Sam Gehrke

Alien Boy’s debut LP, Sleeping Lessons, wastes no time letting you know what you’re in for. Like the panicked swirls that introduce the Cure’s Pornography or the dense rush that yanks listeners into My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, the plangent cry of overlapping guitars in the first minute of “Somewhere Without Me” erases uncertainty: There are heavy feelings here, and they will devastate.

Singer/guitarist Sonia Weber, who started Alien Boy with drummer Derek McNeil in 2015, calls Sleeping Lessons a “gay drama album,” and she spends its entirety at drama’s disintegrating edge—that place where love becomes a cliff and lovers plunge into plotless grief.  

Weber also plays drums in Little Star and Floating Room, and like those bands, Alien Boy fosters a radical intimacy with their audience. The group’s alchemical blend of classic shoegaze melancholy and 21st-century pop-punk results in made-for-mixtape blasts of raw emotion, songs that drag abject longing into the light. Facilitating this delivery can be a fraught experience for Weber.  

“I’ve never been in a band where it was my own songs before, and I feel like I never really had the drive to until I had something that I wanted to say,” she explains. “It is extremely vulnerable, and most of the time when we play shows, there are certain songs we play where I’m totally freaked out the whole time and can’t look at anybody and am shaking and practically crying.”

Sleeping Lessons is a desperate record, a prolonged plea to a vanished lover who haunts every dream and desire. Nearly every song is addressed to a nameless “you” who briefly rendered the world bright and beautiful before disappearing, leaving a forgotten one who can’t learn how to forget. The one left behind must find a way to move on from someone who has already done so, and funneling agony into art is one way to do that.

“When I finally recorded all of it, I processed a lot of those feelings,” Weber says. “Now that I listen to it, it seems like all of those feelings are in [the album] instead of in my body.”

Weber says she’s trying to learn how to write about other things, but she’ll always feel at home in lovestruck zones. “I think we’re always gonna be a love-song band,” she says. “I don’t really see myself caring enough to sing about anything else. Not that I don’t care about other things—I just feel like I can’t do it genuinely. I just want it to be an intense band all the time. But I don’t want my life to be in shambles all the time, either.”

Whether or not she figures out how to maintain intensity while settling into a more stable routine, Weber knows what she wants Alien Boy to be: a perfect pop band. “I think it’s just gonna keep getting poppier and poppier,” Weber predicts. “I’m addicted to hooks right now. I just want it to be the most hooks possible. All the time.”

It’s hard to imagine the band summoning anything but heartsick anguish, but it’s also impossible not to wish for anything but future happiness for Weber. Whatever happens, Alien Boy will figure out how to make it beautiful.