Where were you over a decade ago?
I was likely in a 10th grade study hall pretending to write some inane shit for a Brave New World essay. In reality, I was scrolling through a stripling Bandcamp, following AbsolutePunk links, and meticulously organizing the wav files of dozens on dozens of excellent, but now mythic, post-hardcore bands.
There were so many outfits that began in the late aughts that distinguished themselves with an inverted dynamic of tremendous talent and disjointed discogs scattered between numerous demos, and splits, and eps and comps. Despite not being remembered with the same roseate ardor devoted to bands like Snowing and Algernon, Boyfriends. were adepts of the weaving, twinkly Pennsylvania sound that has subsequently become one of the more influential approaches in the whole of indie rock.
When I heard CYLS was reissuing the Boyfriends. discog, I gasped like a thespian.
When CYLS reached out to me to premier this track, I did some exuberant, fake little air guitar tippy taps.
Considering the importance of this era to so many emoheads, I reached out to Boyfriends.’s Brian Baksa to gain the perspective of someone who wasn’t just in the Pennsylvania (and by association, Philly) scene, but someone who was a member of one of its distinctive bands.
Philly in the 2010s has been mythologized as an Eden of emo by basically every music journalist with at least a mild interest in hardcore and its derivatives. Coming from Lancaster, what’s your perspective on that? Was Philly actually that electric?
I’d have to whole-heartedly agree. I can’t speak to the hardcore scene, or maybe even much to the emo revival scene, but Philly really was that electric. There was a particular energy around the music scene at that time that was not necessarily synonymous with the particular musical genres, but rather the collectives of the DIY movement and culture within. Living in Lancaster was an appendage to the vibrancy, and that culture of embrace was, I’m sure, formative for many, and oozed out of the city.
There’s a very bloggy narrative that “Emo Revival” was this explicit rejection of the poppier Warped Tour-centric post-hardcore of the 2000s. Do you think there’s any accuracy to that purported history? Or, is the reality more complicated? Or, was that scene even on your radar?
I find it a little difficult, and I’m sure the rest of the band would agree, to speak for an entire scene as we never considered ourselves ‘in’ it. Not that we intentionally avoided any association, we were just sort of playing music that happened to be reflective of that scene. In regards to explicit rejections, I think the reality is actually much more simplified; no correlation. I think it was all circumstantial of what was happening at that time in Philly; a common thread but not necessarily the only one. I’m not even sure I could name a Warped Tour-centric post-hardcore-of-the-2000s band.
It’s pretty wild typing this cause in my brain it doesn’t seem so long ago, but so much of the 2000s -core corpus has been effectively canonized. Emohead fanpeoples will gush over Moss Icon, and then on their next breath extol Circa Survive. What were Boyfriends. into back in 2010? What music was influencing the band (and was any of it this now legendary aughts-core)?
I have to admit, I’m the least aughts-core of the members. Matt and Chris would have more of a repertoire for that category of music. Mike and I tend to veer off in many directions. I guess we pulled a bit from Small Brown Bike, and probably from some of the other bands we were playing in at that time, Snowing, 1994!. Generally, we never went into any writing with an idea of “let’s sound like this.” It was, instead, a much more organic process, so I imagine any musical influences were subconscious in practice.
How does the digital landscape of 2021 compare to what you were working with back around 2010? Social media networking is basically autonomic now, but in retrospect, at least to me, that period from 2008–2012 seems like a pivotal moment when scenes started to develop distinct digital presences and personas. Did you notice anything like that forming back when social media was in its adolescence? Or, do I just have rosy eyes for ancien Bandcamp?
Instagram and the mainstream social media platforms of today were not as prevalent, and I remember booking shows through Tumblr or other blog websites. Generally, the landscape was still in transition from MySpace to Bandcamp to Soundcloud and Tumblr to Twitter, while Instagram presence was not quite yet a thing. It’s interesting to think of the scene having a digital presence, I just don’t think we took it seriously enough to pull back and look at the bigger picture, we were enjoying it for what it was.
When CYLS reached out to me about this rerelease, I, no lie, gasped. I think I first stumbled onto the 7" sometime in the Spring of 2012, probably via a Bandcamp link on your Last.fm page, or something along those lines. At that point, I was into so many bands that had smaller discogs scattered throughout splits and eps and demos. I was voracious for more.
What spurred Boyfriends. to compile and release the discography?
There’s a few 7 inches out there, a split with Boys and Sex and an EP. Keith (CYLS) actually reached out to us for the discography tape and interestingly enough, we had previously released it as a cassette back in 2013(?) just for fun with our friend Peter on his tape label, PetesTapes. There’s a Bandcamp link somewhere out there for it and I believe the physical cassettes got lost in a culmination of clutter, relocations, and evictions at Big Mama’s Warehouse in Philly; I have a few copies here at home with me. For me, personally, having the opportunity to rerelease it was primarily fueled by selfish nostalgia; I think we all hold a lot of great memories from that time, and certainly hold the relationships we formed dearly. This cassette becomes another token of that experience.
A Discography of Mediocre Punk Rock will be available on cassette and digital everywhere 5/7.