Written by Meghan Ianiro
"Hanging out, trying our best, doing our thing, going for it, making it happen, having fun" is always an endearing thing to read under the 'Interests' tab of a band's Facebook page, and it's quite the accurate description for Sailor Boyfriend. The Jersey-City-based New Wave duo, consisting of Andy Waldron (Synth/Vox), and Alex Mercuri (Guitar/Vox), deliver music that is poetic, hypnotic, and, dare I say, "woke." It's like dancing in a dark, disorienting club with a bunch strobes and having the time of your life. Sailor Boyfriend released their debut album True Romantics this past November and, if you keep reading, they may "EXPOSE!" themselves... (*hint* *wink* *nudge*).
Read our interview with Andy and Alex of Sailor Boyfriend below as we catch up on True Romantics (and stay tuned for a surprise)... (*wink*)
1) Let's start simple. How did you name your band?
ALEX: Very carefully.
ANDY: We made a whole list of names that we've been keeping away for projects or song titles.
ALEX: Half of them were Homestar Runner references
ANDY: The final list was "Tompkins," "Very Yes," "Homely," "American Goblin," and "Sailor Boy." We fixed up that last one, and it topped each of our shortlists.
2) It's super refreshing to hear a local New Wave band. What drew you to making New Wave music?
ANDY: We met after seeing David Byrne's Contemporary Color through our mutual friend, Dan, and then later went to Rough Trade NYC's Blackstar release night together. We talked at Vinnie's afterwards and kept getting each others references – most of which venn diagrammed with new wave.
ALEX: I knew you were into synthy stuff, and I love punk and shreddy stuff, but I've always had a very real soft spot for 80's post-punk and new wave. It's a lot harder to find someone who wants to start a band for that. So I was excited to find someone who played synths.
ANDY: New wave is synthy and so… deliberate and melodramatic. It's a good enough label for the music we want to make, inclusive of varying degrees of "angular" vs. "poppy." It can be silly or serious – and sometimes both at the same time. It's an identity thing as much as it is a genre.
3) I read that 'No More Heroes' was essentially written about figures who say they're allies of a certain group but their actions say otherwise, and about combating neutrality when moral stakes are high. What advice would you give to someone who wants to combat that neutrality themselves but doesn't know where to start?
ALEX: I'm incredibly tired of the adulation political figures get for doing the bare minimum—when someone with harmful politics speaks out against the most cartoonishly evil and easy-to-denounce stuff (remember those 2016 republican debates?) or when dudes who profit off war/inequality pay lip service to a good cause then vote otherwise. The world is so desperate for a hero figure that they'll settle for anything and I think we should aim higher. I'm not impressed by any politician's funny Twitter clapbacks if they aren't doing work to instill positive change.
ANDY: As for advice... this is what's worked for me: Being left hopeless by institutional hypocrisy is a common feeling—you're not alone. Find ways to be vocal, whether it's being loud yourself or acting as a vessel for someone else's ideas. Find the people that truly hear you. Be open-minded to the many voices in a discourse, but know which ones to listen to and which ones to reject outright—your personal ethics code will guide you through that noise. Be clear and firm to those who don't agree with you. Read Alinksy's Rules for Radicals and Teen Vogue. You have agency if you recognize it. You have power if you use it.
4) What bands did you grow up listening to?
ANDY: We both have a very similar listening foundation that we grew up with
ALEX: Bowie, Talking Heads, They Might Be Giants, Lou Reed. Where we split is Andy listens to, like, early 2000's indie rock, and I have the same taste as a weird old drifter who works on his van all day.
ANDY: Peter, Bjorn, and John
ALEX: Nick Cave.
5) 'Young Adult Novel', I feel, is very relatable in the modern era. Can you tell us a bit more about what inspired this track?
ANDY: Thanks! That's a song I wrote three years ago for another band, Hexdog. It was one of the first times I really tried to focus on one thing and pick it apart endlessly into a narrative—in this case, dystopian YA novel tropes. Dana Schwartz, who also did the incredible GuyinYourMFA twitter, has been doing a better job at this under @DystopianYA. I swear I didn't read that account while writing that tune. Please believe me.
6) 'Behave': Reality, fantasy, or... Mystery?
7) If you could add any famous musician to Sailor Boyfriend's lineup, who would it be?
ALEX: I respect famous musicians too much to ask them to be in our band. We're not worthy.
ANDY: Michael Stipe [of R.E.M.].
8) Your latest album is called True Romantics. What (or who) is your definition of a true romantic?
ALEX: Two or three years ago I saw this video of Vin Diesel singing the Rihanna song "Stay" and I cried watching it at work because I kept thinking about how much love he had in his heart to give. I don't know if this answers your question, but it is a true story.
ANDY: Michael Stipe [of R.E.M.].
9) I've noticed that a lot of shows you play are affiliated with—or to benefit—many different good causes. Would you say that philanthropy is something you're passionate about?
ANDY: We're super fortunate to be surrounded by really nice artists who want to make a tangible impact on whatever issues are important to them.
ALEX: Our friend Cassidy [Dawn Graves] was the first to book us to play a few of her nutso queer kinky (and educational!) cabaret/variety shows, and most of those directly benefited orgs like the Texas Workers Relief Fund or Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies.
ANDY: Another friend, Eli, connected us with the Jersey City drama kids benefit, which was a no-brainer—I live in JC now and it was a way to support something local as someone who, like it or not, is part of the city's gentrification. Amanda [B. Jun] of Crazy Pills, a band I love with all my power-pop heart, is helping organize a fundraiser for Everytown for Gun Safety. We hopped on that show immediately. She's planning it with all these great groups like Suffragette City, an incredible—and VERY cool—community of BK folks who feature these strong women and genderqueer individuals. We feel, like, as a new band of Two White Men™, it was important to start from the get-go using our inherent positions of privilege to support voices that might get drowned out otherwise by people who look like us.
And, lastly... The...
Megazine is thrilled and honored to be doing our first premiere with Sailor Boyfriend for the release of their upcoming EP, EXPOSURE! which is set to release May 4.
LISTEN TO THE TITLE TRACK, EXPOSURE! BELOW AND PRE-ORDER THE EP HERE!
10) This goes without saying...Tell us about EXPOSURE!
ALEX: Dancing! DANCING!
ANDY: We're super pumped about it. It has four brand new songs from us. The first single here is the title track. It uses a lot of start-up buzzwords. For the first time, we're also having other humans be on our songs. We asked Krissy Lassiter, who records as krissanthemum and someone we've been playing shows with, to be on the last tune: an irresponsible duet called "Cold War Love Song."
ALEX: We're returning to the well of "poking fun at elitist indie rock jerks" with "Do You Like Sonic Youth?" In that one we bemoan that sensation of knowing you're supposed to like a band but not knowing which album of theirs to listen to. I had to make up a weird Sonic Youth guitar tuning (EAEGAE) for it, if anyone wants to play along at home.
ANDY: And there's "(This is) the Dream of Alan and Mike," which I wrote after reading Judy Berman's write up of the Perfume Genius song, "Alan," in the New York Times. I adored his last record [No Shape], and I wanted to try and… pay tribute to and abstract this enduring relationship between Mike [Hadreas, of Perfume Genius] and his boyfriend, Alan [Wyffells, also keyboardist]. I also really wanted to write something that orbits the house music that permeated what I listened to as a teenager, but was still very much a Sailor Boyfriend thing. Kinda like "Strong Enough" off our first album.