Interview: Boy

ERICA RIVERA | Updated 10/15/2013

Un-Googleable Swiss/German indie-pop duo talk choice of name, international success.

Sonja Glass, left, and Valeska Steiner are Boy.
Photo by Christoph Köstlin

Boy is Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass, a European duo that has entranced listeners worldwide with singles “Little Numbers” and “Waitress.” Hailing from Switzerland and Germany, respectively, the classmates-turned-bandmates found they collaborated best remotely, even after Steiner relocated to Glass’s hometown of Hamburg. Steiner penned lyrics, Glass fine-tuned instrumentals and producer Philipp Steinke recorded it all in his Berlin studio.

The result was Boy’s debut album, "Mutual Friends," a smorgasbord of Feist-like vocals, effervescent beats and wistful naïveté. Since the LP’s release on Nettwerk Reocrds in February, these two bubbly beauties have been performing non-stop on a tour that included Glass’s maiden voyage to the United States.

We spoke to Steiner in anticipation of Boy’s show at First Avenue on Tuesday.

Q: First things first: Why did you choose the name Boy for your band?

A: We had a long period of brainstorming when we were looking for a name and Boy just sticks somehow. We like the word and the way it looks and sounds. People remember it well because they wouldn’t expect two women to have that name.

Q: You’ve talked before about how you and Sonja don’t write together. What is it about working alone that makes the creative process flow?

A: I think that everybody is very individual while being creative. You have different times when you are inspired or you have different speeds of writing. When we’re both in one room and we know “OK, now it has to happen,” there’s a bit of pressure. So I think we’re both really happy to have the original ideas and our own pace but then it’s always really nice to get to the studio together when the song feels ready, then finish it together.

Q: What do you think it is about your music that lends itself to international appeal?

A: That’s the nice thing about music, that it’s very unlimited in terms of who can listen to it and who can relate to it. I don’t feel like that’s a thing about our music in particular; I think that’s music in general. It connects people and you don’t have to speak the same language or have the same cultural background, but you can feel the same thing because it’s music.

Q: There seems to be a theme in your songs of a woman waiting for something to happen to her. Where does that come from?

A: On the particular song “Waitress,” it’s about a time I was working at a café in Hamburg as a waitress. That was during the time I had just started recording and working with our producer, but not really knowing if anything was going to happen. It was this feeling of doing something but really waiting for something else to happen.

Q: The song “Boris” sounds like a creepy case of pseudo-sexual harassment. Is that a situation that one of you experienced?

A: “Sexual harassment” would be too strong for that song. It was a guy who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and was talking cooler than he really was. It was pretty harmless, actually, but we were annoyed enough to write a song about it.

Q: Do you have other kinds of encounters that are uncomfortable because you are two women touring, or do you generally feel safe?

A: I think we feel really safe because we are very careful when we choose people we work with. The label we work with and our manager and the people directly around us are very close friends. I think if you try to surround yourself with good-hearted people, then you’re pretty safe. We have a pretty strong gut feeling about who we open to. In the music industry there can definitely be people who take advantage of their power, but we’ve been very lucky in that matter.

Q:
When you’re on tour, is there something particular you miss about home?

A:
Most of all, it’s the people back home that we miss. We’re lucky because we tour with lots of friends. But of course there are family and friends who are not musicians who are at home that we miss. Sometimes, when you think of your own band, you get a little homesick as well. But we love being on tour and sleeping on the bus. We’re very excited about coming to the States. I don’t think we’ll be homesick.

Q: How would you describe your relationship with Sonja?

A: It’s a very strong friendship. We feel kind of sisterly when we are on tour together. It would be hard if we didn’t get along because we spend so much time together. I think it’s really important that if you create, if you do a thing that is as personal as playing music together, that you have a good connection on a personal level and like each other.

BOY

With: Greg Holden.

Where: First Avenue.

When: 7 p.m., Tue.

Tickets: $18.