Bad and Booji: Devolving in Style With Booji Boys’ Cody Googoo
It’s been next to impossible to get my hands on Booji Boys’ self-titled debut LP. Released by U.K.-based Drunken Sailor just last month, the original run of 300 records has already sold out. A second pressing is not far behind, though I’m not sure my chances of gettting a copy of that are any better.
The enthusiasm is well-deserved. The album is a hooky, economical slice of power-pop. Though their name inevitably invites comparisons to Devo, the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based five-piece sound more garage-y and lo-fi than anything off of even the Hardcore Devo comp. Their guitar work summons energetic, boundless melodies, while the vocals are far from Mark Mothersbaugh’s stilted delivery (even though they sound like they're being sung through a rubber mask).
Even before the LP was ready, there was serious excitement about the group, generated via the popular YouTube account Jimmy, which posted the record in full in early January. Since then, Booji Boys has garnered upwards of 8,000 plays, the highest amount of any record posted on Jimmy’s account this year, and nearly eight times the amount of plays a regular video on Jimmy’s page receives. Only the Coneheads’ Colekted Mix has generated the same amount of fanaticism. Booji Boys haven’t had the benefit of being part of a buzzed-about scene like Northwest Indiana, though. In fact, this kind of international excitement about a band from Halifax is kind of rare.
In an interview with CLRVYNT, Cody Googoo, the architect behind Booji Boys, explains that the relative size of Halifax’s punk scene — as well as its isolation from the rest of Canada and the U.S. — makes it difficult for bands to tour and play shows in support of the records they’ve made. Googoo would know — he’s been playing punk forever, in bands like Envision, Concrete Asylum, Negative Rage, Grump, Alienation, Carcass Toss and Fragment. Despite appearances, Booji Boys haven’t come out of nowhere. There’s a small, but incredibly active punk scene in Halifax, and maybe now, thanks to the Boojis, people are starting to take notice.
So, you’re about to go in for hip replacement surgery. Was that from a skateboarding accident?
Well, no. It was something I was born with, and over the years they’ve said I needed to get hip replacements. I was always too young to do a surgery like that before. I just turned 26, so now I’m like, “Get me in there.” I had the other one done last winter, so ... yeah, this is my last one.
And you’re going in tomorrow?
Yeah. I probably won’t be making any sense for the next week or so.
Your band is named after the Devo character Booji Boy. I think the first time I learned about Booji Boy, it was from watching that Neil Young film Human Highway, and seeing him perform from a crib. Are there plans for any members of the band to use a crib onstage?
I mean, that might have to happen for me, because I might be laid up still when we have some shows we’re supposed to play at the end of the month. Potentially that, or I’ll be in a wheelchair or something like that.
What is it about that character in particular that speaks to the band?
It was funny because the whole Booji Boy reference gets thrown around a lot, but when Steve [Earle, guitarist] originally came up with the idea for the name, I thought it was awesome, but also pointed out that we could tie it to the Devo character. We just went for that, and so when we made the first demo cover, I thought it’d be funny to just have all of our faces on it and random pictures of the Booji Boy himself. I drew fake glasses on everyone and put fucking shit on their cheeks to make them look red. Initially, it wasn’t a direct Devo reference, but it just worked out that way.
How did the Booji Boys form?
Last winter, out of just having free time after that last surgery, it was an idea me and Steve [had], who I play with in Fragment and Alienation. We wanted to start a band that was poppy, but still have a punk influence. We just like '70s punk and wanted to do something like that, because most of the other bands we’ve been in have been straight-up hardcore or D-beat bands, so Booji Boys was our attempt at making pop songs, I guess. Me and Steve recorded the whole first demo ourselves, on a four-track, and then with those six songs recorded, we sent them to people who were in bands we liked. That’s how we got Alex [Mitchell] to come in and throw vocals on all of the tracks, and that was the first demo tape.
Some of the songs from that first demo ended up on the full-length you just put out with Drunken Sailor. How did you go about writing and recording it?
Well, that came after we had shown the demo and formed a lineup. We showed it to Adam LeDrew, Justin Crowe and Alex Mitchell, who became the rest of the band. Once we started jamming those songs for a show, we were like, “Oh man, these songs sound totally different, so let’s record them again with a full band.” The other songs came really quick. We recorded it in August, and messed around with it and mixed the record for a long time, but uh, yeah, Drunken Sailor wanted to put it out. That’s how it all came together.
With those songs you wrote as a full band, did everyone bring something to the table? How did having five members change the writing dynamic?
Right now, we’re working on a new full-length, and we just recorded something else on a four-track, which is coming out on a 7". Everyone is bringing songs to the table now, and it’s awesome because the next couple things we put out are going to be a mishmash of songs. I’m pretty stoked on that because I don’t have to worry about trying to write as many songs myself, so it’s pretty nice.
That said, you do write a pretty prolific amount on your own. Do you get exhausted by that, or do these different projects you’re involved with start with a new idea for a new sound?
Pretty much they all just form out of ideas. I’ll just start up a couple of songs and start jamming them with people, and then other songs just take form from being in a jam. Songs come out pretty quick that way. You could be [in] a jam, bring a riff, and someone else has another riff and it just comes together. You just feed off of each other.
You were saying earlier that people tend to focus a lot on the Devo influence on the band. What are some reference points for you or the rest of the guys that might surprise people?
For me, Johnny Thunders, the Dead Boys, Motörhead and this band from California from the '80s called the Crowd that I really like. Those types of bands, and later stuff like Jay Reatard, Liquids and all those Midwest bands. Just rock 'n' roll and CCR and stuff like that.
Oh, CCR, right. The album art is inspired by them, right?
Yeah, the first album’s art is just a ripoff of CCR’s. Yeah, I really wanted to rip that off. My friend Dylan [Chew], who I play in Unreal Thought with, did the photo. I told everyone in the band to come by my place, and when they came by, I already had tons of shit laid out in the backyard, all set up, and we took the photo. My friend Justin [Briggs], who runs Warthog Speak and put out the Alienation records, he was able to draw the border part and whip up the whole thing.
Sounds like between all of the bands you’re all in, not to mention the people who helped you put this album together, this has been a real community effort. Is the punk scene in Halifax going particularly strong right now?
There’s people here who are into punk, but it’s always this small group of the same 10 people playing in bands with each other that really make up the scene. But I’ve been hearing about a lot of younger kids now, people who have started bands, but just haven’t played live yet. I’m stoked to just go see new bands, because if there’s a punk show happening in Halifax, it’s usually me, Steve or Ben [Radford] or someone else playing two sets. There’s not really many other bands. Overall, there’s a lot of bands in the music scene here in Halifax, but in terms of the punk scene, there’s not really too much going on right now. Hopefully that changes this summer.
But the few people that there are, are very active.
Yeah, exactly. But it’s the same thing in every city — you just have more people going to those shows. There might be 50 people who go to shows here, and no bands come here to tour at all, because we’re so far away from everything. We might get two or three shows a year where a band comes through. The TV Freaks have come through a lot, which is nice, but there haven’t been too many other punk bands doing that.
I guess a major way to draw people to shows is having touring bands to headline. Do they come by with more frequency in the summer?
Usually. There’s been some talk of bands coming here this summer, which should be rad.
Your debut record has proved pretty popular, and has already sold out of its first pressing. How many were pressed in that first run?
Three-hundred. There was 100 on purple, and 200 on black.
Were you surprised at all by the response?
Oh, I’m shocked. I can’t believe it. I was scared to death when Julian [Stevenson] said he wanted to put it out. [Laughs] Just from where we’re from, it’s hard for us to go away and play shows with everyone’s schedule. We might be able to drive to Montreal on a weekend and play a show without anyone having to take off work or anything like that. But I mean, it sucks. It’s a 12-hour drive away to play an actual bigger city. I feel like we don’t get to go out and play the records we make. I’m always like, “Oh fuck, you want to put out a record for us? I hope you can get rid of it.”
How did Drunken Sailor first get in touch?
I sent an email a while ago because I was asking about other records he was putting out at the time, and then we just got talking, and I brought up the Booji Boys demo, and he really, really liked it. He asked if we were doing anything else, and that’s how it came about.
Considering how many bands you’re in, what do you think it is about this particular band that resonates with people? Or are you just in the right place at the right time?
Uh, yeah, I don’t know. I feel like it’s more or less the time and place, with all the bands these days, and any reason why we’ve been asked to put something out is because of Jimmy’s YouTube. I don’t think people would hear about it elsewhere. When I make a tape, I try to send them everywhere I can. Like, Sorry State has taken most of what I’ve done over the years, which is a huge thing, but Jimmy’s YouTube is huge. So many people go on that and check things out. How else would people hear about bands from the east coast of Canada? I’ve said it in another interview in the past: I feel like now, more people from other cities know about punk in Halifax, and now people in Halifax also know there’s punk bands in their own city.
Just looking at the YouTube right now, 7,200 views of the LP, and 1,684 of the Sweet Boy EP, which just came out a month ago. It’s pretty amazing.
Yeah, it’s crazy. Neck Chop Records wants to put out a 7" of the Science Project tapes I did last winter. And I still have people emailing me wanting those tapes, and I’m still shocked. It’s all because of this YouTube channel that people got to see it.
Is that Science Project thing something you’re still working on, too, or is Booji Boys your main project at the moment?
Uh, yeah. I have a couple of other projects I’ve been doing. I always keep busy with something. But yeah, Booji Boys, Alienation and Fragment, and there’s a couple other little projects I might do myself. As far as things coming out in the future, the Science Project 7" should be out sometime soon.
Yeah, I noticed someone’s been updating the Negative Rage Bandcamp finally, too.
That’s Luke [Mumford] who’s doing that, actually. He’s the one that records every band I’m in, and is one of my good, good friends, and has played in all my favorite Halifax bands.
Are there any plans to tour with Booji Boys?
We’ve been asked to play a few fests this summer, and I think we’re going to do that and maybe down the road look at touring. Maybe towards next winter. But the fests work out with everyone’s schedules, just taking off weekends here and there.
Booji Boys are playing It’s Cold Outside in Toronto, May 5 - 7, and Ottawa Explosion June 14 - 18.