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Coming of Age with Boyhood

The Belleville musician is like a prog-grunge siren who can make up songs on the fly.

Caylie Runciman, aka Boyhood, is kind of scary. When she performs, she howls from behind unkempt hair and dark eyeshadow like the love child of PJ Harvey and Regan from The Exorcist. She even makes up all of her songs on the fly, making us wonder if she's channeling some kind of evil rock demon. All of all of this is, of course, a good thing.

Boyhood's prog-grunge compositions shun standard verse/chorus structure, instead coming in intense swells of noisy guitars and drums that morph from one melody to the next. She combines the pounding rhythms and off-key dirges of Nirvana with the atmosphere of a 1960s horror flick soundtrack to create something all the more visceral, haunting, and unexpectedly cathartic. It's especially impressive that she does this as a solo artist who plays all of the instruments on her recordings herself.

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In a lot of ways, working in isolation has been a crucial factor in the formation of her utterly unique sound. Runciman got started as a solo artist because she had trouble finding other musicians to play with while growing up in Belleville, Ontario. This led her to meddle with instruments in her basement, recording with a lo-fi setup, until the songs started to stick. Now she's still on her own, in a way, as she runs with Ottawa's punk scene while playing an entirely different style of music.

Right now, Caylie's recording a new album and getting used to playing live with a band on her increasingly frequent tours. We caught up with her to talk about her musical background, her songwriting style, and her upcoming plans:

How long have you been making music as Boyhood? What got you started?
I've been making music as Caylie since I was about 16. I put the name boyhood on my recordings about 2 years ago (around the time I got a band together to start playing live).

Why did you pick the name Boyhood?
I picked the name boyhood because I like the idea of boyhood… catching frogs, riding bikes, lighting fires… I guess those aren't specific boyhood things. I did all those things with my siblings. Mostly I just thought boyhood sounded good.

Has it ever confused any promoters/fans/Internet trolls who thought you were a dude?
I don't think the name has ever confused anyone…not that I'm aware of, anyway. I hope it has a chance to sometime. I think most of the time people don't realize it's just a girl anyway.

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You've said before that you want Boyhood to give people a "big" feeling. What do you mean by that?
Most of the time when I hear a song, or see a scene in a movie, or read a line in a book, that affects me in the way I want boyhood to affect people, I make sort of a grunty sound and grit my teeth and bury my face in my palms. That is the big feeling I've talked about - uncontrollable spasms of awesome stimulation.

What kind of music are you into, and how does it influence your work?
Most of the music I listen to is pretty minimal and often on the lower-fi side, and I think that's had a big impact on my sonic preferences as far as recording goes.

What was the first record you ever bought, and do you regret it today?
The first CD I ever bought was a later spice girls compilation. It had, "Viva Forever" on it, which was a song I was obsessed with that made me worry about the sun exploding for some reason, which is totally what I associate the Spice Girls with now: the apocalypse.

You write and record your music alone, yet your songs have a very spontaneous, noisy sound to them. How do you keep that quality despite having to plan out everything ahead of time?
If you think my songs have a spontaneous, noisy sound to them, that's because I'm usually making them up as I'm recording, and up until a few months ago I used a usb microphone to record all of my material. I just got an 8 track so there's going to be a shift in quality to some degree on the album I'm working on now.

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So there is a lot of improvisation in your songwriting?
All of my "songwriting" is improvised. I'm hesitant to even say I write songs. Usually what happens is I sit down to make something through a recording and it spurts out. At least that's how it has been for the most part until recently. I've been trying to work on having some rhyme and structure to my songs before recording recently. I do have most of the songs that exist in my head on recording in some form, or stored on a loop station. I like to get ideas out as quickly as possible before I forget about them.

Do you ever make up songs live?
With the constantly changing form of the live band, I often feel like we are making up the songs we're playing. It never sounds the same and is often thrown together last minute pretty sloppily. I find that fun, though. we've been switching between live drums and a machine lately which totally changes the way the live performance goes and sounds. I like the idea of something different every time and the idea of the audience not knowing what to expect.

Most of your songs are quite short - usually a little over two minutes. Is that a deliberate choice on your part?
Most of my songs are short. It's not deliberate or premeditated or anything. I have a short attention span myself and usually the songs I'm left wanting to keep going on are the ones I like the most.

You released a cover of "Blue Christmas" a few months ago. What do you like about that song? Are you into Elvis?
"Blue Christmas" is one of my favourite christmas songs. I am a very big Christmas song fan. I also enjoy Elvis and visited his house last year on tour down south, which was very exciting. I am a fan of the trolls in his basement.

What's next? Any recording plans? Touring plans?
Right now I'm in the process of recording an album that will be released in July. Then I'll start planning a tour for Fall.

@GregBouchard stole one of the trolls from Elvis' basement