The Boston Boys
Every week, the team at STEAM Magazine reviews music submitted by hundreds of artists from all over America. The torrent of submissions never slows down day or night and there is no shortage of good bands or their good music. But that's not the point; music fills our lives at nearly every hour and the average person listens passively, un-phased by the next flawless derivative of guitar-driven, three-chord harmony. The purpose of the music press ought to be to reveal why certain artists deserve your attention.
This June, STEAM Magazine is proud to present Future Roots band, The Boston Boys, as the artists whose radical genre-bending and originality pumped new blood into our brains and sexual organs. Simply, this band makes you want to use both at the same time. A quick comparison to The Wood Brothers, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, or Punch Brothers is only partially satisfying because "Future Roots" seems to embody an expanding spirit of musicianship beyond their years. We decided to sit down with the band and ask a few questions.
STEAM: What's the backstory behind the band's formation and the "Future Roots" vibe?
The Boston Boys: Each member of the band had a childhood immersed in at least one distinct form of American music, whether that be soul, bluegrass, jazz, or the evolution between blues, country, and rock n' roll. In 2012, we secured our tour with the U.S. State Department in North Africa and the Middle East because of this original, American sound and being able to impart it through educational workshops that introduced students to some deeper cuts in American music. Seeing the communication barriers crumble because of the music and collaborators we met along the way brought us to say that we play "Future Roots" music. It's a nod to who we are as well as how we would like to make an impact.
STEAM: Do you find it intimidating to meet such different audiences around the world? How is your original music received?
BB: Working abroad like this does not feel intimidating so much as it is an ideal challenge for working musicians. Oftentimes, we have two or three events per day (one or two workshops at a school or community center, followed by a concert at night) and a stack of new songs to learn and perform with the local musicians in the next location. But you're right, the audience and their energy carries the day every time. We are very lucky to be working with the embassy staff because they really have their hand on the pulse of the music scene and know who to go to when they want to put on a show. It's common for them to pack out a city theater with 400+ people that already know all of our songs from watching them on YouTube. To us, it seems like these audiences are starved for live Western music and that they love America! We were in Egypt two months before Morsi's abuses set off massive protests, and those fans continue to contact us on Facebook and Twitter today. Our tour was nearly six decades after Louis Armstrong inaugurated this State Department program with his own performances in Egypt. Today, many Egyptians want their country to be a democracy.
Our video “What You Say?!?” (YouTube.com) documents some clips from our tour to Morocco in January 2014. We recently returned from Colombia and our pictures are posted on Facebook.
STEAM: You just released a new EP called, Idea of Love, in May. It is very different from your earlier releases, so I'm curious to know how you may have altered the creative process for this EP?
BB: Idea of Love is special because it's the product of being the first band to complete the Music Residency program at Zoo Labs, an exceptional non-profit studio in Oakland, CA. Every day, we took classes in the morning, followed by 12 hours of studio time to make this EP. Essentially, we received mini-MBA's in music entrepreneurship and had free reign over a top notch studio for two weeks. We were notified that we got the Residency just four weeks in advance, so half of the songs were composed and arranged during that studio time, contextualized by all of these ideas and exercises from the morning classes. The entire experience was transformative because it got us thinking about who we are as a band in a much deeper way. The next record is already written with these considerations, so it's just a matter of scheduling recording time at this point.
STEAM: It seems like this band's trajectory is unconventional in a number of ways-- electrified fiddles and mandolins, musician diplomats, etc... Where do you see this going in the next year? Next five years?
BB: Every tour is better than the last and we just need to stay focused on what matters-- creating communities through music. What's unconventional about that?
In the next year, we want to expand on our work in music education by taking our workshop programs to public and charter high schools in the U.S. All of us owe our chops as musicians to the mentors that worked with us while we were in school and pushed us to go attend Berklee, where we met. In light of our work with State, we feel like these workshops give us purpose beyond the band's original music and the touring scene. At a time when creativity and adaptability could not be more valuable, politicians want the schools to be designed for supporting existing needs rather than angling for the future and innovating. Kids are either caught in the middle or squished by their college debt, if they are lucky enough to get there in the first place. Perhaps a national conversation on education economic reform through music is more of a five-year goal.