Boy Harsher Reveal the Inspiration Behind The Runner Film and Soundtrack

Photo Credit: Jordan Hemmingway

For Boy Harsher’s Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller, the release of the band’s new film The Runner on January 16 is the culmination of ideas and characters that have been taking shape in their world for a long time. “A lot of the characters that we featured in The Runner have been these reoccurring characters that, truly, we’ve been exploring since the beginning, even before Boy Harsher,” says vocalist/lyricist Matthews on a recent video call, mentioning that one character, the Desperate Man, had appeared in a short film that Muller made about a decade ago. 

“I think that, what happened here, is that it was a new way for us to explore characters and their particular themes that we’ve been breaking down within our music over the last couple years,” she says. 

The Runner came into existence as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We were getting a lot of interest in doing a livestream, but we couldn’t figure out a way to make a livestream make sense for us,” says Matthews, who began envisioning the sinister titular character following an MS diagnosis. The film itself is now screening in select theaters and streaming via Shudder (North America, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand) and Mandolin (rest of the world).

The accompanying soundtrack, released January 21, stands out for its mix of dark synthpop and dance tracks, like singles “Give Me a Reason” and “Machina,” that intertwine with cinematic pieces, like “The Ride Home” and “Untitled (Piano).” Muller estimates that about five of the eight songs on the accompanying soundtrack were written prior to the film. “That was sort of a product of COVID and us not being the most creative people during that, but trying to find some way to stay motivated,” he says. 

Having made the bulk of the music first presented interesting creative challenges for the duo. “I think the music was another parameter that we knew that we had to adhere to when we were creating the film,” says Matthews. “In a literal sense, there are certain scenes where we had to time each shot to make sure that it would fit. In more of an emotional and creative sense, we had these pieces that we knew that we really wanted to honor.”

An example of that is “Machina,” with Mariana Saldaña from Boan on vocals. The segment featuring the dance floor banger, with its nods to ‘80s styles like freestyle and hiNRG, features Saldaña performing through a television set, a nod to the history of artists performing on TV. 

“That was a song that I was working on for a solo record that’s never going to see the light of day. Early COVID, working on some music, working on some different vocal features,” says Muller. “We wrapped that song up and took a step back and said this just sounds like a Boy Harsher song with a different vocalist. It was sort of confusing and that’s where the soundtrack idea came from, as a way to tie these vocal features in, to motivate them.”

While the “Machina” segment was filmed in Los Angeles, and portions of The Runner were shot in a New Jersey studio, much of it was shot in Massachusetts, where Boy Harsher is based. “Like many small projects, we didn’t have a ton of money and we didn’t have a ton of time,” says Matthews. “Unfortunately, we didn’t really have a ton of prep time, but we did the best we could in pre-production and, when we got on set, it was just this combination of being steadfast in what we wanted and what we needed to achieve and then having a super diligent crew that also totally believed in the film.”

Filming commenced in July, on an unusually cold and rainy weekend that ultimately added to the film’s aesthetic. “This crazy storm that hit that whole weekend, that gave us this incredibly stubborn fog, which also worked in our favor and made all the exteriors quite beautiful,” says Matthews. 

“When we were planning this thing, we were definitely picturing blue skies and oppressive heat,” adds Muller. “That’s how we were writing. When we got up to the mountain and it was cold and cloudy, it was definitely a surprise for us, but a good surprise.”

A tour coinciding with the release of the film and soundtrack has been postponed until the spring. Meanwhile, the duo is preparing to work on their next album. A possible result of that, Matthews says, is that they might have new material ready when they do hit the road. “I think that would be one of the silver linings because there would be nothing better, at least for us, than playing unfinished tracks live because then you really, really understand them,” she says. “You can see what people like, what makes people move. What connects with people and what’s not working.”

Road-testing new music, Matthews adds, was an advantage they had with previous Boy Harsher albums. “We were blessed to be able to have that process, to test all the songs live before we rewrote them and recorded them,” she says. “Maybe we’ll be able to embrace that a little more this time too.”

Follow Boy Harsher on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

How ’80s and ’90s Horror Films Inspired Latest Glaare LP Your Hellbound Heart

Photo Credit: Brandon Pierce, Julian Medina & Meg Wad

Rachael Margaret Kime, vocalist for L.A.-based band Glaare, hadn’t seen Hellraiser until recently. But, she had been watching and re-watching a lot of ’80s movies when her husband and bandmate, Brandon Pierce, suggested naming Glaare’s second album after The Hellbound Heart, Clive Barker’s book upon which the now-classic horror film is based. 

“It’s so fitting,” says Kime on a recent phone call, since she was writing songs based on movies that she was either watching for the first time, or for the first time in years; when she finally saw Hellraiser, she connected with it and wrote another song.

Your Hellbound Heart is a journey into the dark, twisted cinema of the late 20th century. There are nods to Terminator 2, Total Recall, Prince of Darkness and They Live, as well as cult classic Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me on the album. However, the film references are there to make a bigger point. 

Take “Divine Excess” for example. It’s inspired by They Live, specifically, the Bearded Man, who breaks through television broadcasts to speak of the ills of the capitalist world. “I think a lot of what we’re experiencing in this society is a collective madness based on what capitalism has done to us and we’re all after that divine excess,” says Kime, “as though it’s going to make us closer to God in some way, to achieve this excess.”

She adds, “Essentially, I was in the exact opposite position, where I just wanted to destroy everything. I don’t want to build anything. I don’t want to acquire anything. I want to destroy everything and burn it all down. That’s how I wrote the words to that song.”

Glaare began working on what would become The Hellbound Heart in in late 2018. At around the same time, Kime’s father had died. She was drawn the “heady, strange, existential scenes about mankind and the ego and the relationship between it all and how the polarities are working together at the same time in this very harmonious, catastrophic way” that’s often so characteristic of the horror genre. As she watched those movies, she found a similarity amongst the characters that resonated with her. They were often trying to tell a truth to people who simply didn’t believe them. “That’s what I felt like at the time,” she says. 

It was a crucial point of inspiration for Glaare. Since their 2017 debut album, To Deaf and Day, the group has established a reputation for their darkwave sound, but Kime also refers to Glaare as a “cinematic band.”

“We always seen ourselves as scoring a movie that doesn’t exist,” she says, “like we’ve written this non sequitur Lynchian movie that we’re scoring.”

Your Hellbound Heart would prove to be a difficult album to make. The band would spend a few months at work on it and then have to put it aside. They upgraded equipment after finishing the demos, which created some challenges while re-recording vocals. “The vocal takes that we got in the demos were just so raw and they sounded awesome,” she says. However, they weren’t of a high enough quality to mix with the new equipment. Kime adds that her preference is to use the vocals recorded in a first take. “You can’t try to repeat a performance because it will just sound contrived,” she says. “It’ll sound like walking in the uncanny valley.” For the songs on Your Hellbound Heart, they found a solution. “We were able to kind of tuck some of the initial demo vocals in with the new vocals to beef it up and keep it raw sounding.”

In the midst of working on the album, Glaare’s lineup changed as well. When their original guitarist left the fold, bassist Rex Elle stepped in to the spot. Then the band snagged Marisa Prietto as their new bassist. 

“We saw her play years ago with Wax Idols and we just fell in love with her,” says Kime of Prietto. “She’s such a spitfire on stage. I’ve never seen someone move on stage in heels while singing and playing guitar like that. It was un-fucking-real. We were afraid to talk to her because she was so cool.”

In the end, they made a passionate and energetic sophomore album, one that’s dance floor-friendly, while retaining the dark aural aesthetic of their debut. Your Hellbound Heart is as much about the images it might conjure in listener’s heads as it is about the beats and hooks. 

Released on April 30 via Weyrd Son Records, Your Hellbound Heart has been garnering a good response, which makes Kime happy. “I just want truly for people to connect with this,” she says. “I don’t care how many it is, and I don’t care who they are, just as long as somebody is able to feel like there’s someone out there that understands them.”

Follow Glaare on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Blake English Connects Gender and Body Horror In “Sad Girls Dance Party” Video

Blake English channels monsters of his past directly into his visuals. It also helps that he has a deep love for horror films. As far as the new clip for “Sad Girls Dance Party” goes, he incorporates his tenuous, very complicated relationship with his father as the emotional base while exploring his personal transformation through gnarly body-horror and other frightening imagery. “I’m just a freak in this fucked up scene,” he wails.

Sticky musical webs spew from his fingertips, but it is his brutal honesty that’s most magnetic. “You know, my dad was basically a kid when he had me at 24. He also experienced a lot of trauma in his childhood that he hadn’t dealt with, which no doubt is why it was projected on me,” English shares with Audiofemme. “Mental health wasn’t exactly a part of the conversation in his household growing up, so he was left to figure it out on his own. But after having me, as him and I struggled to find common ground, he began to grow just as I was growing.”

“Sad Girls” opens on English, soaking in a clawfoot bathtub filled with ice cubes. A single overhead bulb emits a cool blue light that falls down around him to give the scene a certain ominous feel. Things immediately escalate as a four-legged creature crawls out of his stomach and through his mouth, its tentacles writhing in a sticky purple goo and nearly suffocating him to death. The singer collapses from the trauma. It’s an important moment that sets in motion the visual’s powerful narrative, chronologically moving from an innocent young boy trying on lipstick to an independent and fierce 20-something badass.

“The video really plays with the idea of finding beauty in the horror ─ finding comfort in something that otherwise would be unsettling,” he explain, noting that the scene was inspired by his all-time favorite movie, Aliens. “I wanted this video to play as an homage to all my favorite horror films with me getting to play in the middle of them,” he explains.


Always hypnotized by horror storytelling and filmmaking, creature-features were his gateway drug at a very young age. “My parents used to take me to Kmart every Friday night and pick out a creature-like action figure that I’d then play with amongst my sister’s barbies,” he remembers, citing such essentials as Gremlins and Critters. English draws upon a vast collection of favorite horror films, including A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dracula, The Thing, and The Strangers, as well as recent TV shows like Stranger Things and American Horror Story. “I wanted to leave it open for horror lovers to see if they can find all the references within this music video,” he adds.

The horror genre has a particular raw honesty to its stories: exposing the darkest fears of mankind through an extreme, heightened, and violent reality. “I think horror storytelling is extremely interesting because it’s relatively the same with every story with little variances here and there, and it remains intriguing,” he says. “It’s a formula that works over and over and over again. It continues to scare. It continues to excite. I’m a huge lover of haunted mazes that pop up around Halloween time, and the jump scares get me every time. I can be scared the same way over and over again and never be desensitized to it, which makes it all the more thrilling for me.”

It stands to reason, then, he’d have his own concepts tucked up his sleeve. “I actually am in the middle of writing a few horror movie scripts that hopefully you’ll see as features in the future if we can ever escape this pandemic mess,” he teases. “One deals with a cult; one deals with a haunted toy; and one deals in the science fiction dystopian world.”

“Sad Girls Dance Party” is the tip of the iceberg of English’s truly outstanding debut EP, Spiders Make Great Poets. You can always trust he’ll ground his songs in deep, meaningful lyrics ripped right out of his life. The most impressive is “The Neighbors,” a five-minute and 30-second epic in the vein of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade. “What will the neighbors say/When they hear the son is gay/Daughter’s a meth addict/Mom’s drunk and sick of it,” he chants. “Daddy got paid today/But beat mommy anyway…”

Much like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the song sheds layers, redresses, and shifts with alarming ease. A co-write with Gabe Lopez, English actually had the entire song written and “swimming around in my head before taking it to him to bring it to life,” he recalls. “It helps that Gabe is one of my best friends, so he knows very well what my influences are and how to integrate them throughout the production. He’s also a genius musician which was required for this song, in particular, with all the tempo and key changes.”

With the longest runtime of any song on the EP, its length was an intentional choice to not only totally immerse the listener but give him a grand theatrical moment onstage (in a pre-pandemic world). “It’s something that takes you through a true beginning, middle, and end,” he says, noting the lead vocal was done in one take.

“We tried recording it the typical way where the lead is recorded in sections, and then the best parts are spliced together to get that ‘perfect’ vocal,” he continues, “but it just wasn’t sounding the way it needed to. By suggestion of Gabe, we decided to record three full takes and chose the best of them.”

Later, with “A Ghost I Knew from Yesterday,” English vents his frustrations over those in his life who voted for Trump. “And what’s worst of all if I give you up/Is knowing you will never change,” he sings. His heart is heavy, mimicked with the slow, methodical guitar work, and the lyrics are as knotted as the issue itself. “I see who you were fade away/A ghost I knew from yesterday,” he weeps.

“I go back and forth on this as new situations arise that frustrate me with his presidency. I don’t, however, think it’s as black and white as it’s made out to be in the current social climate. I view him less as a villain and more as an incompetent fool that has conned a certain portion of Americans,” explains English. “Unfortunately, some of those people are my relatives, and when you talk to them, they truly believe that they voted for him with the best intentions. So, it’s a difficult spot that is a test of patience for everyone right now. I think that as painful as it can be, having conversations with those you differ from is the only way to create a change of heart within them.” Equipping oneself with the facts and “a pretty keen sense of self control,” he says, is as vital to the conversation. “Susan Rice said it best. To paraphrase: ‘It’s harder to hate someone when you know them personally.’ And I think that by distancing yourself from those that have been, for lack of a better term, misinformed, we are only further dividing ourselves and thus not creating any change.”

Change not only happens when we have those tough conversations but reflect inward and really listen. “These past four years have been a huge reflection for everyone, I think. Trump has been a big ugly mirror to the United States, as a whole, which prevents us from living in self-centered complacency,” he says. “If you’re not reflecting on issues of systemic racism, sex, gender, domestic and international politics, workplace ethics, misogyny, distribution of wealth, economics, equality as a whole – and the list goes on and on – your head is truly in the sand and unfortunately you will be left behind in a world that was, while the rest of us progress towards a better future.”

English’s “United States of Depression” bookends the project with his grittiest, most explosive moment. “I take the little blue pills/Just to cope with all the damage/And still I see no end in sight/Yet they say I can manage/Just up the dose/Let’s have a toast,” he sings. The song confronts his struggle with mental health and wide-sweeping changes he’s already seen. “I am so grateful to everyone who has shifted the world’s view of mental health as a valid concern in moving forward as a human race,” he says. “I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety my entire life. My battle with it has involved therapy, medication, mediation, spirituality and all things in between. It’s not a very exact science as everyone is different and needs different things to improve.”

His mental war came to a head when he once left a movie theatre and had to go straight to a hospital. “I thought I was dying, and really, I was having a panic attack and just didn’t know what to call it,” he remembers. “I will say, I’m better than I’ve ever been at this moment, but it is a constant struggle.”

The importance of writing and recording Spiders Make Great Poets can never be understated. It’s done more than just satiate his creative thirst; it has soothed his anxiety-addled mind from further damage. Horror movies, an unconditionally loving support system, reading, and the ocean have all also assisted in keeping him grounded, healthy, and sane.

“Something I discovered through [this EP] process is that if I put it in a song, it allows the emotional charge to live there and free up space within me for newer and more nuanced perspectives not so affected by my past,” he concludes. “So, with all these songs, the pain gets to live in them separate from me where now I can be an objective viewer instead of being the one experiencing it.”

Follow Blake English on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for ongoing updates.

ONLY NOISE: The Queen of Halloween

Don’t let the weather fool you; it’s the right time of year for chills, and I’m not talking about temperature. ‘Tis the season for screams, and witches, and all things terrifying, and personally, I can’t get enough of it. In the lead up to Halloween (or as I like to call it: The Greatest Holiday on Earth), I have been on a steady diet of horror movies, scary books, and spooky music. It’s Bauhaus for breakfast, Stephen King for lunch, and Wes Craven for dinner – a well-balanced meal plan on any given day in October.

While watching The Thing recently, I was thinking of the wonderful interplay between sound and scare factor. Aside from fake blood and screaming teenagers, a crucial element of horror films is the horror score. Music and terror are deeply intertwined, and movies such as Jaws, Halloween, and The Exorcist would be entirely different films without their respective scores. What would Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho be without the shrieking strings in the shower scene or the manic theme of its opening credits? Would we fear the great white shark in Jaws so much if it weren’t for John Williams’ sinister compositions?

Sound and fear are related in the most primordial way. In 2012, UCLA evolutionary biologist Daniel Blumstein conducted a study to further explore this relationship. His findings were published in the science journal Biology Letters, the study’s abstract claiming that, “Humans, and many non-human animals, produce and respond to harsh, unpredictable, nonlinear sounds when alarmed, possibly because these are produced when acoustic production systems (vocal cords and syrinxes) are overblown in stressful, dangerous situations.” In other words, the aforementioned nonlinear sound we respond to so viscerally in horror movie soundtracks registers the same as a scream on a deep-rooted, biological level. The more jagged, sporadic, and a-melodic, the more humans tend to react to the aural stimuli.

If screams, sharpness, and a disregard for linear form are the key ingredients for frightening music, and frightening music is key for a good horror film, then look and listen no further than the rapturous Goth operas of Diamanda Galás. For over 30 years, Galás has pushed the limits of music and performance, as well as the underworldly depths and mountainous heights of her multi-octave voice. At a glance, the virtuosic singer and pianist could easily snag the thorny crown for Queen of Halloween – but listening to her records is a far more sinister experience. Her 1982 debut album The Litanies of Satan is one of the most unsettling pieces of music ever recorded. Forget “The Monster Mash;” The Litanies of Satan is thirty minutes of despair, demonic possession, and pure audio insanity. Play it at your Halloween party and just see what happens.

Throughout the decades Galás has produced a body of work as versatile as her vocal range, releasing piano-driven jazz and blues records like The Singer and All the Way, as well as experimental fright-fests such as Plague Mass, Divine Punishment, and Saint Of The Pit. All the while the singer-composer has never lost her razor-sharp edge, exuding perpetual cool with her wild, jet-black mass of hair and a wardrobe that makes Morticia Addams look like Undertaker Barbie.

In addition to her prevalence in the music world, Galás has been recruited to supply disturbing audio for many horror films. She created the voice of the dead in Wes Craven’s voodoo-zombie flick The Serpent and the Rainbow. In 1992 she lent her shrill cries to a pack of female vampires in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Movies like The Ring Two, The Conjuring, and Schrei 27, Galás’ own collaborative effort with film director David Pepe, have the Diamanda mark of terror; their creepy soundscapes elevated by her textured and frenzied compositions.

Strangely, the artist’s direct musical influences are far less ghoulish than the films she is associated with. In a profile for The Quietus,Galás listed her thirteen (naturally) favorite albums of all time, and the selections were predominantly jazz records by the likes of Miles Davis, Albert Ayler Trio, and Fats Waller. She must have heard something far more primeval in these recordings, however, as she mentioned “the one thousand names and sounds of animals and supernatural beasts that are part and parcel of any decent artist,” while discussing her favorite Ellen McIlwaine record, We The People.

 Galás music is inhabited by droves of such beasts, stampeding through hailstorms and hellfire, careening off serrated cliffs and plunging into the heart of human fear. What could possibly be more frightening than Ms. Diamanda Galás? I’m afraid to find out.

Don’t miss Diamanda Galás performing on Halloween night at Murmrr Theatre in Brooklyn. Tickets here.