Belleville, Ontario’s born-and-raised Caylie Runciman has been putting out music under the moniker Boyhood since 2014. Coming of age in Ottawa, Ontario, her solo project’s defiant take on low-fi has defined Caylie as a force to be reckoned with. Bad Mantras reaffirms Caylie’s reputation as a total powerhouse holds true.
It’s a Friday night in August, and Black Squirrel Books is bustling. The tiny venue is practically bursting at the seams for Ottawa’s premiere of Bad Mantras. Tough but forever modest, Caylie Runciman is the person of the hour. Everyone is eager to congratulate her on her work, and I watch Caylie greet faces old and new, friends and fans before our interview. She repeatedly apologizes for making me wait, but I believe that Caylie’s attention is worth standing in line for.
Finally, Caylie and I make it outside to the parking lot. While I prepare my recording device, she gets comfortable on a nearby milk crate. She shoots me an honest smirk, and we get talking.
Pink Things: So Caylie, what have you been up to music-wise? Bad Mantras marks your first full-length release since 2013.
Caylie Runciman: Well, since the previous release, I was living in Ottawa for a little while, and then elsewhere else for a long while. I wasn’t in a very good place, and I wasn’t making much. I just wasn’t putting things out there! I decided to remove myself from the bad place, put myself in a good place. Bad Mantras was the result. I didn’t stop there, I actually have a record that will be ready for later this year!
PT: Your past work has been entirely self-produced. However, I know that on Bad Mantras, you worked closely with your partner Jonas during the production process. What was that like?
CR: It was challenging! It was a new dynamic that I wasn’t used to. Of course, I was happy to be working on something that I cared about with the person that I love… but I’ve also done everything by myself in the past. Surrendering a certain amount of control, even though it was just mixing the record, was a very strange experience. However, when I think about it now, I would like to collaborate more often. For example, I would like to bring other people in to play instruments. I think other peoples’ perspectives are critical. But I say that and then think, “But I like to make things on my own!” *laughs*
Caylie then expanded on why it can be challenging surrender creatively while promoting a solo-project as a female musician:
CR: This is the thing. When we perform live, I usually have a band that consists of male-identifying people playing behind me. Post-show, people feel like they need to speak to the men in the band. Obviously, everyone is doing something charming onstage, and everyone who plays in my band is excellent at what they do. The audience wants to express that they’ve been inspired. However, I often find that it's men coming up to the male members of the band to tell them how awesome they are.
This happened to me at Sappyfest. This dude comes up to my band and says, “Man, you guys were fucking amazing,” and turns to me and says, “I really love your outfit.” It’s exhausting. I’m aware that I dress in a way that is “a thing”. *she laughs, gesturing to her yellow t-shirt that fittingly says “Control Yourself!”* It’s just really tiring because this is my project, and I do all the work for and by myself. I produce, play and get a band together. It’s my project, and it’s so tiring to be told that your clothes are nice. It’s stupid!
PT: When you put out Bad Mantras you described the album as a testament to when you were “stuck in some serious mud” two and a half years ago. What kind of themes does the album explore specifically?
CR: Really heavy themes. I feel like my lyrics are pretty vague. This is because the vibes are so heavy that there is no way for me to express them without being vague in my writing. Even trying to tell you what they’re about, I'm very vague.
PT: Has working on/promoting this album acted as a kind of healing process for you?
CR: I’m not sure. I don’t know if my audience understands what I’m saying. As far as people watching and the whole, “I really like your outfit,” kind of thing, I’m really pissed off. I’m also sad a lot of the time, given that I’m singing about someone wronging me. Although I’m singing vague words, it is still really profound, and I hope that people watching can pick up on that. I don’t think it’s always possible for an audience to know exactly what is trying to be said, or even if the audience is open to perceiving it in a heavy way.
On the subject of what pink means to her, Caylie explained the meaning behind the pink and red imagery in her most recent music video for her song Luvbomb.
CR: Monika, the video’s director, discovered this motel on the outskirts of Montreal, and she knew the vibe I was going for: sad, gross person being alone. That motel is insane. It’s the grossest place I’ve ever stayed. Monika and I were freezing while shooting because it was the middle of January. We slept in our coats on top of the bed’s blankets because it was so gnarly. I remember we wanted to have a shot of me in the heart-shaped tub, but when I flicked the tap, all this green-black sludge blew out in this very dramatic and shocking way. I wish we had been able to capture it. I feel like that atmosphere definitely coincides with the vibe of the song and the record; a lonesome, romantic and stupid person.
PT: Do you have any last words for our readers before we wrap things up?
CR: If you’re a woman and you feel not good, I’ve got your fucking back. Everything is going to be okay. Keep your head up high. I know that’s tiring because we always have to do that. But the sun always rises! *She pauses* I know there is way more darkness in that. I’m still trying to figure it out myself.
This interview has been condensed and edited.