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Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus Formed an Indie-Rock Supergroup

Category: Entertainment,Music

For a young musician to crash, suddenly, into renown and adoration can be disorienting. Writing and performing songs may turn fraught with expectations. The road becomes home; communing with audiences of strangers stands in for human connection. It’s a dream — and also just plain weird.

At least Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus have one another.

Each in their early 20s, all three have emerged in the last few years as singular forces in indie rock, earning acclaim for preternaturally sharp lyrics and commanding voices on albums that have set the bar for a new generation of singer-songwriters. They have also found common ground in their mutual isolation.

“It feels amazing to have people understand that I’m simultaneously so anxious and so bored and so busy all at once,” Ms. Bridgers said recently. “And so lucky.” Ms. Baker explained: “Things were happening for us all at the same time and I think we’ve gravitated to each other. Our personalities are really similar, how we view the world and our artistry and our position as musicians.”

A monthlong tour together this November was an obvious move. But starting a band on top of that was just more fun. What began as a plan to record a collaborative promotional single to advertise the concerts bloomed into a six-song EP by the trio, who have dubbed themselves boygenius — an inside joke that evolved into an ethos.

“We were just talking about boys and men we know who’ve been told that they are geniuses since they could hear, basically,” Ms. Dacus said, “and what type of creative work comes out of that upbringing.”

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Women, Ms. Baker said, “are taught to make themselves small. So when you’re a woman and there’s a producer or engineer that’s a man, you have to preface your ideas and seal them up in this little box of ‘I’m sorry, this might not be a good idea, this is just my observation…’”

For the “boygenius” EP, recorded over a few summer days in Los Angeles, the three musicians removed men from the equation, writing without their usual collaborators and self-producing, while also trying to embody some of the very qualities they were avoiding. “If one person was having a thought — I don’t know if this is good, it’s probably terrible — it was like, ‘No! Be the boy genius! Your every thought is worthwhile, just spit it out,’” Ms. Dacus said. “It was a way to do things quickly and confidently. We only had four days to go from zero to something, so we couldn’t waste time self-deprecating.”

The result was what the women described in separate interviews as one of the most fulfilling creative experiences of their lives, and each was giddy recalling the sessions. “I probably jumped up and down more times in that studio than ever in my life,” Ms. Bridgers said. “When one of us would hit another high note — ughhh, my God! So exciting.”

Ms. Baker called the process “extremely democratic.” Each artist brought ideas — “Like all great enterprises, we have a group text,” as well as a Google Drive, she said — and took the lead on two of the tracks.

While writing, “I tried to think about them and what we shared,” Ms. Dacus said. Distance, emotional and physical, was an overarching theme best encapsulated on the final song, “Ketchum, ID,” in which each woman sings a verse about the melancholy of life on the road.

Ms. Bridgers conceived of the song as a Carter Family number, and its refrain was sung by all three around one microphone: “I am never anywhere/anywhere I go/when I’m home, I’m never there/long enough to know.”

For this “Voltron or Power Rangers robot of indie music,” as Ms. Baker called it, the women cited previous supergroup trios like case/lang/veirs and Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, although the cover art is a winking reference to a Crosby, Stills & Nash album.

Still, the trio, similarly deliberate and measured in every action and utterance, cautioned that they did not want their camaraderie to be played as what Ms. Dacus referred to as a “marketing ploy.”

Ms. Baker said: “On one level I want it to be unremarkable that there’s no male to attribute control to. I want it to be unremarkable that three women — six with bass and drums and violin — played on this. But it’s a thing.”

She added: “We all felt more comfortable because we understand each other, because of our age and our careers, but also being women, the way we talk to each other is not with an inflation of ego or with a false persona of harshness, or some sort of weird bravado that does pollute interactions, even unknowingly, with dudes.”

They have similarly high hopes for the tour itself, growing animated at the idea of passing hours on the highway with a Dungeons & Dragons campaign (Ms. Dacus has promised to teach), tarot card readings (sans Ms. Baker, who doesn’t buy it) and chess tournaments (Ms. Baker has a travel set).

“November is a glowing moment that we’re all approaching,” Ms. Dacus said. “Who knows what’s going to happen after that? It doesn’t matter.”

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