Boyband brings all the emotions (and talents) that your typical boy band delivers, despite being a one-man act. Not only does he sing and rap, but he is also a Grammy-nominated producer. While this line of work has led boyband to work with many creatives — including chart-topping artists like Lil Nas X, Gunna and Young Thug — he still admits to feeling “alienated” in his creative process, a mood that seeps into other areas of his life. So, it’s only fitting that he explores these feelings of being alone in his new single, “by myself,” a song that boyband tells HollywoodLife is about his experience of “kind of going through a breakup” that dropped on May 6.
“By myself” goes beyond the usual melancholy that most breakup songs offer, though. With a heavy rock element thanks to guitarist Michael Bao, combined with the boyband’s anguished vocals reminiscent of the emo music from the aughts, one can imagine themself in the opening credits of an anime with this song on blast in their headphones.
That is exactly how boyband wants you to feel. Anime — more specifically, the soundtracks that accompany series like Naruto and Erased (some of his favorites) — are what inspire his own music. “All the openings [in anime are] super crazy, like emotionalized by just rock songs,” boyband tells HollywoodLife, who is just as much as influenced by rock as he is anime (in fact, he collaborated with Good Charlotte‘s Billy Martin for a previous track, “death note” — yes, a reference to Tetsurō Araki’s anime). He continues, “And then the lyrics [in anime openings] are very, very well written to me, they’re very deep. They kind of encompass like whatever is going on and show at the moment.”
“They give me like, a certain type of feeling. And I think when I make music…I chase that same vibe,” boyband continues. “Like, every time when I play one of my songs, I want to feel the same way.” This goal is reflected in his previous single release, “fooly cooly,” another breakup song that’s a tribute to the cult classic anime “FLCL” (which, in English, is pronounced “fooly cooly” — hence the song’s name). For that track, boyband channelled the heartbreak of “FLCL” character Mamimi Samejima, a high school student with a roster of unhealthy vices (like chain smoking and potentially pyromania) who appears to still be heartbroken over the fact that her ex-boyfriend left Japan to play baseball in the U.S.
“When you wake up, do you think of me? I wanna know / When we break up, wonder if your true colors’ll show / I was colorblind, knew I should’ve lived my life alone / Now you hate me, why do you hate me?,” boyband sings in the chorus, which while listening to, is not hard to imagine yourself lighting up your own cigarette while dejectedly looking out at the view of the small hometown you’re stuck in, pining over someone far away (just like Mamimi). Boyband even took the words on this trademark cigarette that’s often found between Mamimi’s lips — “never knows best” — to name his upcoming project that both “by myself” and “fooly cooly” will be on.
While “never knows best” has a few of these “FLCL” Easter eggs, it’s not one big tribute project. Rather, boyband took influences from the anime series to tell his own experience and message. Like the “FLCL” soundtrack — which was created entirely by the Japanese alt rock band The Pillows — boyband’s forthcoming project is also “very guitar heavy” and “very emotional,” and carries similar themes (i.e. Mamimi’s boyfriend leaving her alone in Japan translates to boyband’s own semi-breakup experience). However, this was not necessarily “intentional,” he explains.“I just wanted to like capture, I guess that feel [of the “FLCL” soundtrack], in a sense, and just give my own rendition of it. A lot of the subject matters and stuff [in my new project “never knows best”] definitely like tie into the series very loosely, but I don’t think much of it was intentional,” boyband explains to HollywoodLife. “The the series itself and my favorite things about it, and then the music I was making at the time — I feel like they just happen to be mutually exclusive.”
Boyband is not capturing this sonic “feel” from soundtracks like “FLCL” simply for aesthetics, though (like how some artists play a little too much into the melodramatics of music for the sake of glamorizing it). Instead, boyband’s music is meant to be cathartic, both for himself and his listeners. “I just want people to know…you probably felt like this at like 10:15 p.m. on like a Wednesday, and it’s like, I felt like this too…it might have been a different time, but I feel like this. I guess even down to the performances of the songs, I want people to sing it with me…I want you to feel it too. Because it’s like a good stress-reliever…So I kind of just want to make a safe space for people, really.”
So, while boyband is alone in his own — well, boy band — he wants others to know that they’re not really alone. Among the heart-pulling strings of the guitar riffs, combined with boyband’s emotional words in “by myself,” listeners may find something to empathize with — just like many people did while watching the characters deal with their own heartbreaks and setbacks and triumphs in “FLCL.”