The first thing that struck me about Lexie Papilion’s LA-based band, Bloodboy, was the name. Before listening to “Fuck Yourself,” the first track off their recently released debut EP, The Best of Bloodboy, I was picturing Ozzy Osbourne ripping a bat head to pieces on stage or some post-grunge mayhem being played in a dank mid-Western basement. In other words, music to mosh to. But instead, a light, rapid guitar twinkled through the speakers, fading in like the start of an older Arcade Fire song. The bassline thumped alongside a steady drumbeat and then Papilion’s vocals dropped, washing away any disturbing thoughts with a charming and confident post-punk flare. Since then, I’ve listened to this six-song EP dozens of times through and underneath Papilion’s naturally soaring vocals and shimmering electro-finish, there is an impressive, confessional storyline that deals with unstable relationships and the need to find yourself. This is a universal listening experience. This is Bloodboy.
“Fuck Yourself” is a sleek, beautiful pop song that Papilion uses to immediately open us up to her imperfections: “But that don’t mean I never grow weak.” This track touches on Papilion’s desire to be distracted by someone she knows is wrong for her. In this scenario she is not in control: “Baby, I must tell you that I’m / Out of my mind.” But instead of saying “Go fuck yourself,” she admits to us that she doesn’t have the power to do so. What I love so much about this EP, is how connected and honest the songs are, while sounding at first like they could be mainstream radio hits. For, “Fuck Yourself” could definitely be a precursor to another tune off the EP, “Drunk You,” where the drumbeat disappears entirely, and is instead replaced by the desired shithead character Papilion can’t totally tear herself away from.
“Drunk You” may be the most memorable song on the EP due to it’s haunting intro. Papilion’s voice beautifully crawls toward us through her own venting understanding; a love song doused in reality. We, as listeners, know that whoever she is singing about in “Drunk You,” holds major weight in her life. She brings us farther into the relationship put forth in “Fuck Yourself,” and highlights the heartbreaking reason she can’t totally detach. Because even though, “Drunk you won’t even call me when I’m crying,” the fact is, “Drunk you can’t pretend you don’t care.” These lyrics mixed with Papilion’s pained, impressively controlled vocals are aided by a lonely guitar, which works well in terms of promoting the feeling of dreams destroyed. They seem to shatter and dissipate into the light clash of the symbols and background static as the song finally fades out leaving us wondering about trust. How do we trust other people? And more importantly, how do we trust ourselves?
Instability progresses through another upturned relationship between Papilion and her mother on “Mom, I’ve Changed.” This is a very catchy, more indie-pop influenced track with a jumpy baseline, a fun drumbeat and a killer bridge. What is worth pointing out here is Papilion’s playful self-confidence at the beginning: “I’m in trouble with my mother / She’s concerned I’ve lost my mind for real this time.” Poking fun at her mental state eventually builds toward an incredibly human experience as the bridge drops and we hear, “But I’m still your daughter / And you’re still my mother.” Papilion, if anything, is not letting things go on this EP. She’s confronting her problems in any way she can, even if it is confrontation through questioning. The laid-back tone and wavy synths fill in any surface-level panic, but with the outro comes an earnest apology: “I’m sorry if I hurt you / That’s not what I wanted.” What is memorable about this point in the song is how the tone changes, as it would if anyone were apologizing to someone they care about. The voice quickens and becomes more matter-of-fact. Yes, I hurt you, but we are still related and everything is going to be fine. Are we okay? What I also found sonically engaging about this outro was how Papilion got a bit surfy, sounding similar to Alaina Moore from indie-pop duo.
Ever since Bloodboy gained publicity with their single, “Hey Kid,” they have been compared to groups such as The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Phantogram, and Florence The Machine. I think these comparisons are most evident through “Keep Your Disease.” This track possesses an edge that forces its way to the core of how we live. Papilion was quoted saying that this song is a “call to action,” that “the disease is actually your true inner desires.” We tend to avoid our natural impulses because we’re scared what everyone else will think. Even if we are alone. With a shrill, energized spirit, Bloodboy brings this travesty to light: Our “every little voice buried by the noise.” We are constantly being drowned out and bombarded by our surroundings, and it seems that this is how we lose ourselves. “Keep Your Disease” is an anthem that we can all adopt.
“Hey Kid” comes as a possible resolution to the relationship portrayed in “Fuck Yourself” and “Drunk You.” Because it appears later in the track list, there is a calming self-understood tone in the lyrics and vocals, in which she finally admits that “love isn’t good enough / To shake you awake.” Instead of reconciling with her distraction, she decides that she must let it go. And below this well-produced, extremely catchy low-key pop song, is a feeling of released denial, a step forward. At first, I wasn’t totally excited by Bloodboy’s sound, due to the innate catchiness and pop-aura it emits. I didn’t expect there to be as many layers as there are. As I kept listening, there was this immense feeling of breaking out that I gravitated toward. Since then, I’ve realized that this EP and Lexie Papilion provide listeners with a sonic quest of self-exploration. Halted at a crossroads for quite some time, the journey finally takes a legitimate turn when Papilion’s magnificent voice rises to the highest pitch on “Hey Kid:” “Give me one real word / And I’ll give you back your voice.” Obviously this never happens. So she moves on and reflects back.
The final song on the EP, “Human Female” marks the beginning of this entire project. When we are in the middle of a life-changing decision, or a traumatic moment, we sometimes have trouble describing it in first-person. This is the only song on Best of Bloodboy that Papilion sings in second-person even though it is painstakingly personal. Papilion describes this song as being about a woman who “has completely lost sight of herself…She can’t identify anything about herself beyond her most basic label as a ‘human woman.” This is also a track about looking back, retreating to a past that is so far from you that it has been subconsciously covered up, disguising any suffering that may have taken place. Papilion does an amazing job at blending these past memories with present circumstances by clouding the semi-forgotten details of childhood: “Hide until you see the colors you saw when / Dawn was just a symbol giving you the time.” Like a kid, the woman in this song craves a savior: “You wanted to be lost until you were really lost.” By making this the conclusion to her project, Papilion has allowed us to reflect with her on this crisis-period of trying to become the artist she knew she had to be.
Give Bloodboy’s EP, Best of Bloodboy a go and stay tuned for a FeedingEars exclusive interview with Bloodboy’s very own Lexie Papilion within the next week.
Music Video for “Human Female:”
Directed by Millicent Hailes