Fake Boyfriend: Celebrating Each Other’s Weirdnesses.
It’s an uncharacteristically cool summer evening but the energy inside of Milkboy Philly is kinetic. The ladies of Fake Boyfriend are hurriedly arriving to soundcheck before their show. Cars are double parked out front. Everyone is frazzled. Everything is fun.
Ashley Tryba, 24, Sarah Myers, 23, and Abi Reimold, 24, are all huddled in the back service stairwell of the upstairs chuckling at the absurdity of their current state and location whilst completely comfortable existing in that space.
When asked what excites them about this summer, Myers exclaims, “I’m fucking stoked to move into our new house together.”
“We’re moving into a bigger, better, more awesome house just further west of where we live now,” Tryba continues. “We live in West Philly.”
“Does it explain a lot?” Reimold chimes in and laughs. “It explains us.”
It does. Though these Temple grads are all from the suburbs of Philadelphia, everything about these three emanates an inviting, quirky, punky and vulnerable realness – the same kind of realness one finds in abundance on any stroll down Baltimore Avenue.
Fake Boyfriend’s debut EP, Mercy, is a 4-track manifestation of their convivial duality.
The project begins with “Ship,” a writhing and aggressive ode to new wave. It’s in-your-face. You can’t help but join their charge even if you’re unsure of the feelings percolating within.
“I think the rawness of the instruments and the punkiness of the instruments largely stems from the fact that we’ve never played instruments before,” says Myers. “And for me personally, I’ve always drawn a lot of power from punk music.”
Jake Ewald, of Modern Baseball fame who also produced Mercy, lauds the band’s rawness along with its versatility.
“There was no stiffness in regard to making a certain song sound like a punk song, or making a certain song sound like a Sharon Van Etten song, or anything like that,” he says. “Everything they wrote was super organic, and their group writing dynamic was really helpful.”
Punk à la Hole and Glenn Danzig circa The Misfits are inspirations of Tryba as well.
Amazingly, Reimold is the only longtime instrumentalist, having played guitar and writing songs since she was 12. She learned how to play the drums for this band.
Both Tryba and Myers learned guitar and bass, respectively, within the past several years, though Tryba’s foray into music took some sisterly encouragement from Reimold.
“I was hesitant to start the music project because I didn’t have confidence that I could learn how to play guitar,” Tryba says. “I just saw it as a big hurdle. And Abi lent me her guitar and amp and basically threw it in my hands.”
Tryba, ostensibly the biggest personality of the three, has few inhibitions about expressing her insecurities, though that wasn’t always the case.
“One of the reasons I was really insecure about playing music and didn’t have confidence in myself enough to start was because an ex-boyfriend of mine had told me he wouldn’t want to make music with me,” she reminisces, “even though he liked my voice and thought that I had a good opinion about music, because ‘girls being in bands was gimmicky.’”
Ewald notes Fake Boyfriend’s nascent musical beginnings but views it as a positive quality more than anything.
“Ashley, Sarah and Abi created a really cool musical aesthetic for the EP,” he says. “Since they were all working with instruments they hadn’t spent too much time with, the parts they wrote were entirely uninhibited and they came out super cool.”
This rawness can be felt heavily in that snarling 27-second demo dubbed “Gimmick” on their Bandcamp. Its inspiration? One can thank the misguided perceptions of an ex-boyfriend for that.
The cheeky band name? Fans can also thank an ex-SortaBoyfriendButNotReally for that.
“It’s just kind of playful,” Tryba explains. “It also describes someone who you’d be dating for three months. And you maybe met their parents and they met yours. And you’re making dinner together and then all of sudden they just like… ghost.”
But the reality is that Mercy is not about significant others, nor relationships. It’s about navigating the crosshairs of who you want to be.
“A lot of times the relationship lens is really just a lens into the turmoil of growing up,” Myers expounds. “When you’re in a relationship you learn a lot about yourself. You process a lot of your huge life jumps like how you empathize with people, your emotional intelligence…. learning how to be someone who is kind and good to other people, but also having to unlearn a lot of the bullshit people have put inside and taught me and told me to hate about myself.”
“And a lot of it for me,” says Tryba, “Mercy was dealing with this paradox that was me coming into myself as a person. Since I was young I was kind of confused about my identity – whether I wanted to be scary or pretty? One year I was a scary princess for Halloween. And I feel like that’s how I describe our sound too. We don’t have to pick being femme or butch or tough or soft. We can be whatever we need to be to process our emotions in this way… to voice ourselves in this way.”
“Gritty and pretty,” Reimold chimes in.
Tryba describes the angriness in the sound as a response to the violence against women, against underprivileged populations and the frustration of self-perceived limitations as a result of what other people have said or done to you.
“And then the pretty or sad parts are kind of the sounds of young adult depression,” she laughs.
Mercy takes listeners on a journey that is their journey but also the journey of many 20-somethings coming of age in this world. A world that Fake Boyfriend, despite the gravity of their music, tries not to take too seriously.
“It’s just such a dark world,” says Reimold. “It’s sad. You can focus on that or you can make your friends laugh. We’re just here to celebrate each other’s weirdnesses and enjoy them and take pleasure in them.”