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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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Rah! Rah! Roundup

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Artist Alyssa Boni has been doing the Lord’s work for Elle UK, photoshopping men out of photos of politicians to prove what should be an obvious point: we need #MoreWomen in politics. For example:

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Black Girl Magik As Feminist Formation (& A Valentine’s Day Well Spent)

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It was a cold day in Brooklyn, one of those days that’s so freezing you want to kiss a stranger on the subway just to warm your face. It was Valentine’s Day, after all, so maybe this would have been permissible but I kept my lips to myself as I chugged along on the L train. I went to Love Potion #5, a Black Girl Magik workshop, alone and without knowing a single person in the room. All of us introverts and socially awkward types know about those parties where we feel weird and lonely because we don’t know anyone. And the very thought of trying to start a conversation sounds like a day at the dentist. I strolled into Love Potion teary-eyed from the cold and a half an hour late from getting lost. When I walked in, the first people I saw was a group of young white hipsters who took one quick look at my befuddled face before saying, “It’s over there.”  Continue reading

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Why Take the Risk? More Drugs to Take “Just in Case”

New CDC guidelines intended to prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in children have been causing quite the firestorm in feminist circles lately! The confusion probably began when women didn’t understand the CDC’s helpful infographic, which recommends that all women who are thinking about becoming pregnant abstain completely from alcohol, and that all trollops women who do drink alcohol make sure they’re on birth control:

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The CDC actually removed the top part of this infographic last week, probably in response to all the confusion and anger. But since much of the information on the image, such as the implication that women who drink alcohol are responsible if someone else assaults or injures them, is still part of the CDC fact sheet on excessive alcohol use by women, many women are still really confused. For one thing, the infographic could do a lot more to help us completely eliminate the risk of accidentally getting drunk and pregnant. In fact, it could do more to help us figure out how prescription medications might completely eliminate the risk of a lot of other problems we might encounter in our lives. Don’t worry, though! WEIRD SISTER is here to help. Just follow these simple steps to figure out which prophylactic prescription drugs you should start taking, just to be safe! And if you finish this article and you’re still confused, make sure you’re taking hormonal birth control. That way, any damage you do to your own health won’t be inflicted on your millions of potential innocent babies! Continue reading

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Why Hillary Clinton = Courtney Love: 2 Important Charts

You guys, did you realize that Hillary Clinton is the Courtney Love of the 2016 Democratic primaries? And that that makes Bernie Sanders Kurt Cobain?! Read on & I’ll show you two infographics that totally prove it. Plus, they’ll help you registered Dems out there decide how to cast your vote!

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Rah! Rah! Roundup

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Alexis Clements wrote an essay for Hyperallergic about her experience attending the Poetry Project’s live event, “White Room,” a conversation dealing with how to dismantle white supremacy among American poets. Among many other observations, she notes: “People have been walking away from and refusing the white room, the male room, the straight room, the able-bodied room, all the rooms, for a long time. Alternative spaces and radical political movements did not get “killed” in this country. Narratives of failure around radical politics often look at too short a time span, too little of a sweep of history.”  

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The Blank Space (continued), or, Night Fell in the Hole: A Comic

“The Blank Space (continued), or, Night Fell in the Hole” takes up where our last installment of “The Blank Space” left off. Read part one here, browse part two below, and stay tuned for what happens next in the non-linear, monthly serialization of a project known in its entirety (as it inches toward bookhood) as The Conditions of Our Togetherness.

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How to Sound Like an Asian Female Poet

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Image via Angry Little Girls, Lela Lee.

I wrote/recorded (click here to hear) the following in reaction to recent events. Also, our fabulous Weird Sister Soleil Ho wrote a related post (which you should also check out if you haven’t already)…

[Procedure: Have an actual Asian female poet silently mouth “take my face take my voice take my face take my voice” throughout this entire audio recording]

Are you a cis-white male poet who’s been rejected over and over for the same shitty poem? Do you want this same shitty poem to be selected for the Best American Poetry anthology?

Then look no further–just adopt an Asian female voice! Continue reading

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Feminist Halloween Costumes for 2015

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Last year there was the Sexy Bunch of Grapes. This year it’s the Sexy Pizza Rat. The more things change, the more you need a list of feminist Halloween costume ideas. In honor of WEIRD SISTER’s upcoming first birthday (!!!!) I’m updating last year’s hoary old list of literary feminist costume ideas with some Totally Topical Feminist Costumes for 2015, including plenty of references drawn from WEIRD SISTER’s first twelve months! (Don’t forget to review last year’s list of Feminist Halloween Do’s and Don’ts to make sure your Edgy Feminist Halloween Costume is feminist fun for everyone.) Continue reading

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