Carly Russ and Joseph Matick, a New York couple in love and music, have just dropped a new EP recorded in Paris.
Three months into their relationship, longtime model Carly Russ and her DJ boyfriend Joseph Matick decided to complicate their love lives by moving in together. They quit their day jobs in Chicago, and started recording music as pop folk duo Girlyboi. "It's just a girl and a boy. Six women raised me and so I consider myself pretty feminine," says Matick on the band's name before Russ interjects: "The whole concept is simple—we are a girl and boy performing music." "We wanted it to sound like the Spice Girls or the Backstreet Boys or something, and Girlyboi has that quality," adds Matick.
As their next act of love, Russ and Matick decided to move to Europe and write their first EP "Actual Woman." The sound that emerged is a kind of soulful lyrical dialogue.The music is heavily influenced by the psychedelic folk sound that rose out of the late 1960s peace movement. Present in songs like "Bedside" and "Whole" is a raw and confessional back and forth akin to the feeling of whirlwind romance. "When we get into a fight we write the best fucking songs ever," says Matick of the sonic benefits of being codependent. "The passion that comes out of fighting makes the most beautiful sound," adds Russ.
While recording music in Paris, Russ stopped by a studio for some modeling test shots, accompanied by Joseph. The photographer invited Matick in to watch. After a few shots he asked Matick to pose along with his girlfriend and the resulting "moody looking portraits" launched the pair's joint modeling career. Matick appeared in a Hedi Slimane-styled fashion film shot in Berlin, in which, he says, "I made out with like fifty people." The pair are now based in L.A. and were signed recently to Ford. They talk love, music, and Aretha on a recent trip to New York.
Why did you decide to blend your love life and music?
Joseph: Well because it was the most ill-advised thing in the world. We want to make it as hard as possible to have a functioning relationship. I also started to hate myself for DJing for these little kids on drugs at the clubs in Chicago. Jokingly we went into the studio one day and were like, 'Holy shit.'
Carly: We started to do it full on after that. We decided to go to Europe because I had an opportunity to work there for modeling and we kind of mixed the two together and it really took off.
"Whole" seems like a dialogue between the two of you. Did you write it together?
Carly: Yeah, we were in London when we wrote that. It's hard when you are living in a country with only your significant other and you don't have any friends or money. We only had each other. And we were sitting in a park on the north side of London on a tree and we had our guitar and it just kind of flowed. We are kind of talking to each other and we put it into our music.
"Actual Woman," is obviously inspired in part by Aretha Franklin. What about Aretha's track inspired you to make your song?
Joe: I was playing literally the simplest guitar riffs. I was thinking about this idea of appropriating a song, and Carly just kept saying, 'You make me feel.' That entire song is tongue in cheek. If you listen to enough you can get the Kendrick Lamar references. We take the entire rhythmic patterns of "m.A.A.d. City," which is hilarious. The song more or less introduces people to the sound, the aesthetic, and atmosphere of Girlyboi. My favorite songwriting is when people give a nod to other artists who inspired them. I like that we say the actual lyrics [to Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"].
Carly: It's also a testament to the kind of music we grow up listening to. The thing in my household was old jazz and that's the type of soulful music I want to be making.
Who else did you grow up listening to?
Joe: My favorite band growing up was Outkast.
Carly: I was obsessed with Shania Twain and Céline Dion.
How do you describe the overall sound of the EP?
Joe: Me and Carly moved to Europe to remove ourselves from any external pop cultural influence. We didn't have Internet or TV or even radio, and that really helped us build something that was organic. At the time, we started listening to a lot of psychedelic music from the 1960s like The Zombies, The Mamas and the Papas, and The Carpenters. There's a whole album that we recorded in Chicago that we scrapped. We recorded it where Kanye West recorded "College Dropout," and the engineer produced it like a rap album.
How does modeling connect to the music?
Joe: We wrote this song called "Agency," and at the end of the song it says, "If any of this comes between us then fuck 'em." We name names so hopefully they don't drop us. The music would sound the same if we weren't models. Lyrically though it does provide a lot of inspiration. Folk music tells a story right? The whole EP is the story of going to Europe, getting signed, shooting nude, being packaged as this couple, and getting frustrated by that. Everything we shot in Paris was beauty shots. We recently did this shoot with this photographer and the whole purpose was to de-glamorize ourselves.
Carly: It's two different worlds. I do a lot of commercial work where I'm smiling and wearing really basic clothing and then I'm making really grungy music. The money I make from modeling I just put toward recording.
You have said you want to make pretty music. Why is it important for the album to be about pretty music?
Carly: We want to make music that touches people and when you think of touching music, you think of pretty music right? If I can do that for the rest of my life it would be really rewarding to me.
Joe: I like when people come up to us and say, "I just did LSD and it really changed my fucking life." Music is over intellectualized—fuck a genre, fuck a scene, we really want to make simple good shit that will be around forever.
Text Antwaun Sargent
Photography Katie McCurdy