One of Brooklyn nightlife’s most provocative performers (and a hitmaking recording artist) is no drag queen–although he will certainly fuck up those gender norms from time to time. A sexy stage vamp with a wide web of music and style influences, the man called Boy Radio is in a category all his own.
Thotyssey: Radio, hello! Thanks so much for talking to us today! How was your Halloween?
Boy Radio: Halloween was good. lots of fun work I got to be a part of. How was yours?
It was boring! But yours certainly looked fun. Tell the children what you went as!
I had a few costumes.But my faves were Beetlejuice, Ariana Grande, and a cheeseburger.
How did you know who the three most important figures in my life were?
Amazing. And I see that the Sunday before Halloween, you were at the Rosemont with the Live music show, which you’ve done a bunch of times before.
Yeah, that’s Live! at the Rosemont, a monthly live band cabaret Michael Cruz started. It’s cute. I appreciate the element of having live music and shows where people have become entirely expectant on only seeing drag shows. We have some really amazing vocalists as regulars, and then there’s an open mic part too. Surprisingly, a lot of people are shy though.
I bet you would never describe yourself as being shy!
[Responds with a a meme of a sheepish Jimmy Fallon saying “Mayyyyybeee.”]
I know you love your queens… but as an artist with different skills to offer and a different aesthetic to celebrate, do you think drag is maybe over-represented or over saturated in nightlife?
I love my queens and drag sisters. There’s a drag renaissance that’s been happening, and has given such a platform to the art and to the artists. So I can’t really say it’s over-represented. It’s just finally found its way into a more mainstream view.
I mean, it does mean I have to work harder as a music artist in nightlife spaces if I’m performing, but I feel good about being invited to play shows where it’s all drag and me on a mic. I low key get to be the chick from A Star is Born who is the only one singing live at a drag show… …and then that chick becomes Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sorry, kidding!
I would totally see that version! Would you ever host, like, a weekly Boy Radio show at a bar or club where it’s just you singing and hosting with maybe some guests, or is that not for you?
That’s not really for me… there’s a lot of levels to a weekly party. But monthlies are nice!
So, I see that you are a SoCal native–Rancho Cucamonga! What was it like to grow up there as Little Boy Radio?
It was cute, very suburban.There wasn’t a lot to do, so I spent a lot of time home by myself learning to sing. And at the time I had no real connection or awareness to queerness. I just kind of kept my circle of friends and imagined a lot. My extended family lived in LA and Hollywood, so I would visit them often and get to explore that LA energy
You have a cute video for your song “Let’s Go Party” where you’re a kid playing with dolls, and then you basically become the doll. Does that some up your life?
Haha! Yeah, I think so!
Who or what was inspiring you musically early on?
I listened to a lot of pop and R&B music that was made for my generation growing up. Spent a lot of time behind closed doors with Britney, Janet, N’Sync, and Michael Jackson. But I was also a music nerd, so I loved discovering… especially on the radio. My mom had a great record collection, and drilled me on Al Green, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Vanity 6, Prince, Stevie Wonder… I could go on for awhile.
And thus Boy Radio! Were you always dressing up Fabulously?
I think I always had the ambition to own my style, but because I was shy I would find subtle ways of doing it. Like, I would design wrist and armbands that would change every month. I would paint things on my jeans and jacket. I wore a Band-Aid on one of my fingers for a few months as a lewk. You know… subtle iconography.
What brought you to NYC? And is that where you began as a performer and recording artist?
Yeah, I moved to NYC to pursue performance art and music in some capacity. At the time after school, all I knew of that world was musical theatre, so I spent all of my time waking up at dawn to put my name on audition lists. My first job was a tour of the musical Hairspray. I was the first person in line for that audition, which meant I had to have gotten there at like 4am to sign up and wait.
After that, I sort of realized that I don’t really love musical theatre… and my intention to be in NYC was to develop as an artist and record music all along. So I started leaning into that. Writing, singing everywhere I could, meeting people in nightlife, playing shows…
After spending a lot of time in the LES, and in Brooklyn–kind of looking to some of my favorite NYC icons (past and present) as guideposts–Boy Radio was given a name.
These days you are mostly identified with the Brooklyn scene. Did that just sort of happen naturally?
Yeah, I think so… but even when I lived in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time traveling to Brooklyn for gigs. The LGBTQ nightlife scene in Manhattan isn’t really a play space for musicians.
It’s true! Which is weird when you think about it, considering the cultural history of Greenwich Village.
Yeah, but hey… there’a a drag renaissance happening, so that’s cool.
Tell us about Neon Romance, the full length album you released last year that got tons of buzz. I can’t imagine all the blood, sweat, tears, hours and dollars that must go into a venture like that!
I learned a lot making a full project like that, creating a sound and collaborating with other producers. Overall it was a good experience, and I look forward to doing it again when I’m ready.
Were these songs just accumulated from your repertoire over the years, or were they written with the intent to go together as a album?
I definitely came at it from the perspective of writing an album. A cohesive mix of songs that could play well together, which to me is more fun and intentional than just making a single or an EP. Since then, I’ve debated on how to share new music. And honestly, I really love making full projects, so I’m leaning more in to that direction again.
Does music piracy particularly annoy you, or is it just something you have to accept now as a young artist in this age?
I’m not as pressed about it because people will get their music however they want to get it. I listen to music mostly on YouTube. For others, it’s different. I dunno… here are just a lot creative ways of sharing and discovering music. As an artist, I’m just happy when I know people are listening, however they’re listening.
I’d love to see a full concert from you someday.
Yeah! I’ll have to invite you a showcase soon.
In the meantime…. a great party that does feature live musicians mixing it up with the Gurls weekly is Will Sheridan and DJ ECON’s Monday night weekly event Hot Fruit at Metropolitan Bar. Hot Fruit turns 6 this week, and will therefore have a huge kiki with many artists, including yourself! The turnout will be epic.
I think one of the big lessons of being a musician in a city saturated with artists is that you have to find your tribe–a wolf pack where people can support your work… and in turn, you support them all by showing up and sharing your work. Hot Fruit has been a weekly space for musicians and performers and that’s harrrd [to come by]… especially for the unknowns.
But Hot Fruit has been a consistent play space for LGBTQ artists and musicians, even when it isn’t entirely crowded. Will and ECON have held space for the kids who came to NYC to pursue music and the recording industry, while still exploring their identity. And it’s very Brooklyn in that none of the spaces in Manhattan have ever given that space… I’m guessing because it doesn’t seem very lucrative for the bar. Again, levels…
The Monday night anniversary should be everything.
ITS GOING TO BE LIT!
What are some closing words for us?
Just that Neon Romance is still available to stream on all platforms, and to follow me on Instagram, because I’ll be making some changes soon and looking forward to sharing.
Exciting! Lastly, just as a reminder to the children…. how important is it for ALL of us to vote this week?
Yes! It is important that everyone go out to vote this week–and in 2020–and to make your voice count. It is MOST important that we the people vote INTENTIONALLY, and are voting for the topics and representatives that are directly affecting the lives of us and our communities.
Everyone is entitled to vote how they want. However, I am siding with the people who are looking to change this administration… and those are the votes that count. So, if that’s where your heart is–especially the 18-25 year olds–vote, and vote with intention.
Thank you, Radio!