March 14, 2018


What comes to mind when you hear the term boy band? Synchronized choreography? Matching outfits, perhaps? Brockhampton, the ragtag Los Angeles-based group that is best known for their eclectic, DIY sound, viral music videos, and being extremely tapped into internet culture, might seem diametrically opposed to the common perception of the term “boy band,” but they’re still a boy band nonetheless. After meeting on KTT—a Kanye West fan forum—the band has grown to include 14 members. The group includes: Merlyn, a rapper; Dom, who also raps; Romil and Jabari, producers; bearface, a singer; Ameer and Matt Champion, who both write music and wrap; and Kevin Abstract, one of the more outspoken rappers in the band who also doubles as a film director.

On the day we spoke, they were all crouched around a large foyer in their shared L.A. home staring at me on Skype. Some members of Brockhampton are multiracial or queer, and all of them are committed to openly talking about the difficult subjects of homophobia, racism or assault. Their third album, Saturation III, out December 15, aims to redefine the boy band. Taking inspiration from digital entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, or musical visionaries like Kanye West and Timbaland, the band’s genre-bending sound and aesthetic could only exist now. “There’s no real reason why we [used the internet] other than those are the tools we had at the moment. If that’s what’s right in front of you, you’re going to just use it,” said Kevin Abstract. Kevin’s given name is Ian Simpson, but he announced to me that he preferred to be known as “Kevin Mountain” for the day—this fluidity of identity being key to understanding Brockhampton’s motives, and their willingness to address difficult or unsavory topics in their art.

The origin story of Brockhampton is a bit sticky. It's been reported that they met online, but the boys insist that some of the information out there is not entirely true, or is at least overwrought creation mythmaking. “We always gotta say we met on a Kanye West fan forum, and I’m kind of tired of saying that," Kevin said playfully. "I think what I’m gonna start doing is just lying... so if you want, just say we met at an orphanage."

Brockhampton arrived with a fully-formed aesthetic intact in their auteurish videos and visual art, and the band is currently working on a feature-length film, shot by their "house" photographer Ashlan Grey. (The photos you see here are also shot by Grey for W.) Their particular worldview extends, of course, to their look—recently, the bandmates all put on blue facepaint and orange jumpsuits for a performance at Camp Flog Gnaw, Tyler The Creator’s L.A. music festival. “When you’re bored, you get creative,” said Kevin. “If we call ourselves a boy band let’s treat it like a boy band.”

The public’s perception of Brockhampton has been defined by their ties to the internet, but the boys themselves find this claim questionable at best. “I don’t know who said it, but someone said that we were the ‘internet’s first boy band’ and we never said that,” said Kevin. “We’re a boy band because we say we’re a boy band,” added the rapper Merlyn. If you've listened to their songs, or watched any of their videos, or witnessed their live performances, Brockhampton is all about seizing the narrative—and they're pretty good at it.