Sitting on the back patio of Stories Books & Cafe in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood, Destroy Boys make it very clear that they never want to be called “female-fronted” ever again. “It’s just so reductive,” Alexia Roditis says after their bagel sandwich fell apart while attempting to cut it. “That’s not even a category.”
Guitarist Violet Mayugba is quick to point out over avocado toast that not only does it say nothing about a band’s music, but Roditis is nonbinary, so the term is not accurate.
But even compared to their male-fronted counterparts, the Sacramento natives are beyond ready to turn the mainstream on to their complex blend of punk, garage rock and alternative. After playing a handful of smaller festivals and major tours in recent years, Destroy Boys reached new heights this year. They were a token punk band at Coachella, headlined multiple tours, hit a variety of European and American festivals, spent the summer supporting Blink-182 and Turnstile, and closed 2023 with Pierce the Veil and L.S. Dunes.
Despite only releasing a pair of songs (April’s “Beg for the Torture” and July’s “Shadow [I’m Breaking Down]”) this year ahead of an upcoming album, the group increased their cultural footprint in tremendous ways.
Dressed all in black and hiding from the L.A. sunlight on a bustling Saturday afternoon, Roditis and Mayugba chatted with SPIN about the growth of the bilingual band and the year that was.
SPIN: What was it like to play huge shows for most of the year?
Violet Mayugba: We got the Blink offer only three months beforehand, so as the schedule filled up, it was really cool. I’ve always wanted to spend my life on the road, but I realized that three straight months of international touring can break your body and spirit. I was injured badly on our second European run, and we’re still not sure if it’s permanent damage. But I also feel like we learned so much so fast, and I feel like we became an immensely better band because of it. A year isn’t that long in the span of our career, because we intend to do this until we die, like Mick [Jagger] and Keith [Richards]. I want to be hooked up to an IV onstage or a heart monitor.
Alexia Roditis: I don’t know if I want that, but I have the same sentiment. We’re always trying to make every show the best show, and we got to have a lot of different experiences. Even just learning how festivals and big shows work was super impactful. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better as a performer because being on tour is so intensive, and I’ve recently been honing in on making improvements at every show.
Mayugba: It was also really fun. I don’t want to understate how incredible it is to tour with Blink-182 and fucking Turnstile. We learned a lot from just watching and talking to them, as well as Pierce the Veil and L.S. Dunes. We’re a very curious and ambitious band, so it’s awesome to tour with and consult with these bands who have been doing this for so long. We’d strive to blow them out of the water and we would hold ourselves to that standard, except they have a floating ambulance and pyro and [drummer] Travis [Barker] goes up in the air.
Roditis: All of our stuff stays on the stage… for now. I’m working on a zipline. Maybe I’ll wear some wings. It’d be fire. But also, talking to these huge bands and learning that they still get insecure was big for me.
You had several firsts this year. Were there any that stood out to you?
Mayugba: We learned about ‘artist liaisons’ at Coachella, and it’s very new to us that there’s someone to help us with everything. We played our first arena tour and our first stadium shows. First time in Europe proper — not just the U.K. It was the first time touring on a bus, which was incredible. We started touring in my car up and down the I-5, and then we would rent vans before owning a van. We love touring, but anyone who’s toured knows how hard it is to sleep in a van. Getting off that flight and seeing the bus was insane.
Roditis: It was also the first time seeing [bassist] David [Orozco] fully naked. The Blink tour had locker room showers, and we would debrief the show in the shower, which was weirdly meditative and a very intimate thing among friends.
How did the European festivals compare with Coachella and the other American ones?
Roditis: I love being outside of America. The catering was generally always pretty fucking delicious and the crowds are very receptive. We played these random-ass festivals where we were some of the only Americans on the bill, and we thought no one in Germany would come see our set, but then we would have a bunch of people. It’s cool to see how rock translates and what the European crowd likes to do differently. Here, it’s all circle pits and fucking mosh pits, and, even though we did some of that in Europe, it’d be more like telling people to jump or trying to speak the German I learned for the show. People in Europe always seem like they’re just trying to have a good time. They have healthcare and shit, so there’s a layer of worry that’s removed compared to America.
Mayugba: When we were in Europe, I felt like I could relax a lot of the time. I’m a bit of a foodie though, and I did not like the food in the U.K. except the Indian food. It’s like, you guys have this whole spice trade situation and you never figured out how to put black pepper in these potatoes.
How do you think fans responded to your two new singles this year?
Mayugba: As long as it’s still Alexia’s voice and my guitar with our songwriting, I feel like fans connect with it. I have moments where I feel pressure to make another ‘[I Threw Glass at My Friend’s Eyes and Now I’m on] Probation’ or ‘Muzzle,’ because I want this to have immense longevity, and those songs had real moments. But then I’ll listen to ‘Shadow’ or lesser-known songs like ‘Soundproof’ and I love it. What’s really lucky about our fan base is that if we love something, they tend to like it and have respect for it.
Roditis: People ask us to play deep cuts all the time. We write about real shit, and that doesn’t change. Our songs are viciously honest, and people fuck with that. But we’ve grown a lot, and that’s reflected in the music. The evolution in our music is not something I would want to shy away from, because I think people can grow with it. It’s like Harry Potter — except fuck J. K. Rowling for being transphobic. With Harry Potter, you grew up with the characters and got to see yourself grow through them. It’s a beautiful relationship, and I feel like we’re the trans Harry Potter — as if Harry Potter isn’t FTM trans already.
How has it felt to see Destroy Boys grow both musically and in terms of popularity?
Mayugba: That growth feels more tangible with every year that passes. Even doing things like this interview, 17-year-old me would have never thought about that being real. Touring with Blink-182 is something we would say to make each other laugh as a joke, because who the fuck would think we’d do that?
Roditis: I feel like it’s forced me to reconcile more with myself, because I don’t want to die from an overdose or something. Not to be grim, but I don’t want to kill myself and I could see how that spiral happens as everything gets bigger. It’s such high highs and low lows, like getting off a tour after feeding off that energy every single night and then going home to absolutely nothing. It can drive a person insane. I think that’s even reflected in the lyrics as I’ve tried to deviate away from writing about specific situations in my life and discuss some bigger topics.
Mayugba: They’re a great storyteller. They’re a fantastic lyricist and my favorite rock singer.
Roditis: [rolls eyes] We bicker like a married couple, but the band’s growth is also making us good at communicating. In the same way that I don’t want to kill myself, I don’t want the band to break up because we can’t have a conversation. We’ve been doing this from the age of 15 to 24, so we’re super different people than when we started. We were kids, but now we’re adults with our own thriving lives and different interests and personalities. Most bands would’ve broken up by now.
Some of that growth has taken you outside of traditional ‘punk’ as well. Has there been an emphasis on not being put in a box?
Mayugba: We’ve been fighting against the box since the day we started playing. In our first interview ever, we said, don’t call us ‘riot grrrl’ just because we play some punk music. That’s not really what the songs are about, so it feels like being mislabeled. And then the first headline was, ‘Feminist Punk Band from Sacramento,’ and we were like, half of this music isn’t even punk!
Roditis: People feel uncomfortable or confused when they see people who look like us doing what we do, and the only time they’ve seen a person who looks like us is Kathleen Hanna. But we sound more like Green Day than we do Bikini Kill. By the way, how insulting to all the other women that we all get compared to Bikini Kill. Nothing against Bikini Kill, and we’re so grateful for what they did in punk for women, but it’s so reductive. Why doesn’t anyone talk about fucking Joan Jett or the Runaways? These idiots can’t even compare us to a different female punk band.
Mayugba: When you read an article about an amazing band like Title Fight, you never read the term ‘male-fronted.’ You just see all these adjectives like ‘shoegaze’ and ‘experimental.’ If you go on that same website and pull up an article about Destroy Boys, it’s, ‘they’re these crazy girls who don’t shave their legs. They’re so kooky and they’re feminists who don’t care what you think.’ First of all, I have severe anxiety and care deeply about what you think. But also, I feel like bands that look like us deserve to be talked about as a reflection of what we’re doing musically. We deserve to have our music described in the same light that a band of white dudes would get.
Roditis: We put the same amount of time and work into our songs, if not more because of sexism. If we write a song and then one of us is like, yhat sounds like so-and-so, we’ll rewrite it. Part of that is because we want to carve out our own space, but there’s also a patriarchal thing where we know it has to be fucking good or no one will care.
Mayugba: We’re held to a significantly higher standard musically. It’s fucking intense to experience the level of success we have and not be jaded. The quality of our music is not about who we are. Our identities are reflected in the songs, because that’s our perspectives — same as any other musician — but that’s not the headline.
Roditis: Everyone has completely different experiences about patriarchy and racism and all these things. The way that me and Violet see it is different, even though people see us as ‘two punk girls…’
Mayugba: Alexia’s not even a girl, which is something we’re still trying to handle. Sorry for outing you.
Roditis: I’m shy about it, but I’ve also outed myself a lot and no one seems to give a fuck. I had to cut my hair to get any legitimacy. But yeah, Violet always talks about wanting to eradicate the term ‘female-fronted,’ because that doesn’t give any description of what the band sounds like. I want to be the first band that looks like us to headline mainstream festivals.
Mayugba: My goal is either we incorporate ‘male-fronted’ for 99% of articles that come out about dude bands or ‘female-fronted’ has to go away.
Roditis: Look, it was incredibly important to carve out a women’s space in punk because we wouldn’t be having this conversation without that. But now we’re at the point where we need to accept it into the mainstream as commonplace. It already is in some genres, but it’s a little behind in rock music. Also, when we talk about ‘feminist punk this’ and ‘feminist that,’ I feel like I’m not allowed to be a freak. Do I have to represent women everywhere even though I’m not one?
What’s on deck for Destroy Boys in 2024?
Mayugba: Festivals, tours, crazy hometown shit, really cool collaborations with other people and whatever the fuck else. Our biggest and most ambitious record to date with some crazy features.
Roditis: We’ll do even more mutual aid and more political work with the band to get real shit done. We’ll make funny jokes and be your imperfect role models. We’ll also get even sexier. New hair, maybe?
Mayugba: That’ll be the headline right there: ‘Destroy Boys To Change Their Hair, But Not the Hair on Their Legs.’