Like two Stevie Knicks in technicolour dreamcoats: meet NYC’s timeless twosome, Beau.
Taken from the 10th Birthday Issue of Wonderland.
Emma wears black t-shirt vintage tie dye by BROWNSTONE COWBOYS and Heather wears striped cotton top and black trousers both by ALEXANDER WANG
In the under-appreciated 2002 movie Igby Goes Down, actor Kieran Culkin meets a precocious vegan called Sookie Sapperstein, played by Claire Danes.
“What kind of a name is Igby?” she asks, sulking. Igby responds, “The kind of name that someone named Sookie is in no position to question.” Talking to New York duo, Beau, reminds me of these two characters from a film loosely based on coming-of-age tome The Catcher In The Rye.
Both take themselves very seriously – 21-year-old Heather Boo slightly less so than Emma Rose, 20 – in a way that time and increasing self-awareness will forgive.
“As a child, everyone called me Heathyboo, then it became Heather Boo,” says Boo, explaining the history of her stage name. “This is before the term Boo became so commonly used.” So pre-Honey Boo Boo then, I ask, referring to the star of reality TV show Toddlers & Tiaras? Boo laughs, kind of. She and Rose changed their band name from The Boos to Beau to reflect their maturity. “We like the simplicity of Beau.” Boo thinks for a second. “Also, sexual labels are so ambiguous today, so Beau kind of goes with like… a generation.”
The phone line we’re speaking on is muffled and distant, like I’m trying to overhear a neighbour’s conversation by pressing my ear to a wall. Boo is in her car, driving through the Adirondack mountains in upstate NewYork where she’s trying to enjoy a holiday.Rose is nestled in her apartment in SoHo, NewYork. They don’t live together. Yet. But they’re “literally” five blocks apart and have known each other their whole lives, born and bred by mothers who were both painters and best friends in Manhattan. They solidified their friendship when they were 11-years-old. “We never talked before that,” recalls Rose,“once we gave each other the chance, we actually enjoyed each other’s company.” Boo giggles in the background. “We’re soulmates, totally inseparable. Everyone at school knew us as ‘together’.”
Rose recollects one post-school hang particularly fondly. They were walking through NYC’s West Village when they decided that education sucked and one day they’d be in a band. “I was like, ‘Heather! We could do this!’,” says Rose. “We were very inexperienced at the time.” They were 13.
Boo: “We were jumping up and down freaking out, completely confident.” Boo, who is the singer and received her musical pointers from guitarist Rose, said, “Emma had such good taste for her age. We were into Elliot Smith and Radiohead.” She added dramatically, “Radiohead’s when my life changed.”
Rose’s favourite Radiohead album is OK Computer. “I like Pablo Honey, too. It’s hard.” Boo? “Oh I agree with Emma.” The pair were invited to see one of their favourite bands, Modest Mouse, a few nights ago. Rose tells me they’ve worked with Morning Teleportation, a band signed to frontman, Isaac Brock’s label. Boo would rather talk about the afterparty. “Emma got to hang out with the band and Iron & Wine. She had the time of her life.” Rose falls silent.
Boo is definitely the more extrovert and taken of the pair, elongating her words as though she’s narrating Snow White. Rose is businesslike, probably the musical driving force, though they’re keen to express that they’re collaborative when it comes to writing the lyrics and melodies that inform their 70s folk sound. The more I delve into their backstory, Rose grows cautious that the conversation has veered too far towards Boo’s former modelling, her acting credits and their association with the likes of clothing brand Opening Ceremony and photographers such as Ryan McGinley, who was partly responsible for forming NYC band The Virgins. “Can we just focus on the music?” she says, eager to talk about their self-titled debut EP, released earlier this year by Parisian fashion label, Kitsuné.
“We don’t want to come off as a fashion band,” says Boo. “We want our careers to mostly be about music rather than lifestyle,” repeats Rose. “Music.” Boo wishes they could delete all online photos of her modelling past. “I did it for survival, to make money. It’s exhausting,” she says. Rose attributes their pursuit of so many creative outlets in the past to the expensiveness of New York. The city’s gentrification has been a subject of frustration by many musicians, most notably David Byrne who wrote about it for The Guardian in October 2013. Rose is not sure she agrees. “Things are just moving outwards to Brooklyn and The Bronx,” she says, somewhat naïvely. “Inflation and rent filters artists out but most of our creative friends grew up here. That’s how we maintain a sense of artistic New York. I love this city no matter what, even if everything changes.” Boo adds, “It wouldn’t be New York without the artistic struggle that comes with living here. You might not be able to spend much on lunch, but you gain a great imagination.”
The pair’s debut album will be released next March. It was written in New York but recorded between NYC, Nashville and London with Shoreditch-based producer Alan O’Connell, who’s worked with The Big Pink and New Young Pony Club. They’ve loved the experience. “Each song has its own life, but I think they all work together. They comprise who we are since we were 13-years-old,” says Boo. It will follow in the same vein as the acoustic Americana of self-described “soft rock” singles, “One Wing” and “Karma”, from this year’s EP. The latter reminds of America’s “Horse With No Name” and contains the lyric, “breathing like a horse with no lungs”.
Influentially, they’re fans of Alabama Shakes and earnest Notting Hill songwriter, Flo Morrissey. “Even mainstream stuff like Amy Winehouse, Adele…” adds Boo. Rose interrupts. “The great poets and writers of the past. Bob Dylan, Federico Garcia Lorca, Hunter S.Thompson, PJ Harvey, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, grr,” she runs out of names. I assume they love vintage shopping and crate-digging. You know, vinyl? “Oh! I have to get a record player!” Rose enthuses. “I don’t have one, but I collect records.”
“It’s interesting you mention ‘vintage’,” says Heather. “You know when you hold a vintage item, it has so much history and it’s been around for much longer than you have?” I feel like I know where Boo’s going with this. “Obviously we’re alive now, our music is current, but in a way there’s a vintage essence to it. We’re trying to make music that’s timeless.”
Beau release their debut album ‘That Thing Reality’ on Monday 11th March 2016 via Kitsuné/Sony Red. The video for ‘Soar Across The Sea’ is out now.
Photographer: Ryan McGinley
Fashion: Heathermary Jackson
Words: Eve Barlow