“It’s a fun label to lean into”: Brooklyn Boy Band Cry Baby Talk ’90s Nostalgia, NYC’s Music Scene, & Debut EP ‘In Love Without You’

Cry Baby © Alec Ilstrup
Cry Baby © Alec Ilstrup
Brooklyn boy band (and artist-to-watch) Cry Baby chat with Atwood Magazine about ’90s nostalgia, NYC’s “shallow” (and incredibly talented) music scene, and the refreshingly dreamy world they’ve created with their debut EP, ‘In Love Without You.’
for fans of Goo Goo Dolls, The 1975, Lifehouse, Candlebox
Stream: “The Show” – Cry Baby




I’m a big fan of boy bands and guilty pleasure music, and I think it’s a fun label to lean into – whether or not we fit the traditional ‘boy band’ mold.

Cry Baby are New York City’s next big trend, and their story’s only just getting started.

The self-proclaimed “only boy band in NYC” have been lighting up our airwaves this past year with catchy pop/rock songs soaked in ’90s nostalgia, earning them plenty of early fans and a coveted feature as one of Atwood‘s 2024 Artists to Watch. Based in Brooklyn, the five-piece of Joey Haines, Alex Carlson, Carter Long, Franky Centeno, and Josh Kozic make a brand of mainstream-friendly pop-alternative music “tiptoeing the line of Y2K cheese,” as lead singer Alex Carlson described to us last September.

“I think our sound is the tough-to-place familiar feeling – a vibe that you’ve experienced before, but you’re not sure where,” Carlson tells Atwood Magazine today. “Another way to put it would be Y2K with a modern veneer, for sure. Putting listeners in a fond familiar place is something that excites me because that’s always been something I’ve searched for in the music I listen to.”

In Love Without You - Cry Baby
Cry Baby’s debut EP ‘In Love Without You’ is out June 26, 2024

With their musical inspirations ranging from true ’90s alternative artists like Third Eye Blind and Elliott Smith, to present-day contemporaries like Adrianne Lenker, Hovvdy, and Mk.gee, Cry Baby gravitate toward gauzy guitars, hypnotic beats, big melodic hooks, and vulnerable, emotive lyrics. Their debut EP In Love Without You, independently out June 26, 2024, highlights that sonic identity while capturing their boy band spirit.

“We made the whole record before we’d played any shows,” guitarist Carter Long explains. “Some of us were very new to New York and dealing with personal turmoil of breakups and moving cities. We had really big dreams and talked a lot about what the shared vision for the band would be.”

“Ultimately we want people to feel like we’ve created a world they can step into. We threw all of our personal styles into the music and hope something new and fresh came out on the other side. I hope people hear it and hear our personalities come through and feel that we have a strong sense of identity as a band in our lyrics, arrangements, melodies, and production.”

Cry Baby © Christian Geigel
Cry Baby © Christian Geigel



Cry Baby Usher in a New Era on “Pretend,” a Soul-Stirring Eruption of Noughties Nostalgia & Modern Charm

:: ARTIST TO WATCH ::

We embody the essence of a boy band, carrying the spirit into the 2020s.

“This collection could serve as the soundtrack to the Mean Girls reboot, if the movie was actually good,” Carlson adds half-jokingly.

Bridging the brilliance of Y2K pop rock with the charge and charm of 2020s alternative, Cry Baby are well on their way to defining their own place – and filling a much-needed gap – in today’s music world. Between the propulsive, tender-hearted “One Thing,” the intimately dreamy “Pretend,” and the synthy, smoldering “Hollister” are utterly intoxicating – each one a hit in the making, especially if music trends continue to go in the direction they’ve been heading, and the late ’90s / early ’00s make their long-awaited comeback.

Their latest single, “The Show,” is an especially moody and memorable jam that pays homage – of a sort – to the band’s hometown and its music scene. Cry Baby describe the song as “a tongue-in-cheek critique of the things we love to hate about the NYC music scene and its inherently shallow nature.”

Shallow though it may be, there’s no denying the talent in the city’s current pool of up-and-coming acts – Cry Baby included.

Atwood Magazine recently caught up with Cry Baby for an in-depth conversation about their debut EP, New York City’s music scene, and ’90s nostalgia. Get to know Brooklyn’s freshest boy band in our interview below, and stay tuned for the upcoming release of In Love Without You, out June 26!

“Boy bands being a rarity in the 2020s is only temporary,” Alex Carlson smiles. “Trends recycle and a new crop of boy bands will pop up in the next couple years. We would like to be one of them.”

Shameless, charming, and utterly unapologetic, Cry Baby continue to be an undeniable artist to watch in 2024.

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:: stream/purchase In Love Without You here ::
:: connect with Cry Baby here ::
Cry Baby © Alec Ilstrup
Cry Baby © Alec Ilstrup



A CONVERSATION WITH CRY BABY

In Love Without You - Cry Baby

Atwood Magazine: Hey Cry Baby! For starters, can you share a bit about yourselves? How did the band start?

Alex Carlson: Hey Mitch! Joey and I had some mutual friends here in the city, when he threw up an IG story looking for a singer I went by his place to talk music. It became clear pretty quickly that we had eerily similar niche tastes and aspirations for our life in music, next thing you know Joey was playing me some demos he was working on. One of those demos turned into our first single “Hollister.”

Who are all of your musical inspirations? What are your overlaps, and do you find you’ve tried to make music similar to those overlaps, or are the two (what you like and what you make) more distinct from one another?

Alex Carlson: I think for our sound to this point, Third Eye Blind was a big reference point. Even if that’s just from an energy or vibe. In my personal taste I often gravitate toward sad or wistful music, a recent favorite of mine is Mk.gee. I would love to be able to expand our sound to include some new more emotional music like that.

Carter Long: I’m a huge fan of songwriters like Elliott Smith, Adrianne Lenker, and Hovvdy – much of my writing comes from that world, which I think is typically so separate from the pop/rock sound that our music occupies. I think bringing some of that kind of emotionality and even melodic sensibility makes an interesting world paired with the production style of Cry Baby.

Cry Baby © Christian Geigel
Cry Baby © Christian Geigel



I can’t believe I’ve never asked you guys this before: Where did the name Cry Baby come from?

Joey Haines: The name came up because it was the name of a song I had been working on years ago. Of course the ’80s movie Cry Baby came up some time after that, but what really sold it was when we googled it and couldn’t find any super established band with the name already. We were shocked, so we had to claim it.

You’ve labeled yourselves a boy band, which is something of a rare title in the 2020s. Why?

Alex Carlson: Why is it rare or why have we done this… I can answer both here, I suppose. We landed on the boy band thing after “Hollister,” the sound was so poppy and fun and could be considered a guilty pleasure kind of song. I’m a big fan of boy bands and guilty pleasure music, and I think it’s a fun label to lean into – whether or not we fit the traditional ‘boy band’ mold.

One other inspiration was giving each member some focused representation on social media, like a boy band would. With most bands you might know the name of the singer, maybe the guitarist? We wanted a more fun way for fans to get to know us individually. Boy bands being a rarity in the 2020s is only temporary; trends recycle and a new crop of boy bands will pop up in the next couple years. We would like to be one of them <3.

Cry Baby © Alec Ilstrup
Cry Baby © Alec Ilstrup

I’ve often felt like Cry Baby’s music harkens back to the ‘90s, with a modern veneer. How much of your “boy band” identity, do you think, is born out of nostalgia?

Alex Carlson: Big time nostalgia in Cry Baby. ‘90s and 2000s inspirations are all over our music, which is one of my favorite parts about this collection of songs. To give you a number, I’d say 95% born out of nostalgia.

To that end, what are your own drives musically? You’ve talked to me before about tiptoeing the line of Y2K cheese… How do you define your sound, and what excites you about your own songs?

Alex Carlson: I think our sound is the tough-to-place familiar feeling, a vibe that you’ve experienced before but you’re not sure where. Another way to put it would be Y2K with a modern veneer for sure. Putting listeners in a fond familiar place is something that excites me because that’s always been something I’ve searched for in the music I listen to.

As a ‘90s kid myself (born in ‘92), I grew up in the heat of the boy band craze: Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, O-Town… the list goes on. And then of course there were New Kids and Take That before them, and One Direction and BTS more recently. Who are you inspired by, and at the same time, how do you feel Cry Baby stands out?

Alex Carlson: Inspired by all the above, I was born in ‘92 as well and that era of pop was a huge part of my childhood and early relationship to music fandom. I’m not sure that we pull too much direct creative inspiration from the iconic boy bands that have come before us, but I would like to more in the future. I would love to have a One Direction style ballad in our catalog one day.

I would say we stand out in that we don’t have the traditional trappings of a boy band, we all play instruments, don’t have multiple singers, no dance routines (to date). Rather we embody the essence of a boy band, carrying the spirit into the 2020s.

You debuted your current lineup last July with “Hollister.” Why make this song your introduction, and how do you feel it sets the tone for who Cry Baby are as a band?

Joey Haines: “Hollister” was the first song idea I was tinkering with when we were making the lineup transition. When I got that initial chorus hook written it made both me and Carter feel such a clear sense of nostalgia that you couldn’t quite place. Naturally it was the first idea I showed Alex who immediately felt that same connection. Having that clear relationship with a song off the bat and across the board can be rare so when it was all done it only seemed fitting that we debut with this sound. It contains so many different elements of what Cry Baby is in one song.

Hollister is such a nostalgia-inducing brand - the name evokes an image, a look, a smell… What do you associate with it? And what are you “falling back into” with this song?

Alex Carlson: I know such an iconic brand for millennials, whether you liked it or not it holds a place in your heart. I associate the time in place rather than the specifics of the clothing, so for me that’s an early Internet era. I see a sunny lake with friends when I close my eyes and listen to Hollister, like Dawson’s Creek vibes. The lyric “I could fall back into you” is about falling back into the comfort of distraction that comes with a new crush.

Joey, you mentioned “One Thing” is a personal favorite. Can you share more about why this song hits so hard?

Joey Haines: “One Thing” was the first more “rock based” song that we worked on. For me the instrumental was initially inspired by this emerging New York alternative scene, like James Ivy and Harry Teardrop. I got to play around with some fun glitchy, distorted guitars over pumping drum breaks. I remember when we got the verses and choruses together, that really showcased Alex’s style of singing, which totally turned into this unique sound. It’s such a short and sweet song that hits you hard from the start.

What’s the story behind your latest single, “The Show”?

Carter Long: “The Show” started with me f*ing around on Joey’s computer while he was in a therapy session and coming up with a guitar line and synth melody. We combined that idea with chatting about the scene in New York and how so much of it just exists for people to look cool online.

Ugh, yeah you’ve talked about NYC’s music scene being inherently shallow in nature. How do you experience that, as a Brooklyn band, and does the scene have any redeeming qualities that cancel out the bad ones?

Carter Long: There are so many scenes in New York, when we talk about the shallow nature of it, I feel like we’re really only talking about this exclusive kinda dead dimes square adjacent scene. But I’ve met some of the most amazing and humble artists in other scenes and even in that one. I think there are a lot of people who make art in New York as a response to exclusivity who want to make something for everyone that’s genuinely filled with passion and with their life experience.

You’ve named your debut EP In Love Without You. Can you share a bit about this record, and how you hope it introduces Cry Baby to the world?

Carter Long: We made the whole record before we’d played any shows. Some of us were very new to New York and dealing with personal turmoil of breakups and moving cities. We had really big dreams and talked a lot about what the shared vision for the band would be. Ultimately we want people to feel like we’ve created a world they can step into. We threw all of our personal styles into the music and hope something new and fresh came out on the other side. I hope people hear it and hear our personalities come through and feel that we have a strong sense of identity as a band in our lyrics, arrangements, melodies, and production.

Cry Baby © Alec Ilstrup
Cry Baby © Alec Ilstrup



Ultimately, I contend that Cry Baby is a pop/rock band posing as a boy band… and that’s what makes you stand out: There’s more than meets the eye. How do you respond?

Alex Carlson: A keen observation, I would say that’s mostly true. The real thing important to us is giving everyone an individual identity. Isn’t being a boy band a little more fun?

Carter Long: I think that a big part of why we identify with being a boy band is that we write the songs together. I think in most rock bands the roles are more clearly defined, the singer sings and writes lyrics, the guitarist plays guitar and writes guitar parts, etc. But in a boy band the load is shared. And in our case we write the songs together and pull from our own experiences and it’s just more of a collaboration at every stage.

Lastly, in the interest of paying it forward, who are you listening to these days that you would recommend to our readers?

Alex Carlson: Some of my recent favs are Toledo, Middle Part, Quarters of Change, and May Rio

Joey Haines: NYC has just some of the best artists right now. For me My Bike Ride, Middle Part, Trophy Wife, DBA James.

Carter Long: Jane Lai, Richard Orofino, claire rousay, Chanel beads, ill peach

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:: stream/purchase In Love Without You here ::
:: connect with Cry Baby here ::



— — — —

In Love Without You - Cry Baby

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