Like MEN, Women, and Girls before them, Swiss/German duo BOY is a gender-bender: despite their name, the band is comprised of two ladies, Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass, who create reflective, nostalgic folk-pop melodies. Steiner and Glass met in 2005 at a music workshop and began making music from their personal experiences; it’s sweet, romantic stuff, not too concerned with the vagaries of love. After eight years, the girls of BOY tried to challenge themselves for their debut album Mutual Friends, which was released earlier this year. To showcase their versatility, Steiner and Glass decided after releasing the album to record acoustic versions of some of its tracks. The result was more heartfelt, raw, and full of emotion.
We spoke with Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass about covering an Air track, making artistic decisions, and planning their future.
HOME BASES: Switzerland (Steiner), Germany (Glass)
CURRENT CITY: Hamburg, Germany
AGES: 27 (Steiner), 36 (Glass)
ACOUSTIC BY ACCIDENT: Valeska Steiner: We decided to do the acoustic versions because in the very beginning when we started performing live, we had to figure out a way to play the songs with just the two of us. We couldn’t afford a whole band, and sometimes the shows were far away, and we were traveling by train. We just couldn’t take all of the people it would have taken to play the songs as they were on the record. We had to practice some stripped-down versions of the songs. We had these versions from the album, and we thought it would be nice to have something extra for people who were interested in the music to have.
ON COVERING “PLAYGROUND LOVE” AND INFLUENCES BEYOND AIR: Sonja Glass: We made the cover for Japan. That was the reason why we covered it: they wanted to have something special. We really liked the song, and we liked this version, so we decided to add this cover to the acoustic songs off the album.
Steiner: [Air] has not really been an influence for our music, but it’s a band we really like. The original song is sung by Thomas Mars of Phoenix, which is a band we really love.
Glass: I think it’s hard to name a band, actually. I think we are influenced by sounds we like and by many different artists, or no special artists. Valeska is maybe influenced by singer-songwriters, because she writes lyrics. For the music, we just add sounds we like and play around. We try to find things that fit to the songs.
EYES AHEAD: Steiner: The lyrics are inspired by personal stories. On this album, there was luckily not so many songs to sing about heartbreak. Many of them are about fresh starts, moving to a new city, being curious, forward-thinking, a bit nostalgic and missing what you left behind. I think if we had to name one main inspiration it was recreating those feelings.
Glass: We have to admit that we’re focusing on our second album because we already had our first recording session in June. Right now, we’re not really thinking about who we could collaborate with, but there are definitely artists we really admire.
ACOUSTIC VERSUS ELECTRIC: Steiner: I personally have to say that we’re really looking forward to come to the stage with our whole band and to be able to play the record as it was meant to be played. We are really happy that we got to play this very first tour in the U.S. acoustically—it was nice because they were in small venues. It creates a very intimate atmosphere with the audience when the songs are so stripped down. Both versions have their very positive aspects. I wouldn’t want to decide on one, but I think for this tour, we’re really happy that we’re playing with the band.
Glass: In general, I have to say, I actually really prefer the record versions because I think the sounds are more unique. I was never interested in making an acoustic album.
NEW MUSIC ON THE MIND: Steiner: We can’t say anything about that yet. We know from experience that we’re really slow writers. We’re definitely going to take all the time we need to make a record we like as we did the first time. It’s difficult for bands with their second records. For the first record, no one is waiting, but for the second one, people ask those questions. We just really want to work until it’s finished. We don’t know when that will be yet.
A SLOW AND STEADY FUTURE: Glass: [laughs] That’s a tough question. I don’t know. After we finish this last tour to this album, it feels like we have to start all over again. We have to show it to people and hope that they will like it again. Maybe we can pave the way for the next two or three years. Maybe we’ll make some holidays in five years.