27 April 2015

Ghettoblaster Magazine Feature on Boy King Islands

Check out Ghettoblaster Magazine's interview with me about the new Boy King Islands album, White Mirror!

(from Chris Eichenseer's cover photo shoot for Boy King Islands' debut, Fall)

Q: When did you begin writing the material for White Mirror? 

The first couple of songs were written in October of 2011 while I was living in the Mission in San Francisco (we had just finished our second album, Sun Worship, the week prior to my move from Chicago that July). All too soon, I was thrust into a nightmarish vortex of the day job that moved me out there and, by late September, I hadn’t played guitar in months. I was afforded the opportunity to go to northern Italy and model for a Merrell catalog of all things. Well, that serendipitous trip totally reinvigorated me and brought me back to the world of positive thinking.

“Constellation” was written – lyrics and all – the first week I got back to the states, and I came up with the chord progression for “Crying Wolf” on Halloween night. “Twin Flames” followed when I moved back to Chicago only two weeks later, and the rest of the album punctuated 2012 amidst another period of intense life changes.

Q: What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing?  Why was it so troublesome?

While it wasn’t the most difficult per se, certainly the most complicated song from a songwriting perspective was “We Can’t Tell from Where We Are”. It began innocently enough with a chord progression Jason wrote on the guitar. After we fleshed it out with drums, percussion and scratch vocals, I like to think the song went into its fermentation stage because we really didn’t return to it much for over a year!

When we finally revisited it, Jason scrapped and revamped a whole bunch of his guitar work and put some beautiful piano chords together, and I created the outro for the song using a process that – even by my liberal standards – was a little intense… I rendered the unmixed, original song in reverse and chopped out individual chords from that audio. I then composed a new motif using those resultant samples, flipped that composition forwards, and then mimicked it as best I could by re-tracking it with all new instruments and vocals. When it felt like a stand-alone song, all of those final takes were reversed to sound like the sample-based, scratch version I did in the first place: backwards!

Q: Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?

I think “White Mirror” may stand out to me as the one which evolved the most organically over time. I wrote the changes for the verse on a camping trip and suppose I initially conceived it being only guitar and voice, but of course the more I listened to it, the more I heard other things happening. That’s always how it goes I guess? The icing on the cake was tracking with my friend Stuart Bogie at his studio in Brooklyn. I asked him to play flute on it, but then suggested he try clarinet as well. I had to catch a flight back to Chicago and left his studio after he cut the flute parts. The next thing I know, he sends me a version of the song with this amazing arrangement on it and I just lost it!

Q: Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?

As I mentioned, Stuart Bogie (Superhuman Happiness, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, TV on The Radio, Arcade Fire, etc.) did a lot for this record. He played sax, flute, clarinet, jaw harp, bass harmonica… I had him do whatever he could. He and I have been working together on music since I was six years old, so there’s a real chemistry there.

Jacob Croegaert plays bass on a few songs, and my friend Owen O’Malley of Bailiff absolutely ripped the bass part on “Twin Flames”. He laid down bass on another song we left off the album and I almost wanted to keep it on just because of his playing. Dominic Johnson (Brian Wilson, Belle & Sebastian, The Rachels, New Millennium Orchestra) played violin on a few songs and brought his friend Dan Klingler along for a couple sessions on cello. Those guys really made their parts sing and were ultra patient with our notation!

Speaking of singers, Jason’s wife Beth did her usual background vocal duties (she has been singing on Boy King Islands records since the beginning), and we brought on our friend Lashandra Smith-Rayfield for a tune. However, I was most excited about my future wife Alex Lewis’ voice on “We Can’t Tell from Where We Are” and am also secretly happy she is finally singing karaoke with me in public! I almost forgot… Our engineer Dan Smart was eating some celery while I was recording “Mistakes to Learn”, and I made him chew some on the track.

Q: Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?

Like our last two albums, Jason and I produced this record together, but Dan (Smart) really became a third producer early on. He was the pair of fresh ears and our balance in the tracking and mixing sessions. He was the one to say, “do you really need fifteen guitar tracks on this song?” Most of the time, the answer was still a resounding “yes!” but at least he was asking. No, but seriously, he was able to translate whatever we had in our minds into sound, and is the most objective sounding board I have ever had for my music.

Q: Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?

In the year I wrote the lyrics for the album, I lost my father, and regained my love, Alexandra, after a year of being apart. Nothing puts life under a microscope like death and love. The album’s title “White Mirror” is meant to symbolize exactly what you think it should: a reflection of higher truth (white symbolizing all light and all color, with darkness being the potential for light and not the opposite of light). Each song on the album therefore is a different meditation on life, love, and death, with the title track of course being the most exoteric statement on this theme. I was also getting deeper into theosophy and esotericism over this period, and so I won’t deny that a lot of those ideas snuck not-too-discretely into the content, song order, and even album artwork.

Q: Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?

There has never been a performance of any of the Boy King Islands material actually. I had entertained putting together a band, but Jason and I barely had the time between us to write and record this album let alone teach other people the parts to rehearse and play! The songs I have had the most feedback on however are “Crying Wolf” and “Twin Flames”; funnily enough the former is about denying love and the latter is about accepting it.

“You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs. I look around me and see it isn’t so”

24 March 2015

[DISCOGRAPHY] Boy King Islands - White Mirror


Boy King Islands - White Mirror
PRISM92002
Format: LP, CD & Digital

1. Constellation
2. Twin Flames
3. I'm Taking Over Me
4. Crying Wolf
5. Held
6. Say It's Home
7. Mistakes to Learn
8. White Mirror
9. We Can't Tell from Where We Are
10. Echoes

All songs written between Fall 2011 and Summer 2014 by Boy King Islands (Diaspora Music, ASCAP & He Heard Himself Say, BMI). Recorded and Mixed by Boy King Islands and Dan Smart at home and at ECHO/NORMAL. Mastered by Matthew Barnhart at Chicago Mastering Company. Design & Layout by Someoddpilot.

Watch the video for "Constellation" by Alex Lewis.







[DISCOGRAPHY] Boy King Islands - Pastels


Boy King Islands - Pastels
PRISM92003
Format: CD-R (limited edition of 9)

1. Fall (demo version)
2. Finally Home
3. Memory Loop
4. See Through Your Eyes
5. A Tear & A Smile
6. Youth Disappearing
7. Cuban Joint
8. Echoes (original guitar demo)
9. Are We Where from Tell Can’t We
10. 12 String Rain
11. Million Dollar Piano
12. Chords from Snow
13. Blue in Black
14. All Green & White (demo version)
15. Chasing Noises (demo version)
16. Fall
17. Henry Darger
18. Rise

All material recorded by Zachary Mastoon and Jason Hunt – separately or together – between 2002 & 2014. Mastered by Dan Smart at ECHO/NORMAL.



Very limited edition mix of unreleased demos and outtakes given to friends via a Kickstarter campaign. Sleeves all hand-stamped and numbered, with two sided photo insert and tracklist; CD-R is a black, unlabeled Memorex. No catalog number listed on sleeve or CD-R.

Original photography by Chris Eichenseer of Someoddpilot from the Boy King Islands' "Fall" photo shoot (2004).







From Base Lead, Now Golden: We're Revealed Again


From Base Lead, Now Golden: We're Revealed Again
Companion Book for Boy King Islands' LP, White Mirror (limited print edition of 18)

Original photography by Marc Mastoon
Scans by Jessica Pierotti & Piper Robbins
Color, restoration & layout by Zachary Mastoon



18 March 2015

Boy King Islands Interview with Brazilian Shoegazers

Check out my interview as Boy King Islands with the super cool, Brazilian Shoegazers The Blog That Celebrates Itself:

O duo Boy King Islands se auto define como pós shoegazer, ponto.

Definições a parte, White Mirror que esta em pré venda e tem lançamento oficial para o próximo dia 24 agora de março, demonstra que os caras pegam forte nas referências mais barulhentas e menos experimentais, como por exemplo o Swervedriver.

Muito do álbum remete aos trabalhos ao Swervedriver ao meu ver, com exceção da fúria do primeiro álbum, o Boy King Islands tem sim um lado tendencioso para a barulheira, mas consegue equilibrar as coisas com o trabalho de vocalização e uso de outros timbres e instrumentos.

Um belo álbum do Boy King Islands, que vive rodando por aqui já faz um tempo.

Q: When did Boy King Islands start, tell us about the history...

Back in high school, I belonged to an organization called Sound Exposure. Run by a then-employee of Elektra Records named Nan Warshaw (who went on to start Bloodshot Records in Chicago), it helped high school bands like mine organize shows and network with other kindred spirits and nerds in the high school who had basement- and garage bands; one of them was Jason Hunt (my partner in Boy King Islands).

The music we played together back then was constantly changing but, years later - when I was living with him and some friends in our hometown above this Chinese restaurant - I was asked to cover a My Bloody Valentine song for a 7" series. I wrote an original tune instead and enlisted Jason to play classical guitar on it. Boy King Islands grew from that one song ("The Girl with The Stained Glass Eyes", released as Caural on a limited 7" by Frank Wobbly & Sons) to the beginnings of an album.

When I went back to NY at the end of the year, we continued to collaborate on music. Honestly, it was a side project for him and me both, and we didn't release our first album for nearly ten years!

Q: Who are your influences?

Jason and I have very different influences, but I think where they overlap is in early nineties shoegaze stuff like Ride and My Bloody Valentine, and in classic hip-hop like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest - basically the stuff we were rocking out to on our headphones in high school when we first met. He is a classical guitarist and I have been doing experimental electronic music for years, so of course our collaboration has been shaped by quite a lot of different sounds, sights and experiences.

Q: Make a list of 5 albums of all time…

I hate this question, because it can change depending on the day; however, the albums that consistently make the list for me are, in no particular order:

1. Stevie Wonder - Innervisions
2. Herbie Hancock - Headhunters
3. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
4. Joni Mitchell - Court & Spark
5. Aphex Twin - Richard D. James Album

Q: How do you feel playing live?

Since it's just Jason and me - and I play everything except for the guitar and keyboard parts he plays - we have never put together a live show as it would be too difficult to recreate the music live. But I'll tell you, I used to love performing, and hope to again someday...

Q: How do you describe Boy King Islands sounds?

Um, post-shoegaze? I don't know. Even though we were never really a "shoegaze" or "dream pop" band per se, certainly a lot of those bands were an influence on the music. I think as time went on, we kept some of the same aesthetics as far as chord progressions and harmonies go, but varied their delivery to include more diverse instrumentation. There's a quote I love even though no one seems to know whom to attribute it to: "writing about music is like dancing about architecture". I agree with that whole-heartedly, so I'd rather people listen to our music to get a feel of it versus listen to me trying to describe it.

Q: Tell us about the process of recording the songs?

Historically, it happened in one of two ways: either I started with chord changes and lyrics, or I riffed on some of Jason's changes and wrote lyrics to form a song. From there, we'd record what we could at home - usually separately - and complimented each other's ideas to a click track until I recorded final drums in a studio. At that point, we'd decide to redo stuff or add additional overdubs (with two of us, there were a LOT of overdubs!). Final vocals were almost always recorded last.

Q: Which new bands do you recommend?

Hiatus Kaiyote are hands down one of my new favorite bands. Other than them, lately I have been listening to Merchandise, Popstrangers, Mac Demarco, Diiv, Huerco S, and Tame Impala.

Q: Which bands would you love to make a cover version of?

For some reason, I have always wanted to cover an old My Dad Is Dead song called "Boundaries". People totally sleep on that guy and I absolutely love his music from the mid-eighties. Maybe a Chameleons or Cleaners from Venus song would be fun to do, but I probably couldn't cover either without singing in a terrible and fake English accent.

Q: What´s the plan for the future....

My girlfriend and I moved to California shortly after the upcoming Boy King Islands album was finished and, with Jason still in Chicago and his daughter approaching three years old, our collaboration has ground to a painful halt. However, I have a handful of new songs already written and will likely start recording in a couple months, though I have a feeling the music will continue to go in a new direction... I bought a couple vintage drum machines and a Rickenbacker bass, so maybe I'll start doing solo new wave shit. Who knows.

Q: Any parting words?

Thank you!

30 September 2013

[DISCOGRAPHY] Various Artists - Benefit for The Psycho In-Active


Various Artists - Benefit for The Psycho In-Active (Eat Concrete, 2013)
EAT-ART-032
Format: Digital with Poster (hand-numbered and limited to 100)

Boy King Islands - Dead Friend (Icarus Remix)

(exclusive track)

Poster designed by Belgian designer, Oma



Watch the video for the remix by disco_r.dance