IT'S COMMON for a band to earn its stripes by conveying adolescent angst, playing to the hormonal triumphs and terrors that mark one's teenage years. What's not so common is for a band to make music that speaks the truths of adulthood—of life lived within the framework of jobs, bills, family, and responsibility—and do so with the passion, agony, and ecstasy of a band dealing with much less mature topics.
Not that BOAT sounds mature. Among the purest pleasures the Seattle quartet offers is their spazzed-out joy, which exists simply for its own sake in the band's hollered choruses, their bashed-out major chords, the inane, throwaway segues that link their album tracks together. What BOAT realizes—and what sets them apart—is that being a grownup is, wardrobe and paycheck aside, really not that different from being a kid. We all still like the same things we did as kids; we all still respond to music and movies and sports the same way. We're all still fascinated by the possibility of monsters; we're all still puzzled (and even more fascinated) by the possibility of sex.
Over the course of six scruffy albums, David Crane has helmed BOAT with a series of indelibly goofy and charming songs, which he began writing just for fun. "I was just obsessed with trying to make songs," Crane says. "I thought it would be the coolest thing to record a bunch of homemade CDs and have them in a drawer—like one from every year. And then be, like, 50 and go, 'Look at all the stuff I've done and how it's changed'—just for the artistic purposes of it. I always felt too shy [to perform], then suddenly I realized the music was pretty solid and I didn't have to hide from the audience anymore."
BOAT's latest is called Dress Like Your Idols, and its cover is made up of nine re-creations Crane made of other bands' album covers. There's Built to Spill's Keep it Like a Secret alongside the Ramones' End of the Century; Sonic Youth's Washing Machine sits comfortably atop Pavement's Wowee Zowee; Pearl Jam's Yield proudly shares real estate with The Velvet Underground and Nico.
"I drew like 20 or 30, and then we picked the ones we thought looked the best," says Crane. "Some were chosen just to balance out colors on the cover. We love all of those albums, although it's not totally representative of all the guys equally. I did this Supergrass cover that turned out pretty horrible. There's a Pixies one that never made it. Some R.E.M. stuff that's pretty bad. Part of it was not worrying what other people thought of the albums, because if you try to make the coolest album list... putting Pearl Jam on there, some people are like, 'Whatever.' We're honest. Two of us love that album and grew up worshipping Pearl Jam. Some bands would hide that and put up some Brian Eno."
"There's a song on [the new album] with a guitar solo that sounds like a Built to Spill rip-off thing," Crane adds. "I was not sure if I should be ashamed or keep it, because I like Built to Spill. We all had a laugh about it and so we kept it in there." The blatant homage makes perfect sense, because literally the first thing you see when you pick up Dress Like Your Idols is Crane's facsimile of the Built to Spill album cover. "It's kind of about not being ashamed of who your idols are. It's weird to be an adult and kind of worship other 30- or 40-year-old dudes. But I kind of do that a lot."
Getting live shows under their belt has resulted in a few small US tours, which the band doesn't view as work. "My favorite thing is driving around with the guys figuring out what we're going to eat," Crane says. "It's like a vacation in a way. That can be your focus of the day: where you're gonna eat and where you're gonna drive to, which is a pretty good lifestyle. It's the best excuse to eat bad fast food. We eat so much Sbarro and Taco Bell-type stuff. I think we're all just friends and we enjoy goofing around. It has become a big license plate game-type drive. We're like the Leave it to Beaver band."
It's unlikely BOAT will ever become a full-time endeavor. The band's members all have day jobs, which they're not looking to give up anytime soon (Crane is a teacher; drummer Jackson Long is the drum tech for Death Cab for Cutie). Of making BOAT his primary focus, Crane says, "For me, I don't think it would work. I just think the music wouldn't be very interesting. I wouldn't be able to stay married, I don't think, or employed. I like having both, because it makes both rewarding in their own way. If you had several months off and all you had to do is live for doing more shows, you wouldn't be very satisfied in that off time. I think it's the best of both worlds. The shows and the work make each better. I think it does affect the band, though, because we don't tour as much as other bands, so we see how big we can make the shows."
That balance between work and play is what makes BOAT's music so rewarding, as well as their refusal to simply do what seems cool or hip. "There is some value to having a job that has health insurance," Crane says. "I think sometimes bands act like, 'Woe is me, I'm in a band, I'm an artist, support me.' And it's kind of like, maybe you gotta grow up and get a job so you get insurance so you can make music. I don't think it has to be mutually exclusive. I don't think you need to be wearing skinny jeans and playing music all the time. I think you can do both and be pretty happy."