The Cover Story

Destroy Boys: “Breaking patterns and making changes are a really important part of this record”

Destroy Boys’ new album isn’t an ending, but a beginning. A decade since first starting as teens, and having learned a lot about showbiz, manipulation, other people and themselves, the California punks are stepping into a bold era on Funeral Soundtrack #4. One where they “hope to make a change and make the world a better place…”

Destroy Boys: “Breaking patterns and making changes are a really important part of this record”
Nick Ruskell
Dana Goldstein

It was during a sleepless night on tour last year that Vi Mayugba had a big idea for Destroy Boys’ fourth album. As their bus rolled its way across Europe in the small hours, the guitarist began using the enforced solitude of 4am insomnia to reflect and organise her thoughts on their in-the-works new record, and the band themselves.

Grabbing a notebook, she began sketching out titles that would sum up this fourth dispatch. Their previous albums since she formed Destroy Boys with guitarist and singer Alexia Roditis in 2015, when they were only 15, had dealt with the ending of something – childhood, or tween-aging during COVID, during which so many were denied the usual formative experiences of that period of life. Vi wrote a few down, but it was her opening throw, a utilitarian title, brilliant in its simplicity, that fitted perfectly with what she wanted to say about where they’d been and where they were headed. It summed up who they were right now.

“Funeral Soundtrack #4 seemed perfect,” she says today. “All of our records, without sounding too pretentious, represent an experience of a very specific point in our lives. We started the band so young, and we've been so vulnerable through our music for so long in such formative times, that it really shows the birth, growth and death of these different eras of our lives. This is different – I don't think we're saying goodbye to any major ages or eras, but we're just way older now. There's a maturity aspect to it.”

This, then, isn’t so much a goodbye as the beginning of an era for Destroy Boys. They are older, wiser, “tired of being walked all over”, as Alexia puts it, having learned a thing or two about the music business. The record is, says Vi, more mature, older sounding, with shades of Smashing Pumpkins or Melissa Auf Der Maur coming into their punk palette. When discussing the creative impetus, the band – Alexia and Vi, plus drummer Narsai Malik and bassist David Orozco – all screw up their noses at the notion of repeating what they’ve done previously.

Destroy Boys are also having a moment right now. Funeral Soundtrack #4 is emerging during something of a purple patch. The night Vi came up with the title and identified the thread running through the songs was one of hundreds in a tour schedule last year that seemed to never end, and took in a run with no less a band than blink-182, as well as their own biggest headlining shows. Though she says it’s made her feel “like I’m 50” (Vi is half that age), it’s also planted seeds that are growing nicely, if in a very Destroy Boys way.

“That was a huge period of huge growth. But the theme throughout the Destroy Boys story is that that growth can be really uncomfortable. It's a trip. Because from 15 to 25, I feel like every year is huge. You change so much and learn so much in this time, as opposed to when you're older.”

“We were so young when we started, we really relied on other people to help us make responsible decisions,” continues Alexia, by way of example. “But people don't always want to help you actually make responsible decisions. Now I’m 24, I've been doing this for almost 10 years. That's not going to slide anymore.

“There definitely have been lots of points in live settings and behind the scenes, in business stuff, where it doesn't even feel like it's on purpose. It's just people looking out for themselves. You think that people are gonna have good faith, but they don't. That's been a harrowing observation. People really do want to do bad things that are horrible. But I also feel like it's important to maintain my own sanity, to say, ‘It's okay, I know where my values are, and other people's values don't align with mine.’”

“Something that you can hear in our records is that we were kind of unfortunately forced to make a lot of adult decisions, and were faced with a lot of really intense situations very young,” adds Vi. “Breaking patterns and making changes are a really important part of this record.”

“This album really shows the birth, growth and death of different eras of our lives”

Vi reveals how Funeral Soundtrack #4 encompasses the band’s formative years

When Kerrang! catches up with the four members of Destroy Boys, we find them all in a fine mood. In a few weeks, they’ll head off on a run of U.S. shows, including a stop at Lollapalooza in Chicago, before coming to Europe for more big shows, culminating with a weekend at Reading & Leeds. Right now, Vi is resting up in bed, while Alexia has just moved into a new apartment – their first time living alone. Even this can be attached to the themes of the album, not of growing up, but being grown-up, after years of living and learning.

“I just moved in, and it’s like, ‘Oh, wow, I really do get to do whatever I want. That's crazy,” they laugh. “Having the freedom to do whatever you choose is not something that I feel like I've ever had in my life. There were times writing the record where [with some life things] I felt, ‘Why the am I doing this?‘ And then I would be like, ‘I don't need to do that, actually.’ That's been a theme as well, realising I get to make my own decisions. And that comes with also taking accountability when you do stupid things, too. But everything feels a little less catastrophic now that I'm older. I feel more relaxed about things in general, which has been kind of nice.”

Destroy Boys are one of the sweetest, nicest bands you could hope to come across. Talking to the four of them, you quickly warm to their personalities and internal dynamic. There’s also a sense that you’re talking to people bonded by time and experience. Alexia and Vi started the band together as literal kids, with Narsai arriving in 2018 and smiley bassist David joining three years ago. Though the former two do much of the talking in interviews, everyone is invested, everyone is on the same page, they’re all one tight gang.

Asked to describe one another, David says that Vi is “a mechanical arrow that breaks through walls”, who “asks no questions”. “I think of Violet as a freight train,” he laughs. In return, she thinks for a moment and posits that the bassist “tries to act like he doesn't care about anything, but he cares about everything in the world”. According to Vi, Narsai is “a sensitive beast”. He himself calls Alexia, “A forest creature with lots on their mind, who reminds me of the white killer bunny in Monty Python And The Holy Grail.”

The band’s two longest-standing constituents, meanwhile, call one another, “A tank run by a dog that really just needs to be trained and wants a job” (Alexia on Vi), and, “Overly empathetic and fiercely themselves” (Vi on Alexia).

“One of my favourite qualities about us as a unit [is that] we're very locked in as a group, and we're really good at pivoting when we run into an issue,” says Vi. “I personally used to lose my shit every time something happened, and the stakes were literally just not high [back then], when we were a young band. Now at this point our career, the stakes are pretty high. Anything could happen, we can run into problems, and we’re just like, ‘Okay, I guess we’d better get to work on this. Again…’”

“I feel like a veteran punk at this point,” adds Alexia, with more wisdom than cynicism. “Nothing surprises me anymore. But doing this is a very cool thing that I'm super-grateful for, and it gives me a lot of freedom to pursue whatever I want.”

An example: the song Boyfeel, in which Alexia examines gender, and becoming comfortable with themselves. The song itself is one of questions – “I had a phase of, ‘What is happening with me right now?’” – and sharing experience, one that’s been in the idea aether for a long time, until they felt ready to get it all down and shared.

“I wrote it a long time ago, and it really puts a lot of my feelings of gender into a song,” they explain. “It's funny, because I wrote it before I even thought about any of it, before I started using they/them, pronouns, before I cut my hair. It goes back and forth between [saying], ‘Society wants me to be one way, but this is how I feel about it.’ It was very much a time when I was not super-comfortable with myself, and the song is about the questioning phase. It's definitely more about the exploration aspect.

“In one part of the video, I'm bound up with a bunch of stuff which is supposed to be gender stereotypes and expectations,” they continue. “My trans friends untie me over time, which is how I feel. It’s people helping me unlearn those things.

“Nowadays, I feel pretty secure. I don't know what's going on, actually, and that's okay. I feel like there's so much anti-trans rhetoric in the media, when in reality, trans people are just chill. They're normal people. Some of them are horrible and some of them are awesome, just like cis people. I really wanted to showcase the love and joy that I have experienced through being with the queer community.”

Do you think it’s as relatable to write about that questioning phase, as you put it, than be able to deliver some sort of answer?

“I don't really feel like any of our songs give answers to anything. If anything, they just raise more questions,” Alexia says. “The song is an answer for me in my own internal world. But no-one else is going to really know. You don’t have the same questions I do. So, no song is an answer, because it's also so up to interpretation. Things change over time. I've noticed things about songs later where I'm like, ‘Oh, I didn't even see that part.’ Or, there’ll be a part that I that I hadn't gone through yet that showed itself later.

“I just think a pretty important thing to showcase is that it's really not so black and white at all.”

“I don’t feel like any of our songs give answers to anything. If anything, they just raise more questions”

Hear Alexia on leaving music open to interpretation

There are similar musings on life and its various accepted ways of How Things Are throughout the record. Album opener Bad Guy is about wanting revenge, but knowing that, “If I did do everything that I wanted to do to people, I would probably be taken away to jail.

“You can't be doing that,” laughs Alexia. “I can't just go punch people that make me mad, although I'd like to sometimes. It ponders the idea of bad and good – who makes up those definitions?”

Elsewhere, Shedding Skin deals with rebirth, but also what a continuous process such things are. “It’s about noticing, ‘Wow, this happened 12 years ago and it's happening again.’ But also, the thing about snakes is, they keep shedding their skin. It's not like you do it once and then you're done. It's a process that you go through over and over again.”

On the raging hardcore blast of Beg For Torture, Vi examines a similar pattern of behaviour.

“Once again, I was repeating a pattern that I've done a million times before, and reckoning with that in a very angry but charged way,” she says. “Someone’s attempting to manipulate me, but I've done this before, [and I’m] letting myself be manipulated by it, anyway. I tend to write about abusive situations, or manipulative, confusing situations, where it's not black and white. It's so multi-dimensional being in experiences like that. I think it's very indicative that being the first single off the record, because it shows the beginning of the process of realising that things are there before you stop doing them.”

Destroy Boys, then, are very much a band whose members have something to say, and the member saying it is backed by their bandmates. More than once, someone will say they’ve learned or understood something because of the ideas put out there by the band.

Narsai admits that until it comes up today, he hadn’t realised that Shadow (I’m Breaking Down) takes in the concept of the Shadow Self, an idea of the hidden, more unpleasant parts of a person they keep away from the social world, as written about by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. He also reveals that at first there was a slight worry with the language in Boyfeel’s line, ‘Maybe I'm a fag instead of a dyke / Maybe I'm both at the same time.’

“Those are bold lyrics, but I think people are gonna get it,” he reckons, before saying to Alexia that, “It makes sense, from your experience, going through it, so why not say it?”

“I'm really grateful to be able to stand behind my friends and whatever they believe,” adds David. “It's a process that over time, you get to understand more and more, and it's just important and relevant.”

“Why would I want to wield all this power and not do something with it?”

Listen to Alexia discuss wanting to make the world a better place

Having something to say goes for offstage as well. Or, at least, helping amplify others with something to say (“I can’t do lyrics like Rage Against The Machine without sounding really corny,” says Alexia). At gigs, charities, causes and action groups are invited to have a table and a microphone, like in London when Just Stop Oil were involved. The hope iis that those who want to get involved in such things see a tangible, real way of doing so, rather than simply entering the social media activism cul-de-sac.

“Why would I want to wield all this power and not do something with it?” asks Alexia, explaining how this became A Thing. “Part of the point for me is to make a change in the world. Putting out the music, playing a great show, being an escape for people is awesome. But I've been pretty politically motivated for a long time. My family has always been about helping people, and I feel like I've had a lot of perspective on the way that other people live since I was very young.

“The punks that I grew up with, a lot of them were political. It's really important to me to highlight people who are doing good work, because those are the people who get shit moving. What I can do as a musician is pass them a microphone, basically. [I’d see people] who were like, ‘I really want to get involved in my community, but I don't know who I should go with or where to start.’ And so this is me being like, ‘Here you go. No excuses. Sign up, volunteer.’”

Funeral Soundtrack #4 is a brilliant album. One that, despite its title, teems with life and looking forward, to building a more prosperous tomorrow, whether personally or out in the world.

For Alexia and Vi, it’s also a marker of time spent, lessons learned, and understanding themselves and the world a little more than they did, after almost a decade on the job. Having experienced the unpleasant sensation of “being chewed up and spat out” by the industry (Alexia), and by people who “see an up-and-coming young band and try to get their grubby little hands all over them” (Vi), there’s an engrained confidence and solidity to where they currently stand. Partly because their success means they’re on less shaky ground than they might once have stood, but because, as they and the record say, they know more now about everything, and how to handle it.

“At least a third of my life I've been in this band,” says Alexia. “Pretty much my entire, fully-conscious self has been in this band. I've heard things about how when you turn 25, your brain fully forms – that feels like it's happening, too. There is a lot of reflection and restructuring going on, and it's kind of interesting that it's all coalescing with this album.

“It's funny,” she concludes. “I feel like I've done so much and I'm literally so young. Oh my God, what's gonna happen in another 10 years? It’s exciting.”

This ain't a funeral. It's something finally blossoming. From here, the future’s bright.

Funeral Soundtrack #4 is released August 9 via Hopeless Records

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