Boy Harsher is set to make their inaugural performance at the Black Cat this Sunday. Vocalist Jae Matthews and producer Augustus (Gus) Muller create music with depth by balancing haunting sounds that bring chills up your spine with addictive beats that dare you not to dance.
The post-punk electronic duo’s latest album, “The Runner,” simultaneously serves as the soundtrack to their first horror film of the same name. Regardless of the medium though, Boy Harsher consistently strives to evoke the same feelings in their audience.
“No matter what we write, it will always have an unsettling eerie feeling,” Matthews affirms, although adding, “We’re not totally serious people either. I always find the things we write have a little bit of humor in them too.”
We spoke with Matthews and Muller about their life back on the road, their inspirations in both film and music, and what we can expect from their upcoming D.C. performance.
District Fray: Your first tour since the pandemic closures started last month. How has returning to the stage felt for you?
Gus Muller: I still feel like an alien on stage, but I’m starting to feel more natural.
Jae Matthews: It was totally surreal to be back out there in front of 1000 people, and it was scary. I don’t remember feeling so scared before, but it’s now starting to feel more natural.
Do you have any rituals before performing?
Jae: I’ve developed all these bizarro habits. I do the normal stuff, like vocal warm-ups and alone time to chill out, but now I can’t eat hard food before I play. I’ll do some type of weird soup. And then after we’re done, I’m exhausted and so hungry that I gorge.
As we move to another stage in this pandemic, and we can see one another and you’re now touring again, has this sparked any new musical inspiration?
Gus: I think the live shows definitely influence us. “The Runner” came out of Covid and not playing shows, so it’s more introverted. But now that we’re playing shows and feeling that energy, we want to design [music] for the club again.
Since you both went to school for film, how long have you wanted to create a film paired with an original soundtrack? Was it more of a spontaneous idea, or was it years in the making?
Gus: I mean, we’ve never really given it a thought because we would have never had time for it if it wasn’t for the Covid break.
Jae: In our minds, it was these two separate entities that we had a lot of interest in pursuing. But it felt like when we are done with music, we’ll finally be able to make the movie we want to make. And then the pandemic and the subsequent isolation led us to a place where it felt like a possibility because we seriously thought touring was over. And that was a chance to finally put a film together.
Gus: I’m really glad we were able to do this, and I don’t think we would have had the courage to do it if we didn’t have all this time — I’m trying to find the positive in the negative.
Jae: Work is this funny thing where you can be incredibly proud of it, and it fills you with so much joy. Then, at the exact same time, it makes you nervous and uncomfortable, and you’re insecure, but I’m happy we did [“The Runner”] too. If anything, it gave me more ammunition to move forward and create another. I think we’re now super excited to create more films.
Who or what would you say are your current biggest influences?
Jae: When working on “The Runner,” there were a couple films that we kept on going back to and talking about a lot. The first major one was “Blood Simple” by the Coen brothers, which isn’t necessarily a horror film. It’s a neo-noir. But it was incredibly informative in building something very simple, efficient, and in a beautiful kind of quiet way. And then of course, “Possession” by Andrzej Korzyński is one of my all-time favorite films. I think early [David] Cronenberg’s body of horror will always be stuff that I’ll party with too.
Gus: We say David Lynch a lot, and I’m afraid it’s becoming a bit of a cliché. It’s inspiring to us, [because Lynch] can make really simple moments horrific and that’s something we strive for too.
You both created the record label, Nude Club. How did it come to be?
Gus: Nude Club came out of a necessity to release records. We came up with creating a label a couple of records ago and we were in a weird spot where we couldn’t find a label to release our music. So, we thought we would give it a shot ourselves.
And how has the experience been?
Gus: We’re definitely spread thin a lot of times. We wear a lot of hats. We’re doing design, packaging and managing — all of that can be overwhelming. But at the end of the day, it’s all ours. And we don’t feel like we have to make too many compromises.
The upbeat ’80s-esque “Autonomy” got the most buzz off of “The Runner” soundtrack, but is there one song that speaks to you the most?
Jae: I do particularly like the kind of two slow burns [on the soundtrack], like “Escape” and “I Understand.” We’re trying to find a place in the set to put them, but they might be too emotional, too tragic. It’s hard to include them, [they evoke] this incredibly kind of vulnerable moment when people listen to it, [and I want audiences to focus on] “let’s keep dancing.”
Anything that you can tease about the performance on Sunday?
Gus: We’re doing a really cool cover, which is a little bit of a surprise that I am excited about.
Boy Harsher will perform at the Black Cat on Sunday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. Get tickets here. Listen to Boy Harsher on all the major streaming platforms and follow them by visiting their website here or on Instagram @boyharsher. To learn more about their film “The Runner,” visit here.
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