Dear Boy are on their own timeline.
They’re not beholden to any current musical trends. Their work feels evergreen. It’s bittersweet and unabashedly nostalgic. It recalls ‘80s/’90s U.K. post-punk, new wave, and goth rock, especially the Cure, New Order, the House of Love, Pulp, Roxy Music, and the Jesus and Mary Chain, but manages to be fresh and modern by recontextualizing those sounds in present-day Southern California. They have a distinctive visual aesthetic, often utilizing black and white photography and vintage imagery. Over the past 10 years, they’ve self-released a string of increasingly excellent singles and EPs but no full-length. Now, two presidents and a pandemic later, the band is just getting around to putting out their first full-length: Forever Sometimes.
So…what took so long?
“We were always writing,” frontman Ben Grey tells SPIN over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “But because we were a DIY band we could only really afford to record a song or a couple of songs at once.”
They haven’t always been so pragmatic.
The band formed in 2013 when Grey and fellow Angelenos Austin Hayman (guitar) and Keith Cooper (drums) took the unusual risk of relocating to London to launch their new project. After a brief period of development overseas, they returned to the States and continued to work on their craft. Then, four years ago, Grey met bassist/vocalist Lucy Lawrence in a San Fernando Valley coffee shop. They bonded over shared musical influences and she joined the band. Things fell into place. They started selling out shows at venues across the city, including the legendary Troubadour. They kept putting out new music. A friend once jokingly told Grey that Dear Boy was the “only band to have never released a full-length record but could release a Greatest Hits album.”
“I feel like development is this forgotten practice as a band,” says Grey. “It’s all looked at as pass/fail. And it’s such a shame because bands and artists are living organisms. They’re constantly evolving. So to think that something is good or bad based on its first six months worth of metrics is such a sad situation.”
By the time they began recording what would become their first album, they were sitting on 60 new songs. Now they’ve signed with Toronto-based Last Gang Records and are releasing 13 on Forever Sometimes. It is a concept album “about life after death and love after life and life after love,” says Grey. “The album is a study in goodbyes.” Ironically, it will be many people’s first exposure to the band.
Existing fans will see Forever Sometimes as a tipping point. It delivers on much of the promise of the Dear Boy’s earlier work. It mixes memory and desire with lyrics that, as Grey puts it, are often on the “optimistic side of melancholy.” Songs like the title track, “Say When,” “Wet Clothes,” and “(On My) Mind” are equal parts warm, romantic, sexy, dramatic, sacred, and profane.
“A lot of this album is about our shared time on earth and the idea that, for so many of us, love is truly the hereafter we’re looking for,” said Grey. “The album opens with a non-denominational “Evensong” and because the album closes with “Heaven Moves,” the idea was that we were going to have this microcosm of human experience and a circular emotional journey, like a full life lived.”
The basic tracking for the album was mostly done before the pandemic but once things started shutting down, Dear Boy shifted into overdrive. They seized on the opportunity and recorded for 10 months, 6 days a week, 12 hours a day from roughly February to December 2020, generating mountains of more music.
“We made the album with no context for what the band was or what the band was going to be again,” said Grey. “You know, when you’re recording something in such a private way, and you don’t have context to what you are to yourselves, as an entity, to a community, to your fanbase, to your friends, you know, it really is a singular and abstract practice.”
Now they’re tasked with sharing Forever Sometimes with the world. The band is celebrating the album’s release with two shows: The El Rey in Los Angeles on Oct. 28 and Elsewhere in Brooklyn on Nov. 3. Then, they’re prepping for extensive touring in 2023, including more time in Latin America after recent acclaimed sets in Mexico and Colombia.
And, as for the next album, they’ve already got an astounding 40 more songs in the hopper. Hopefully this one won’t take another decade to see the light of day. According to Grey: “It’s already written.”