After traversing the globe to discover their sound (nearly a year-long stop in Paris and then a stint in Brooklyn), Midwest natives Carly Russ and Joseph Matick, the couple behind folk pop-turned-classic rock band Girlyboi, have finally found a home in Los Angeles. And today marks the release of their first single “Bonfire” from their 13-song debut album that’s slated to drop in October.
Described as a “new anthem for young lovers,” “Bonfire” is strikingly more upbeat and optimistic than anything they’ve done, making it a departure from their previous folksy, melancholic hits. And it was made even livelier with the accompaniment of string and brass instruments, like cellos and trumpets — a first for Girlyboi.
?But before Russ found her calling as a musician, the platinum blonde beauty fell into modeling at the age of 14, which not only went on to shape her career, but permanently tether her to the fashion world. One such instance of this: When she and Matick caught the eye of Hedi Slimane, fashion’s notorious rule-breaking bad boy who completely overhauled YSL during his four-year tenure at the helm — resulting in a fashion editorial feature in V Magazine, shot by the very man himself.
We got Russ on the phone and we chatted with her about “Bonfire,” modeling, what it was like to meet Slimane, and what’s next for Girlyboi.
How is “Bonfire” different from your other songs?
We recorded the entire album in Los Angeles, which changed the trajectory of our sound. Before was melancholy and beautiful, but this album is more upbeat, energetic, and exciting.
This song is one of my favorites, and I’m excited for everyone to hear it. We wanted to push for a bigger sound, a bigger production this time. We’re using all these new instruments we’ve never incorporated before in our music, like the cello and trumpet. For the album, more people are involved: We got some guest musicians from our favorite bands to come play, which was surreal for the both of us. It’s not about us anymore — we have a new drummer, a new bassist, someone who’s writing music with us. They’re all super talented; it’s a really great group, and it can’t get any better, honestly.
Where did you draw inspiration from?
All of our favorite old-school artists. We love Kurt Vile, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, The Verve, The Vines, John Denver, and Michelle Phillips from The Mamas & the Papas.
How did you get into modeling?
The story is funny — my cousin wanted to model. I love the fashion industry, but I didn’t know it was possible for me to model. My cousin asked my mom if I could go down with them to try out for open calls. I was 14, and I had no idea what I was doing. I went in for fun. They lined us up and asked our names and what we do. I was super short, 5’5’’ or 5’6’’ and they picked me. I wasn’t even trying to be a model at the time, because I was so young.
How has modeling shaped you?
I have learned so much from it, and I’ve gotten to travel so much that it’s really made me who I am. It’s set me up to work with people. And with music, it’s so intertwined, which is cool.
Did modeling make you even more interested in fashion?
I’ve always been someone who’s drawn to fashion, even before I knew modeling was an option. Fashion is really important to me, and I can incorporate it into my performance — I can dress how I truly dress, and how I want to be perceived on stage.
How would you describe your style?
I’d like to describe my personal style as a healthy mix of designer and vintage as well as feminine/masculine. I like to switch it up! One day I can be performing in vintage pieces on stage, and the next day, sporting designers. I like Dior, Stella McCartney, and Gucci for more girly days; YSL and Calvin Klein for a strong contrast.
Do you think that your style changes as your music evolves too?
My style has stayed consistent. When I first started doing music, we were involved in the rap scene in Chicago, and I would dress sporty and girly. Now, our music is more folk, it’s changed — I’ve become more confident about dressing for who I am, which is minimalist, French-esque, and masculine.
Was that inspired by your stay in Paris?
I lived there for about nine months and I felt I was at my prime there because I felt like I fit in and that definitely influenced the music, too. We were able to break down what we wanted to do with our music, that we wanted to create the same sound that our parents grew up with, like John Denver and The Mamas & the Papas. It felt true to us, and it pushed us to make the best music we could. I guess you could say my style and my style of music came together.
Do you think you’ll ever move back to Paris?
I’m really content here in Los Angeles, which is crazy because I never thought about living here until last year. We created this 13-song album that literally flew out of us. I have a huge connection to L.A. because of that. It feels like my home because we recorded it in our house and we took the rest to a professional studio.
What do you think about the fashion scene in L.A.?
People are starting to move here and people are creating more here, which I think is really great because the city is beautiful. And the fact that Hedi Slimane had his last Saint Laurent show here was really cool.
Speaking of Hedi Slimane, how did you two meet him?
It was through a friend from London that does some of our booking in Europe. I guess [Hedi] was like, I want to shoot Girlyboi for V magazine as one of the top upcoming artists in New York. It was so random — it came up out of nowhere, and it happened the next day. It was so surreal.
Joe and I respect him so much. He changed the YSL game, and I was a huge fan of Saint Laurent, so the fact that I got to meet him and that he shot us was really cool. Joe was super chill. I was really nervous, but once we got there, it was really relaxed. He made us feel comfortable, he was so nice, and the nerves went away.
What’s next for Girlyboi?
We just finalized [our touring schedule] yesterday — we’re going to be performing a show during New York Fashion, then a bunch of shows on the East Coast, then the Midwest, and hopefully after that, the West Coast.