2018 In Review

Phoebe Bridgers Reviews 2018

The acclaimed singer-songwriter on Juuling with Jason Isbell, Yanny vs. Laurel, and Boygenius

Phoebe Bridgers won a lot of people over quickly. Amidst releasing her debut Stranger In The Alps last year, she immediately made her presence known: A gifted singer-songwriter often diving into confessional, melancholic depths while maintaining a sometimes-dry, sometimes-quirky sense of humor online and elsewhere. She was gifted, and she was interesting. We wound up naming Bridgers one of the best new artists of 2017, and in the year since her rise has not wavered.

For Bridgers, 2018 has been the kind of non-stop year a lot of acclaimed young musicians experience, when momentum picks up and you have to seize it. Having spent much of the year on the road with various tours and festivals, Bridgers also reissued Stranger In The Alps and made a late night TV debut on Conan. She even interviewed Mark Kozelek! And that’s just on her own, before we get to Boygenius.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a supergroup quite like Boygenius. Three celebrated songwriters early in their career, who just keep getting better, coming together and somehow instantly sounding like a band that was always supposed to exist. When Bridgers teamed with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, the three of them found kindred spirits with whom they were able to meld their specific talents. Their six-song EP was one of those rare instances in which you get three artists who are great on their own and whose collaboration is equally great. This this project doesn’t feel like a curiosity or a footnote in each of their individual careers. While we opted to include their release on our list of 2018’s best EPs, you’ll notice it’s popped up on a lot of end-of-year album lists. And, fair enough: In a year in which the distinctions between projects felt particularly blurry, the Boygenius EP felt like a more monumental work than many longer collections by their peers.

As the end of 2018 approaches, Bridgers has been riding a different wave of buzz with Boygenius and their relentless press tour (and actual tour). But going into 2019, chances are we’ll hear a lot of other stuff from Bridgers soon, too — social media quips, certainly, but also hopefully some new music. Before that happens, I caught up with Bridgers to say goodbye to 2018. We touched on some of her own year’s big moments but — as we just did with Snail Mail and Open Mike Eagle — we used this as an opportunity to subject one of our favorite artists of 2018 to all the dumb ephemera of the year. Below, check out Phoebe Bridgers’ 2018 exit interview to find out if she’s eaten any Tide PODS.

STEREOGUM: I know the logistics are complicated for Boygenius, but coming out of the other side of the tour and how well the EP was received, are you hoping to continue the project into next year at all?

PHOEBE BRIDGERS: We’re not sure. I think we’re trying to be as respectful to each other as possible. We all have such crazy schedules, and the whole point of this project was kind of being seen and heard by two people who understand you and your life. That being said, I’d fuuuucking love to make more stuff with those guys. I’m definitely looking forward to whenever that happens.

STEREOGUM: What else are you planning for next year?

BRIDGERS: I am producing my first record, I’m almost done. I’m really excited about that. It’s this guy Christian Lee Hutson. He plays in Jenny Lewis’ band and writes awesome songs.

STEREOGUM: Was it weird to switch into the producer role?

BRIDGERS: Well, no, weirdly Boygenius led perfectly into it, because we did it in the same place and worked with the same engineer. Boygenius was the first time I produced without a producer-producer in the room. It’s been crazy.

STEREOGUM: Speaking about 2018 more generally, was there other music you were particularly into?

BRIDGERS: It’s been such a long year. Historian came out this year, right? That record is absurd. The Mitski record is fucking absurd. The Soccer Mommy record is fucking absurd. So much of my favorite music came out this year.

STEREOGUM: Yeah I feel as if it’s been a strong year for younger singer-songwriters, just releasing these major albums that had room to shine with some of the big pop artists sitting it out or releasing duds. I don’t know how much you stay up on the pop world.

BRIDGERS: I always like what I hear, but I don’t necessarily seek it out. I love a good chorus, you know? I consider a lot of what I love pop. I consider Mitski pop.

STEREOGUM: Well, I’m guessing you heard about Justin Timberlake doing a duet with the Prince hologram at the Super Bowl. If you had to pick a hologram to perform with, who would you choose?

BRIDGERS: Like dead or alive?

STEREOGUM: Probably dead. Let’s go with dead.

BRIDGERS: [Laughs] Ok, let’s go with dead. Fuck. I want it to be specific to me, but I feel like if I answer this too genuinely I’ll start spiraling and think about how dark that would be. The obvious answer is Elliott Smith. But then I’d probably be like, “Hey, what the fuck is up dude?”

STEREOGUM: That’d be a heavy one.

BRIDGERS: That’d be heavy. What’s a light-hearted dead celebrity?

STEREOGUM: [Laughs] There were some big celebrity couples this year, generating memes, including Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande. There were several that came out of that, including the aftermath of “thank u, next.” I saw people meme’ing Boygenius with that. Did you see any of these?

BRIDGERS: [Laughs] Yeah.

STEREOGUM: If you had to say who would teach somebody love, patience, or pain from Boygenius, how would you break it down?

BRIDGERS: I think I’d probably have to give myself pain, honestly. I do the least “working on myself” in our band. I would have to give myself pain, give Julien patience, and Lucy love.

STEREOGUM: That’s a very tough self-assessment, but fair enough. So you don’t really pay attention to this stuff otherwise though.

BRIDGERS: I don’t really pay attention, but it fascinates me. I get texts from my mom about them once in a while.

STEREOGUM: Did you see any movies while you were on the road this year?

Bridgers: Wow, not really, I haven’t been to a movie in so long.

STEREOGUM: So you missed A Star Is Born.

BRIDGERS: I missed A Star Is Born. Everyone was like, “You’re gonna hate that.” [Laughs]

STEREOGUM: It’s funny, I have a skeptical attitude towards movies and TV about the music world and some musicians seem to love that movie.

BRIDGERS: I mean I’m gonna see it, for sure. I feel like as soon as it comes out on whatever streaming platform I will be watching it.

STEREOGUM: It’s definitely strange to see a theoretically Jason Isbell-type character putting people on private jets in a movie set in 2018.

BRIDGERS: [Laughs] Is that the most unrealistic part of it?

STEREOGUM: Um, probably not the most, but it’s up there.

BRIDGERS: I Juuled with Jason Isbell this year.

STEREOGUM: Oh, so you’re a Juul convert huh?

BRIDGERS: No! I hate it. I hate it so much. It’s so gross. But I was like, “This guy seems cool, he’s got one!” But no, it’s awful. They’re the worst.

STEREOGUM: That’s the first time you tried it?

BRIDGERS: I think I tried it before, but I tried the menthol one. It’s all bad.

STEREOGUM: There was an article this year about how teenagers are really into this now and don’t smoke cigarettes, and then they make fun of adults who do smoke Juuls. One of those weird 2018 topics.

BRIDGERS: I think that should be the new trend, for sure. Kids making fun of adults for smoking Juuls.

STEREOGUM: So if you’re gonna be self-destructive, go for the hard stuff.

BRIDGERS: Exactly. Analog.

STEREOGUM: “Analog self-destruction,” I like that. Are you a fan of “Africa” by Toto?

BRIDGERS: Uh, yes I am.

STEREOGUM: What did you think of Weezer’s cover?

BRIDGERS: I didn’t know that happened. I will definitely be looking this up immediately.

STEREOGUM: Are you a Weezer fan?

BRIDGERS: Yeah! Fuck yeah.

STEREOGUM: So this might be a good convergence of your interests.

BRIDGERS: But it also kinda makes me sad that I didn’t think of it.

STEREOGUM: That Boygenius didn’t cover it first?

BRIDGERS: Yeah, exactly. But we have some pretty good covers.

STEREOGUM: How would Boygenius cover “Africa”?

BRIDGERS: We would just dump all the responsibility on Julien because she’s the most musical. She would have totally arranged it perfectly.

STEREOGUM: I’m hoping if you ever get back together and do a debut there’s an “Africa” cover B-side. Were you a Kanye fan before all the recent debacles?

BRIDGERS: Well, Kanye to me was like what the aggro white boys in my 8th grade class liked. By the time I realized it was good, it was at the time he was not good anymore and being an asshole.

STEREOGUM: Yeah I’ve talked to a bunch of musicians who were very invested and then he’s in the Oval Office with Trump and it’s another way 2018 makes you feel as if your head’s imploding. Did you eat any Tide PODS this year?

BRIDGERS: I didn’t eat any Tide PODS this year.

STEREOGUM: I thought you and Jason Isbell might’ve had some Tide PODS with your Juul.

BRIDGERS: [Laughs] No. I wish the condom snorting had gone farther, though.

STEREOGUM: Wait, I think I missed this one.

BRIDGERS: Right after Tide PODS people were snorting condoms.

STEREOGUM: Oh, man, I forgot about this.

BRIDGERS: I wish that had gone farther. Safer, actually.

STEREOGUM: There you go, that’s one way to look at it. There was the false missile scare in Hawaii. And then all these goofy tweets that went viral about like what people did when they got the alert. Rather than seeking shelter, getting more food at the breakfast buffet or a dad who kept golfing. If you find yourself in a similar situation, what would you do?

BRIDGERS: I’m having an intellectual crisis. What would I do? Going back to the breakfast buffet does seem like a me thing. Or, nobody being in the hotel, I could be by myself in the hotel. Something sad like that. Something that comes from touring too much.

STEREOGUM: Just enjoying an empty hotel. Would you vote for Oprah in 2020?

BRIDGERS: Fuck yeah!

STEREOGUM: That was quick. I guess anything’s better at this point. Did you come across the Wal-Mart yodeling boy?

BRIDGERS: I have a friend who listened to his single exclusively for two weeks, so I feel pretty burned out on it.

STEREOGUM: Why is this friend listening to him so much instead of Boygenius.

BRIDGERS: Exactly. Come on, man.

STEREOGUM: Did Boygenius ever do the #InMyFeelings challenge on tour?

BRIDGERS: Wait, what is that?

STEREOGUM: You know, the Drake single, and people dancing, like jumping out of the cars to do so?

BRIDGERS: [Laughs] No, we did not, though we did slide on our stomachs across the bus floor.

STEREOGUM: Like, while you were killing time on the road? How did that become the game?

BRIDGERS: I don’t know, I feel like Julien and our tour manager, they secretly in a past life or in a future life are gonna be Parkour people.

STEREOGUM: Did anybody send you Yanny vs. Laurel?

BRIDGERS: Yes.

STEREOGUM: Which did you hear?

BRIDGERS: Yanny.

STEREOGUM: What?

BRIDGERS: 1,000%. Oh my God, everyone’s reaction is the exact same. To this day.

STEREOGUM: I heard “Yanny” when someone pitch-shifted it but, the normal one … you must have a unique musician ear. Wait, so what color did you think the dress was?

BRIDGERS: Blue and black.

STEREOGUM: Alright you and I have completely different perceptions of the world.

BRIDGERS: Wait, you — what? That’s fucked up. I wonder if there’s any correlation.

STEREOGUM: I was wondering about that today, yeah. Some kind of wiring. But, yeah, you’re the only person I’ve heard say Yanny. Do you know the song “Baby Shark”?

BRIDGERS: No.

STEREOGUM: OK, count yourself lucky. I had not heard it until I had to get ready for these interviews and now I can’t escape it and never want to hear music again. Did you play HQ on tour?

BRIDGERS: Oh my God, I was just telling a story about this. I played this corporate event, for money, very early in the year in San Francisco. It was so fun to play clubs but we were in a van and there was no tour budget so we found a couple little things to do along the way that felt like selling out 1,000%. This one was just three songs, at some ad agency. And people were screaming over me. I could’ve said anything and nobody would’ve given a fuck. It was only 30 people in the room, it was really embarrassing. Like, “How is this possible?” But I was playing acoustically, and Marshall, my drummer, was singing harmony. He played HQ during our set, with the music on! That’s how bad it was! Nobody gave a fuck. The HQ music was going and I didn’t know until after. I was like, “Did you check your phone?” and he was like “Yeah, I was playing HQ.”

STEREOGUM: I thought you were going to tell me everyone in the crowd was playing HQ instead of paying attention but no, they were just assholes.

BRIDGERS: We did have the HQ music for our walk-on music for a second. Also, I got the 11th answer right once, and I had never played, and it was very satisfying. And we won like, 45 cents.

STEREOGUM: Well, at least the rest of the year seems to have gone better from there.

BRIDGERS: It was night and day.