Over the course of the past year, Boroughs has gone from a newly-formed musical collective to one of the most exciting up-and-coming bands in Southern California. Blending elements of country rock, folk and soulful Americana, the band has meticulously crafted a sound reminiscent of Neil Young, Ryan Adams and Wilco.
Consisting of singer-songwriter Kyle Neal, guitarist JD Carrera, bassist Derrick Wong and drummer Tyler Johnson, the band’s songs explore themes of heartbreak, confusion and love, and in November, they will release their debut EP, which was mixed by John Spiker of Tenacious D.
How did you initially become interested in playing music?
Kyle: It started at a young age. My mom signed me up for kids choir at the church I grew up in, and I spent most of my younger years singing. When I was about 10 or 11, I started talking to my parents about taking up an instrument. It was either going to be guitar or piano and we didn’t have room in our house for a piano. I was very much an “indoor kid” who lived outside his school district so none of my friends lived close by. I didn’t spend much time running around with other kids. Instead I spent my time playing guitar and singing and eventually writing my own songs.
Growing up, who did you most enjoy listening to?
Kyle: Tom Petty always has been and always will be my favorite. I also grew up listening to a bunch of Fleetwood Mac and Eric Clapton. My dad also loved Sting and, to this day, I will defend my love of his music to anyone. It’s totally dad-rock, but I don’t care.
How has living in and around Los Angeles shaped both you and your music?
Kyle: Los Angeles has given me the gift of surrounding me with some of the most talented musicians in the world. I have had the honor of sharing the stage with some incredibly talented people. It has also forced me to do better. Something you find out really quick is that, when you live in a town like LA where a lot of talented people are, good is not good enough. There are always people who are creating great things and the only way to stand out is to be great. It’s not a competition but going to shows and seeing friends and strangers play truly inspiring music has pushed me to be better and to never settle for good.
How did the members of Boroughs initially meet?
Kyle: We all met at different times but had weird connections. I met JD first. He knew a roommate I had in college so one day he came over and brought a guitar. We got to talking and playing in my living room and we became really fast friends, though we never really made music together aside from the occasional living room jam. A couple years later I was asked to join a rock band that Derrick played bass for. They were looking for a replacement for their current guitar player and I was originally supposed to sub for one gig but ended up joining the band. Coincidentally enough, I found out later that the guitar player I was replacing was actually JD.
Anyways, I ended up playing with that band for two years and every summer for 2-3 months, Derrick and I lived in a van together touring the country. It was a huge learning experience for me but the time eventually came for me to leave that band and start my own project. Derrick would also strike out on his own at the same time to pursue freelance playing. After starting my solo project, I would ask JD and Derrick to play with me for shows but the lineup was never set in stone and I also played with quite a few other musicians around town.
After a couple years of the solo project I got bored and wanted to start something bigger than myself. I called up JD and Derrick and asked if they wanted to start a band. We played as a three piece with hired drummers for a while until JD mentioned his buddy Tyler was available to play. Tyler’s then-band was in the process of dissolving and he had recently moved to LA from Orange County. We had him in for a rehearsal and knew right away he’d be a great fit.
What is your songwriting process? Has it changed or evolved over the years?
Kyle: My songwriting process has (and I think should for everyone) changed drastically over the years. I see it as less of a process and more as a series of experiments.
The initial spark is magical and mystical and I honestly can’t tell you where it comes from. I’ll be in the shower or on the freeway or in the middle of a dream and something will come to me. I immediately grab my phone to record a voice memo to get the initial idea down and then from there the writing process is different every time. Sometimes I grab a guitar and figure out the music then write lyrics to it. Sometimes I write all the lyrics then sit down and figure out how to make sense of it musically. Sometimes I force myself to write on instruments that I don’t know how to play. Sometimes I even force myself to conceptualize everything in my head and write the entire song without touching an instrument. At the end of the day, I try to let the song guide me through the “process” as much as possible.
How did you first become acquainted with John Spiker, and what role has he played in shaping the band’s sound?
Kyle: John was a friend of my roommate’s. When I decided I wanted to make an EP, I originally planned to have my buddy Noah Gundersen come down from Seattle and we would make this record in my garage studio. We had everything lined up but Noah ended up having to cancel due to a scheduling conflict (fun fact: That scheduling conflict was him deciding to go back into the studio to make what would later become Carry the Ghost, a record that if you haven’t heard, you need to stop reading this now and go listen to immediately). After it didn’t work out with Noah, I was back to the drawing board. I had a couple meetings with producers and engineers, but John really stood out to me. His studio was very comfortable, he had everything we would need to make a great record and John’s whole attitude about everything was exactly what I wanted. Someone who was first and foremost interested in making something that he would be proud of. I could feel his genuine interest in the project and I knew that would eventually translate to a great sounding record.
When you’re not performing or recording, how close are the members of Boroughs? Let’s say one of you is having a BBQ… do all of the other band members get an invite?
Kyle: I would say we’re very close. These guys are some of my best friends regardless of the music we make. Even if they were to all quit tomorrow I’d still be drinking with them five nights out of the week.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
Kyle: The Martian. Hands down.
After your EP is released, what’s next for Boroughs?
Kyle: World domination? We’re working on our EP release party now (which we’re REALLY excited for). We’re also playing a few out of town dates. I think the main plan is to start touring and building our fanbase outside the LA area.