Even in my early fifties the thrill of discovering a new band remains as exciting as it was when I was a teenager. Boy Harsher’s Country Girl EP was briefly put up for sale on the Italians Do It Better labels website in the Fall of Autumn 2017 so I naturally checked them out on Bandcamp. In an instant, the hypnotic, dark electronica overlaid with brooding female vocals captured my attention and I duly paid to download their back catalogue. For the next few days the Boy Harsher playlist was on repeat in the Paragon and it was obvious that they were destined to attract global attention in 2018.
Thrillingly, they were touring Europe in November and were due to play at The Buffalo in Cardiff at the end of the month. Arriving at the venue with my gig partner Paul on a filthy winters night, I noticed a somewhat battered-looking transit van parked on the street with the unmistakable Jae Matthews sat in the front seat. As Paul paid for parking, I approached the vehicle and tapped on the front window forgetting that I was still dressed in work gear comprising black suit and tie; Jae’s startled look was a reality check as to her I probably looked like a Government official, not a star struck fan eager to say hello.
Anyway, having sheepishly explained myself, we entered the ground level bar of The Buffalo and soaked up the vintage cocktail bar interior. The actual music venue is upstairs where I managed to have a brief chat with Jae and Augustus Muller as they manned the merch stall. Heralding from Massachusetts, I suggested that touring Europe must be something of a culture shock especially in the UK where they remain almost totally unknown. They agreed, but were clearly generating positive reactions wherever they played despite the smallish crowds. The previous night they played in Newcastle to just 50 people.
I bought three cassettes for £20 even though I have not owned a tape player for thirty years and watched the local support band, Chain of Flowers who continue to evolve their post-punk sound. We have seen them quite a few times and they always deliver a great set paving the way for the headliners; again their energy and wall of sound did not disappoint.
And so to Boy Harsher; a simple set-up of keyboards and beat boxes with Jae gyrating about the stage flashing beams of green neon into the audience via a handheld torch-like devise. Relentless rhythms echo the early days of the rave scene whilst Jae’s brooding vocals reminded me of Grace Jones at times. The hour-long set featured songs from there Yr Body is Nothing album and Lesser Man EP, but it was the tracks from Country Girl that truly captivated. I managed to capture Westerners on video, but Motion and Country Girl itself were equally memorable.
By now the crowd were dancing in unison as the sets momentum intensified into something resembling an acid house party with banging techno and smokey vocals creating a mesmerising cacophony. The gig was over far too quickly although I was convinced that I had just witnessed a ground-breaking act who would soon provide the soundtrack to a BMW TV ad or hit box set series on Sky Atlantic. Relentlessly contemporary and sonically of the absolute moment, Boy Harsher are destined to achieve the same rapid rise to prominence as Cigarettes After Sex and their music will be in your homes without you even knowing who they are.
Just two months later, Boy Harsher’s Deep Well is the soundtrack to a New Balance Skateboarding Trick Contest video and ‘Motion’ is included on the free cd given away with Electronic Sound Magazine.