“At school, when we would have to write an essay prompt, I would write a big essay. ‘Cause I have a lot to say,” says Alexia Roditis, lead singer of Sacramento band Destroy Boys. It would be easy (and sloppy) to take a band with a name like Destroy Boys and just slap them with the label of modern “girl band,” who play-act at old-school punk, flip tables, spit in boys’ faces, etc. But even though the band’s name had its origin in band guitarist Vi Mayugba’s scribbled missive on a chalk wall, Roditis, Mayuba, and drummer Narsai Malik then and now would never deign to reduce it to something that simple.
Last week, the band released their newest track, “Honey I’m Home,” which is, as Roditis puts it, “a really sweet and melancholy song.” That is, of course, except for the part about the brick. “I won’t answer your phone calls/ I’m not your home any more/ I’ll throw a brick though your window/ I’m not your home any more!” Roditis sings during the song’s bridge, letting their delivery of the last word land like a slap in the face.
This is one of many strong bridges or breaks in the band’s repertoire, many examples of which can be found on their 2018 sophomore album, Make Room. With a cover festooned in a collage of red-rimmed eyes, the LP is nothing if not an oracle of what was to come: pure rock ‘n’ roll, firmly rooted in place, but from a distinctly young and female point of view (though it should be noted that Roditis uses both she and they pronouns; they have been used interchangeably in this article).
Women, have, of course, always been drivers of rock ’n’ roll, but female-fronted bands are frequently referred to as being part of “the fringes,” as if being likened to the bargain bin at Joann Fabrics is some kind of complement.
“Why don’t you think about why you’re listening?” Roditis asks. “If you like this music, you should care about where I come from and what I think.” It’s a good rule of thumb; while some musicians seem to inhabit some unreachable plane of existence, more often than not, they’re trying to eke out some semblance of peace and security on a day-by day basis just like the rest of us.
Beyond catharsis, her songwriting goal is to be a kind of sonic lifeboat for anyone who has experienced what she has. Or not. “I don’t think it’s good to isolate people if they think differently,” Roditis explains. “I think it’s important for people to have conversations. That’s how you gain an understanding of something instead of just ignoring it.” Like a surprising amount of Playing the Bay alums, it was Roditis’s adolescent experience with isolation that fueled her songwriting and made her look more closely at her relationships with the people around her. After a move, Roditis went from “a really close-knit Latino community to a super white community [in Sacramento]. That gave me a perspective on class and race and immigrant status.”
So too, has the inherent complexities of moving beyond high school and into the “adult” world. With “Honey I’m Home” and the single that preceded it, “Fences,” Destroy Boys evolve toward an older, more mature sound. One of Make Room’s stand-out tracks, “Nerve,” is a compact tale of chaotic sexual tension. The chorus is simple, but incredibly catchy, and Roditis’s rich voice delivers the verses with memorable inflection, dragging out words as they are wont to do, like rock ’n’ roll-specific vocal fry. “I’m writing songs about us/your velvet voice lingers/slip through each other’s fingers,” they sing in one of the album’s sweeter moments. While there are hints that they know the person in question may not be great for them, “Fences” brings us to the aftermath of the worst case scenario version any romantic entanglement.
“Not that [Make Room] wasn’t deep or anything. It’s just that, for me, I was writing about high school and about boys, and I would write about stuff that bothered me, but it wasn’t as traumatic as what ‘Fences’ was written about.”
“Did you say ‘traumatic’ or ‘dramatic?’” I ask.
“Both. Both work,” Roditis replies. The song is, in part, about “non-consensual [sexual] experiences that are hard to process. Just like sex not being for me, too. That’s something I did for a long time. And I just don’t know why,” Roditis says. Despite some heavy subject material, Roditis howls her way through “Fences” with not-so-reckless abandon, asking if she is forever stuck in some kind of toxic relationship time loop. “I like my pit,” she sings, sounding resigned, “I want to stay/that way I can’t fall back in again.”
“So many women – especially black women, indigenous women of color, queer women, trans women – just don’t get justice. People who don’t even know the harm that they caused stay ignorant. And it’s so infuriating. It’s like… I have to live with the thing you did and you don’t?” Roditis asks, sighing heavily. The backstories to some of Destroy Boys’ newest works make listeners sit with these uncomfortable truths. But as Roditis already knows, bringing things to the light may be the best way to help yourself — and possibly someone else — take that first step out of the pit.
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