In 2017, everything was coming together for 21-year-old Los Angeles-based musician Robert Tilden. After kicking around for several years making scrappy lo-fi tapes and playing local haunts like The Smell, his project BOYO was finally making waves.
He was getting slots at SXSW, opening for an eclectic assortment of bands (Jerry Paper, Girlpool, Surf Curse, and Homeshake, to name some), and gaining a cult following with his solid debut LP Control and subsequent singles.
Suddenly, his world turned upside down. Tilden began experiencing random, unexplained seizures and spent more than a year with specialists experimenting with different powerful medications for his undiagnosed brain condition. Somehow he managed to keep touring and releasing music; most notably his stirring fan-favorite LP Dance Alone, a collection of danceable psych-pop created by a moody, distant, and frightened person during a turbulent time.
Serious bouts of depression followed as he struggled with an assortment of medications and more seizures. In 2018, Tilden was finally diagnosed with an acute form of frontal lobe epilepsy, found the right daily regimen of pills, and has been seizure free ever since. Slowly, life became less of a daily crisis and more manageable. But the experience of friends alienated by his medically induced uncontrollable mood shifts and his isolation due to irrational fears took its toll. “I couldn’t write another uplifting or dreamy pop song if I tried,” Tilden says about creating songs during the strange post- seizure period.
He turned to songwriters like Bradford Cox (Deerhunter) and Mark Linkhous (Sparklehorse) for inspiration and comfort because they too had experienced physical struggles: Cox with Marfans Syndrome and Linkhous’s Phantom Limb syndrome after losing circulation to his legs from a drug-induced coma. These artists’ ability to turn the bleak into beautiful is what inspired the beginnings of Tilden’s Where Have All My Friends Gone?
Recorded feverishly over an intense two-week period in his trusty basement studio, Tilden says he “fell in love with flaws, distortion, again—just taking something pretty and fucking it up, even just a little.” The album has inherent themes of time passing, the effect of a pill culture, friends yet to be found.
But behind the melancholy lies the unmistakeable hopeful innocence of someone in their early 20s determined to make waves again.