From the opening seconds of boylife (aka Ryan Yoo) 2021 record, ‘ice cream‘, the world he creates sticks to you like glue…so that by the time his voice emerges, you’re already convinced and fully engaged in whatever he might ask of you.
The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter admits his wrongs and peels back the layers of his humanity — with lyrics like “Oh my love, I’m sorry for the promises I made without any intention,” and “I went off my meds / I really want to try / Thinking about my parents makes me cry” establish themselves across the record as Yoo franchise nicks.
Kneeling in a confessional booth of his own making, Yoo ends conversations and memories with ‘god‘ warmly desire someone to come back (“I dreamed of your back / Won’t you come get me?”), and pleads for a second chance in ‘bad dreams‘ (“I know you don’t want me right now / But can you think about it?”).
We spoke to Yoo via email about all things memories, the spark of songwriting, and good boring songs…
MUST LISTEN: ‘Amphetamine’, ‘Dio’, ‘Superpretty’, ‘Hoon’.
YOU WILL LOVE, IF YOU LIKE: Dijon, Kevin Abstract, The Blossom, No Rome, Cautious Clay… and mean what you say so that you say what you think.
HELPING HAND: We told you about the record last year – have your feelings changed since it was released to the world now?
BOY’S LIFE: It’s just gratitude. I’m glad it’s out there and people can hear it. There’s a measure of closure now that he’s out, since I sat with him for so long.
CDM: Memories are a big part of your album and thematically run through the record quite deeply. When you write about memories, do you replay them like a movie in your mind? Or do they come in flashes?
BOY’S LIFE: These are small details, most of the time. I remember random bits. I think back to a big fight I had with a friend and remember a crease in the brown pants they were wearing before remembering why we were arguing. I’m not good at taking pictures or keeping a diary, so if time passes, it’s only the smallest details and the silhouette of emotions that remain.
CDM: The visuals with the videos and visualizers on this album work so well with the songs and connect you more to the songs. Was there a grand plan for what they would look like? And how were you there?
BOY’S LIFE: Hey, I’m glad to hear that, thanks. Cory created both the cover art and the visualizers – he’s a genius. The videos were made by my friend dj – also a genius. There were hardly any plans, because I hadn’t really planned on making an album. Everything fell into place gradually. I told them both how I felt about the music and how I wanted the visuals to make me feel. Then I just let them do what they did and trusted they could execute it better than I ever could.
CDM: In ‘peas’ you talk about wanting to know someone and their whole being. Do you think we can ever really get to know someone?
BOY’S LIFE: Probably not, that sounds like a lot of pressure…if I try, I’ll let you know.
CDM: In terms of songwriting style, do you find it easier to write from your own experience or to write from something other than yourself?
BOY’S LIFE: It’s always easier to write from my own experience, but not in a strictly journalistic sense. I will make up stories in my songs if they make me feel exactly how I feel in real life. Emotional resonance is both the objective and the barometer. Fiction can be a shortcut to truth in this way. That being said, not everything is autobiography. Nowadays, less and less.
CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
BOY’S LIFE: I haven’t really found a method that works consistently. In the broadest sense, it usually starts with a spark, whether it’s a word or a melody, a sound or an image, in which I can see a world. Then it’s time to dig it up. I wish it were as easy for me as “I always start with chords” or something. I get bored very quickly and I hate repeating myself.
CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically for the songs, or do you write poems or prose and then turn them into a song?
BOY’S LIFE: Ideally, words and sounds work together. If lyrics existed first, I would build the sound world around that. If the sounds existed first, I would build the lyrics from what it makes me feel. No matter what comes first, nothing is sacred and they change along the way.
CDM: According to you, what is the difference between a good song and a great song?
BOY’S LIFE: I have no idea. I find a lot of joy in terrible songs, sometimes even more than great songs, so who am I to say these are terrible songs in the first place? Great songs are boring. But there are also great boring songs like ‘Do not talk’ by the Beach Boys who are just perfect music. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Just enjoy what you like and don’t feel pressured to enjoy what others deem classic. But also be open-minded because maybe it’s your shit and you don’t know it yet.
CDM: If BOYLIFE were an acronym, what would each letter mean?
BOY’S LIFE: Bulbasaur, Oddish, Ypikachu, Lapras, Ivysaur, Flareon, Eevee.
CDM: What is the next step for you? Will you be on tour next year?
BOY’S LIFE: The tour is in preparation, and we’ll see what else. I don’t feel obligated to make any particular move or stay in anyone’s Twitter feed. But it is sure that each time I have something good to share, I raise my head.
Watch boylife’s video for ‘superpretty’ below…
Check Out More Must-Have Artists 2022 here.