The creative directors behind boygenius’ Coachella performances and upcoming world tour have opened up about helming the indie rock supergroup’s first big ticket shows.
Amber Rimell and Bronski, creative directors at the award-winning TAWBOX studio which has staged iconic shows including Stormzy’s 2019 Glastonbury headline set and Dave’s 2020 BRITs performance, have spoken exclusively to Rolling Stone UK.
boygenius, who released their UK chart-topping debut album The Record last month, had only performed a handful of smaller scale shows prior to their bookings this month at California’s world-famous double-weekender festival.
“The Boys” (as the trio is nicknamed) comprises soloists Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker. Bronski said the band “wanted a real rock’n’roll aesthetic…so that was something that me and Amber really worked on. How could The Boys – for what would be essentially their first real show – really punch people in the face from the off?”
That ‘“dirty rock aesthetic” has been realised by metal grating, split stage levels, brash lighting, smoke, and asymmetrical design. Perhaps tapping into the boygenius’ January Rolling Stone feature in which they recreated Nirvana’s suited-and-booted 1994 cover shot, a ‘90s grunge feel is also explored.
boygenius wanted to work with lots of roughshod live camera footage to add a rawness to the performance. “If we’re thinking about Nirvana, we’re thinking about the ‘90s,” Bronski said. “If we’re thinking about ‘90s pop music culture, we’re thinking about MTV and VHS – dirty and grimy. So that kind of aesthetic definitely transferred over from the grunge scene etc. along with even more, kind of, Mötley Crüe and Rush imagery. That’s what really inspired them and us.”
“[There was] a real keenness to explore how The Boys could be represented in a rock’n’roll way and also how people might not necessarily have seen them coming out in a real rock’n’roll, dirty stage,” he added.
Rimell and Bronski also got hands-on with the design. “We were working with art directors as well, but we had metal brushes and were scratching up metal along the way to kind of really dirty up that aesthetic,” Bronski said.
But it’s not all grime and grit. “We start really hard,” Bronski said of the show, “but then we go into an almost more theatrical second act before we go into act three where there’s kind of added visual stimulants such as extra TV.”
For the hushed The Record track ‘We’re in Love’, Bronksi said that the trio “go to a smaller pocket of the stage where they perform in a really beautiful pool of light from the back”.
The different stage levels has been novel for boygenius, Rimell said, who as individuals are used to performing fairly statically behind guitar-and-mic.
“When we stepped into rehearsal with The Boys, they were so excited that there were all these different levels to play with as performers,” Rimell said.
Bridgers, Dacus and Baker play an “incredible” amount of guitars during their set, and because they’re on wireless systems they were “really excited to move around that stage, which I don’t think is something they’ve really done that much before”.
“They loved having places to go – having the drummer like nine feet above their heads,” Bronski added.
To build excitement and to play into the big rock show feel the band open their Coachella set by running out to Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’. But that’s juxtaposed beforehand by the trio singing ‘Without You Without Them’ a capella.
They’re seen huddled around a mic in the stage wings while a camera approaches them slowly. The audience are privy to the camera feed.
“The second that beautiful note at the end finishes, they go running out, the drums start going into full rock mode and then, you know, the audience get punched in the face 20 bucks in,” Bronski said. “How we play with lighting in particular…it’s just an incredibly dirty but beautiful rock show.”
Rimell added that bringing the stage production to life has been a thrill.
“Just rewind a couple of months to drawings and Zoom calls and a lot of work beforehand… for Bronski and I to then come out here, to then walk into a room where [the stage] was all built and it was actually real rather than just on an email was really exciting,” she said.
“Yeah, the moment when it’s not a piece of paper and it becomes tangible is always a wicked moment,” Bronski added.
And boygenius have been a delight. “They’ve all got each other’s back,” Rimell said. “They’re an amazing team to work with.”
“You can genuinely see their beautiful friendship,” Bronski added. “Then when you hear their voices together…I mean, I had goosebumps every fucking day. Their voices together are insane.”
That unity is reflected in what TAWBOX does. “We love capturing the audience’s imagination or even people’s imagination, regardless if it’s the biggest stage or the smallest stage,” Bronski said.
“A lot of what we do is because of our love for music, our love for almost like theatre, our love for cinema that’s entwined in a way that just makes sense to us. But it also seems to really connect with artists and audiences as well.”
boygenius play Coachella’s Outdoor Theatre at 8.10PM PT on Saturday, 22 April