Song-by-Song: ‘A Rosy Retrospect’ by Bryce Bowyn
Discover an electropop EP that takes inspiration from bad breakups, the DC drag scene, Ivanka Trump’s house and frat-boy cologne
Bryce Bowyn is a star in the making. Based in Washington, DC, he makes anthemic electropop that brings together elements of Lady Gaga, Erasure and ionnalee. Those influences are processed through his own filter and the resulting sound manages to be both unique and part of a clear lineage. An inspirational advocate for mental health in the LGBT orbit, Bowyn’s upcoming debut EP, A Rosy Retrospect, feels like an outburst of joyful resilience on both the macro and micro level. The pandemic, Trump’s America, the local drag scene and adventures of the heart all combine on this compelling collection of songs.
Deeply invested, we wanted our own retrospective from the EP’s creator…
Bye Bye is a really bombastic, over-the-top pop song. During the first summer of COVID, I was listening to a lot of dance music as a form of escapism from all the isolation. I was yearning to go out and dance. With this song, I knew I wanted to harken back to classic Europop sounds, but with my own dramatic, queer twist. Also, I for sure wanted a spoken word Countess Luann moment on the bridge.
Narratively, the song’s about knowing when a person shows their true colours for the nth time, you have to take the door and slam it in their face. Alex Flagstad, who produced all of the songs on the EP, created this amazing intro. I knew it had to kick off A Rosy Retrospect and there’s nothing better than starting a journey with a goodbye.
There’s a cologne that was so popular when I was in college. It’s called Bleu de Chanel. I don’t know if people still wear it. It’s a really heavy, expensive fragrance, but the guys that used to wear it were like frat boy jerks. But it smelled so sexy at the same time. So it was a complicated sensation when you were at the club and dancing with that type of guy, but he’s wearing this sultry cologne. I’ve been trying to put this concept to music forever.
Sonically, I wanted to pull in some B-52’s/Scissor Sister tones. I think that reflects the dirty, nightlife energy of the story. And it is a story song. We are telling the tale of one very chaotic night out. The verses are so rude with this Mother Goose spoken rhyme and then we get into some psychedelic sounds in the pre-chorus. It’s just bizarre. I love it. It’s my weird, little baby.
JUST LOVE ME
Just Love Me was the first song to come out from the EP. In DC, the drag scene is very cutting edge and visceral. The queens are glamorous, but sharp around the edges and the crowds eat it up. I wanted a particular group of queens to like me. I just wanted to be their friend. I started to get really jealous and projected a lot of negativity their way. I convinced myself that people were out to get me and purposely excluding me from performance opportunities and whatnot. It was all in my head essentially. I was standing in my own way.
Just Love Me is about those feelings of longing and jealousy as an entertainer and wanting a taste of the adoration drag artists get from their fans. 80s synths run rampant through this EP and Just Love Me has a classic synth line in the verses that is just beautiful.
Undress Me is actually the oldest song on the EP. I wrote it for a show I made for the DC Capital Fringe Festival a couple years ago. It sounded very different back then, but the bass line and huge, dramatic chords in the chorus come from that rendition. It originally was a sort of traditional, sexy pop song. Back then, I was a baby when it came to writing about sex. The lyrics were so cliché and overtly crass. This version is more about vulnerability and the lies we tell ourselves when we are in a relationship that works physically, but not emotionally. So it still has the packaging of a conventionally sexy song, but it’s sort of flipped in some areas.
Production-wise, I wanted to dabble in some industrial dance sounds, like Gary Numan and ionnalee. That’s a sound I can see myself experimenting with more in the future. Alex did a great job of marrying those references with the rest of the landscape we created within the EP.
After a bad breakup, I was in this messy situation with another guy. He wasn’t treating me very nicely, but I could tell he had feelings for me. I’m typically not the person to lie or play around with someone’s mind, but I was sick of having my heart broken and this guy was not respecting my boundaries. He was being a general sleaze. So I took the opportunity to get a little ruthless and be the heartbreaker for once.
The track itself has these breezy synths and a really fun drop. It’s meant to represent the juxtaposition between being cold and heartless, but also feeling that cathartic release after a period of misery.
Over the summer, I was going for a walk with a friend around Washington, DC. We passed by the house that Ivanka Trump used to rent when she, unfortunately, lived here. It’s such a nice house and all the homes around it were just spectacular. Meanwhile, I live in a tiny one-bedroom with ridiculous rent. Looking at this neighbourhood of wealth, I went, ‘Damn, I want that!’ and the hook for Nice Things immediately popped into my head.
People say money can’t buy you happiness. That’s probably true. But I just want a lush future filled with materialistic, beautiful things. Who doesn’t? It’s nice to dream about. It closes out the EP in a fun way with a very singalong-worthy chorus.