Sarah Goldstone plays the keyboard and sings with Lucy Dacus’ band at Newport Folk Festival in Newport, R.I. on July 23, 2022. (Maya Santow/WTBU)
By: Maya Santow
From balancing her studies in philosophy and piano performance, to playing Allston basement shows with friends, to guest-starring on BUTV10’s “Bay State” as “Drunk Girl Number 3,” musician Sarah Goldstone had no shortage of quintessential Boston University experiences during her time on Commonwealth Avenue.
But Goldstone attributes her strongest memories of BU to solitary walks in Boston Octobers, spent listening to music, wandering around the city, and soaking up the distinctly undergraduate feeling of an open future. “Just that kind of feeling of, like—you could go anywhere,” she says.
And since her graduation from Boston University in 2009, Goldstone really has gone everywhere. Her talents on the keyboard, violin, and vocals have taken her across the globe in the past two years, touring internationally with indie artist Lucy Dacus, and now Boygenius—the indie rock supergroup composed of Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers.
Sitting in an East Boston café on June 18, just hours before performing with Boygenius at the Stage at Suffolk Downs, Goldstone describes how it felt finding out that she would be joining Boygenius on their tour while she was in Dacus’ band.
“Oh, I was really pumped,” she says. “Lucy had said that she wanted to have me there. Her manager called me and we chatted about it. It was exciting. I just love them as a group and separately.”
“Boygenius: The Tour” began its United States run in early June and will be extending overseas to Europe in mid-August. Several of the tour dates, including the Boston show, are a part of the Re:SET Concert Series, featuring supporting acts like Bartees Strange, Dijon, and Clairo, with Boygenius as a headliner.
Although the tour didn’t begin until the summer of 2023, Boygenius’ first full-length studio album, titled “The Record,” was in the works much earlier. Goldstone recalls being told about the album at least a year before its March 2023 release—a powerful secret to have been keeping, given the album’s critical acclaim. “There was definitely a, you know, ‘Don’t put this on the internet’ kind of thing,” she says.
Goldstone’s first time hearing “The Record” took place at a listening party with Dacus’ touring crew in a Northern California AirBnB. With the knowledge that she would be touring with Boygenius, Goldstone approached her first listen to “The Record” from a largely practical angle.
“When you take a record that was recorded with all these different instruments, and you’re trying to squash it down to, ‘Okay, what’s a setup where I can do all of that?,’ there’s a lot of different ways you can do it,” she says. “So when I was listening through, that’s where my brain was going.”
Goldstone’s primary focus while listening was the keyboard. There is more to the instrument than meets the typical listener’s ear, she explains. “I feel like a lot of times people don’t know what keyboard’s role does because people know what piano sounds like, but maybe not the other stuff,” she says. “But there’s a lot of synth parts, there’s organ, there’s something called a Mellotron…all those weird sounds where people that come to hear it are like, ‘I don’t know what that is.’”
“My first reaction was really technical, but then I started listening for real and, you know, some of the songs make me cry as soon as I hear them,” says Goldstone of the 12 tracks that make up “The Record.” “Some of them are so funny, and, like, mean, and you know, that’s fun, too. But it took a minute for me to experience it that way,” she says.
As Goldstone began touring with Boygenius, a few tracks emerged as her favorites to perform live. “I love ‘Not Strong Enough.’ I mean, that’s like, ‘the one,’ right?” she says. “I love ‘Letter To An Old Poet’— not just because it’s the piano song! Actually, ‘Cool About It’ is one of my favorite songs, too. Plus the rockers, like ‘Satanist,’ and stuff like that, it’s just, like, so fun. But every song is good, yeah—no duds,” she laughs.
Goldstone also cites a fan project for Boygenius’ “True Blue”—a track heavily influenced by Dacus’ solo music style—as a favorite memory from the tour so far. “I think they all put blue post-it notes over their phone lights…as soon as they started playing it, blue lights came up,” she says. As it turned out, a similar fan project took place at the Boston show later that night: during the chorus of ‘True Blue,’ the audience raised heart-shaped cutouts of blue paper over their phone flashlights to create a sea of blue for the band to see. “It sounds funny to say, but it made all of us kind of emotional, actually,” she says of the earlier project.
Goldstone notes the synergetic power of Boygenius fans—the fan bases of the three indie rock forces coming together creates something greater than the sum of their parts, she says.
“People are there for the unit,” says Goldstone. “Probably everybody has one of them that they gravitate toward more just in their own personal listening, or someone’s music they’re familiar with more than the others, but you can’t tell that from the show, which I think is really cool. It doesn’t feel like you’re seeing individual fans of the three of them.”
Goldstone cites Boygenius’ closeness to one another as a major draw for their fans, aside from their music. “I feel like people are fans of their friendship,” she says. “Like, we all want that. We all want best friends that we like to make art with.”
Having been on tour together for a few weeks, says Goldstone, the band’s dynamic has begun to shine through even more onstage. “Now that everyone’s comfortable, they’re starting to horse around a little bit, and they’re jumping around,” she says of Dacus, Baker, and Bridgers. “You know, it’s just three friends that love each other so much, and they’re all very funny people. So it’s fun when they’re in the mood to do, like, comedy time during shows, you know?”
Closeness as a band—“tour camaraderie”—is a familiar feeling to Goldstone, who says that Dacus’ band grew very close during their 251 days of touring in 2021 and 2022. “Everyone’s on one bus, and everyone hangs out together on off days, and it does feel like a family road trip sometimes,” she says.
The Boygenius tour took a bit longer to achieve the same effect, says Goldstone. “It is a much bigger group. And everyone just works so hard, so there’s a little bit more distance with just getting to know everybody. I feel like now, a couple of weeks in, I’m starting to be friends with people on our own crew that maybe I didn’t get to hang with before, and that’s great,” she says.
One way in which the group has grown closer, says Goldstone, is through books. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given her philosophy major during her BU days, Goldstone says she always finds time to read while on tour, and exchanges titles with the other band members as well. “We’re all trading books,” says Goldstone.
On Dacus’ tour last year, says Goldstone, the band passed around Joan Didion’s “Play It as It Lays.” In a similar way to which fans of Boygenius bond over the often melancholy tones of their music, the band bonded over the “real bummer of a book,” says Goldstone. “We passed it around, and everyone was like, ‘Ugh, your turn.’ Like, this is brutal,” she laughs.
“So, yeah, there’s some exchange,” says Goldstone. “Lucy and I will exchange books a lot. Like, I’m really into a writer named Shirley Jackson, and Lucy read some last year.” Goldstone’s most recent tour read, Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko,” she describes as an “instant classic,” and she plans to lend it to Julien Baker to read next.
In addition to her literary influences, Goldstone also spent a great deal of time thinking about her musical influences in the past year while working on her upcoming solo record. The album, set to release on December 1, 2023 with Ruination Record Co., is highly influenced by her own friends, she says.
“So many of my favorite people are on it, which is a fun thing for me when I’m listening to it,” says Goldstone. “I hear all the little creative bits that everybody added to it and it makes me smile.”
The album is also stylistically inspired by the work of Margo Guryan—an artist whose 1968 album “Take a Picture” Goldstone describes as “one of the best records ever.”
“I’m definitely super influenced by her,” says Goldstone of Guryan. “She has a high voice and the arrangements are really interesting…I really like music with weird sounds and cool melodic arrangements.” She also cites Beach House as a major influence in her production style, and says that she enjoys listening to a wide range of genres. When it came to the process of creating her own record, however, Goldstone says that “eliminating the choices” helped her to be more creative on the project.
“Limitless choices can be kind of overwhelming, and not that creative, actually,” she says. “So sometimes I like the dumb stuff. Like, let’s just take some really shitty gear—gear, you can hardly call it gear, like, my iPad, right?” she laughs. “And just sort of play around on that.”
Goldstone says that despite having access to more sophisticated equipment, she opted for a simple, nostalgic Casio keyboard to create her demos. “For me it kind of unlocked a little place where I was having fun doing arrangements on this, like, piece of shit keyboard. That was a fun part of the process for me, and definitely one I would do again,” she says.
Goldstone still has fond memories of Boston, which she tries to share with her bandmates during their brief appearances in the city. “The last time Lucy and I played in Boston—which, whatever tour that was, I remember that was my favorite show of tour—I took people to walk around the Fens a little bit,” she says.
Goldstone says that if she could, she would also bring the Boygenius band to Trident Booksellers and Café—specifically for the French toast, which she fondly remembers eating with her mom—and to her old off-campus apartment on Aberdeen Street. “I just have so many memories of that street, like, I taught my friend how to ride a bike on that little dead end,” she says. “When you go back to a place you used to live in, I feel like the stuff you want to do is the stuff that’s nostalgic to you, and not the stuff that would make the tourist book, you know?”
Some of Goldstone’s favorite memories of Boston are “harder to qualify,” she says. “The feeling of walking around, listening to music in October… sometimes it gets to October and I feel like I’m still in that. Those are kind of the strongest things that stick with you,” she says.
Now, with the rest of the Boygenius U.S. tour stretched out in front of her, an upcoming European tour, and her solo record coming out in December, Goldstone’s music is carrying her far beyond Aberdeen Street and Comm Ave. With her work and performances, Goldstone brings to life the soundtracks of the contemplative walks of today’s young Bostonians. They can look to her creativity, dedication, and talent to inspire their own bright futures.