Hey 20XX-ians, Hunter here with the sensational and singular Erica Allen-Lubman, better known across the internet as the iconic Boy Jr. I’ve been excited for this interview since I first reached out to them, back when they announced intentions to do a show in New York City, which came to fruition back in November at TV EYE in Queens. You can find their latest release “Narcissist, Baby”/“I Hope Your Chicken Nuggies Get Soggy” on streaming services, with a new single “Chartreuse” out this Thursday, January 6th!
20XX: So, I know who you are, your style and music makes it clear that you know who you are, but for the people that don’t, for the uninitiated, who are you and what do you do?
Boy Jr.: I am Boy Jr., and I am a musician; a New York-based, DIY, indie pop artist. A one-person band, if you will.
Amazing! I found you primarily through TikTok, back when I endlessly scrolled through that platform. Would you say that TikTok and Instagram have been some of the primary ways you’ve gained popularity as an artist?
Yeah, I’ve definitely seen a lot of growth through TikTok and Instagram so so much. To the point where, I wondered how to introduce myself for your first question. Because I see myself as an independent musician, not as an internet personality, so to speak. I’m just sort of like a person with an internet presence, I guess? But I think it’s super interesting that to some people who have found my music, like I am a TikTok-er with music, instead of just a musician.
I think you might be squarely in internet personality territory, but that’s such a broad term with a lot of preconceived notions attached to it. Specifically, I know you from the genre-bending videos you make; that’s how you got on my radar. However, I imagine there’s much more to the Boy Jr. story than those videos?
I have been a lifelong musician and have been making music under the name Boy Jr. since like 2015 and have just been playing shows and this and that. There’s been different iterations of what Boy Jr. is. It was a band where I was just getting different friends to be my backing band, and as I got more into music production it became more of just a vehicle for whatever music I wanted to make as I started to make things that were a little more on the pop side and less rock.
I started making Tik Toks a few months before COVID happened. I had done a genre-specific kind of song in November 2019 where I was aiming for something that was sort of like a COIN or Bleachers kind of sound, and that got 25,000 views and was like the most like viewed thing I’ve ever made. So, I was like alright; full version. I wanted to run with this, and this will be the career trajectory.
Because I got so much joy out of making something that was very specifically geared toward one genre, I just started doing that more, and then I started doing the crossovers. I remember thinking during the quarantine that I have so many ideas and I finally have time to do them; having all that free time really helped.
You mentioned that Boy Jr. has had multiple iterations, from being a band composed of multiple friends, to something more production focused. I remember during one of the interludes at your live show (which I loved and found super useful) that you make all the tracks and play all the parts yourself. To that end, I think your live show is very impressive, and you keep the crowd’s attention and put on a great show as a solo artist. How do you manage to take a track that you produce in your room or in the studio and turn that into a live show, while maintaining the style and essence of your music? What was the process like for you to come up with what your live shows are going to look like?
Well, I mean, it really just starts with deciding which instrumental elements I want to try and do live; all of my guitar sounds I do through Guitar Rig through Logic anyway. So, for some of the more guitar-heavy songs that I do live, I’ll have different Guitar Rig iterations in the channel strip. And I’ll have them automatically switch, so I can go from one very reverb-drenched tone to like a completely different effect. Some people do that with more legitimate setups, but I’ve got what I’ve got and that’s it.
But lately, I have been choosing to keep some of the guitar parts in the backing track because I’ve been really enjoying just singing and performing more. That was actually some feedback I was getting pretty consistently when I was playing shows before the pandemic. There’s a lot of musical elements going on, and people would say to me that I’m a very natural front person when singing, and that I should get people to play the guitar parts, so I can just be a front person and be a performer. Which is super sweet, but then, like, my worry was how will people know that I did the guitar part and that they’re going to think that it’s some other person. For some reason, I’m like just very clung to the idea of making sure people know like, this is my project and that I did it, especially when I’m doing these tracks where I’m just singing. I want to avoid the misunderstandings that I’m showcasing somebody else’s work or that there’s a dishonesty to what I do, with the whole “live music should be live and this is not live” idea. Which is why I do the FAQ thing during my shows.
We actually got to meet in person after your show at TV Eye, which I think is in that area right on the border of Queens and Brooklyn. I wanted to ask, what was it like for you to play in New York City, especially after the pandemic and kind of like what that meant to you as a performing musician?
It meant everything. It was so awesome! I have not played in New York City since the summer of 2019, when I played at Rockwood Music Hall. I had played for one of those sets that was like the nights where they just have back-to-back sets and it’s not a bill where everyone is a part of the same night. I’d never done anything like that before, and it was very interesting, but that was also very stressful. After that I was like, “alright, next time I come back to New York, I want to play a three band bill where I get to meet the other artists who are playing that night and we’re all promoting the show altogether”. I figured I would do that in a matter of months after that show in 2019 and you know; two years later, here we are.
So not only was it nice to get to have a whole evening in New York and not just be in-and-out, but I also got to see friends of mine that I haven’t seen in years, who are like some of my most favorite people, come and be together in one space with everybody. Plus, getting to play with new artists and make new friends all in one night. I remember thinking afterwards, alright this is so cool, I can’t wait to come back.
Did you get to choose TV Eye specifically as a venue?
Sort of. The way it worked out was I actually had reached out to my friend Scott from Scott Making Cents. We connected through TikTok and had started talking on Instagram about getting me down to New York for a show. So he had reached out to a couple of venues and we were going to try and set up a bill with both our bands. But something got lost in communication and his band wound up not being on the bill, which is why I had him as a guest for my cover of Toxic and I had him do the guitar part. There was no way I was going to come down and not get to meet him and do a song with him. TV Eye happened to be a venue that he had reached out to, and he hit me up and was like, “There’s a cool venue called TV Eye. Do you wanna do that one?”, and I said yes!
You mentioned that you got to see some of your most favorite people in the whole world when you came down for this show. I’m wondering, did you get up to any other fun while you were in the city? I think Anime NYC was that weekend, did you go to that?
Apparently, it was that same weekend, and I had no idea until my friend showed up at the show and was like “Look, I just got a sword ’cause I was at Anime NYC!”. I was happy for them, but I did not go to that, no. I mostly just hung out with my friend who I was staying with and visited some friends in Brooklyn the day after the show. We had bagels in Prospect Park and wandered around and I pondered, like maybe it’s time that I think about moving out of Rochester.
Now there’s a thought. I’m sure people try to dissuade you by reminding you how expensive it is.
Yeah, that’s literally why I haven’t moved is the cost. I went to school downstate, at SUNY Purchase, and met a lot of people who already lived downstate and people who were going to move to Brooklyn after graduation. I had dreamed of moving into and living in New York since I was in middle school and I was like, I’m going to do it; I’m going to make my dreams come true and just gonna make it happen. Then, after school ended, I was like, well, I’m just gonna move home for now and then I’ll figure something out. But I can’t just up and move somewhere; I don’t have any money. That’s why I haven’t moved since leaving school, even though most of my friends are downstate. I think there’s a lot of great music opportunities that are happening downstate, although there’s a lot of great stuff in Rochester too. But being up here is definitely a little bit more isolated, and the main thing that has kept me away from even dreaming of moving away is just the fear and reality of it being so so expensive.
I get what you mean. I’ve actually had a similar dream about moving to the city. I remember specifically I think I was taking a Greyhound bus to Philadelphia, leaving from Port Authority, and I remember thinking, like, I want to live here so so badly. For all the cliches and everything I know this is something I want, and I am going to, at some point, live in one of the five boroughs. You mentioned that you’ve had that dream all your life. What, as a child, led you to want to live in New York City?
When I was younger, I used to really want to be an actor. I thought to myself, I’m going to be in movies and TV shows, and I was obsessed with the Disney Channel when I was in middle school and I just wanted to have a TV show. I also have family in Queens, so there were a number of times that we made a little family trip and just hung out in New York City.
So, by the time I was in middle school and high school we had done a couple of those, and I was just like, “yeah this is where I need to be, I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’ll just figure it out when I’m an adult”. And now I’m an adult and I still haven’t figured it out.
No sweat, it’s a difficult thing to figure out. I like that you mentioned that you want to be an actor. If I can make an unsolicited suggestion, I wouldn’t get rid of that idea entirely. I could very much see you being some sort of internet personality, in addition to doing your music.
That’s so wild, because I’ve had this conversation with like three people this week now. I really miss being involved in theater and just acting in general. I think that’s something I love about doing TikToks; that I get to enter more of the character zone and less of the I’m-going-to-bare-my-soul-for-everybody. Especially with my own music, I am sharing a personal part of myself, but I’m doing it in a curated way where I feel like there’s still a sense of art as opposed to the rawness of when I jot down my thoughts in my journal, and those eventually become lyrics. It’s the same substance, but like a different state; sort of like a different form of matter. And now this has been coming up so much and here we are talking about it again; acting just keeps coming around.
This one is a bit cliché, but imagine yourself five years in the future, and you’ve moved to New York City. In what directions are you hoping to take Boy Jr. now that you live in the city?
I mean, in general I’d really like to co-write a little bit more. This year, I started doing a little bit more co-writing for different briefs and sync projects and stuff; I loved that so much. That’s a big reason why I think maybe I should consider at least starting to visit New York more. I’d really like to see myself working with other artists in studios and getting a sense of other people’s workflows while writing for other projects and writing for other people. Of course, I’m never going to be able to stop writing my own music and releasing that. Hopefully, I’d like to hit the road and do some more legit tours in the future.
I think that’s very well within your capability! I like to try to end interviews on a silly note, so here’s some wild hypotheticals. Let’s say one of the artists that you’ve done a genre-bend for, messages you and says they love your version of their song, and that they want to perform your arrangement at concerts and make a music video to go with it. They’re going to fly you out and like they’re like, “Let’s be friends! We love your hyperpop version of Mr. Brightside” or something like that. *pause* Wow, that would really shut up the haters.
Yeah, if they were like, “Excuse me, we like it, shut up haters”.
You should’ve reached out to The Killers.
Do you think that Brandon Flowers knows what hyper-pop is?
Ah, maybe. He seems like if he didn’t, he’d be nice enough to respect it.
He seems pretty in touch with the kids.
So, let’s say one of these artists latches onto and really likes your genre-bent version of their song and wants to take it and run with it, bringing you on the journey. What artist would you hope to get that message from?
Oh boy, now I gotta remember every single one that I’ve done. Maybe like Gorillaz because they did share one of my videos. Me and my friends in Two Tree Hill did DARE, but in like 7 different genres with like 10–15 second snippets in the different genres. Actually, it wasn’t DARE, it was Feel Good Inc. But Gorillaz reposted or shared the video to their story! I don’t know that it’s necessarily like any actual member of Gorillaz who runs their Instagram account, but that’s a project I look up to very, very much that is still active and very influential to me and other artists that I like and have worked with. I think that would probably be an honor of the highest order, yeah. To get some love from them.
I think it’s funny to imagine someone going up to Damon Albarn and being like “These are good songs, but you need to play all the parts live.” And then he just gets cartoons to do it, and gains everything. What are some other artists or performers that you take influence from? If I could guess, I do think Tyler the Creator is on that list.
Ooh, I love that; I’ve never gotten that before. No one’s ever guessed Tyler, The Creator, but I love that. It’s definitely correct. I feel like the first thing that comes to mind for me, where I really look up to him, is just sort of like that kind of worldbuilding that he does with, like different eras. And that he’s so instantly recognizable as both a style icon but also just his voice.
Yeah, I get what you mean. There are certain artists that when they make a song or a track, you can tell that it’s theirs. A big one is, there’s an electronic R&B music artist from Montreal called KAYTRANADA, and I can usually tell a beat he’s made like, instantly.
Totally, I love that kind of like, signature, and that’s not necessarily like a producer tag, but the way that someone’s uniqueness can penetrate through time and space like that. As corny as that sounds.
Like how our parents before us might have been able to tell, oh, this is a Bruce Springsteen track, or a Billy Joel track, or Luther Vandross track or something like that.
I didn’t manage to think of another silly question unfortunately. Is there anything else that you’d like to add to tell our readers?
Well, I’ve got two songs out that I just put out last week: “Narcissist Baby” and “I Hope Your Chicken Nuggies Get Soggy”. One is a serious song, and one is a very silly one that I only made because the TikTok that I made for it kind of went viral. Narcissist Baby is the first single off of my upcoming album, Pay Attention To Meeee, spelled with four e’s. I’m going to start releasing more singles for that in, like the next upcoming months.
I’m gonna actually put out the album, I swear it. I’m aiming for like late-January, early-February for the album.
We certainly look forward to hearing it. Thanks for your time!
You’re welcome! Thanks for the interview!
The music of Boy Jr. can be found on Spotify, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud. Follow them on Instagram, @boyjrofficial.