel that adventurous at 11.”
WHEN WE MEET ON THE BEACH, boygenius can hardly believe they’re less than two months away from releasing new music. They decide that January — when they will release the singles “$20,” “Emily I’m Sorry,” and “True Blue” — is a solid month. Not so much December. And don’t even think about February.
Baker: February can … we’ve talked about this.
Dacus: Were you about to say February can suck a dick?
Baker: No. February consistently sucks.
Bridgers: Consistently suck a dick!
Dacus [to me]: Sorry if your birthday is in February or something.
Looking back, Bridgers thinks she subliminally started writing for boygenius right after she released Punisher in June 2020. “Covid happened, and I didn’t feel superproductive,” she says. “Boygenius was on my mind a lot, and we had been texting, like, ‘Oh, my God, what the fuck is happening on the Earth?’ I just wanted to talk to my friends. Then I started writing this song and was like, ‘Oh, this is clearly a boygenius song.’ ”
That song was “Emily I’m Sorry,” and Bridgers sent the demo to Baker and Dacus, asking, “Can we be a band again?” “We were all nervous to bring it up,” Bridgers says. “We all thought that we were more excited than the other person.”
Baker can sum up her enthusiasm with one sentence, which she says in the third person: “This bitch loves a Google Drive.” After Bridgers sent her demo, Baker created a folder containing several Logic demos, each titled “boygenius 1,” “boygenius 2,” “boygenius 3,” and so on.
“Phoebe was like, ‘You have to start titling the songs.’ ” Baker says, erupting in laughter. As Dacus recalls, “Julien would often write a song, put it in the Google Drive, and just not announce that there was a new song in there. She brought the most to the table.”
The trio took two writing trips — Healdsburg, California, in April 2021, and Malibu in August 2021 — and worked via text, in a group chat that’s been going strong since 2018. It was on one of those writing trips that “Leonard Cohen” was born. They were in Bridgers’ Tesla with her pug, Maxine, heading back to Los Angeles from Healdsburg, when they discussed great songs with no chorus. “I’m obsessed with that format, because when it’s done poorly, it’s so shitty,” Bridgers explains. “But if you can nail it, it’s a transcendent piece of art. ‘Hallelujah’ has a chorus, but it’s similar.”
To prove her point, Bridgers played her bandmates the 2005 Iron and Wine track “The Trapeze Swinger,” insisting they listen to the nearly 10-minute indie dirge. Bridgers was so enraptured that she lost sight of the GPS, and her bandmates didn’t have the heart to tell her she was headed in the wrong direction.
“We both decided that the song mattered more,” Dacus says. “After it was over, we were like, ‘That was really amazing. Wow. You might want to turn around.’ ”
Adds Baker: “Dude, I was practicing radical acceptance.”
Like “The Trapeze Swinger,” “Leonard Cohen” has no chorus — just Dacus on acoustic guitar, rattling off lines both charming (“You felt like an idiot adding an hour to the drive/But it gave us more time to embarrass ourselves/Telling stories we wouldn’t tell anyone else”) and hilarious (“Leonard Cohen once said there’s a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in/And I am not an old man having an existential crisis/In a Buddhist monastery/Writing horny poetry/But I agree”).
That, right there, captures the greatness of boygenius in just 36 words: They’re the kind of songwriters who’ll earnestly quote a heartbreaking truth from an old man, then turn around and gently roast him in the next line. Looking back on the driving incident, Dacus and Bridgers break it down to a single sentence.
Dacus: We let you have food on your face.
Bridgers: You let me have food on my face.
The band spent nearly all of January 2022 recording and living at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La studio in Malibu, with assists from some of indie rock’s top session players, from Autolux drummer Carla Azar to Jay Som’s Melina Duterte on bass. They’d work long days, often 10 hours or more, and unwind by watching thrillers like Promising Young Woman, The Handmaiden, and Yellowjackets.
To co-produce, the band enlisted Catherine Marks, known for her work with Manchester Orchestra and PJ Harvey. Marks says there was somewhat of a morning routine at the studio: Baker would go trail running while Dacus would read tarot cards to get a “vibe check.”
Marks would also join Bridgers in yoga sessions: “Such a luxury for me,” Marks says. “Because normally if, say, I’m working with Manchester Orchestra, no one wants to do any exercise. We’ve all drunk a bottle of bourbon the night before.”
Two weeks into the process, they brought in Illuminati Hotties’ Sarah Tudzin for engineering and additional production. Tudzin worked separately on The Record in Bob Dylan’s old tour bus in the yard. “I was watching them color outside the lines in a way that they don’t in their solo projects,” Tudzin says. “There’s a real sense of levity and humor while still sticking true to their intensity and their depth as songwriters.”
Tudzin and Marks both eagerly ask me if a song called “Don’t Fuck With My Girl” made it on the album. It didn’t, which speaks to the strength of the sessions. Tudzin confirms there’s a treasure trove of outtakes. “It was, for real, 25 straight-up hits,” she says.
WHEN I MEET BRIDGERS at a plant-based restaurant in Venice, she scans the premises before putting down the hood of her black jacket, uncovering platinum-blond hair pulled back casually, then takes a seat on an outdoor patio surrounded by olive trees. After her career exploded with Punisher, going out in public became tougher. “Keeping interiority while sharing so much of yourself with the world is hard,” she says, biting into a tempeh BLT. “If I was going on a solo-album campaign right now, I wouldn’t. I’d need a break.” She orders an orange juice in her oh-so-SoCal speaking voice, and reluctantly accepts water when told OJ is not an option.
Bridgers did a ton of press for Punisher — a lot of magazine covers and late-night-TV appearances — and while she may not yet be a household name, she still finds her newfound fame a little jarring, especially for a songwriter who idolized private musicians like Elliott Smith and Tom Waits and named Punisher after overbearing, invasive fans. “I am, to my core, an indie person, but some people think I’m not famous enough to complain about it,” she says. That extends to the boygenius fan base: “We have the kind of superfans that John Lennon had, but some of our relatives don’t think we make any money. Like, ‘When are you going to get a real job?’ ”
When Bridgers’ mom got that tattoo recently, it was actually at a Friendsgiving gathering Bridgers hosted (her assistant’s roommate is a tattoo artist). “There was a year that I didn’t talk to my mom and I had a Friendsgiving, and it was so beautiful and perfect,” she says. “I was like, ‘I want to do this every year,’ and I have, even though my mom and I are homies now.”
Bridgers’ parents divorced in 2015, when she was 20 years old. She had a strained relationship with her father, who inspired her Punisher single “Kyoto,” though they reconciled during the pandemic. “I hadn’t talked to my dad in a couple years before Covid,” she explains. “And then Covid was this built-in boundary [where] we can’t see each other, so it was nice to realize what I actually wanted: to be able to talk with no strings attached.” Not long after our interview, Bridgers’ dad died at age 60. Bridgers posted a photo of herself with hot-pink hair, sitting alongside her father and sharing headphones with him. “Rest in peace dad,” she wrote.
Bridgers has dazzling moments on The Record. Anyone who loves boygenius’ intensely lovesick 2018 track “Me and My Dog” will be even more devastated by “Letter to an Old Poet,” a brutally honest monologue about an “all-consuming love.” “That song is about when someone has so much power over you, they stop being a person,” she explains (while declining to say who it’s about).
“Emily I’m Sorry” is a heart-wrenching song with lyrics like, “Emily, forgive me, can we/Make it up as we go along/I’m 27 and I don’t know who I am/But I know what I want.” “Revolution 0,” initially titled “Paul Is Dead,” after the Beatles conspiracy theory, is about Bridgers “falling in love online.” (Bridgers didn’t say who the song refers to, but fans will likely speculate it’s Irish actor Paul Mescal.) “With the attention span of being in lockdown, it was just really beautiful,” she says. Bridgers and Mescal were said to be engaged and, later, rumored to have broken up; Bridgers didn’t comment, other than to say she is not presently engaged.
I ask Bridgers if she sees Taylor Swift’s ability to keep her private life airtight as an example to follow. “I take inspiration from the people I see who are happy, and I’m still trying to [be],” she says. “She’s such a deep, wise human being, and has not sacrificed fun at all. She validates those boundaries that people have tried to take from her for her whole life.
“You don’t hear enough about how people become successful and then happy,” she continues. “I’m able to hire my best friends to travel the world with me, and I don’t have any shitty people around anymore.”
That line, by the way, recalls the verse Bridgers contributed to “Ghost in the Machine,” a standout track on SZA’s S.O.S.: “You said all my friends are on my payroll/You’re not wrong, you’re an asshole.” Some fans theorized that bit was about Mescal, while I wondered if it was Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, her bandmate in Better Oblivion Community Center, whom she is rumored to have also dated. Later, when I phone Bridgers and ask if that’s the case, she says, “I do not recall, as a politician would say.” She’s equally vague about the future of BOCC, saying, “I don’t know.”
SZA met Bridgers when the R&B superstar cold-messaged her online, and after chatting a bit the pair agreed to collaborate — and turned the track around in about a week. “I just am in love with her,” Bridgers says of SZA. “We talked about fucking astrology and anger and healthy boundaries. Just immediately straight into a cultural lexicon that we share. So, yeah, even though she’s kind of this godlike writer, I think she’s out of this world and deeply human.”
It’s not infrequent for journalists to tell Bridgers how “lucky” she is. “Every once in a while I get somebody who is like, ‘How does it feel to be up there?’ ” she says. “I’m just like, ‘I made something tight. Shut the fuck up.’ ”
AFTER OUR BEACH WALK, I have lunch with boygenius at the Little Beach House in Malibu, where photos are banned. (Despite this, a man walks up to Bridgers, says, “My girlfriend sleeps in a Phoebe Bridgers shirt,” and asks for a photo anyway. Bridgers happily obliges.)
All three band members have specific anecdotes of absurd fan interactions: Baker is sometimes stopped midrun, Dacus is often greeted while reading at a bench (she does not stand up for a photo, she admits), and Bridgers once had a tearful conversation with her mom while on a walk, not realizing she was being followed for five blocks.
“I want to normalize talking shit about fans,” says Bridgers. “There’s a way to [be a fan] without filming me without my permission behind the back of my head, chasing me down the street.”
Bridgers is sipping an oat milk cortado, occasionally standing to warm her hands over a nearby fire. Her grilled halibut with yuzu aioli and coconut rice is en route, as is Dacus’ Caesar salad and fish tacos. When Baker’s tuna poke doesn’t arrive, a concerned Bridgers asks the waiter of its whereabouts. “Thanks, Mom,” Baker says to her bandmate, beaming.
Boygenius like to read, and I do not mean that in a casual sense. A majority of our lunch is spent discussing literary fiction, where they ping-pong across the table with their recent reads. Rachel Yoder’s Nightbitch. C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. Jenny Offill’s Weather. Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues. And Rebecca Rukeyser’s The Seaplane on Final Approach, which Bridgers gives me a copy of the following day.
The boygenius book club can get weird, especially when a sex scene in Elif Batuman’s Either/Or comes up. “I had an almost completely closed hymen,” Bridgers says, as Baker and Dacus laugh hysterically. “That should be the headline,” Dacus says.
This is what it’s like to be with all three members of boygenius: Everything is on the table, from mucous membranes to what it would be like if Shakespeare learned the music software Ableton. The Record track that best exudes this kind of joy is “Not Strong Enough.” It’s the most communal effort, and the chorus, “I don’t know why I am/Not strong enough to be your man,” builds and explodes in indie euphoria alongside sharp riffs and chaotic drums. That rush was inspired by Bridgers, when she was in a major Frank Black phase.
She had shelved the line “Not strong enough to be your man,” a nod to Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough,” long ago, waiting for the perfect song. “The two wolves inside us can be self-hatred and self-aggrandizing,” Bridgers explains. “Being like, ‘I’m not strong enough to show up for you. I can’t be the partner that you want me to be.’ But also being like, ‘I’m too fucked up. I’m unknowable in some deep way!’ Self-hatred is a god complex sometimes, where you think you’re the most fucked-up person who’s ever lived. Straight up, you’re not. And it can make people behave really selfishly, and I love each of our interpretations of that concept.”
Adds Baker: “That’s another example of Phoebe taking a wordplay and then extrapolating it to a really nuanced concept.”
It shouldn’t be revelatory that a great band happens to be composed entirely of women. (Can you imagine describing the Traveling Wilburys or CSNY as an “all-male supergroup”?) It’s something Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus have addressed in interviews over the years. They’ve expressed annoyance over the need for their gender to be “remarkable” and their disdain for virtue signaling — being treated as symbols instead of artists. “Something that’s been really important to us is to be able to exist like any other band: to make a sick song and have that not be weighted because of all these extraneous identifiers that we work within,” says Baker. “It would be more effective for a kid to look at photos of the live set or at the album credits and to understand this world is accessible to them than trying to make an explicit statement about [the band having] only queer folks.”
Individually, boygenius are all signed to indie labels — Bridgers is on Dead Oceans, while Baker and Dacus are both on Matador. But for The Record, they say, Interscope made the most sense. “I never thought that a major was what I needed or the kind of trajectory that I aspired to,” explains Baker. “But it’s not like I’m particularly averse to it on a level of principle. When we started talking to labels, it was just who’s going to give us the best deal, let us own our masters, give us the most freedom and resources creatively.”
Before The Record, the album had many possible titles, all of which reflect typical boygenius humor: American Idiot, The White Album, Beach Boys, and so on. Bridgers smiles thinking about another contender. “We liked In Rainbows,” she says. Baker throws her head back cackling, her smile widening.
“Gay!” Dacus screams.
“Gay!” Bridgers chants back.
IN ANOTHER LIFE, Dacus might be a journalist. Throughout our time together, she worries over my audio quality and is careful to specify what’s on and off the record. (She also turns bright red when she realizes that she said positive things about me when I left the table and my recorder was still on.) “Lucy’s a noticer,” Bridgers says. “To be noticed makes you feel so loved by Lucy.”
Dacus and I meet one night at Wabi on Rose, a swanky sushi restaurant with pink velour booths that match its to-go boxes. She’s sitting at the table in a black sweater, explaining over miso soup that she’s running on just two hours of sleep from “straight hangin’ ” with the Boys the night before. “Oh, wait,” she says, clutching her phone. “I’m about to lose a chess game. Do you mind if I be a nerd for a second?”
Dacus is constantly writing — even on the walk here today. “Writing is how I talk to myself,” she says. She finds potential material midconversation, like during lunch with the Boys, when she said, “My birth mother told me that in her fifties she ‘found anger like it was under her bed.’ That sentence rocked me. Isn’t that crazy? I should put that in a song!”
Dacus was adopted and raised devoutly Christian in Richmond, Virginia; she chronicles that upbringing — which included church four times a week — in Home Video. But it was 2018’s Historian that first shook listeners, particularly the brutal, nearly seven-minute breakup anthem “Night Shift,” where she painfully bids farewell to a lover she still has to work with (“You got a 9 to 5, so I’ll take the night shift/And I’ll never see you again if I can help it”). The instantly relatable song became her “Thunder Road.” (Although she recently placed second to Bruce Springsteen on her dad’s Spotify Wrapped, her dad told her, “You know you’re my number-one songwriter and always will be.”)
Hayley Williams remembers how much she clung to “Night Shift” amid her 2017 divorce. “Meeting [Lucy] in real life, I was like, ‘Oh, God, you have no idea how familiar I feel with you,’” she says. “She has such a beautiful, smoky tone to her voice, and it was very comforting for me.”
But that comfort can often lead to the “sad girl” stereotype — reducing female songwriters to a single emotion, even trying to make “sad girl indie” a genre — which Dacus has often spoken out against. “I just want me and my friends to survive,” she says. “When you internalize it, your personality is sadness, which is a lot of the time tied to depression, which a lot of the time is tied to detachment from life. I want the most joy that I can get, and I want that for everyone that I love. But just on a personal level, I don’t want to be pigeonholed in that. And it’s not true. Shut up. I try to write more nuanced things than that.”
Dacus left Richmond for Philadelphia in 2019. She rarely gets to be home — for the past year and a half, she says, she’s been there roughly five days a month (and when she’s flying, by the way, she always listens to CSN’s “Helplessly Hoping”). But when she is in Philly, she keeps a sacred routine: She loves to wake up and not speak for the first couple of hours of the day. She brews some tea, brings it into her office, lights a candle, and picks a tarot card. Then she journals, reads, or writes songs. “A variety of things can happen from there,” she says.
Above all, she keeps her friends close, especially her bandmates. Look no further than the Record track “We’re in Love,” which symbolizes the beauty and bond of boygenius. If “Night Shift” was the ultimate breakup song, “We’re in Love” is the definitive love letter to friendship — a stripped-back, spellbinding ode to the band that made Catherine Marks cry while recording. “If you rewrite your life,” Dacus sings, “can I still play a part?”
While narrowing down tracks, Baker voted to cut “We’re in Love” from the album. It took her time to unpack. “I sometimes have difficulty engaging with a song that’s super sentimental, in a really specific, tender way. There’s something a little scary about that. [Now] that’s one of my favorite songs on the record.” Later, when the band listened to it together in the car, Dacus and Bridgers held hands.
BOYGENIUS ARE THINKING about promoting The Record with press conferences in major cities, partly to avoid an avalanche of interviews, but also because it sounds like a good time. “It’s kitschy and fun to roll up,” Dacus says. “I want to see Phoebe and Julien looking as baller as possible.”
They’ll tour this year — including a slot at Coachella — and they all agree that being together on the road will make it less draining. “I play to thousands of people a night, and sometimes I’m mentally in a really bad place,” Bridgers says. “It’s so hard to relate to people. Except for those guys. Being with them makes it so much less dark.”
Dacus, who performed more than 150 shows on the Home Video tour, agrees: “We feel an element of home together. We’ve been talking about picking a TV show, and after every show, watching one episode before bed. Very children’s-book vibes. I’ll give them each a little kiss on the head and tuck them in.”
The band has been brainstorming ideas for the tour, one being that Dacus and Bridgers will possibly make out while Baker performs a guitar solo. Who knows, maybe all three of them will make out. At this, Baker shakes her head and folds her arms. “You don’t want to make out with us?” Bridgers asks.
“I’m old school, a one-man guy,” Baker replies.
Dacus chimes in: “You’re considering!”
Baker unfolds her arms and breaks out into a smile. “Just kidding. I’ll make out with y’all.”