Photo by Courtney Brooke

Burn It Down: Interview With Boy Harsher

One of my favorite bands to burst into the scene in the last ten years is the electronic duo Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller, professionally known as Boy Harsher. With songs in both Terrifier 2, and Halloween Ends, their horror short, The Runner, in prime real estate on the streaming platform Shudder, and sold out shows across the world, the last year has been good to the band. On a whim, I reached out to them on Instagram and asked for an interview, which they enthusiastically agreed to. We chatted via phone about The Runner, James Duval, movies and soundtracks, what’s up next, and more!

Photo by Emma Wondra

PopHorror: Thank you so much for your time. I know you’re super busy and getting ready to go on tou. So you both met in film school. Was there a specific filmmaker or movie that you bonded over?

Jae Matthews: That’s a good question.

Gus Muller: What were you watching at the time?

Jae Matthews: I guess when I moved to Savannah, Georgia, I was really enamored with the idea of contemporary American Gothic films. David Gorden Green was a really big inspiration because I was into absurd realism. But I also remember Gus and I talking a lot about David Lynch. I don’t think I made that up.

PopHorror: Your short film, The Runner, is featured on Shudder. It’s wildly popular, and sold out of its initial run on VHS. How did this idea come about?

Still from The Runner

Gus Muller: It kind of came out of a little bit of chaos during the lockdown of Covid. We were working on some music, and the music was sort of all over the place. We’d been working on some sounds and vocal features, and it came time to put it all together. The songs felt a little desperate, so we wanted something to tie them together. We had the idea of making a film that incorporated all the songs, and then we could release the album as a soundtrack to the film.

PopHorror: And it’s amazing, so thank you for putting that out there. Can we talk about how great James Duval is?

Gus Muller: He’s a total professional. We only had a couple hours with him, and he just got there and just crushed it. Great guy.

Jae Matthews: Yeah, I think everyone was a little enamored with him when he walked in, and it turns out he’s like the nicest guy in the world, so it’s a little unnerving. Everyone was like, “Oh my god, there he is!” And he’s like, “Hey, what do you do? Oh cool, makeup? That’s cool, tell me about it.” He’s very, very ingratiating and very nice.

Still from The Runner

PopHorror: That’s so awesome. I interviewed him last year and he gushed about you guys.

Jae Matthews: Aww!

PopHorror: And about The Runner. You both seem like you’re obvious horror fans. You’ve had some songs, like “Pain” in Terrifier 2, and Daniel Isn’t Real, and you created “Burn it Down” for Halloween Ends. How does it feel to have your songs featured in such prominent horror releases?

Gus Muller: It’s definitely an honor. I mean, to write something original for the Halloween franchise. That’s like, a dream come true. And then Terrifier 2, just to be included in that… I’m happy that film is doing so well. It feels like being a part of history.

PopHorror: It was really cool to hear “Pain” in that film. If it made me happy, I can’t imagine how it feels for you, to have it in something so anticipated. I don’t know of any other horror film recently, as highly anticipated as Terrifier 2. That’s amazing.

Jae Matthews: They did it right.

PopHorror: They did! What are some of your favorite music scores and soundtracks?

Jae Matthews: We always talk about, and I think we really tend to get into The Thing, because it’s a fascinating decision by John Carpenter. We’re also huge Carpenter fans. He was like, “I want to make a movie and I want to hire the best composer,” and he hired Ennio Morricone. That soundtrack, in my opinion, is very evocative and aggressive in the right way. I think it really fits the landscape so I love it a lot. And then of course Philip Glass for Candyman. We were lucky enough to see a 35mm print and I felt blown away with how well everything fit together, including the score.

Gus Muller: I’ve been going back to the Jóhann Jóhannsson Mandy soundtrack a lot recently.

PopHorror: That’s a great one!

Gus Muller: I like that film. Soundtracks are funny because it’s like you listen to them separately from the movie and it’s a totally different experience.

Jae Matthews: Yeah!

Gus Muller: But back to the Mandy soundtrack, it’s just an amazing album.

Photo by Angela Owens

Jae Matthews: Yeah, Jóhann Jóhannsson, I feel like that’s one of his powers. He’s able to create something that can stand or exist very much on its own. RIP. That dude was so, so good.

PopHorror: The Mandy soundtrack is absolutely incredible. And I agree that some songs hit differently when you’re watching them in the movie than when you’re listening to them in the car. 

Gus Muller: It makes a movie. When you listen to it you get to visualize your own movie.

PopHorror: What do you guys do for fun on tour? How do you keep your tour life separate from your personal life?

Jae Matthews: That’s a tough one. I think for the first question, the tour… Show days are full days because typically we try to load in and sound check three or four hours before doors. But if we happen to be in a city with a day off or some time, it’s really important to walk around. We have been really fortunate to be able to tour places last year that we’ve never been to, and this year – Australia and South America – so walking around trying to see some sites. I am a big food idiot so I love to go to fancy restaurants, and I begrudgingly drag my crew along, and I actually got reprimanded. I’m only allowed to do that once on tour now so I really have to pick one restaurant that I love. Yeah, I’m such a sucker for nice food and also getting into the culture of the place we happen to be. Like what is the fish that they eat there? What wine are they really proud to share with you? For personal life… I don’t know. It’s very elusive. It’s very hard to compartmentalize your life that way, and I think that’s true for anything. It’s not just music. It can be hard to disengage your personal life and your professional life.

PopHorror: I can imagine that it’s very difficult. Going back to when you’re trying to experience the culture of wherever you’re at that night. I think that’s one of the fun things about traveling, getting to experience where you are and what makes that region special. I love to hear that because I’m also a foodie.

Jae Matthews: Really!

Photo by Emma Wondra

Gus Muller: I’m a foodie, but I like to find the $6 bánh mì. The honey spots. I don’t like to go to a restaurant and get scammed.

Jae Matthews: This is where the disturbance happens. I don’t really regard small places necessarily as a scam, but Gus, and then consequently our crew that are on Gus’ team here, they get really bummed out when we go to a spot and the dish is like the size of your palm. But I’m down. Usually I’m like, “Cool. Alright. Give it to me.” I think it also showcases how tour exaggerates your differences, your different interests. And sometimes it can be a little lonely because it’s not like I can call up a friend of mine and be like, “Hey, we both share this interest in oysters. Let’s go!” But yeah, you’re also right. Travelling is incredibly special because you get to really envelope yourself in a different zone and we’re really lucky enough that we get to tour in countries where people are such proud hosts and that’s the sickest experience. Like Greeks, or Italians, or a lot in South America like Chile and Brazil, everyone had this very similar like, “Come in, I need to show you this, I need to share this with you.” And I love that energy.

PopHorror: That’s very cool. What is up next for you? Are you currently working on anything?

Gus Muller: We’re trying to. We’re working on a new movie. We’re working on a new album.

PopHorror: Oooh!

Gus Muller: But we need an infinite amount of time to make that happen so we’re just trying to find the time right now.

PopHorror: I’m excited to hear that you have a new movie as well. Just one last question for you. What is your favorite scary movie?

Jae Matthews: I guess what’s interesting is if I meet someone and they’ve never seen The Descent, what I wish for them sincerely is that a megaplex will do a rescreening of The Descent and they’ll have the opportunity to go to a midnight screening. I have rewatched it in recent years and it still scares me a lot. The Descent is horrifying. You have everything. You have thrill, extreme gore, creature feature, and female protags. I love it. I did just rewatch The Blair Witch and it’s actually scarier now.

PopHorror: Well, I don’t stay in the woods because of it! And I definitely do not go spelunking. 

Gus Muller: I would go The Exorcist, and Evil Dead, the first one just because they scared me as a kid and they still scare me. Most recently, Wishmaster. I found that in the last few years and I’m kind of obsessed with that movie.

Jae Matthews: You’re not scared of it.

Gus Muller: It’s a scary movie and I just love the practical effects. It’s campy in all the best ways possible.

Jae Matthews: We just watched Relic in the last couple of years, and that one was really scary. It has a relevance too, right? Because it’s about aging and watching a parent age, and that in itself has some terror.

PopHorror: Our local independent theater here in Phoenix, The Majestic, does a weekly horror series every Tuesday night called Cinematery, and they’re actually showing The Descent this month.

Jae Matthews: Oh my god! Well that’s perfect, like how synchronous. So my message to everyone out there in Arizona: If you haven’t seen it, now’s your opportunity. You’ve got to go.

Thank you so much to Jae and Gus for taking the time to speak with us. You can watch The Runner on Shudder now and check out Boy Harsher’s tour dates to catch them in a city near you!

About Tiffany Blem

Horror lover, dog mommy, book worm, EIC of PopHorror.

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