Boy Willows and Dylan Minnette Release ‘Fila’

We caught up with Boy Willows ahead of the premiere, discussing isolation, daydreams, and Desert Mike (the off brand Steve Irwin, of course).

Boy Willows—also known as Landon Fleischman, or ‘Shaboy Willard’ on Twitter—is something of a recording industry hyphenate. Or maybe hyphenate adjacent, not quite concerned with the particulars. He does the lighting for the set, directs the video, records the chord progressions, conceptualizes the visuals. And he’ll unravel your most closely guarded truths in the process (he prefers to sit with what’s uncomfortable, and finds complacency exhausting).

His sound has the same sort of idiosyncrasy. It’s not quite indie, or any of its metonyms, more surreal than synthetic. Perhaps honeyed is more apt; something steeped in a rich sweetness, almost saccharine. Upon a quick search on Instagram (fair warning, this might turn into more of a stalking), it’s clear he’s the embodiment of his acoustics, almost infectious. He dances alone / with his phone tapped to the ceiling, writes to ‘banana people’, and occasionally references The Godfather, in between tinted film photos. It’s almost cliché—though, as is easily discerned, he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

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ᴡᴀɪᴛ…ɪs ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴀ…ɴᴇᴡ sᴏɴɢ?

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His most recent project, ‘Fila’, was initially conceived while sharing a tour bus with Wallows (the notion of a crossroads is, maybe, too convenient of a metaphor). The track is a self described therapy session between Boy Willows and Wallows’ Dylan Minnette, the latter of which remarked “I immediately was so inspired by it … my little warm heart exploded”. Willows seems to have that effect.

And, just like the shoe, he’s cementing his own place in Gen Z’s notorious iconography. We caught up with Boy Willows, premiering the Fila video below (unsurprisingly, it’s directed by Willows himself).

VM: Who (or what) inspires your sound? 

BW: Natural, unforced conversation is huge for me. I love to be present but sometimes I just gotta be a sneaky lad and hit record on my phone during some profound/pleasant/painful conversation, to use later in a song. My love for family is a big one, it’s such an infinite source of pain, joy, and depth to draw from. Daydreams for sure: imagining things I want or don’t want, but can’t avoid thinking about. Looking into that fictional future fucks me up, and when I’m really lost in it, it feels just as real as real life, I love to draw on that. Also Reggie Watts. 

VM: You mention how you’ve had to “slow down for the first time in a long time”. Would you say the song is partly the product of the times? Or perhaps otherwise influenced by isolation? 

BW: I think the song wouldn’t exist without the isolation brought on by the pandemic, but the actual idea behind the song comes from the feeling of being left out of professional & social circles that just don’t see me. It’s like when you get back from a concert and only when it’s quiet you can start to hear the ringing in your ear. That’s what this song was like – only in the quiet brought on by the pandemic could I acknowledge my deeper, uglier feelings.

VM: What’s it been like touring and working with Dylan?

BW: Touring is either really sweaty and mildly lovely, or really lovely and mildly sweaty – there is no in between. Like, imagine what you would consider a “lovely” time. It’s kind of like that, but with more sweat. Of course, some days are really high stakes, like you get to a festival and you have 10 minutes to load and check the gear and make sure that all the lights are working in front of tens of thousands of people. But honestly it feels like I’m touring with old friends, so the stakes don’t bother me much. Dylan is just a good person. I think we both can go to that place of emotional depth, which is really nice to have in the whirlwind of touring. As far as the marriage between music and lights, as long as I don’t absolutely burn a whole in his corneas, I’d say he trusts me to kill it, and I him.

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FILA drops friday 🙂 (pre-save link in bio)

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VM: Can you tell us a little more about the video? I know you take inspiration from film scores and cinematography, do you think that impacts how you visualize your music? 

BW: I remember Sampha mentioning this a while back in an interview that I thought was brilliant. He basically says he pictures the song as the movie, and the music video is what the trailer would look like. That stuck with me because my brain often sees music existing in some visible space. A fun way I like to approach scoring is that, for the most part, the audience’s heartbeats should match the BPM.  So for Fila, I knew I was picturing angelic, dreamy visuals, to melt into the music and help the viewer melt with it. 

VM: You’ve mentioned ‘Fila’, and the creative process in general, is almost therapeutic for you. In what ways do you find music to be so cathartic?

BW: I’m able to lose myself in it. It’s the same reason why people have their best thoughts/ideas in the shower. For some reason when my brain is temporarily lost in something, the most honest ideas bubble to the surface. I sit there, playing the same chord progression for a long time, lulling myself into a meditative state and eventually a phrase pops into my head that surprises me with its oddity and secret directness. It feels truer than anything I could have willed myself to think. That magic moment is cathartic, it feels like I can be my own ally and witness.  

VM: How do you allow your lyricism to be so vulnerable and intimate?

BW: I encourage my mind to go to uncomfortable places. I sit with the fear of never being able to get what I think I deserve and the guilt of feeling like I’m owed anything. Those are the thoughts that I want to exorcise and look at in front of me, tangible and less scary. Of course, my songs don’t always come from a place of discomfort, they’ve come from daydreams and really beautiful moments of hope, but they’re always born from powerful moments. These days, I’m practicing to more often see the power in the good, unassuming moments. I want to sit with those too. 

VM: There’s a moment at the end, fairly brief, wherein there’s a discussion of rattlesnakes and humans (& their somewhat strained relationship). What’s that about? 

BW: First off, fantastic question I’m glad you brought that up. I will forever hold this sound bite close to my tiny heart. It sounds like a bizarre wildlife PSA from the 50s, featuring a horrible discount version of Steve Irwin. But even with all its ridiculousness, I still like to listen back and imagine that there is a purposeful connection between Desert Mike’s tips and Fila’s meaning. Like, maybe facing our fears (snakes) actually gets us closer to love (safety)… which is a sentence I thought I’d never type. But thus is the magic of Desert Mike, so full of surprises.

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