Pursuing the Art of Pure P.O.P. with Lobby Boy

by | Mar 31, 2023 | ELECTRONIC & EXPERIMENTAL, MUSIC, POP & TOP 40, QUEER RVA, ROCK & INDIE

As I write this, my favorite current band from Richmond is somewhere between Virginia and Texas, on their way to SXSW. I was lucky enough to catch Lobby Boy’s sold-out show at The Camel late in February, along with Burning Sun, Drook, and Strawberry Moon. Arriving early afforded me an opportunity to chat with the band at the merch table. I’d known that Lobby Boy formed in Harrisonburg, but discovered they all live in RVA now. After reminiscing about MACROCK fests and basement shows on Old South High, I mentioned that I used to write about music before the pandemic. To paraphrase Mitch Hedberg, “I still do, but I used to, too.”

The band reached out after the show, mentioning they have a brand new EP due out (Pure P.O.P.) and a music video for their song, “Pure Luck,” launching April 1st. I agreed to meet them at Lamplighter Coffee on a sunny afternoon for an interview.

Lobby Boy is:

  • Chez Goodspeed (she/they) – Vox
  • Alberto “Bert” Sifuentes Jr (he/they) – Guitar
  • Eva Wilson (she/they) – Sampler/Percussion
  • Rylee Holihan (she/they) – Bass Synth
  • Tristan O’Shea (he/they) – Synth

D.T. Jones: I’m aware that Lobby Boy started in Harrisonburg. How and when did the band form?

Chez: Lobby Boy was born in September of 2018 when Eva asked me to play a last minute house show. I agreed on one condition: Eva had to play the show with me. It was inevitable that local chiller, Bert, would play the first Crayola gig, too. Tristan and Rylee have happily fallen into our laps since.

DTJ: It’s a great lap! Dim Blue Light was my introduction to the band, an instant all-time favorite. Can you tell me the story of how that song was written?

Chez: I wrote Dim Blue Light during my final week living in Harrisonburg. I was feeling super restless and ready to go, but was still trying to take a step back and examine my time living there. It was birthed as a quick Garage Band beat and then worked out in full at Cerveza Course in Harrisonburg just a few weeks later. A very special and formative time.

Lobby Boy, Miranda Jean
Photo by Miranda Jean

DTJ: What are some of your influences?

Chez: Literally anyone who puts their whole pussy in it. Cher, Porches, Japanese Breakfast, Skrillex, big boy Leonard Cohen, Animal Collective, 070 Shake, and Sophie.

DTJ: When did you know you were gonna leave Harrisonburg?

Chez: Everyone besides Rylee lived in Harrisonburg and then left.

Bert: I had always planned to live with Rylee after school.

Eva: I was also dating someone that lived here. I feel like it’s a natural pipeline.

Bert: Somewhere on the walls of Crayola it’s written, “Harrisonburg is Richmond’s blood diamond”, or something like that. (everybody laughs)

DTJ: What are some of the band’s favorite Lobby Boy shows?

Tristan: Our last show at The Camel. I’m the newest member of LB. I’ve only been with the band for four months now and it’s the most confident I have felt. We sold that dang thang out and the crowd was great. All our friends were there. I think we sounded really good.

DTJ: I’d agree with that. 

DTJ (to Chez): Your mom was there?

Chez: Yeah. 

Eva: Heather’s a super fan, for sure.

Chez (to DTJ): You were talking with her. She was gabbing about you the next morning at brunch. She was stoked on you.

DTJ: I was really impressed that your mom came to the show. That warmed my heart.

Chez: Thank you. She’s a musician, too, so she can’t be mad at me. Even though she can be sometimes. *Laughs* 

DTJ: “Why did you scream on this one? The rest of the song was so beautiful…”

Chez: Yeah. “I don’t really like it when your face scrunches up like that…”

Bert: “Everyone else does mom…”

Eva (joking with Chez): You’re basically August Rush, huh?

Tristan (to Eva): What’s your favorite show?

Eva: We went on tour in January of 2020 with a few different musicians because our OG members were starting their semester up. When we played in Harrisonburg on that run, we ended up playing with eight people on stage, it was epic. I have so many favorite shows, but especially that time we played with Cheeky in Philly. Cheeky’s a solo artist, but if you weren’t watching them play you would think it’s a full band doing all the samples and keyboards. I’ve never been so impressed by a performer. We became friends with Cheeky and have played a handful of shows with them since.

Chez: We’re going on a weekender with them in May that we’re super excited about.

Lobby Boy, Miranda Jean
Photo by Miranda Jean

DTJ: What are some of your favorite acts that Lobby Boy has toured or played with?

Lobby Boy: PONS, Cheeky, Manic Envy, Psymon Spine, Alfred, Illiterate Light, Destructo Disk, TWEN, TAGABOW, Trapcry, Horse Jumper of Love, Shormey, Empath, Kopps, True Blossom, and Screaming Females. We are lucky to have played a lot of banger shows.

Bert: One of my favorite shows was playing with Empath in Norfolk. They were just really good. And I was just like, “Wow! I can’t believe we’re playing with bands like that.” They’re very impressive.

Chez: That was also our first tour ever.

Bert: We played a house show in New Jersey last year to a bunch of college kids. It was cool realizing I had been in crowds like that and mesmerized by the bands playing. Big full circle moment for me.

Rylee: That was my favorite show… Grander Canyon in New Jersey. There was a lot of chaotic energy, especially when we played. I don’t normally look at the crowd, but when the whole room is moshing it’s hard not to get distracted. And also shit was falling from the ceiling…

Chez: You were gripping the power cables together at one point…

Rylee: Stuff was almost coming unplugged… I was holding the extension cord. I also really liked the energy at Union Stage. I like when you can feel the crowd being into you.

Chez: DC is normally a very stiff crowd.

Eva: A fight broke out during our set. Somebody got moshed on.

Tristan: We talked to the guy who got put in a headlock and taken down by somebody who had never been in a mosh pit. He thought somebody was coming for him. Probably some aggressive young guy who probably would’ve liked it if he knew what was going on. 

DTJ: Those are usually the guys who know what a mosh pit is and lust for it… *Laughs* Maybe if he’d been born 20 years earlier…

Tristan: Maybe if he’d been exposed to any kind of alternative culture before that show.

Eva: Must have been so freaky thinking somebody’s trying to beat you up in the middle of the show. *Laughs*

Chez: My favorite show was during that first tour in Brooklyn in January of 2020. Jones Beach Bar, a tiny room with a small stage full of new faces. It wasn’t anything crazy but I had a little bird’s eye view moment: I was like “Oh shit, I want to do this forever.” Then the pandemic happened like a month and a half later.

Lobby Boy, Chez Goodspeed
Photo by Chez Goodspeed

DTJ: Tell me about how you guys kept busy during COVID.

Eva: Damn… I feel like a good six months of it, we hardly saw each other at all. We live like right across the street from each other.

Chez: We would see each other sometimes. The summer.

Eva: It wasn’t until July though. Yeah. I dunno, it’s a little sad, but I noticed stuff kicked into gear after one of our friends passed away. We all came together just to be with each other and made a ton of music. Just for the sake of making it, not because of Lobby Boy. We were just doing it to do it.

DTJ: Because you needed it?

Bert: Yeah. We lost our ego for a bit there. We didn’t have to be Lobby Boy for so long.

Chez: It took a lot of pressure off. We were all working together. We would get off at ten o’clock at night and immediately go to Eva’s house and sit around in their room and cook and write.

Bert: Before the pandemic all the songs were Chez making a beat, she’d pretty much have the song done, and then we’d come in and add instruments. We were very used to writing songs by ourselves, but during the pandemic we finally learned how to work together. That’s when the first real collaboration songs started to happen. That’s when things started to change and we started thinking bigger.

Eva: We became more of a band.

Chez: That’s around when Rylee started playing with us, too.

DTJ (to Rylee): How did you come to be in the band?

Rylee: They needed a bass player. I wanted to be in a band, but I didn’t know how to play bass guitar. I didn’t know how to play keyboard or anything. I was just like, “If you need somebody, I’ll learn.” And then Chez and I went to Guitar Center and split the cost of a guitar that I don’t even use because I play the bass synth now!

Laughter bursts all around the table.

Rylee: It was very nice. We had money because of unemployment.

Bert: We spent all our unemployment checks on gear.

Tristan: It was like three times what I was making before. I was living in Rhode Island when the pandemic hit. I was working as a sound engineer for theater, live events, and concerts. I’d only been in Rhode Island for a year and a half at that point. All the connections I had were through work and they all became moot because nothing was happening. I was like, “Well, shit, nothing’s really keeping me here. Maybe it’s time to move back to VA.”

Lobby Boy, Chez Goodspeed
Photo by Chez Goodspeed

DTJ: Do you miss it?

Tristan: Sometimes. Not really. It was a weird time in my life. I remember it fondly. Like “Oh yeah, I did that.” I knew I wanted to come back. I didn’t know where I wanted to go exactly. I had a friend who had just bought a house in Roanoke. I was maybe gonna live with my parents in NOVA. But everybody that I knew from Harrisonburg had moved to Richmond in the meantime…

Chez: The pipeline…

Tristan: I said “Chez, I think I want to move to Richmond.” And Chez said “I’m trying to move out, let’s get a place together.” And that sold me. I wasn’t in the band, but I was hanging out around the band a lot during COVID, hearing the demos through the walls…

Lobby Boy, Chez Goodspeed
Photo by Chez Goodspeed

DTJ: An unwilling neighbor fan?

Tristan: I was a willing neighbor fan. *Laughs* I was always a fan of the band.

Bert: Tristan, when was the first time you saw Lobby Boy?

Tristan: The first time I saw Lobby Boy was in Boston on that tour y’all went on in January.

Chez: Tristan and I lived together for seven or eight months, then I moved in with Eva.

Bert: We’ve all lived together in a ton of different combinations.

Tristan: Bert moved out of a place and I took Bert’s room.

DTJ: Feels like you’re all circling the same destiny.

Bert: Feels like that sometimes. Feels very right.

Eva: Just can’t get rid of these people… *laughs*

DTJ: Let’s talk about the EP and the music video. Why are y’all excited about these things coming out?

Eva: Well, it sounds and looks ten times better than anything else we’ve done. In terms of our process of recording, there are more heads at the table for mixing… we all have a product that we’re equally stoked on. And then to have the music video. I’ve never had such a substantial visual element to any music thing that I’ve ever done. It’s very validating to have this long-form seven-minute cartoon that’s… us.

DTJ: Something that you can’t take back…

Eva: It’s just our band and it’s ingrained in history now.

Tristan: Chez and Brendan Mauer, the animator, did a ton of work: storyboarding, coming up with a loose plot, and Chez has a ton of B-roll footage…

Chez: I took a cheap digital camera on a trip with my mom for her 60th birthday, so the background of the animation is all that footage. When I came home, we went out a few nights and I brought it with me. I got Tristan dancing on it and took it to band practice for a bit.

Tristan: Brendan’s ability to animate blew me away.

Chez gave me Brendan Mauer’s number so I hit him up. We had dinner the following week at Bamboo Cafe. Sitting in the back booth, we ordered drinks while waiting for our food and I picked his brain for secrets about Pure Luck.

DTJ: What is your background as an artist?

Brendan: I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I’m a VCU Communication Arts grad that lingers in Richmond. I call myself an illustrator but I dabble in what I’m able to. I’ve always enjoyed animation and would love to do a larger project.

DTJ: Chez talked a little bit about collaborating with you on the music video. Would you mind sharing your process?

Brendan: Chez and I wanted to make a pretty ambitious music video for the song Birdhouse over a year ago, but life and budget got in the way. This new EP was coming up and Chez asked me again, this time for Pure Luck. We scoped some manageable ideas and set aside two weeks of production with a freeform process in mind. The short deadline meant starting in crunch mode. These constraints meant there was no time to perfect many of the components, but also forced us to make faster decisions instead of kicking the can around.

DTJ: I was told you were highly influenced by the lyrics and that there are multiple interwoven storylines, one obviously featuring Chez. Care to shed some light on the stories and how they play off of each other?

Brendan: The first character we see resembles a human egg, while bees and flowers are symbols of love and sex. What I tried to convey was a character dealing with unknowns or a mind un-made, so in that respect I don’t want to give much away. The imagery should be interpreted per viewer but we did try to keep every design choice informed by some sort of expression.

One example would be the monster in the sidescroll sequence. I felt like my initial idea of him was weak and I told Chez I was stuck. Chez reminded me about the “…never enough time to be human” line. The creature was given a hook-hand, a reference to Captain Hook’s tick-tock crocodile, an established metaphor for the creeping of time and mortality.

The most real-world reference is the human writing in her book in the park. Real-life Chez and Rylee were both rocking the half-bleached hair when this character was created a year ago. Chez carries notebooks all the time to sort out ideas and song lyrics. All of the non-human characters are manifestations in the head of this character while she sorts out her own personhood in the pages.

DTJ:  Any other animation or still projects you’d like to share or promote?

Brendan: I typically keep my freelance tight-knit unless someone wants to commission new pieces from a series I’ve already done. You can mention that I did the Belmont Pizza mural if you want.

Check out more of Brendan’s amazing art on Instagram @bran_mauer.

By the time this article drops, Lobby Boy will be back in the Commonwealth. Come watch them open at The Camel on April 6th. The show, presented by Underground Orchard, features Pedazo de Carne Con Ojo (Philly), Easy Easy (Guatemala), and Belly of the Heart (RVA). Advanced tickets are $10 HERE

Lobby Boy will also be playing at MACROCK in Harrisonburg this year and Brendan Mauer will be at the label expo slinging art, zines, and stickers. Get your weekend passes or one-day tickets at https://macrockva.org/ for April 7th & 8th.

D. T. Jones

D. T. Jones

D. T. Jones has previously written about music for Landmark Media, Whurk Magazine, AltDaily.com, and POPSCURE. He is also sometimes a screenwriter, a poet, and a purveyor of bad jokes.




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