Author Archives: matt l roar

Talking with BOYTOY’s Saara Untracht Oakner & Glenn Van Dyke

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Saara and Glenn from BOYTOY gassing up. Photo by Will Warasila


BOYTOY‘s music makes me feel like summertime. Like smoking weed by a river. They’ve been described as alt-pop-shoegaze, but they definitely have garage and punk elements, a skateboarding-barefoot-to-the-beach vibe. Here, I talked with Saara Untracht Oakner (vocals and guitar) and Glenn Van Dyke (guitar and vocals) of the Brooklyn-based band about haters in middle school, their songwriting process, the surfing influence, thoughts on feminism, and more. 

Matt L Roar: Can you tell me a little bit about what the band has been up to? Are you living in California now? Do you have any new stuff coming out?

Saara Untracht Oakner: Glenn and I went out to LA for the winter to play some shows and write and demo for a new record. We were working with Lena from La Luz in her little loft/studio space and she was playing bass with us for some shows.

MLR: Do you guys all surf or is it just you? Do you think shredding waves influences your approach to shredding music?

SUO: Glenn and I both surf. She grew up surfing in Jacksonville, FL and I grew up surfing Lido and Long Beach on Long Island, NY. We also say the ultimate day is surfing and then playing a show. Tacos in between the two don’t hurt either.

Glenn Van Dyke: I think surfing provides a certain amount of mellow and excitement that might carry over to some other parts of our lives.

MLR: Can you describe some of your influences? Describe your sound for people who don’t know you…

SUO: We listen to a lot of everything, from 60s garage pop nuggets to Lou Reed, Rolling Stones, CCR, Sabbath, the Kinks, to Jesus And Mary Chain, Nirvana, Brian Jonestown Massacre, My Bloody Valentine. Glenn and I have always been into punk growing up skateboarding like the Ramones and Operation Ivy, Rancid and the misfits. I love reggae music and soul but I’m not really trying to make reggae music. Desmond Dekker, Althea and Donna, Alton Ellis. I could go on forever.

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GVD: Same — including but not limited to Kylie Minogue, Biggie Smalls, Eminem, The Spice Girls — okay I have to stop….

MLR: I was watching one of your videos where you guys talked about coming together to practice for one day and then cranking out five songs on a recording the next. Can you talk about the process for writing BOYTOY songs and if that’s changed or what the ideas behind this approach is?

SUO: Glenn and I usually write the skeleton structure of songs on our own and bring them to each other and flush them out. Other songs start as a jam between the two of us.  We’re writing these new ones we are demoing now kind of as we go building on the recordings which is fun. Usually we write them and play them live and practice them until they’re ready to record. It’s been fun going in with just the skeleton and layering them in recordings, not sure where they’re going to end up.

GVD: We definitely write songs quickly, I think we’re both pretty good at not overthinking or falling into the abyss where a song never gets done. We know when it’s there and then we move on to the next.

MLR: Can you talk a little bit about how you came to the band name?

SUO: I’m always brainstorming band names. I came up with the name BOYTOY before the band even existed. My old band had just broken up and I knew I wanted to start a new project. Glenn’s band (our bands used to tour together) was also just breaking up. I checked Google and bandcamp and MySpace and Facebook and all the other outlets and couldn’t find another BOYTOY or at least an active one. So I secured the gmail, bandcamp, and handles before the band even existed.

MLR: Who are some of your favorite female musicians?

SUO: We just saw Thelma and The Sleaze for the first time at SXSW. They’re a 3 piece from Nashville and they fucking SHRED. They’re all super rad people too. Screaming Females has a front woman. She rips on guitar too. I’ve always loved all the strong women in the late 90s rap game: Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Eve, Lil Kim.

GVD: THE SPICE GIRLS, Heart, Joan Jett.

MLR: When I approached you to do this interview, you mentioned that you don’t identify as a “girl band” or feminist musicians. Can you talk a little bit about that?

SUO: Just because we are women who play music doesn’t make us feminists, or a girl band. We’re a rock and roll band. You wouldn’t call a band of men a “boy band.” Yeah, I believe women should and can do everything men can do, but I don’t believe in separating the two or excluding one group from the other. Both Dylan and Matt (our drummers on the last two records) are guys. How does that make us a girl band? We’re not trying to make any statements by playing. It’s just what we do.

GVD: I’m definitely a feminist but I didn’t learn how to play instruments to stick it to the world because I’m a woman. It’s important to recognize that all over the world women are still not treated equally whether it’s a question of salary or respect or any other ungodly means of discrimination that exists due to physical disparity between the genders. I think it’s important to understand that you can achieve whatever you want to regardless of the parts you were born with. it’s fantastic to continue to see strong women emerge culturally and I think it’s important to keep showing girls AND boys of the next generation that it shouldn’t matter how you look on any level, that person sitting next you is your fellow human and you should respect that. I don’t think either of us want to have to talk about what it’s like to be a woman and actively pursuing goals all the time, I’d rather talk about what kind of gear I like.
MLR: Ooh! What kind of gear do you like?
 
GVD: Haha! So broad! We could be here forever. Right now my new favorite toy is a fuzz pedal my friend David Harrington built, he sent it to me for Christmas. It’s called The Bloody Finger. It’s has two controls — volume and tone — and works great for filling out some low end and adding texture. As we speak I’m having a guitar built by Johnny Rushmore so I’m really psyched on that too!
MLR: Any words of inspiration for the young musical shredders of the future?

SUO: Play all the time. If you want something go after it and don’t accept defeat. Because you will face rejection. In middle school these boys were starting a punk band. I asked if I could be in it and they said they didn’t want a girl cause it would mess up their image. I told them I was gonna get so good that it wouldn’t matter I was a girl and everyone would want me in their band anyway. I can say for certain none of them are playing music at this point.

GVD: Don’t be afraid to mess up! Learning music is a process that never ends and sometimes the best riffs come out of a fuck up or an accident. You’re gonna mess up, maybe even at a show but it’s just going to make you better.

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To learn more about BOYTOY, check out the official music video for “Blazed,” and if you can’t get enough, check out the 11 tracks on Grackle on Soundcloud.

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Hey Zebco, Stop Telling Fathers They Shouldn’t Tell Their Sons They Love Them

Last night I was snuggling with my boo on the couch, trying to enjoy some YouTube videos of sleeping kittens when I was rudely interrupted by this horrific commercial:

The ad for the fishing gear manufacturer Zebco shows a father and son fishing with the company’s new reel, and we hear the dad’s inner monologue: “Hey Josh, I don’t say this often enough but I think you are a great kid, and you mean the world to me. You know that, right?” Then the voice-over comes in: “When you take them fishing with America’s favorite reel, it says a lot.” Continue reading

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The World Conforms to You: An Interview with Rhizome’s Nicole Dunn

Nicole Dunn and feminist hardcore band Rhizome

Nicole Dunn (top right) and Rhizome before their show with G.L.O.S.S.

Drummer for the hardcore band RHIZOME, Nicole Dunn and I went to the same high school in Concord, CA, a sprawling suburb only about 45 minutes from San Francisco but light years away in terms of issues of race, gender, and sexuality. Since then Nicole has played drums for several notable metal and hardcore bands including PROVOS and CLOAK, and has become an outspoken voice around trans and feminist issues. Here Nicole talks about what it’s been like making music in a feminist hardcore band, transitioning within a traditionally close-minded and conservative scene, and shifting gender values in the hardcore-punk and metal communities.

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Matt L. Roar: Hi Nicole! I’m super excited to interview you. Can you start off by talking about your current musical endeavors and other recent projects? What have you been working on? What are you excited about?

Nicole Dunn: Hey Matt! I’m excited to do this interview with you because we go way back. Time flies. I’ve been trying to get some more musical projects going here and there but as of now, I’m drumming for Rhizome. Rhizome has become the punk band I’ve always wanted to be in. Female fronted, lyrics about the patriarchy within hardcore and fast and pissed off! We should be touring in the summer so I’m excited for that. I also started recently jamming with two awesome girls and this dude on vocals. The project is like heavy ‘77 style punk so I’ll keep you posted on that. I also was in a black metal band called Cloak but had to call it quits because I’ve really been trying to focus on this significant shift in my life and they wanted a lot out of me I couldn’t give them. I wanted to pursue other musical endeavors but at a pace that lets me focus on my gender transition as well. Cloak has moved on without me but I’m excited to see what their next release will sound like. I’ve also been doing a radio show for the past couple of years called Cult of Riffs where I play all heavy music. The show is on a internet based radio station called BFF.fm. I don’t think I have any listeners sometimes but it’s fun and keeps me busy, haha. Continue reading

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The Universe Doesn’t Know You Exist : An Interview with Meghan O’Neil Pennie of Super Unison, ex-Punch

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Super Unison, photo by Matthew Kadi

There’s this tree growing behind my apartment that took me five years to really notice. It’s huge. Twenty feet taller than our three-story building, with dense leaves, a squirrel’s nest, and a rotating cast of birds. I don’t understand why I took it for granted for so long. Maybe I needed to live in New York City for a few years before I realized how special it was to have an epic, dynamic, vital being growing in your backyard. Anyway, Meghan O’Neil Pennie, the lead singer and bassist of Super Unison, and former lead singer of PUNCH, is like that for me too. Meghan was the big sister of the drummer in my high school punk band. She was always lurking when we practiced in his parent’s living room. In college she was my best friend’s roommate, so we would often cook dinner together and hang. She felt like a family member who had always been around and always would be. So when she started singing for PUNCH, I hardly noticed. I feel stupid about that now. Her vocals on  the five(!) PUNCH records released by 625, Deathwish, Discos Huelgas, are so fucking ferocious and unrelenting it hurts my throat and heart to listen. Meghan also has this incredibly powerful stage presence. I’m watching old  YOUTUBE videos and found one of her performing at a festival in the Czech Republic and she’s leaping about stage with one broken foot while people stagedive around her. Meghan derived the title of PUNCH’s last record, “They Don’t Have to Believe” from the Kathleen Hanna documentary, The Punk Singer, in which Hanna says “she doesn’t expect everyone to understand or believe in feminism or her personal battle with illness, but they should have to stay out of her way.” Meghan’s work in her new band, Super Unison, continues in this lineage. Her vocals are upfront and unapologetic, slightly more melodic than before, a little less thrash and a little more riot grrrl. Here, Meghan and I talk about her new band, her lyrics, and how she became the musician she is today. Continue reading

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Rah! Rah! Roundup!

rahrahroundupAs protests around police brutality continue in Baltimore, this Salon/Radical Faggot article breaks down why “smashing police cars” and rioting are “legitimate political strategy,” and how calling protesters and rioters “uncivilized” or unconstitutional is racist and hypocritical.

This Washington Post article discusses the disgusting and unsurprising celebration by mainstream media of a mother desperately striking her son who is protesting in Baltimore: “Beatings are not transformative. They don’t empower. They simply punish the victims and accelerate the trauma, bringing the pain from the streets into the home.”

Black Girl Dangerous discusses the glaring double standards in media treatment of trans POC vs. trans rich white people like Bruce Jenner. Continue reading

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