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7 Mind-Blowing Sets From Coachella 2023 Weekend 2: Gorillaz, Boygenius, Eric Prydz & More
Weekend two of Coachella 2023 was packed with drama and intrigue, concluding with surprise headlining sets from Blink-182 and DJ trio Skrillex, Four Tet & Fred Again.. Read on for the weekend's biggest moments and exciting surprises.
Coachella 2023 has now come to a close. The second weekend of the Southern California mega-festival concluded with another series of bespoke performances that continued to build the event’s reputation as a place where legendary moments become history.
Weekend two was packed with drama and intrigue, led by the last-minute removal of Frank Ocean from the Sunday lineup due to injury. Fans were already buzzing following his controversial first weekend performance, while organizers worked quickly to replace his headlining set. The results were top notch, closing Coachella on a very energetic and celebratory note.
The mystery act didn't remain hush-hush for long, though. Sunday's headliners were revealed to be the supergroup DJ trio of Skrillex, Four Tet, and Fred Again.., who in their brief time playing music together have become one of the most sought-after acts in the world. (So much so that they sold out Madison Square Garden in two minutes after announcing the show.)
Beyond the Sunday scramble, weekend two of Coachella 2023 brought much of the same excitement as the previous week — replete with more stand-out sets than even the most experienced festival goer could manage to catch. Below, relive seven sets that showcase Coachella’s reign as one of the most popular festivals in the world.
Wet Leg Encourages Communal Release
The British alternative rock band only has one self-titled album’s worth of material, which they've been diligently touring around the globe. And yet they still managed to bring a sense of zeal and authentic excitement to their second Coachella set.
Wet Leg's Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers set the example of this energy. Throughout the performance, they shared excitable looks, occasionally dropping lyrics in favor of laughter. Other times, they led the crowd in an epic scream, just for the sake of it. Dave Grohl even showed up to scream with them.
The climax of the performance at the Mojave stage on Friday afternoon was "Chaise Longue," the upbeat rock and roll heater that earned the group a 2022 GRAMMY for Best Alternative Performance. When Teasdale would ask, "Excuse me," the crowd would shout back "What?!" with all their might. Then the rapid fire guitar came in, and everyone in the crowd understood that the assignment was to dance.
Gorillaz Take Special Guests Appearances To The Next Level
Gorillaz last performed at Coachella in 2010 as Sunday headliners, and brought headliner energy to Friday night's penultimate set. When it comes to special guests — a Coachella tradition already ingrained in Gorillaz's music — the group stepped up their game.
By the third song, the L.A. alternative legend Beck was on stage to sing his feature on "Valley of the Pagans" from Gorillaz’s 2020 album, Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez. From there, more than half of the 17-song set included a guest.
Thundercat came on for his contribution to the title track of Gorillaz's latest, Cracker Island, Little Simz performed "Garage Palace" off 2017's Humanz, and Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, joined Gorillaz along with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble for "Sweepstakes" from 2010’s Plastic Beach. Minutes before his own headlining set, Bad Bunny came out in a mask to perform "Tormenta," his feature on Cracker Island.
An IRL Bad Bunny collab may have been the ultimate surprise guest coup de grâce, but Gorillaz weren't finished yet. In a touching moment of unity, Gorillaz paid tribute to their late collaborator David Jolicoeur after the surviving members of De La Soul joined Gorillaz for a performance of "Feel Good, Inc."
Eric Prydz Brings Artificial Into Reality With His HOLO Show
If Eric Prydz had decided to simply play a DJ set, he still likely would have landed one of the festival's top booking slots; instead, he brought his HOLO show to Indio.
This unique live production is known in the global dance music circuit for pushing the limits of visuals in the live space. There are hundreds of videos on the internet heralding its epicness, but those videos don’t compare to experiencing it in person.
Prydz’s closing set at Outdoor Theater on Saturday night was scheduled to begin at 10:20 p.m., but when the time rolled around, the screens remained dark. However, a keen ear could tell that the scene had actually begun; a subtle line emanated through the speakers and, for 20 minutes, kept getting louder and extending in its repetition.
At 10:40, a giant mechanical hand appeared on the screen, as if it was floating out into the audience. With an iPhone between its Transformers-esque fingers, the hand took photos as a wash of electronic music started building. Then as the hand flipped the phone to show an image of the audience on its screen, the first track of the set took full form, and a tidal wave of energy was released from the crowd.
For the remainder of the set, every new song was accompanied by an evermore impressive audiovisual creation. One frame was Prydz himself wearing a spacesuit. Another was a team of spacemen firing laser guns at the crowd. It felt so real that someone probably ducked to avoid the virtual projectiles.
Christine & The Queens Do So Much With Not-So-Much
Coachella is a festival where most artists like to do a lot, but Christine & The Queens demonstrated that you can actually do a lot with a little.
Production during the Sunday sunset slot at Mojave was minimalistic: two separate platforms on stage, one for Christine and her three-piece band, the other open for use. Like her stage setup, Christine & The Queens' music is generally minimalistic — though Christine doesn't require much to completely enthrall her audience.
Songs began calmer, exemplified by the use of Red Hot Chili Peppers' alt-rock ballad of "By The Way" as a transition into her hit song, "Tilted." As that steady and simple beat moved along the intensity only increased. Christine threw her body around, ending up on the floor, on the platform, all the while nailing every note with her serenading tones.
Other than her soothing yet powerful vocals and mesmerizing stage presence, Christine was just as much a preacher as a musician. She decried patriarchal capitalism and stood strong in her belief that music is the greatest weapon against it.
"You are not going to surrender!" she shouted as her drummer threw down a high speed solo.
Boygenius Provide A Musical Safe Space
When the indie supergroup took the Outdoor stage for the first set of Saturday night in complete darkness, everyone was primed and ready to feel all the things. Thus commenced the musical therapy session that was boygenius' Coachella performance, as members Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker sang the first few lines of "Without You Without Them" together on a single mic.
"I want to hear your story and be a part of it," the trio sang — their message a call to everyone in earshot, from the audience to the security guards and production workers.
Although the crowd wasn’t the biggest that the Outdoor stage would see throughout the weekend, the environment allowed for plenty of space for the audience to be with themselves under the stars. Then as the band went through the various moods on their debut album, the record, the audience responded to their energy in kind.
When the trio were rocking out on songs like "$20" and "Satanist," the energy was high and lively as everyone took in Bridgers' towering shouts before returning with their own. Then when the volume came down for the raw, unfiltered honesty in songs like "True Blue" and "Emily I’m Sorry," the people who were shouting before began to gently sway, murmuring the lyrics to themselves word for word, experiencing them on a personal level.
Björk Reworks Her Classics With An Orchestra
Iceland’s own Björk last performed at Coachella in 2007, when she headlined Friday. For her first Coachella set in over 15 years, the artist returned with a full orchestra that performed original interpretations of her past works.
Backed by the Hollywood String Ensemble and conducted by fellow Icelander, Bjarni Frímann, pleasant indie songs such as "Aurora" and "Come To Me" became operatic epics. The orchestra allowed her to accurately and succinctly reproduce "Freefall," a song from her latest album, 2022’s Fossora, which integrates orchestral composition with alternative production.
Closing the set, Björk embarked on an exploration of orchestral techno, as Hollywood String Ensemble rearranged her industrial masterpiece, "Pluto."
Visually, Björk satisfied expectations on all levels. Her dress was reminiscent of a spider web, with feathers caught in the adhesive like several birds all flew through at the precise angle. Above the stage, an aerial drone show reacted to her voice as if her tones were literally reaching the heavens.
Skrillex, Four Tet & Fred Again.. Party In The Round
Saving the day, Skrillex, Four Tet, and Fred Again.. took their last-minute headlining set to epic proportions. The trio of DJs performed in the round on the satellite stage, while extra speakers were brought in so fans in every part of the field could bathe in their electronic sounds.
Their set was just a straight party, complete with plumes of glowsticks flying into the air during various drops. Then when they fell other people would scavenge the field and pick them up so they could throw them on the next great drop.
At other performances like MSG where they were the sole act, the trio had as long as five hours to explore all the music they wanted. This time they had less than two, and filled the set with as many bangers as they could.
Some examples were the scraping dubstep track "COUNTRY RIDDIM" by the rising dubstep producer HOL!, "RATATA," a breakbeat tune supported by a vocal feature from Missy Elliott, and even "Party In The USA" by Miley Cyrus.
But the glue holding together the set were the booming bass tones of UK grime rapper Flowdan. The new trio made new versions of his hook from the massive collaboration with Skrillex and Fred Agan.., "Rumble."
Graphic Courtesy of the Recording Academy
SZA's Massive Year Continues, 'Barbie' Dominates & Big Firsts From The 2024 GRAMMYs Nominations
Who is the most nominated artist at the 66th GRAMMY Awards? Who could potentially make history? Take a look at five takeaways from the nominations for the 2024 GRAMMYs.
One of the biggest days in music has arrived: the nominations for the 2024 GRAMMYs.
With the excitement of the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations — which were announced on Nov. 10 — comes many big milestones. Whether it's first-time feats by this year's most nominated artist, SZA, or record-tying nominations by Taylor Swift, there's several intriguing takeaways from the 94 categories.
Below, check out five major outcomes of the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations.
SZA's Big Year Is Rewarded
There's no denying that SZA has been one of the year's most in-demand artists, and her GRAMMY nominations reflect that. With nine nominations, SZA is the most-nominated artist at the 2024 GRAMMYs — and she has a lot of new milestones to celebrate.
With 15 nominations and one win going into the 2024 GRAMMYs, SZA had already received nods in several major categories. But her most recent noms are particularly special because they're all for her own work.
SZA's ambitious second album, SOS, is the singer's first LP to receive an Album Of The Year nomination, while lead single "Kill Bill" is her first solo song to be nominated in the Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year categories. (She was previously nominated for AOTY as a featured artist on Doja Cat's Planet Her (Deluxe) in 2022, and for ROTY and SOTY with Kendrick Lamar for "All The Stars" in 2019 and with Doja Cat for "Kiss Me More" in 2022.)
Plus, the R&B star expands her nominations within her own genre: she's nominated in the Best Progressive R&B Album (SOS) and Best Traditional R&B Performance ("Love Language") categories for the first time.
Women Lead The Pack
Who run the 2024 GRAMMYs? Girls.
SZA is far from the only female artist with several GRAMMY nominations this year. Of the nine most-nominated artists, eight are women: SZA (9), Phoebe Bridgers (7), boygenius (6), Brandy Clark (6), Miley Cyrus (6), Olivia Rodrigo (6), Taylor Swift (6), and Victoria Monét (6). As Cyrus noted in a social media post celebrating her nominations, "Watching women win & rule the music industry makes me proud."
In fact, a majority of this year's leading nominees are women artists or groups. The Record Of The Year and Album Of The Year categories, as well as the Best Pop Solo Performance category, are all dominated by women.
'Barbie' Dominates Once Again
Another woman who took over the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations was Barbie — well, sort of.
The Barbie soundtrack and some of its hit songs received 11 nominations, four of which dominate the Best Song Written For Visual Media category: Nicki Minaj's and Ice Spice's "Barbie World," Dua Lipa's "Dance The Night," Ryan Gosling's "I'm Just Ken," and Billie Eilish's "What Was I Made For?" (They'll be competing against Rihanna's highly anticipated return to music, "Lift Me Up" from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.)
"Dance the Night" also earned a coveted Song Of The Year nomination, while "What Was I Made For?" scored nods in both Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year, as well as Best Pop Solo Performance. Additionally, "Barbie World" received a nomination for Best Rap Song.
Naturally, Barbie The Album is nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media nomination. Mark Ronson's genius was further rewarded with a nom for Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media, which he earned alongside his co-composer, Andrew Wyatt.
Artists Add Big Firsts
Like the 2023 GRAMMYs nominations, the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations resulted in many exciting firsts. While several artists are receiving their first GRAMMY nods — some of which will be highlighted in GRAMMY.com's Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee series in January — there are also several GRAMMY veterans with firsts to celebrate
Taylor Swift, for example, became the first songwriter to receive seven nominations in the Song Of The Year category. Along with her current nomination for "Anti-Hero," she was previously nominated for "All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (The Short Film)," "cardigan," "Lover," "Blank Space," "Shake It Off," and "You Belong With Me." And she could be making even more history at the 2024 GRAMMYs — but more on that later.
Miley Cyrus also achieved new GRAMMY feats, as her acclaimed eighth album, Endless Summer Vacation, is the pop star's first project to receive an Album Of The Year nomination. (She received an AOTY nod in 2022 as a featured artist on Lil Nas X's MONTERO.) The LP's smash lead single, "Flowers," helped Cyrus earn her first nominations in the Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance categories as well, and her collab with Brandi Carlile, "Thousand Miles," earned her first nod for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
R&B singer Victoria Monét isn't celebrating her first GRAMMY nominations this year, but she is celebrating her first as an artist. Monét had previously received three nominations: two in 2020 for her work as a songwriter/producer on Ariana Grande's "7 rings" (Record Of The Year) and thank u, next (Album Of The Year), and one in 2021 for Chloe x Halle's "Do It" (Best R&B Song). All six of her 2024 GRAMMY nominations recognize her work as an artist herself, including the esteemed honor of Best New Artist. Her other nods are for her debut album, JAGUAR II: Record Of The Year ("On My Mama"), Best R&B Performance ("How Does It Make You Feel"), Best Traditional R&B Performance ("Hollywood"), Best R&B Song ("On My Mama"), and Best R&B Album.
This also isn't the first time Phoebe Bridgers has received GRAMMY nominations — but it is for her supergroup boygenius, as well as for her bandmates Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker. With their six nods (including Album Of The Year for the record and Record Of The Year for "Not Strong Enough"), they became the first group to receive six or more GRAMMY nominations in a single year since 2012, when fun. and Mumford & Sons received six nominations each at the 2013 GRAMMYs.
A handful of other previously GRAMMY-nominated artists received their first nominations in new categories this year. 2022's Best New Artist, Olivia Rodrigo, earned her first in a Rock category for "ballad of a homeschooled girl" (Best Rock Song); 2022's Album Of The Year winner, Jon Batiste, has his first in the Song Of The Year ("Butterfly") and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance ("Candy Necklace" with Lana Del Rey) categories; Brandy Clark collected her first in the Best Americana Performance ("Dear Insecurity" with Brandi Carlile), Best American Roots Song ("Dear Insecurity") and Best Americana Album (Brandy Clark) categories, as well as her first in the Best Musical Theater Album category for "Shucked."
It's actually the first time a few artists are nominated for contributions to film and theater: Dua Lipa, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna are all first-time Best Song Written For Visual Media nominees, and Josh Groban earned his first nod in the Best Musical Theater Album category, for his role as principal vocalist in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street."
Last but certainly not least, in the Best African Music Performance category — one of three new categories for the 2024 GRAMMYs — four of the five artists or groups are first-time GRAMMY nominees: ASAKE & Olamide ("Amapiano"), Davido Featuring Musa Keys ("UNAVAILABLE"), Ayra Starr ("Rush"), and Tyla ("Water").
Taylor Swift Aims For More GRAMMY History
As Swifties know, Taylor Swift is no stranger to making GRAMMY history. In 2021, she made history as the first female artist to win Album Of The Year three times — but in 2024, she could become the artist with the most wins in the category ever.
That's right: If Swift's Midnights takes home the golden gramophone for Album Of The Year, she'll have a record-breaking four wins in the category, passing Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.
Even if she doesn't win, Swift has already tied a GRAMMY record. With her nomination for Midnights, Swift now ties Barbra Streisand for most nominations by a female artist for Album Of The Year, with six nominations in the category each.
Will Taylor Swift make more GRAMMY history? Will SZA cap off her unstoppable year with a GRAMMY win? Will Miley Cyrus get her "Flowers"? Tune into CBS on Feb. 4, 2024 to find out!
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Here Are The Record Of The Year Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs
The 2024 Record Of The Year nominees at the 2024 GRAMMYs are hits from some of music’s biggest names Jon Batiste, boygenius, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish & FINNEAS, Victoria Monét, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift and SZA.
Throughout the past year, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift delivered inescapable pop anthems, while Victoria Monét and SZA proved that R&B deserves a place in the spotlight. Jon Batiste continued to evolve his artistry, while indie supergroup boygenius made an anticipated comeback.
With so many standout moments, the golden gramophone Record Of The Year — which is awarded to the artist and the producer(s), recording engineer(s) and/or mixer(s) and mastering engineer(s) — is shaping up to be a thrilling contest at the 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards.
Before tuning into the 2024 GRAMMYs on Feb. 4, 2024, learn more about this year's Record Of The Year nominees below.
Jon Batiste - "Worship"
Album highlight "Worship" encapsulates the LP’s message of unification and community by fusing various global sounds. The song is quite the joyride, beginning with bellowing organs before a choir joins with a glorious harmony and finally explodes with a Latin samba party. "We are born the same / Return to that place" Batiste repeats throughout the song, driving home his inclusive mission.
"Worship" is a joyous anthem and, following his Album Of The Year win at the 2023 GRAMMYs for We Are, it’s clear the five-time GRAMMY winner is keeping the celebration going.
boygenius -"Not Strong Enough"
The LP beautifully captured just how well the women rockers work together, and their chemistry is best seen in "Not Strong Enough." The single’s lush harmonies and feather-light guitars are a contrast to the candid lyricism, which attempts to juggle insecurities and having a God complex.
"The two wolves inside us can be self-hatred and self-aggrandizing," Bridgers explained to Rolling Stone. "Being like, ‘I’m not strong enough to show up for you. I can’t be the partner that you want me to be.’ But also being like, ‘I’m too f—ed up. I’m unknowable in some deep way!’"
"Not Strong Enough" marks a career milestone for boygenius, as it's the group’s first nomination for Record Of The Year.
Miley Cyrus - "Flowers"
A truly great pop star knows how to make a break-up anthem for the ages. Miley Cyrus already had a few under her belt, but she kicked off the year with her strongest offering to date.
"Flowers" was suggested to be inspired by Cyrus’ divorce from Liam Hemsworth, but the song’s messaging goes well beyond the singer’s personal life. Many can relate to having to pick up the pieces of a broken heart, but Cyrus’ confident vocals paired with the soaring disco-inspired melody reassure that self-love is the ultimate healer.
"The chorus was originally: ‘I can buy myself flowers, write my name in the sand, but I can’t love me better than you can,’" the singer told British Vogue of the song’s original lyrics. "It used to be more, like, 1950s. The saddest song. Like: ‘Sure, I can be my own lover, but you’re so much better.’"
The subtle decision to flip the "can’t" into a "can" showcases the brilliance of Cyrus’ songwriting, which ultimately makes the meaning of "Flowers" that much more empowering.
Billie Eilish & FINNEAS - "What Was I Made For?"
The Barbie movie was arguably this year’s biggest pop culture phenomenon, so of course the soundtrack had equally big names. But among the midst of fast-paced and glittery pop songs, Billie Eilish’s contribution tugged at heartstrings. The seven-time GRAMMY winner teamed with her brother and go-to collaborator FINNEAS for "What Was I Made For?"
It’s a tender, melancholic ballad that ties in the movie’s themes of autonomy and balancing feminism in a patriarchal world, with Eilish still holding on to hope: "I don’t know how to feel / But someday I might." The song reflects a universal experience for many women, including Eilish herself — although she didn’t realize it at first.
"I was purely inspired by this movie and this character and the way I thought she would feel and wrote about that," Eilish told Zane Lowe for Apple Music 1. "Over the next couple days, I was listening and [realized] I was writing for myself and I don’t even know it." That relatability is one of the beauties of music, for listeners and artists alike.
Victoria Monét - "On My Mama"
Victoria Monét has a long songwriting history, penning hits for the likes of Brandy, BLACKPINK, Chloe x Halle and longtime friend Ariana Grande. And while she’s released solo music in the past, her debut album Jaguar II cements her place within R&B’s new crop of stars. Third single "On My Mama" took the scene by storm, bringing together millennials and Gen Z’s shared love of ‘00s nostalgia.
Sampling Chalie Boy’s 2009 song "I Look Good" and lined with Monét’s signature horns, the song is a celebration of Black southern culture. As Monét described it on "The Ebro Show" on Apple Music 1, "It’s an anthem for affirmations, positive self-talk, manifestations, living in abundance, [and] speaking things into existence."
Olivia Rodrigo - "Vampire"
What makes Olivia Rodrigo a captivating artist is her honesty. Her ability to capture her generation’s emotional nature is why 2021’s debut album Sour took pop music by storm (and also made her a three-time GRAMMY winner). And she’s continued the movement with "Vampire", the lead single from her sophomore album, Guts.
The song is a red herring of sorts, beginning with melancholic piano keys that often kickstart the singer’s tunes. But rather than shed tears, she unleashes the fury of a woman scorned, dishing out insults to a manipulative ex-lover that ripped her heart out. "Bloodsucker, famef—er / Bleedin' me dry, like a goddamn vampire" she seethes on the chorus. The best revenge is always served cold.
Taylor Swift - "Anti-Hero"
Taylor Swift has grown to be even more self-aware as her status ascends. She knows being a pop superstar comes with its challenges, and “Anti-Hero” reveals the woman behind the glitzy veil. Inspired by her nightmares, the chart-topping smash from tTaylor Swift has become even more self aware as her status ascends. She knows being a pop superstar comes with its challenges, and "Anti-Hero" reveals the woman behind the glitzy veil.
Inspired by her nightmares, the chart-topping smash from the 12-time GRAMMY winner’s tenth album Midnights is a personal journal into feelings of self-doubt and anxiety. But in natural Swift fashion, the dark lyricism is anchored by hopeful pop synths courtesy of longtime collaborator and co-producer Jack Antonoff. The video heightens the song’s themes, as Swift confronts various versions of her former selves.
"We all hate things about ourselves, and it's all of those aspects of the things we dislike and like about ourselves that we have to come to terms with if we're going to be this person," Swift shared with fans on Instagram. That refreshing honesty is what makes "Anti-Hero" one of the singer’s most successful songs to date.
SZA - "Kill Bill"
Leave it to SZA to make murder sound so sweet. On SOS standout single "Kill Bill," the singer takes a page from director Quentin Tarantino by nodding to his 2003 film, as she lives out her vengeful fantasies.
The GRAMMY winner’s raging jealousy landed "Kill Bill" atop the Billboard Hot 100, making it her first-ever solo No.1 hit. SZA brought the fatal single to life with a cinematic music video, which pays homage to Kill Bill with fierce action scenes and an appearance from Vivica A. Fox, who starred as a Deadly Viper and Thurman's enemy Vernita Green in the film.
"I've never raged the way that I should have. This is my villain era, and I'm very comfortable with that," the singer shared with Glamour about her album’s themes. "It is in the way I say no. It's in the f–ked up things that I don't apologize for." And with lyrics like "I did all of this sober" on "Kill Bill," you have no choice but to believe her.
Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images
The Sound Of Collision: Boygenius Discuss Creating 'The Rest,' Their Deepening Friendship & Identities
Boygenius have experienced a year of exponential growth, culminating with a new EP. In a candid and wide-ranging interview, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus discuss five years of music-making and 'the rest,' which drops Oct.13.
Quite a lot has changed for boygenius in the months following the release of their debut album, the record, in March.
The indie supergroup of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus initially joined forces in 2018, offering a self-titled EP and North American tour. Despite positive reception for both, the trio were largely quiet for several years and shifted to their solo projects.
So when their reunion and debut full-length was confirmed in January 2023, much attention was given to boygenius' trajectory. Once the record was released, the group seemingly went skyward.
Fast forward to the present and the band is on the third leg of their tour in support of the record, recently performing for 25,000 people at Gunnersbury Park in London and selling out Madison Square Garden. Continuing their exponential growth, boygenius recently announced the rest, a four-track EP set for release Oct.13.
Sonically, the rest is a revisitation. "We veered away from our folkier roots on the record in a way that was fun to come back to for the EP," says Bridgers sitting alongside Baker and Dacus on a Zoom call from the Westville Music Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut.
Even deeper rooted than their love of folk music, and what has remained consistent throughout the five years after their initial connection, is the trio's shared dynamic.
"We were never not a band," says Bridgers. Yet, "it doesn’t just mean that we’re all great musicians and therefore our talent gets exponentially multiplied," Baker says of their "supergroup" designation. "It’s the dedication to how we mediate music between the three of us as a conduit. That’s the important part."
Their impact and connection extends beyond music as well. The trio has moved into other forms of media, producing a music film directed by Academy Award nominee Kristen Stewart, and have become icons for the queer community after performing in drag in Nashville to protest the city’s anti-drag legislation (among other pro-queer activities).
Ahead of their new EP, boygenius candidly dive into their songwriting process, relationships with queerness, and using music as a conduit of their connection.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
When you think back on who you were professionally and personally when you wrote the first EP, what is it like to bring those songs into the present on much bigger stages?
Phoebe Bridgers: I think about it more from a fan perspective now. I’m like The kids are singing it to me. They get excited when we play older songs 'cause they feel a part of it.
Julien Baker: It's sweet imagining them having anticipated it. Having been at that [older] show or missed that show. We’ve aged with them and they can trace our parallel aging.
Bridgers: When we play "Me & My Dog," I was singing about myself and from my perspective. Now I’m so far away from it that it’s like the fans are singing it. I feel that way about "Souvenir." This is one for the fans to sing to us.
How did you view yourselves at the start of the group in 2018, and how does that compare to you are today?
Lucy Dacus: I’m a bigger fan of who I am now than who I was, but you gotta root for yourself, so I’m retroactively rooting for who I was.
Baker: I have more grace for my past self. I don’t know if I would have the wisdom to admire current me… think overall I’d be stoked. Some of the stuff [I've done] would surprise me.
Bridgers: We talk sometimes about how there’s a certain hometown mentality that can be poisonous. Like your friend whose band never took off says, “You guys f—ing sold out,” and we’re like “Well you didn’t get a chance to my friend. 'Sold out' means people buy the album.”
Baker: In 2018 when I met you guys I was straight edge and vegan and now it’s nice to have a lobster roll when you’re in New England. I’m a lot more lax but more mature and I don’t know if I would have had the foresight as such a young kid. I was so neurotic then and really principled in a misguided way, but I think I have to have retroactive grace for that person more than I need to admire.
You’ve mentioned that much of the writing for boygenius takes place separately, but the songs are finished together. How did writing the record compare to the first EP?
Bridgers: The main way is that we talk about each other now. We were just writing, trying to help each other with songs that already existed or little ideas that already existed. Now we have so much context for each other that the record starts eating its own tail and becomes about making the record, which is cool.
Baker: There’s an ease of communication that maybe wasn’t quite available when we were first working together, where each of us brought a verse that then got gently edited.
A lot of the record is an exquisite corpse of working out line by line with each other. Then there are huge swaths that are just s— [Phoebe] wrote or just s— that Lucy wrote, but it’s nice to feel an entitlement to something that’s being created corporately instead of pieced [together].
Dacus: It’s never been difficult [communicating], so it’s not like it even had the chance to get easier. We do a lot of work to avoid difficulty. We do group therapy together and try to foresee what our pitfalls could be and avoid them.
Not like it’s all easy. We’ll encounter really difficult math problems — [that’s] what it feels like in the studio where none of us will get it and we’ll be frustrated but it’s not at each other.
The final lines of "Powers" are "The force of our impact, the fission/The hum of our contact/The sound of our collision." From my perspective, the sound of your collision as human beings includes the music you’ve made together, but also the way you’ve presented yourselves to the public, for example, in standing up for causes you believe in, and then there is the sound no one else hears within your dynamic as a band. With all this mind, how would you describe "the sound of your collision?"
Baker: Those are both semi-stolen lyrics. I read this book Cruising Utopia by José Esteban Muñoz and he talks about the idea of the lived experience being its own work of art, and then that art needing a witness to be savored and appreciated.
He talks about the hum of our contact. It’s evocative of all the things that aren’t explicitly stated that take place. All the communication that’s extra-lingual. That is witnessed only in time and action and accrued over years and years. It’s so incremental that you can barely observe it as it's happening. Then you look back and realize that you’ve spent your life with people that have become like your family and they’ve been the driving force in what motivates you. It’s small and daily and powerful.
So the album and all the other things you guys have done together are all the particles accruing?
Dacus: It’s just a gradual deepening all the time. I think that the closeness has been a pleasant surprise for all of us. Now that we’ve discovered it, we want to interact with it and protect it however we can. Originally it was just a fun lightweight idea. Now it’s my whole life.
Baker: There’s the real face-to-face friendship that we have, but we’ve always been making music together. It feels very much like music is the water that you’re swimming in. Music is the language that you’re speaking.
The album artwork on the rest is in many ways the counterpart to the record, which feels very hopeful with the three of you looking towards the horizon like a team of superheroes. Whereas on the EP cover, the surroundings are dark, your faces are darkened, and you’re huddled together for support. Through that lens, how would you compare the two releases?
Dacus: That photo was taken during the same shoot for the original album art. We always liked the image, but when we chose these four songs to put out together, they all have this spacey, eerie quality about them. I think the wind being in our hair, the natural elements messing us up, it’s a little more unsettling and I feel like these songs — I don’t think they lack optimism, but they’re a little more focused on fear and unsteadiness.
Bridgers: We had wanted it to be a different time of day in the photo. The back of the EP is dusk at the beach. Not a very hidden meaning in that.
You three have been celebrated very much of late for standing up for the queer community, trans community, and other marginalized communities, but you’ve also stated that doing so doesn’t necessarily make you “role models.” How has the time you’ve spent together as a band affected your relationship with your own queerness?
Dacus: I’m definitely gayer because of these guys. [All laugh.]
Baker: That’s true! And I’m straighter somehow.
Bridgers: I was thinking that it makes me feel straighter to be around a bunch of gay people all the time. Like when I’m with only straight people.
Baker: You’re the gayest one.
Bridgers: I’m so gay and when I’m around gay people I’m like, damn. But that doesn’t hold true all the time.
Dacus: A serious answer would be that my favorite thing about queerness is how undefined it actually is. Having less allegiance to who I was, being willing to betray my idea of myself in service of what actually feels best and is most honest to the moment at hand — that’s a skill that I think I’ve been getting better at through my life. Not in small part to the people who love me and will accept me at any point of understanding myself, and these guys are included in that.
Baker: It’s like finding a new vernacular around queerness. It’s how you carry out the outfit, or it's how you carry out dancing, or it’s how you carry out some sort of body language that determines whether it’s queer. Not what the action is. It’s how you employ, and I think being around people who see the core static parts of myself …makes me feel more secure to play with the mutable parts of my identity.
Referring to what Julien said earlier about the lived experience being a work of art that needs a witness, how have you served as witnesses for each other? How has your lived experience with queerness influenced your art?
Baker: Queerness is inherently creative. Queerness exists in opposition to a standard. Not to replace it with a superior thing, but to dismantle a dominant prevailing view of how things should be just because that’s how they’re traditionally understood.
Queerness involves creating a different future for yourself. Imagining yourself towards a different embodiment of you. An embodiment of you that isn’t naturally going to be fomented any other place than by these guys or by your community or by the community you construct.
Dacus: Julien has a banjo that she drew on and has “queer joy” on it, and I think that queerness and joy are inextricable themes. Why be queer if you aren’t trying your very best to access more joy in your life or more authenticity?
So it’s actually amazing to realize I’m living in it so thoroughly now that I don’t actively think about it as much because it’s a part of everything that I do to the point where I don’t even see it sometimes, which is such a privilege.
In listening to “Without you, without them” I get the impression you guys are telling each other to share everything, so I ask a version of the question that’s posed in the final line of the song: after years of growing together, who would you guys be without each other?
Dacus: Impossible to know.
Dacus: The idea of it from here feels really lonely. But it’s also weird to think [about] who would I have cared deeply about or who haven’t I met yet that [would be] as important as these people. Life is so various, and no matter how much you prepare for it it always will catch you off guard in sometimes the best ways.
Bridgers: I think if we had individually gotten more famous and then made friends even with each other from this point of view, it would be great, but I feel lucky that we met when we did. We were all on the same plain with a dream of selling out a 2000-capacity venue. Laying awake at night thinking about it as the end goal.
So it's weird that I met two people with as close to the same life experience as possible and then it changed into another version of as close as possible. We all come from an indie space. We all are queer. It would be s—y to have nobody that was in my shoes around me.
Baker: Y’all have been additional rudders in my trajectory since we met, and I have no way of knowing — nor do I care to know — how my character would differ if I didn’t have y’all as a whetstone of sharpening my own wit and honesty and musical practice.
Photo: Delali Ayevi
Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano On New Album 'Slugs Of Love,' Damon Albarn's "Inspiring" Impact & Leaning Into Intuitive Creativity
The electro-pop group's frontwoman details how their seventh album, 'Slugs of Love,' expands on the group's synergy and the fun they've had together for nearly three decades.
There's a special synergy and magic that comes from music made by people that love and really know each other. Little Dragon has manifested and expanded on that feeling since they were teenagers.
The spirit-lifting Swedish dance-pop quartet — drummer Erik Bodin, bassist Fredrik Wallin, keyboardist Håkan Wirenstarnd and singer Yukimi Nagano — met at their local music high school, and formed Little Dragon back in 1996. Now, they're back with their seventh album, Slugs of Love, and they're simply having fun.
The LP follows 2020's New Me, Same Us, which saw the band at their most collaborative, working together on all elements of the music-making progress to shake things up. Slugs of Love furthers their ultra-collaborative and experimental impulse, exemplified by the exuberant, silly title track, a playful meditation on the essence of humanity.
Their creative freedom radiates throughout the rest of Slugs of Love, like the sun-soaked "Disco Dangerous," whose funky instrumentals provide a dreamy backdrop for Nagano to coyly exclaim "never ever!" to falling in love. The subsequent track, "Lily's Call," shows another side of Little Dragon, a dark and driving number whose instrumental could fit in a Blade Runner soundtrack. Slugs of Love also sees them reconnecting with Damon Albarn — who they first worked with in 2010 on the Gorillaz's Plastic Beach — on the trippy, shimmery "Glow."
"We feel really grateful that we don't have to compromise ourselves at all," Nagano tells GRAMMY.com. "We do what we love and there are people who are into it."
GRAMMY.com caught up with the Little Dragon frontwoman to chat about the group's lively new album, their longevity as a band, reuniting with Damon Albarn and more.
When I first heard "Slugs of Love," I was obsessed and listened to it on repeat. I love how euphoric and absurd it is. What inspired it and how did the track come together?
The track was first written as just a demo beat and it had that infectious energy from the very start, without any vocals and melodies on it, and it just really grabbed me. The guys always write very random titles for demo tracks because you have to name it something, but I loved that title. And sometimes you get inspired by an odd angle, and the demo title together with the music gave me this image to write to. I painted this picture in my mind of humans being like slugs that are crawling on the wall, and everyone's becoming more obsessed and lazier, but ultimately kind of all needing and wanting the same thing — just wanting to be loved and safe.
It took a few turns production-wise. We tried to play it live and then we kind of returned back to the demo vibe. That sometimes feels like you're going backwards because you're trying too much stuff and nothing's working, but then you realize that the vibe was in the original ideas.
Since you chose "Slugs of Love" as the title track of the album, in what ways do you feel like it speaks to or sets the tone for the rest of the album?
It is just a fun image, so we're playing with that. Our first idea was that we wanted to make a trilogy [of] albums. We were gonna make one that was just romantic songs, one of dance songs and one with trippy forest music. In the end, we decided just to make an old-fashioned album because it was becoming very complicated.
"Slugs of Love" stood out as a track and as a title, and it felt sort of representative to the whole process and that time of making music. It felt like it also represented something a little bit new for us. [Our music] is very intuitive when we write it, whatever feels good in our guts, and then we let journalists and the people describe what it means.
You've said that your last album New Me, Same Us was your most collaborative and saw you working together in a new way. How did your approach to making Slugs of Love compare or differ, or build upon that?
Well, it's all just one long, linear story in a way for us, so [we gain] more experience with and understanding of each other. Sometimes you gotta throw away ideas that you have of each other as well – like you do with a family, with someone always being the little sister.
Sometimes we just have to try to have a blank slate and not get too stuck in the characters we've created. So it keeps evolving and everyone really wants to collaborate. I think we all feel like it's a meaningful process, even though sometimes it's really hard. Everyone is pretty strong-willed in different areas of the creative process so it can get complicated.
When you're on stage, you're so in the moment and your feelings are so big, but when you're watching the show, you're so relaxed and you're just there ready to take it in. And I think that kind of feeling [exists] with the process of making your music, and with the relationship with ourselves. Sometimes it's so serious, it's like the center of the universe — but at the end of the day, it's just music. We can get really caught up in one little detail, but really, we just want to be friends and have fun.
Being in a band, you have each other's different perspectives. I think it'd be different if it was just one artist in your own head, being your own neurotic self. We're four neurotic egos bumping heads with each other, so we get a little perspective.
I love the combination of the funky, fuzzy, sparkly instrumentals on "Disco Dangerous" with the sort of anti-love love song lyrics and the "never ever!" refrains. What was the spark for that track?
That track was just fun. [We were just] being silly and having fun and enjoying writing music. We love music that has that vibe of playfulness, and I think that kind of translated on that track. But most of all, we just had a good time making it, so I'm happy that came through.
And how did the instrumentals evolve on that one, from the demo to where it is now?
It started as a pretty basic layer of bass and drums. Then I wrote a little part and then more things got added, and I wrote a little more. We weren't sure about this song. Sometimes you want to write a good song, and sometimes you just want to have fun.
It's fun to know that you can release that stuff as well and not care too much. I think we can all get too stuck in the sickness of wanting to create something special and get caught up in thoughts that actually don't really help the process very much.
You reunited with Damon Albarn on the shimmering "Glow"— how did working with him on it inspire or shift the track?
We just chanced it to see if he was into the song, and he was. What we really loved about Damon's contribution was that he was very careless in a way that we found really inspiring.
When we collaborate with people, we're a little bit tip-toeing, like, "Okay, does this work for you? Is this okay?" And he came in and chopped it up, and added a bunch of new harmonies and a whole new part. I think it fits really well.
When I listened to the song, the visuals I got were very psychedelic; you're in the desert and then you're in the water. And when his part came in, I started seeing these big statues. The music, vocals and everything else he added felt like a whole new scenery which I found really refreshing. It was inspiring [to realize] you don't have to be so careful.
What did you learn from touring with him back in 2010 on the Gorillaz's Escape to Plastic Beach Tour?
The whole experience was a really big impression because there was such a mix of artists on the tour. Fred and I shared a tour bus with Bobby Womack. De La Sol was also on the tour, along with a whole horn band and a Syrian orchestra. There were maybe eight or nine tour buses — it was crazy, like a festival on tour. It was such a good time and a lot of fun memories.
We traveled the States and the UK and Australia, so it was a good three months. The inspiring part was seeing Damon deliver on stage — he gave everything — and the way that he brought all those different artists together. It created a lot of friendships that still exist.
Speaking of performing, you all bring so much energy and joy to live shows. What does it feel like for you and the band when you're on stage?
That's probably the main reason why we gravitated towards each other, because we admired each other as musicians. It feels like we're all in our element together and it feels natural because we've done it for so long. We know each other's language musically, and we know how to communicate with each other. That's such a special thing.
You don't really realize that until you play with people that you don't know their musical language in the same way. It's something that we cherish. Of course, you have good shows and bad shows, but the guys still impress me on stage with the way they play because we improvise a lot and we try to take it somewhere. Every show is different.
Is it important to you to change things up on stage to not get bored yourself, or to entertain the audience, or a bit of both?
I think it's some kind of musician's pride. We also love the jazz philosophy of music. I guess it bores us if we see bands and they have a backing track. I think that's where it shows that we're musicians first, and then we became a band. We were all session musicians, and we had these vibrations between us when we were playing and that's what made us write music together. It started there. It reminds us of the core of what we are on stage together.
What do you get out of sharing your music in person? I'm sure it's one thing to get sweet comments from people online, but it must be something to feel people freaking out to your songs.
It's the best feeling. I mean, we don't always get [an engaged crowd]. Any band will know that doing support shows strengthens your backbone because you have to play almost for yourself. So we have shows that are great, and shows that are less good. Every show has its twists, but when the stars are aligned, it's pretty amazing.
You can have moments where you lose track of yourself, and you feel like the communication between the band is just flowing so nicely — you almost feel like it's flowing back and forth with the audience too. It's a bit addictive, actually, to get that feeling, that energy, from a crowd. Sometimes you have a few people that are going off so hard and dancing and giving so much energy that it just fuels us.
"Ritual Union" was such a big track when it came out in 2011. What did the success and buzz you experienced then feel like to the band at the time?
I don't think it necessarily felt like a peak or anything to us because we've always felt like we were on some kind of a verge. But now we're appreciative of it. Just this last summer when we did shows in San Francisco, I recognized hardcore fans from 10 years back, who still come to the front.
At the time, we were touring so much that we almost exhausted ourselves after Ritual Union. We needed a proper break. As a band, when you feel that you're up-and-coming, it's the feeling that you've got to grab this thing right in front of you, but it keeps moving forward — you're just running after nothing.
We had to stop and be like, "Okay, you can prioritize other things and you can say no to shows." We had to learn stuff like that because you can get this FOMO feeling like if you don't grab it, someone else is going to take it and you're gonna miss it.
There's this feeling in industry that there's so much competition, so if you don't take it now, it's never gonna come back. There's so much fear and pressure in the industry that can push a band too hard. It was a very intense time after Ritual Union. But we were getting a lot of love and touring hard.
What came after that pause? What was the thing that was like "this is why we're a band" or "this is what we're actually focused on"?
We still have our studio and we go there pretty much every day. People rent studios for tons of money, and we have a nice homemade one that's an apartment that we made into a studio. That allows us to be able to make a song like "Disco Dangerous" and to be silly in the studio. It's such a blessing to be able to release that and know that people actually want to hear it and dance to it.
We feel really grateful that we don't have to compromise ourselves at all. We do what we love and there are people who are into it. That's what every artist wants to do, not have to sell out.
Do you feel connected to or inspired by the music scene in Gothenburg?
We have our bubble in the studio. The setup is four studios in one space, so we're definitely bouncing off of each other in that collective space. In a dream world, it'd be a whole building and tons of bands, that would be pretty awesome.
I read that it actually took some time for the band to catch on in Sweden, after the U.K. and U.S. When did that home country recognition finally happen?
I feel like it's still pretty slow here. We're gonna do a show in Gothenburg and Stockholm this fall, it's definitely been growing. We did a few things here during COVID; we were a house band for a really big Swedish TV show. That probably made some people aware, but I feel like it's still growing.
We haven't really invested that much time, either, in playing here. Some bands tour all over Sweden and play all the small towns, but we haven't really done that. You can't really complain if you haven't really toured and promoted that much here. We probably need to play more shows in Sweden. Our first record label [Peacefrog] was in the U.K. I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but they were definitely not really focusing on Sweden.
As a band, how do you make sure that you're still having fun making music together and meshing creatively, since you have been doing it for so long?
Most of the time, it's pretty easy. I mean, it's not always gonna be a vibe, but since we go to the studio pretty much every single day, you're going to flow at some point, even though it can take some time. After the summer, you're going to need a little bit of time to warm up before, and you're not necessarily gonna write your favorite song the first day you get in. You just have to just flow with it.
I think just showing up in the studio every day, being with each other, makes things happen. But how do you make it fun? I think we just have fun together, we don't even have to try most of the time.