Illegally Blind‘s Boston En Masse was a three-day celebration of some of Boston’s most dedicated performers. The venues of the Middle East Upstairs and Great Scott were packed with familiar faces and considerable talents. At events like this, one is reminded of the vibrant local music scene. Local bands like Skinny Bones, Dent, Jaw Gems, Lady Bones, Anjimile, Ursula, Harmoos, Guerilla Toss, So Sol, Peachpit, Gracie, Abadabad, STL GLD, and IAN often play with exuberance. Sometimes I wonder where they get all this energy from. One can tell how passionate they are about their sounds. They shared the stages with respect and love; resembling a powerful musical community. The closer the community, the more productive it becomes. It took me awhile to adapt to the local music culture in Boston. Once I got accustomed to the tradition that embraces humility, contribution, honesty, and cooperation, I appreciated it. It’s meaningful to see individuals helping to promote one another. We should be proud of this ongoing community. One can think of all the gigs booked every night, and the amount of live shows played around the city, throughout the year, to illustrate my point. During the last night of Boston En Masse, I met and danced to Radclyffe Hall: a fairly new talent that I don’t see quite often. Dhy Berry was previously hired to play bass with the Cliks and toured with them. She formed Radclyffe Hall, who is nominated for the BMA’s 2015 Electronic Artist of Year. Other nominees include Skinny Bones, who I previously interviewed, and our wicked talented friends from St.Nothing. Dhy is planning to take a break from performing. She will be working on the band’s debut album, Ghosts, that will be released on Cleopatra Records in 2016.
LB: You guys don’t play live that often, is that true?
D: I try to keep it pretty minimal. The last local gig I played was on the 2nd of October, and before that, it probably wasn’t since July. I try not to play too much because I don’t want to oversaturate myself. I kind of build a little hype, you know what I mean?
LB: Is that a strategy you use?
D: I think it is strategic. I can’t play shows every month because how can I expect those people to come out every month. It’s going to be a different show every time. It is hard for me to put that kind of pressure on myself to try to reinvent it. It is technically a different show every time. I don’t know what I’m going to say, or how the audience is going to interact, you know you feed off each other. But I think it is important to just to like pull back sometimes and really think about what you’re trying to do, what you’re trying to create. Take a moment, you don’t have to play so much, chill out.
LB: Chill out, it’s good to chill out. What your favorite spot to play in?
D: So far, it’s been the Sinclair. They have amazing sound. We got the opportunity back in April when we opened for Passion Pit. I could hear everything. It was just amazing. Not only just hearing it but like the interaction with the staff that work there and the hospitality. It was a positive experience. It’s been my favorite and I hope that we do play there again. I hope that we get other opportunities to play at other venues, keep that up!
LB: Have you ever toured?
D: Yeah, We’ve had like mini-tours. In March, we did SXSW. And in late October, we did like an East Coast mini tour; couple dates. That was fun. It’s cool being in a small area with some of the coolest people you can know, but then you’re like dude, you smell.
LB: (Laughing) What do you think of the local music community here?
D: I think Boston is really starting to really like make its own community with that. I think in the past it’s been rather difficult because you have music students and different avenues of the arts here. People flock to New York, Nashville or L.A., to more quote-unquote established scenes. But I feel like those who remain in Boston, who come up through not only that avenue, but other avenues regarding just like being musicians, collaborating and going to shows and supporting. I feel like we are really starting to make our own scene, our own voice. You know, people have knocked Boston, here and there. I just think we’re starting to stand tall. We’re going to be able to battle with the L.A.s, the Nashvilles and the Austins.
LB: I agree, there is so much happening in the local art and music scene. There isn’t enough time to attend all these exhibits and gigs. There are shows happening every night, whether it is a private space, gallery, bar or venue.
D: I want to get into these private spaces. You know, the really intimate shows where you’re standing right up against them. You could feel all their emotion and sweat. I want to be more into that. I actually did a show like that last December. I rented out a loft, invited people and got my friend Pete from Narragansett to donate some beers. We rented out equipments and invited friends out to play. It was really cool and intimate, exactly what I wanted it to be. I love it.
LB: The more intimate the experience, the better. I’m actually going to two private gigs tonight at the Black Lodge and ER. I can’t think of something else better to do than that. There is quality in their sounds. In your song, Stars, you sing, “It takes a star, to be a star.” What takes a star to be a star?
D: I just think it is somebody who like basically has qualities to be someone great. And they may not necessarily know that in the beginning. You can’t be someone influential, someone who resonates with people without having some sort of great talent, regardless of what that talent is, you know what I mean? It takes someone to be confident and believe in themselves because you have to be your biggest fan. So having that, and I feel if you can tap into that and believe, you can become something like on star status.
LB: The mystical meaning of being a star? Not like the cliché or shallow sense of being a star. That’s what I got from your song.
D: It doesn’t have anything to do with it. That’s what I like about music and lyrics, you can make your own interpretations — how it resonates with you. You think about a subject and the melodic and harmonic phrases in the songs and how that makes you feel. You hear a certain chord and you’re like uh, that made me feel sad, or feel like man that makes me feel triumphant. I feel that music does that, and I’m glad you have that interpretation of that song.
LB: You’re music has been described as dark pop. I honestly think you’re lyrics are positive and empowering. It’s not dark poppish in a sense where it’s like Austra or MS MR, divas singing about their broken hearts, and that’s just a bad trip, who wants to dance on that?
D: I want to know what do you think the genre should be?
LB: Synth or electro pop. What do you think?
D: I have some songs that are more positive but I mean if you want to think about the lyrics and how you interpret it, there are some positive meanings like Dare to Dream. But, the harmonic structure behind it makes it sound dark. I think it’s more over alternative synthpop. It’s kind of hard labeling it because I have so many influences, stylistically. I’m originally a bass player. It’s cool you can see that. There is multiple layers.
LB: Yes, there are multiple layers, and I’m here to analyse those layers and dig deep. That’s why I’m here. How can we get your upcoming album?
D: We’re signed to Cleopatra Records, it’s not going to be coming out till next year. Once it’s ready for review, I’ll definitely give it to you.
LB: Cleopatra? Like the Egyptian queen?! Where is it?
D: It’s in L.A.. It’s a indie record label. It’s been around since ‘92. They do pretty well. I learned that DMX is on that label, or at least they have his catalog. They’re definitely are digging more into this synth dark area. I’m glad we got picked up by them last year.
LB: How did that happen?
D: They heard our music. They liked the way we represented ourselves. People were responding and they were like hey, this is a band maybe we can help take further. I guess next year we’ll see.
LB: You named your band after Radclyffe Hall the writer?
D: Yeah, that’s where it comes from. It resonates. It has these hard consonants. It’s a seller name. Also, the author, she basically wrote stories and poems that transcended her time.
LB: Who are your band members and what is your instrument?
D: I studied bass at Berklee. I met Carl who plays the acoustic drums there. We reunited earlier last year. Then I met Sean, he’s the electronic drummer. I kind of harassed him and he was lured in. Jackie we met through a mutual friend who is doing some management work for me. She’s been a great musical companion.
LB: So you’re 4? Do you think that’s the magic number for bands?
D: I think whatever number works for your musicianship and your craft, that’s the number you need to use. For us, I guess it’s 4. Who knows, it may in the future it would be 5.
LB: Keep expanding man!
I ended the interview laughing. I can picture 20 members of a marching band covering a Radclyffe Hall track. Dhy Berry wrote the following song for a friend who passed away, wishing him well in his journey: