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BoxBoys Interview: ‘We want to break barriers’

Photos courtesy of Saul Sosa

A string of headlights glisten on the congested highway beside us. It’s about half past midnight, and the OGM crew and I only have one mission on our minds: Make it back to the AirBnb in one piece. After a long, scorching first day at Lyrical Lemonade’s Summer Smash, thousands of people scattered outside the festival grounds waiting for surge-charge Ubers in the designated ride share area, hoarding the adjacent Shell gas station and packing the sidewalks to little comfort. Dodging the crowds with sore legs, sunburn and stinging feet to a farther pick-up spot — away from the mess at Seat Geek Stadium — I bump into both BoxBoys, Yahir and Gio Carbajal, walking on the pathway’s opposite side.

At the time, I didn’t know much about the BoxBoys’ story, but knew the sheer impact and influence they’ve created at the core of the underground’s generational turn. We exchanged greetings as each crew walked in unison to a less-populated area, chatting along the way. It was on this nearly two-mile trek that I gained a sense of the homegrown essence the brothers have been able to channel into their flagship concert series BoxFest: Prioritizing community above all.

With just two years of throwing shows under their belt, 20-year-old Yahir and 25-year-old Gio have built something indisputably special. Born and raised in Los Angeles County, the BoxBoys’ co-sign stretches far from the confines of their home base in LA — touching virtually every sector of the new wave’s distinct soundscape. From getting their start by creating music videos and vlogs through close relationships to being early on talents like Yeat, Destroy Lonely, Summrs, Autumn! and more, the BoxBoys have not only been able to provide fans with immersive, intimate concert experiences featuring our generation’s rising stars, but have built a community whose loyalty and unity breeds out-of-the-box thinkers. After all, that’s the motto Gio and Yahir live by.

“If you look at the [BoxBoys] logo, nothing is trapped inside the box itself — all the letters are outside of it, wherever the f*** they want to be,” Yahir explained. “You have to think outside the box… Once you get boxed in mentally box and physically, it’s over for you. We truly emphasize being and thinking outside of the box and being yourself in every way. That meaning has truly evolved and grown with us over the years.”

Our walk to safety ends when we reach the outskirts of the venue — miles from the travel debocle happening on-site. Fortunately, I find Yahir and Gio the next day to continue our conversation on record. Speaking on the fifth installment of BoxFest (featuring cameos from show veterans in Highway and JASIAH), their come-up, motivations, initial challenges and more, the BoxBoys are the definition of trendsetters, “breaking barriers” every step of the way.

“Think outside the box.”

Check out the BoxFest 5 recap below!

BoxFest 5 was held on July 6 in Los Angeles, featuring headliners in Summrs and Autumn! as well as sets from Dom Corleo, Desire, Slump6s, F1LTHY, Matt Ox, Rich Amiri and other surprise guests.

Unboxing the BoxBoys…

JB: How has Summer Smash for you been?

Yahir: “Summer Smash has been amazing, bro. This is our first [one], and all the homies are on the lineup. So seeing them perform, and seeing Chicago giving them love, it’s beautiful to see... It’s been amazing because not only do you get to see full circle moments — chopping it up with Jake and Cole — but just having everyone in the same room. It’s sort of like a family reunion.”

JB: You guys talk a lot about inspiration, what initially inspired you to create BoxBoys?

Yahir: “So essentially, we were both filming [content]. I started BoxBoys when I was in sophomore year. But it wasn’t until like nine months in, me and my brother were like, ‘Yo, we’re doing the exact same shit… let’s just do it together’… Initially, it was supposed to be a music collective with all the homies in high school, but they all dropped out. That was about three years ago. Fast forward to now, that was probably the best thing we both could have done: Us joining together.”

Gio: “I was filming under my name: Music videos but just as just an individual on my own. BoxBoys started with a lot of our homies that dropped out. Almost a year went by, and we were like, ‘Dude, we’re doing the exact same thing, we share the same skill set, and we’re providing it to everyone.”

JB: When you guys first came together, what were some of the challenges you faced early on getting the collective off the ground?

Gio: “I think the first initial moment that was like weird and tough was getting a spark from someone to approach us with credibility. When we first started, we had nothing. We wanted to obviously be where we are now, but we just did videos. We had no portfolios, nothing. We used social media and went to any event we could just to show our face and our brand from the start. We had nothing, but we needed a spark. I think that was the hardest moment: Starting literally something out of completely nothing. We had no network, our parents had no network. A lot of it too was just us being curious, asking ‘how can we meet these people literally out of out of social media and Instagram and events?’ We tried to have 100 different ways of doing that with the same thing in mind. Next thing you know, [familiar] faces started showing up, idols that we’d look up to and listen to musically started showing up in the same room. And then me and my brother, were like ‘Yo we just kinda started, but let’s go bigger.’ We had nothing to lose, so why not us?”

Yahir: “Without sacrifice, there’s no gain. Right place, right time, right mindset. Mindset is everything.”

JB: Tell me a bit about the first-ever BoxFest?

Yahir: “It was basically all of our homies, We booked the venue and… here let JASIAH answer this one…”

JASIAH: “I felt like we were all just friends [and still are]. It elevates me to still be able to talk to each other. [BoxFest] doesn’t even have to elevate me career-wise. It elevates me knowing I can them go to them and they’ll smile when they see me. That makes me feel good. [BoxFest means] more than a career, more than this music shit. And they’ve proved it.”

JB: From BoxFest 1 to 2… what were the biggest changes you made? How did it grow?

Yahir: “We actually had a flow and a full lineup planned for the genre of music [we wanted]. We had a theme with the up-and-coming pluggnb scene, with artists like D Savage, Autumn!, SSGKobe, yvngxchris, OnlyBino!, Tana, sgpwes. We had a scene we built from scratch. The creative direction was different: BoxFest 2 was the first time we introduced the Box cards. It really encapsulated an environment. BoxFest 1 was just a show, but BoxFest 2 was an experience.”

JB: That’s where the community is bred from… looking back on everything with BoxFest 5 coming up, it’s crazy to think about your impact on the underground scene with the artists you’ve helped prop up. How does that make you guys feel: looking back on what the new wave looks like now because of what you’ve built?

Yahir: “First things first, is introducing friendships. I feel like there’s been a lot of artists who weren’t friends until BoxFest. I can’t tell you how many artists have talked to me to me like ‘yo, this is my first time meaning Tana, or Chris. And they’re all each individual, big artists, but they meet each other for the first time at BoxFest. And that leads to them hanging out, making songs together — that’s what it’s all about. The community is there. It’s like an unintentional networking event, but it’s a show. It leaves a mark on the underground because those lineups will never happen again. If you were there, you were there.”

Gio: “And really, BoxFest helped everything outside of it. Aside from what we do, like videos and merch, everything else kind of came with it. We started with music videos, right? But we were always like, ‘we want to do a show, we gotta get it out figured out.’ So the momentum was there, but not until the shows happened. It carried everything and merged the community, the collabs and everything we’ve done with other companies. All that was the credibility we wanted.”

JB: Tell me about about your creative direction and artistic inspirations? I see all the tattoos you guys have, what do they mean?

Yahir: “I used to love Spider-Man, so you can see the spiders and webs I have tatted. It was always Suicideboys [though]. Gio showed me them in sixth grade and it changed my life. Their whole aesthetic with the grunginess, the rawness, the ‘I don’t give a f**k, this is who we are. We’re not gonna change no matter what.’ I really respected that, and I took that to heart.”

Gio: “Timestamps and expression. Honestly, it’d be nice to keep doing this and just let others see what we’re doing and feel that they can do the same shit — let them express themselves in whatever way they want. Whether it’s creatively business, whatever way they want, because we’re directors. But LEGOS were my sh*t… stop motion. I think that’s where my videos really started. I would make stop motions of LEGOS and I would speak into the characters and film it all on my SAMSUNG phone. I guess subconsciously, it just tumbled into where we’re at now.”

Yahir: “Another obvious one that I forgot to mention was XXXTENTACION. He has been a big inspiration. In one way or another, everyone here at Summer Smash, whether it’s significant or not, everyone has some experience, some inspiration by X. Just seeing that whole scene with SKI, Scheme, Pump and X, the rawness of it and being true to yourself, that’s what I take to heart in whatever I do.”

JB: If you guys could describe the experience that box provides for fans in three words, what would those words be?

Gio: “Yo, you should let Highway answer this question.”

Yahir: “Yo, Highway…!”

Highway: “Hmmm… Three words, BoxFest: High energy, greatness…. Really just greatness.”

JB: In an ideal world, what would be your ultimate BoxFest lineup?

Yahir: “True to me: Frank Ocean, Playboi Carti, and either Brent Faiyaz or A$AP Rocky.”

Gio: “I got Kendrick Lamar, that would be a legendary moment if it ever happens. Also A$AP and maybe Baby Keem, my head’s been on that… [To Yahir] we can make A$AP happen.”

JB: You guys are still so young… with it being BoxFest 5, there’s so much to look forward to in the future. You said BoxFest 5 will be the end of a chapter. What’s that next step then?

Yahir: “Breaking barriers. Me and Gio talk about all these artists that we f**k with. We want to explore different genres, different artists, we want to break barriers. It may not even be artists, maybe it’s like a big social media person, maybe it’s a big DJ, maybe it’s just BoxFest with no artists and it’s just BoxFest 6 and it sells out. We really want to test the waters and break barriers with [our upcoming efforts], because we’ve been so heavy focused on lineups and artists, NOW it’s time to focus on the community and truly encapsulate the event and an experience that the fans want — regardless of what whoever’s on the lineup.”

Gio: “Jumping into our perspective, we got to really amplify [BoxFest moving forward]. Like look at [Summer Smash] — there’s all sorts of stages and little minor genre changes at the same time. Coachella, for example, there’s rap, there’s some alternative, but we want to do it in our style for what we want.”

JB: I’ve watched from you all from afar for the past three years. And from the very jump, I think the biggest thing that I love is how curated everything is in your world. Summer Smash, Lollapalooza, Coachella: Would this be the end goal for you guys to achieve something like this? If not, what else?

Yahir: “100%. The obvious answer is yes for an outdoor festival. But also, maybe we do an artist’s tour or like Drake’s album release party. Stuff like that where, you know, it’s more than just the festival. It’s the people who are associated with it [BoxBoys] that truly bring the experience.”

JB: Message for Our Generation?

Gio: “My biggest thing, and it’s cliche to say, but do not stop. You got to be okay with rejection and having the answer be no. So then when you get it, you can just keep going and sprinting. All It takes one moment, one door to open up. for you to realize that’s how it goes. Then that door will open up 100 more doors and then more from those doors...”

Yahir: “I don’t want to say any cliche sh*t. It’s honestly something that’s true to me. And I feel like if I’m talking to the kids and the public, I would say: Let yourself hit rock bottom. People don’t understand what being at rock bottom does to you mentally physically, financially, spiritually; it shows you the worst of how things could be. The only way from that point on is up. I feel like when you truly are rock bottom, you understand what you are dealt with and what you need to work on and what you need to change. I used to lie to myself a lot, saying that I was this and procrastinating that. Letting yourself [experience] rock bottom so you know where you stand is the best thing that life could do for you.