Online, he’s the rising indie prince of heartbreak. But in person for the very first time, sombr’s here to come of age in a place of relaxed equilibrium.
video by Emily Harris for Atwood Magazine
It was anything but somber for sombr on Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
Wrapping up the final night of his three-show tour, the Warner-signed recording artist took the stage at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg on January 30.
Flanked with managers and teammates, sombr – known to friends and family as Shane Boose – is 18 years old in a dimly lit, tightly packed greenroom backstage. Before going on, he is all nerves – who wouldn’t be at a hometown show? Hailing from right across the bridge, Boose is a Lower East Side (LES) native who carved a recording studio into his bedroom during the pandemic.
He’s freshly minted celebrity. Boose had a handful of tracks that went viral on TikTok before Warner, leading to a move to Los Angeles where he began work on his debut EP in another life, produced by Tony Berg, who frequently collaborates with Phoebe Bridgers. On the indie rock project, his voice ripples across tracks that range from steady guitar acoustics to adrenaline-induced drumming.
The sound is a beast of its own, paralleling incredulous lyrics: “I wanna hug you like a kid hugs a tree,” he croons on “burner phone.” The EP is maddeningly vulnerable; sitting across from me at a dressing room table, he is Shane from LES. But onstage (and on record), his name is sombr, born and raised in a bedroom studio.
“burner phone,” the opener from the EP, he says, is a niche in his fandom (the sombros, he calls them).
“I couldn’t be happier,” he says of grabbing hands from the stage and hugging his legion of fans. And man, does he have them: a mom at the back of the venue says they drove from five hours upstate New York, that this was her daughter’s Christmas gift.
“I feel like growing up in New York, I got to experience a lot at a very young age. And I think it really, really helped me put those emotions into my songwriting,” he says. This particular show comes four days after his latest single, “in your arms” released. On it, a vulnerable piano conjures atmospheric darkness. A choir of sombr’s appear at the chorus, a production element that feels like there are hundreds of him incantating misery: “If your love was a pill, I’d overdose. Wrap me in your arms ‘til my heartbeat slows.”
He says it’s a love song, but about addiction. “I was just messing around with some chords on the piano, and that kind of melody with those words came together.” He then posted a snippet of it on TikTok the next day, where it has 300,000 likes.
Supported by opening act Willow Avalon, he took the stage and transformed from the backstage, quiet-minded Shane into sombr, who was so alive it seemed he could do anything.
Flickers of primary shades pulsated behind him, as he swiveled around the stage like someone learning that they could move for the very first time, freedom in his grasp at the very sight of so many people there to celebrate him. He is confident here, emboldened by those reaching out to and shouting his lyrics back to him. Opening, he chooses “never find u,” calling out oohs in between, “There’ll never be another one of you.” He shines later on “ivy,” asking the room to join him in a truly mournful glow. It’s like something funereal has passed through the room, and everyone is captivated by it: “You bleed, I bleed, you bleed ivy,” he repeats in its final moments, devastation afoot.
The connection he has with his fans is not something he handles lightly. This tour is the first time he’s met them. After the concert, he took to Instagram Stories to apologize for not meeting everyone, but the venue was closing, and he had to go.
Similar artists like Billie Eilish and Conan Gray have discussed the difficulties of following up the debut record.
But when asked what he’s trying to do with his next project, Boose says, “I feel like now I can just play around and do whatever I want, really, and just make what I want.”
His coming plans?
“I want to play more shows this year. I want to do a supporting tour. I want to do festivals. I want to go to Europe. Australia, Asia. Hopefully this year I want to release a bunch more songs, maybe another project? I just want to work. And meet as many listeners as possible.”
It’s a grocery list of fantasies for a TikToker like Shane Boose. But for sombr, it isn’t that far out of reality.
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video by Emily Harris for Atwood Magazine
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