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t-shirt by
WANG; trousers,
socks and shoes
his own
jacket by BELSTAFF
SS17; trousers and
shoes her own

Carly Russ and Joseph Matick are living out
a kind of cinematic romance. Both having
grown up in the Chicagoland area, they fell in
love, quit their jobs and ran away to Europe,
working as models while living in Paris, then
London. It was in Europe that they started
Girlyboi, a musical act informed by pastoral
landscapes, troubadours, and 1960s and 70s
folk. Altogether, it’s a beautifully restored idea
for the digital age. Above Joseph’s grounded
vocals and acoustic guitar are strands of
synthetic sound and Carly’s fey tone, decaying
out in the entropy of reverb. Their second EP,
Good Looks, written in New York where they
currently live together, continues their intimate
dialogue of the fantasies and realities that
pattern their together world.
Kinza Shenn: How did you guys meet?
Carly Russ: Joe and I met through a friend,
though I’ve never been a fan of the whole
setting-up-friends thing. When we met, there
was an awkwardness, given the whole forced
dynamic and feeling of expectation. But we
ended up really liking each other. We hung out
every single day.
Joseph Matick: We hang out a lot. There’s a
lot of human interaction going on, non-stop.
Carly: We began dating, and it got serious
around a year in. At that point we talked about
doing music together. I was hesitant, given
that I had certain perceptions of what ‘doing
music’ was like.
Joseph: Carly was raised as a show-choir girl,
whereas I was more: get a guitar, find a bunch
of people to do it with you, and literally knock
down the door of a venue and say you’re
playing there.
Carly: We tried going into the studio and it
quickly felt really natural to me. My whole
perception of doing music was changed
through that.
Joseph: And Carly really knows how to fucking
sing. Carly can harmonise with herself like,
seven times. It’s incredible.
Kinza: You’ve previously described what you
do as making pretty music.
Joseph: The idea of prettiness is subjective,
but there are some songs that are undeniably
aesthetic. Songs that make everyone feel a
certain way and it’s through a quality that you
can’t articulate, only feel. To me, that’s worth
exploring. When we first started, we said, we’ll
just make pretty songs and that will be our
genre. But I think what we were really trying to
express is an aspiration toward the classics,
for lack of a better word. From Neil Young to
The Cranberries, there are these songs that
make you want to fucking cry. And you don’t
know exactly why either.
Kinza: Yeah, there’s something universal
about them that resonates on a very
fundamental level. 

Joseph: Totally. At the time we were in Paris,
and before we’d recorded anything, I dove
into the music of all these guys that I knew
were great singers, but never listened to them
because I already knew they’re great. Paul
McCartney, John Lennon, Tom Waits, Leonard
Cohen, Harry Nilsson. But if you live with that
logic then you’re denying yourself all this great
music. I put on Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne.
It’s a classic but I’d never listened to it, which
really is so foolish! Neither of us had. I put
Suzanne on for Carly, and we listened to it,
and we started bawling – seriously bawling,
like little babies, all snotty. That the song is
about following a girl and travelling with her,
and it has the line about, “touching her perfect
body with your mind”, well, it made total sense
to me. From that point on, we just started
unpacking the shit that our parents listened to.
Carly: It became about doing something that
we know is true to our most authentic selves,
which is, in a way, our younger selves. It is
also about an intention to flesh out all of our
insecurities through music.
Joseph: And it’s about a timeless quality.
There’s a quote from [Archbishop] Fulton
Sheen where he said, “To think clearly, you
must remember that to marry the spirit of
an age is to become a widow in the next
one.” When someone’s making music that’s
timeless, it’s something that sounds like the
earth. Essentially, I want it to all sound like a
campfire. Like a barn burning down or a deep
trip in the woods at night, or something like
that [laughs].
Kinza: I love that! Could you tell me more
about the idea of authenticity and fleshing out
Carly: A lot of the music is based on real
Joseph: Even if you try and write in an
allegorical way, it’s going to be obvious that
it’s coming from yourself or your experiences
or the people that surround you. Our song
Actual Woman was us talking in reference
to specific situations, that’s why lyrics like
‘pervert’ or ‘pill bottles’ made it into the song.
My favourite lyrical influences all find really
pretty ways to say disgusting things. Then
there are moments when London and Paris
seeped into the first record. And moments
where New York seeped into our latest
record, I think.
Kinza: How was your London gig?
Carly: We did a really stripped-down show.
Neither of us dressed up.
Joseph: Yeah, I was like, burning poetry on
stage [laughs].
Carly: For me, it was the first show I had
ever done of that nature or intensity. Where
there were random people who I don’t know
watching me on stage, it was scary for me.

But I’m more comfortable when I’m at my
rawest form, which you would think would feel
vulnerable but it works the other way. I was in
a T-shirt and jeans, I had a hat on, I didn’t have
any make-up on, and my hair hadn’t been
brushed for three days.
Joseph: You looked so beautiful in the
pictures though.
Kinza: Outside of music, what other artistic
references do you draw into Girlyboi?
Joseph: I really like people that dive into
philosophical or esoteric ideas that have
no point or no end and become cyclical,
because eventually you have to accept that
your humanity is finite and the whole ‘why’ of
the thing you’ll never figure out. You have to
accept not knowing, and let things be. And I
really, really love Jim James. On record.
Kinza: I’m interested that, although Girlyboi
has somewhat of a vintage sensibility, you
also play around with internet-age graphics.
Even down to the spelling of Girlyboi, it kind of
reminds me of a MySpace username. Is this a
deliberate contrast?
Joseph: Yeah, you got it. It’s like a red herring.
The name Girlyboi looks and sounds like
*NSYNC or Spice Girls or 1D or 98°.
Carly: To me, it’s just kind of funny. Ultimately,
we don’t take ourselves too seriously, in terms
of our image.
Kinza: What’s the story behind naming the
band, anyway?
Carly: This sounds like something out of a
movie, but we really had a moment where we
said the name aloud at the same time.
Kinza: No way!
Carly: That’s how I remember it. We were
sitting at the recording studio trying to decide
on it, saying to each other, “Something with
the word girl... girl y boy?” I think our initial
intent with the name wasn’t to have any
specific significance. But as we considered
the name after it had been decided, we
realised it has so much emphasis behind it.
Further meanings kept developing at later
points in time. For instance, that it might
suggest something about male and female
roles, and how they’re not so traditional
anymore. Joe’s a really girly guy and I dress
like a dude. Back in the day, you needed to
perform your gender more precisely, but now,
no, if you feel more confident dressing
a different way, you can do that.
Joseph: On a slight tangent, I also want
to say, I think one of the most punk rock –
quote unquote – things you can do is be in
a relationship and sing about it. It’s easy to
create some illusion of yourself and make
music that does fuck all. That’s great, I love
that shit, it’s like candy, but to put your life on
display and also be a monogamous couple
and sing about it, I think that’s pretty punk
rock. It’s so weird that in a culture where
everything is accepted, there’s a counterreaction against traditional, pastoral ideas of
man and woman. I think it’s kind of funny to
sing about going to live on a farm and
have kids.
Kinza: Do you see your music as being
Joseph: I think so. The basis of the project is
more of like the union of man and woman as
one than anything else. If anything, it’s like a
praise to the divine femininity of the world.
Carly: Women are awesome!

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