Interview: Boy Harsher Talk New Album, Short Film Soundtrack, ‘The Runner’

When Jae Matthews andAugustus Muller started Boy Harsher, they thought that they were letting go of their original dream of becoming film makers. They had started working together to score music for their short films under the name Teen Dreamz, but when interest in their music began to overshadow interest in their movies, they had a decision to make. As Matthews recalls, the conversation went a little like this: Gus essentially said, you know, this music thing is gonna grow if we water it maybe we should just try going on tour. And that’s kind of what we did and how it all began. 

Now Boy Harsher are preparing to release their third album, The Runner. But its not just an album; its also the soundtrack to a short horror film of the same name. The sound and visuals of which are inseparable and complement each others forms—like your hand and the skin and hair that covers its muscle and bone.  

The transition back to film making is a welcome surprise, even to the band themselves. As Muller explains, If you would have asked us in 2014, what we wanted to do, we would have told you (film). But if you asked us in 2019, we would have been like, Yeah, we’re planning another tour and the summer or something like that.We definitely had tunnel vision.  

What caused Boy Harsher to see the light at the end of that tunnel and move into realizing the current phase of their career was the onset of COVID-19. Muller is emphatic on this point, stating, We would have never made this film if it wasn’t for the break in COVID We were getting so lost in the album cycle that a film world was escaping us. COVID really gave us a break to look back and discover this part of ourselves again.”  

The self-directed film and OST The Runner, staring King Womans Kristina Esfandiari, as the titular Runner, is Boy Harshers attempt to break that cycle. Because as Matthews explains, its not working for many artists. COVID was this moment where we got jolted, where we realized, just like, shoot, the mechanics of the music industry are kind of failing apart …” She continues, stating, Huge companies at the top are gonna do whatever to turn a profit and make it very consumer. But I think we down here are now like, Wow, OK, we need some new ideas.’”  

The idea for an album that would compliment a film had two specific origins points for Boy Harsher. The first was their desire to make something compelling for the era of streaming concerts. As Muller describes it, their thought process followed a linear escalation into something more than just a streaming live set, saying, When we were first talking about this, it was maybe 50 percent performance and documentary and then 50 percent narrative. And as we started expanding the project, it was like, ‘No, lets just let the narrative take control.’” And so, it did.  

The second origin point is more abstract. Since the onset of the pandemic, Matthews was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While seeking treatment, she was visited by a recurring vision of a woman running through the woods.  This vision became the founding firmament for the film, a horror trope transformed into a meditation on grief, loss of connection, and the reckless things one will do outpace the demons of their past.  

For Matthews, a supernatural setting was perfect for conveying what she was feeling during the time when the film was being made and helped her reconnect with her love of filmmaking.  

She explains, I think that my interest in film comes a lot from grief. And I have so much interest in grief. And I think that horror films often are ways of exploring grief but to an extreme. I find that incredibly fascinating because the real trauma is within human life; its within grieving; it’s within losing someone, and it can be a way of kind of mitigating that pain to make it supernatural, or just totally horrific.”  

Tying her thoughts back to the theme of the film, she concludes, I think a lot of the tragedy within The Runner is not being able to be in control. The character is in a position where they are not in control and have to follow through because its scenarios like that where I always find myself getting into trouble. Scenarios where its like, Well, youve come this far; there is no turning back now.’” 

Watch the video for “Give Me a Reason” here:

For more from Boy Harsher, find them on Instagram, Twitter, and their official website.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Brooke

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