Exclusive Interview: Boy Radio returns with hot new single Leather & Denim “it’s been sitting in my heart & head for years -I’ve just been waiting for the right sounds to come”

Following his stunning 2019 debut album Pop That, Brooklyn based queer indie avant-pop artist Boy Radio returns with the sexy new single “Leather and Denim” released today, Friday, March 10th, 2023, taken from his upcoming EP.

Ahead of the launch, The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann had an exclusive conversation with Boy Radio about his return to music, the sounds that came together to form the EP, the writing process, references to Janet Jackson and “mother Grace Jones”, and his desire for drag kings to perform his tracks.

Queer avant-pop artist Boy Radio returns with sexy new single “Leather and Denim” from upcoming EP

James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: It’s been two years since we’ve had any new music from Boy Radio, how did the new EP came together.

Boy Radio: “I’d been missing writing and sharing music. The last single that I put out was a cover of Selena Gomez’ “Boyfriend” and before that was my album Pop That in 2019. I’d actually started to get used to the idea that I wasn’t going to release anything again. With Pop That, I had other producers involved, but I did most of it myself. I mixed and mastered everything and at the end of it I found myself in a position where I’d spent so much time with it that I felt that I couldn’t do that again. I was like, ‘I can’t do six months of editing and then market it myself and create the visuals’. I didn’t make any videos for it, so although a lot of people listened to it, it didn’t get the full package that I’d hoped for.”

“In December, I was coming home on the train one night and got the notion to look up some sounds online. There are a lot of websites where producers will upload songs that you can use to put on a mixtape. You don’t have to buy them exclusively, but then you could have many other artists who will have the same song, just different versions of it. The popular sounds right now are reminiscent of sounds that were popular in the 90s. It’s a cyclical thing, but the 90s sound is never gonna go away because it’s consistent within the electronic dance community. I started finding things that I really loved. I saved them all and I sat with these sounds and started writing. It all just came out of me and in one day, I wrote about 10 or 12 songs. So I was like, ‘alright, cool, it’s still there’. I thought it was gone forever and that I’d never write again, but I started to realize that I actually had something there that felt next level and that could be a really good way of reintroducing myself with a different sound.”

“I got a GoFundMe up and I hit my goal. That’s what really influenced me, because I was able to license the songs. So these are my songs now, thanks to the fans. It came about pretty quickly and instead of sitting on it and waiting for other people to work with me, I was like, ‘let’s just keep going’. I met producer Alec Gaston who is a very talented musician and instrumentalists and artist and in the queer community. Everything felt different, everything felt more authentic and more true to my creativity versus times where it felt like I was trying to work with people who were just doing it to make their rate. This time I was working with someone who gets it.”

Boy Radio. Photo credit: Shann Treadwell.

Leather and Denim is the lead single from the EP. It’s only just over two and a half minutes, but it takes you on such a great journey.

“Yeah, it’s a short song, which I’m learning is a good thing! It’s a really cheeky song without being too cheeky. It’s pop and it’s electro dance music. It’s meant to feel guttural and soulful and come from a place of you just want to dance to it. I wanted to make the lead single a dance single. I’m super tall. I always say, ‘I’m taller than everyone you know!’ I’m six foot five, so when people see me they don’t think that I can dance, but I’m a dancer. At the shows I’ve been doing with Alaska and Divatronic we’re doing full-on choreography. People have come to me at the shows and been like, ‘whoa, you can move’ and I’m like, ‘yeah, I’ve been dancing since I was five!'”

“”Leather and Denim” is really about just feeling yourself. I say at the beginning of the song, ‘I’m Janet Jackson with that’. It’s embodying the energy that Boy Radio is when I’m feeling my best self. The chorus is “I’ve been trying to win your heart and I’ve been in leather and denim from the start”. That’s a throwback to the fact that I’ve been in this creative world for a long time: this sound, being an out artist, being an indie pop artist, a non-commercial, non-mainstream pop artist; from my style, to my hair, to the clothes I was wearing when I was performing at Lower East Side club, to even now that more people know me. I’ve been doing this for a while now. It’s a song that I’m excited about because I feel like people will hear it and hopefully that little button in your heart will open up and it becomes a song that you want to dance to and embody. I want more drag kings to do my songs. Drag is such an ethereal, fun, and magical thing to do. I never see enough drag kings. So, drag kings, if you need music just search Boy Radio online and start doing some of my songs and see how you feel, see if that works for you.”

Boy Radio. Photo credit: Shann Treadwell.

I love what you encapsulate in just a few phrases on “Leather and Denim” when you say, “I’ve been alright, and I’ve been in my head a little, and I’ve been feeling myself and finding my light”. You capture so much in just a few lyrics there. When we spoke about Pop That you talked about writing from the perspective of Boy Radio, which allowed you to be a little less autobiographical. What was the balance of the writing on “Leather and Denim” in terms of the Boy Radio persona versus a more autobiographical approach?

“I definitely will always embody that, because it’s just a part of me, but I’ve been able to separate a little bit. I mean, there’s the Id, the Ego, and the Superego, and I don’t know which is which anymore. I know that my personal life does affect my creative life now more than ever. Post-2020, the experience that we all lived through, my creative experience, my creative voice, this pseudonym, this persona that I’ve created, that 100% comes from my life. I have been in my head. I’ve been in my head for almost four years since my last release. I’ve especially been in my head since 2020. I’ve been trying to figure out how to be my most authentic self. That is not fake, that’s not me putting on a guise, that’s me saying what I feel. And I’ve been feeling myself lately too. I’ve been doing this work that has been bringing out my confidence and is actually bringing out my personality and my queerness in a way that allows me to be my best self, regardless of how that’s perceived by any sort of mainstream audience. I’m me in a straight setting, and I’m me in an LGBTQ+ setting.”

Boy Radio. Photo credit: Shann Treadwell.

What do the words leather and denim evoke for you?

“Confidence, sexuality, grittiness. I’m sitting in front of a Tom of Finland image here, it’s all that, dare I say, masculinity. I’ve gone out of my way to work towards building a relationship with an audience that is rooted in non-toxic masculinity. I don’t always get it right. I won’t always get it right because, sadly, I am a man! I don’t know what to tell you. It is what it is.”

“I’m not vegan, so I’m sorry for anyone who is vegan if leather offends you. We can call it something else, “Pleather and Denim” if you want. Maybe I should release a second single! Leather is the sexy. The audacity to wear leather. It’s Elvis, it’s James Dean, the rocker, the punk rocker, the outcast, the outsider. Denim is something that’s timeless and will always be there. The reason why people shop at vintage stores is because there are leather jackets from 60 or 70 years ago that you don’t have to pay $3,000 for. You can get a classic Harley Davidson jacket and a pair of jeans that have been around since 1940. You’re repurposing something that is a classic thing. So I’m talking about two very classic things, which is pop culture. That’s pop art.”

How much of a flavour does “Leather and Denim” give us of the upcoming EP?

“This is the sound. It’s going be Caribbean, and lots of really good down gritty drum sounds. I worked with Alec Gaston on bringing it all together and they play guitar on the next single. These first few singles are from a producer called Coco Tekel who lives in Tel Aviv. I’ve actually never met never them, I only know them through their music.”

Boy Radio. Photo credit: Shann Treadwell.

“Don’t Stop, Run It” is going to be second single. The vocals on it are gorgeous and it’s a really sexy song, tell me about putting that track together.

“I’m really excited to surprise everyone with the second single because it’s all singing, all dancing. It’s love, beauty, soul, R&B, pop, electro dance. The harmonies that me and Alec created are out of this world. When they start playing the guitar on the chorus and when we get to the bridge section where I reference mother Grace Jones, all of that stuff has been sitting in my heart and in my head for years, and I’ve just been waiting for the right sounds to come, and they finally came. I feel like it came at one of the best times. There’s something to be said about being patient, and although it feels like it took forever, I’m really happy to be sending out these sounds now. I’m doing it independently, with the help of my fans, and with the help of people who trust and believe. I’m really happy and excited for what’s happening. It’s really cool.”

When we spoke in 2019, you’d been listening to Kim Petras, who just won a Grammy of course. You were a bit ahead of the curve mentioning her then because a lot of people only discovered her more recently.

“Kim is a Bushwick artist. She came out here and all the bars were hosting her and getting her music out to us. She’s a mainstream artist and she’s able to reach a different audience based on that. For me to be able to use those influences to continue to build and create my own sound and work on myself publicly, while still being kind of a normal, well, a vaguely normal person feels good.”

You mentioned the references to Janet Jackson and Grace Jones on these two new tracks, but what music are you listening to at the moment that excites you?

“I’m not listening to anyone in particular, I’m listening to everything. I wake up in the morning and I put shuffle on. I actually have synesthesia and the way that I experience it is that I can hear music all the time. It can be raining and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, it’s raining in C-sharp’ or something like that. It got to a point where I started to feel pressured by my creative brain. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and I’d be hearing full songs, full lyrics, full production and I’d go to my phone and be trying to sing it. So I have all these sleepy recordings. One day, I was riding my bike over the bridge and I realized that when it comes to music sometimes you just have to let it pass. Like when we walk into a diner or a store and there’s something playing on the radio. We might Shazam it, but maybe we don’t and we’re just like, ‘oh, that’s a cool song’ and then it’s gone. I realized that I could do that with myself too. I could let these sounds come into my brain and sit with them, then let them go. The ones that are there inherently will come back and these are all sounds that have been sitting with me for these past few years that I didn’t realize that I’d held on to. When I started to hear these songs they started to come back to me. It was like, ‘here’s a lyric that you probably haven’t thought about in three years, it goes like this and it fits on this track like this with this melody’.”

Leather and Denim by Boy Radio. Cover art by @RetroFuturistDaddies.

The cover art for the first single is really striking. Why did you lean into the AI world for it?

“I am a science fiction nerd and love the idea of being able to describe what’s in your head and have the result come out in whatever way it comes to you. That’s beyond insane to me. I started following @RetroFuturistDaddies on Instagram a while ago and they’ve been making these “retro futurist daddies”! They’re Honcho, Tom of Finland-inspired AI designs and the way that they come out is so perfect, but with a tinge of weirdness. The “Leather and Denim” cover is basically my face AI generated into the prompt of this handsome dude wearing an open leather jacket and denim jeans. Then there’s this little alien-looking, furry, weirdo muppet kinda thing and he’s looking up like, ‘let’s put this song out!’ So that’s the vibe. We’ve got two really great singles with AI covers, then after that you’ll hear how it all fits together on the EP.”

By James Kleinmann

Boy Radio’s “Leather and Denim” releases on streaming platforms on Friday, March 10th, 2023 ahead of his forthcoming EP.

Follow Boy Radio on Instagram @Boy.Radio and subscribe to the Boy Radio YouTube channel.

Queer avant-pop artist Boy Radio returns with sexy new single “Leather and Denim” from upcoming EP

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