You could call the story of their formation love in a cold climate, as the icy fingers of winter in north western Montana couldn’t freeze the warmth of young hearts of Betty And The Boy. As two musical souls, somewhat adrift, came together the winter was kept at bay as they inspired each other’s creative drive. Now based in Eugene, Oregon with three other equally inspired musicians, Betty And The Boy have crafted a unique sound that blends the skills of the quintet with genre bending force and their debut album, The Wreckage (read our review here), is a pure delight from start to finish. Here Betty, with Josh (the boy) chipping in, tells us their story so far, with a few hints as to what’s to come.
The story of how the two of you got together is out there, but can you elaborate a little? What were you both doing individually before you met?
B: When Josh and I met, it was the dead of winter in north western Montana, and I remember it being a very dark time for both of us actually. I mean, you have the backstory of Josh hearing my music online and pestering me until I finally said, “OK, lets meet.,” but both of us were in places in our lives that we had wished we weren’t. I was living and caring for my sick mom, and Josh had sort of gone rouge from everything he had ever known and lived in his brother’s living room on a mattress on the floor downtown. I have a very fond memory of one of our first ‘non-small-talk’ talks, and we both cried shamelessly in front of each other. And then basically immediately started writing music together.
When you did meet did you quickly find common musical ground, or was it something else that you were after? You’re writing styles seems quite different yet compliment each other. How quickly did your partnership take shape and what got you up and running?
B: When we met, I was in this state where I was completely biased against any other music than some of the obscure stuff I was into, and Josh was way into the 80’s-current punk scene. Josh immediately had the upmost respect for the music that I wrote, and at the same time broke that barrier that I had up against listening to music I wasn’t necessarily a fan of at the time. It was immediately very easy for me to sing harmony with him, and I truly admired his ambition for collaborating. I am the type of person that has dry spells of writing, and Josh is the one who is always sort of fanning a fire to keep me writing. His songs are fun for me to dabble in because they really are, so entirely different from mine.
What are the things that have influenced your songwriting and made you want to pursue a musical career?
B: I have a hard time nailing that question down. I feel like the most honest answer is that I just always wanted to sing since I was coherently thinking about that kind of thing, and I never gave up, even when it seemed really, really, dumb and lonely. When my family found out I could sing, they pushed and pulled me in all kinds of performance directions, so I sort of accepted that it was my fate. My dad is a writer, and that always influenced me. But introversion, clinical depression, and life in general influences me also, so I don’t really have a very straight answer for that.
What was behind the move to Eugene and what is the music scene like there?
B: Josh and I always had this notion when we were performing in Montana that we were someday going to somehow ‘get the hell out of this place.’ Josh has a son in Portland that we wanted to be closer to, so we basically saved every penny from our entry-level jobs and lived with my mom until we could afford a u-haul and first and last rent. The music scene in Eugene had a lack of community that we weren’t used to, and at first it was frustrating. But we met our band and broke some moulds and eventually Eugene let us in.
Tell me about the others in the band, where did you meet them and how did they fit in? Was it a question of them fitting your style or helping to create it? Do you all live in Eugene?
B: The others in our band are very special because they aided in the creation of our sound just as much as Josh and I, the founding members, did ourselves. None of them are told what to play. We give each other feedback, yes, but they arrange everything collaboratively. We all currently live in Eugene, and met based off of word of mouth and happenstance.
Over what sort of period was the writing for The Wreckage done? Do you tend to work in isolation from each other or share ideas? There is one joint composition, do you work well together and can we expect more in the future?
B: The Wreckage was written during a period of transition for Josh and I. We had just moved, just finished a two-month tour together as a duo, and winter was creeping into out territory and I just got a feeling that it would be hard. I tend to write in isolation exclusively, and I feel Josh is more comfortable with writing collaboratively and publicly. Lately many joint compositions have been growing, so I would say its safe to assume more of that in the future.
Were you looking to create an overall theme for the record? How did the song selection happen? Do each of your individual songs fall into themes?
B: I don’t feel that there are any themes other than the differences between Josh and I and our writing style. We sort of had a huge push from admirers to create a full-length album, which we did, and then handed it over like, “Here you go, this is us in every raw ounce of our authenticity.”
Tell me about the recording. Were you well rehearsed and did you have everything tightly arranged. I notice the other players are credited with the arrangements.
B: We were basically well rehearsed. The album was recorded in a ‘live’ style, and then we went in and re-arranged parts we didn’t like. Billy Barnett made it all very easy, even though it was a gripping task for everyone to hear your mistakes 1,000 times. Billy, contributed drums and guitar, but our band made up the arrangements exclusively.
What was working with Billy Barnett like and what did he add to the recording process? You must be really pleased with the result, but did anything surprise you along the way?
B: Billy is a genius in our eyes. Not only does he record your album, but he also helped us with the production of some arrangements we just couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He always nailed it on the head. I was surprised at how many things he commented on actually hearing, its was amazing.
How is the touring going? Are the live audiences growing? Is it easy to break out of a local scene and have you had any big breaks so far? What are the plans?
B: It’s been good for us to get out of town every once and a while, and I can’t say we have been disappointed in ourselves that we did. In The past, as goofy as it may sound, we have been contest winners. We won Eugene’s Next Best Thing in 2011, We were The Northwest String Summit Festival’s Band Contest Winners of 2012, and were finalist in yet another band contest on The Mountain Song at Sea’s first cruise to the Bahamas, and hosted by The Steep Canyon Rangers in 2013. Our 2014 year has so far been really different and neat. Lots of new and unexpected territory covered. We just recorded an EP with Joey Cape (of Lagwagon) and One Week Records, where you spend a week at this really cool guys house, and woodshed a record out in a couple days. That was released last week and we’re proud of it. There’s also hubbub about touring the UK next fall, and we are excited beyond belief.
Interview by: Simon Holland
The Wreckage is Out Now and the band will over in the UK & Ireland next year.
They also just recorded a duo album with One Week Records – The artist sleeps, eats and records 10 songs in 7 days.