If the names Hannah Diamond, QT, Liz or Kero Kero Bonito mean anything to you, then you’re in for a treat.
Pop music had been due for a reinvention ever since The Saturdays announced a split, let’s be fair. The long age of good girlbands was finally declared over with one last greatest hits album; and with even long-standing titans such as Gaga and Katy turning their back on bubblegum pop it seemed the sun had finally set on a world full of girls in Daisy Dukes sipping brightly coloured drinks by the pool, whose biggest problems were boys who behaved a little badly on a Saturday night in the club.
As the darkness descended a new sound slowly began to emerge, electric, sizzling, with the crackle of wildfire and the fizz of a firework. A line-up of veiled super producers were drawn to the moon and brought with them something that was sorely needed… fresh energy. A.G. Cook, Danny L Harle, SOPHIE and more lit up the night blending and bending genres to find their own identity, and we’ve been riding the wave of electro-experimental ever since, with a handful of truly talented artists being able to find their calling and become staples of not just our playlists, but our hearts. The message in the music here isn’t to fit to a stereotype, or to aim to please; it’s about self-expression, and giving voices to those who feel they’re still unheard.
Nobody effervesces speaking your mind clearer than GIRLI, a.k.a. 20 year-old Milly who, since her eyebrow-raising 2015 debut So You Think You Can Fuck With Me Do Ya (‘you thought I was gonna do a Ballad? Fuck off’) has been bringing a smack-down of songs one after the other. Think St Trinian’s angst, but after mixing a little somin’ somin’ into its vodka and Diet Coke; energetic party-starters that actually hold deeper and more relevant contexts than many, if not all of the current singles on the top 40. GIRLI is making the music we need today; free, outspoken, without any fucks. It’s very ‘of the people, for the people’ and fits a ‘fuck you, we’re still here’ message to a society which daily throws its young into financial and political chaos while simultaneously patting us on the back and telling us not to panic. We got Milly, the I to the GIRL, on the phone for chat about the reflection of youth, touring, fans and GIRLI 2.0 (you won’t have to wait long to understand this reference, promise).
‘For me it’s been it’s kind of GIRLI 2.0…’ (see?) Milly tell me as I ask her what life has been like for the past year or so, ‘because the last couple of years I’ve been releasing a lot of music, doing a lot of shows and putting out of videos. I think with the kind of content I was releasing I was still trying to figure myself out’. If you’ve heard any of GIRLI’s previous material, such as fiery Girls Get Angry Too, It Was My Party (written the day after her 18th birthday bonanza) or the unsettlingly necessary Find My Friends, you won’t be able to avoid the modern day struggles of teenage chaos in each of their existences. It’s the kind of music that represents the side of youth that we as our younger selves hid, and therefore find it far too easy to forget is still active. It’s the music that would make suburban middle-class mums cover their toddlers’ ears if they heard it on the radio picking Stacey up from Ballet Practice, while completely oblivious that at that moment 21 year-old art student Bailey is huddled in a flat in Croydon somewhere drawing Mooches with Bip Ling. This is GIRLI’s world, because GIRLI’s world is our world; we just won’t wake up and realise it.
‘I started releasing music as GIRLI when I was 17 and I’m 20 now, and that’s such a big change in these crucial three years. I think now with my last release Day Month Second, I feel like that is like this is the most ‘me’ now out of everything I’ve released. I feel like I’ve pressed start’. And the ignition has ignited with a bang. Day Month Second heralds a new era of alt-pop with London life at its core, mirroring the behaviour of a Fox you might find in the back garden; starting off sweet and sultry and then clawing your eyes out and going for your throat, taking no prisoners. It’s a supreme song from an artist who feels more at home just chilling on the bus with her mates than posing in a photo booth in Urban Outfitters… the very definition of the word wild.
And while her back catalogue is impressive (seriously, this girl has been so underground this entire time and it’s a fucking scandal), what has this divulge into her internal wonderland taught her, and where is this pink-bricked road leading her? ‘That’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, as a person. I’m outspoken and I always knew that I wanted to be an artist that I would have looked up to when I was younger because I know how important musicians and bands were to me forming my opinions and my own view of the world. I think I’m always gonna be outspoken, political. I want to make songs that people can feel free to, that people can go nuts to, people can dance like no ones watching to’.
While finding your sound can often be a solitary experience and might not win you many awards, GIRLI’s equally outspoken fanbase are a testament to the love and support we should all show each other as we grow; and she’s noticed, especially when she’s found herself face-to-face with them on tour. ‘I’ve built an amazing core fan base over the years from all the other stuff I’ve released… For me like my shows put out a message that they’re a safe space. I’ll try and make sure everyone feels comfortable and that they enjoy the show with no fear of being judged or harassed. The shows are amazing. There are so many people who are so individual, and there’s a big part of the audience who’s like… queer or non conforming in every sense of the word. They feel so positive’.
‘Shows are so mental’ she continues, ‘because social media which is the way which artists mainly interact with their fans, they’re right there in our hands but also really far away, the connection seems so distant. Before you play a show you forget the followers or comments are real people, then you play and you’re like ‘fuck, I’m playing to a thousand people in this room’. I notice when I go on social media afterwards that a lot of people make friends at the shows and it’s a supportive environment. For some of the fans who have been following me since the beginning, I really appreciate that so much, they’ve been so supportive. It’s so sweet’.
A battle with our identity is something we often feel with we go through alone, and even though adults and friends say they understand, in our teen years we never really know they do or believe them, do we? So to see someone who has gone through this journey with such confidence to display it all for us, to proudly see herself as a caterpillar and practically insta live the entire period mid-cocoon, I’m front and centre in anticipation for what kind of butterfly is about to emerge (I’m just a little nervous, I mean, butterflies haven’t had it very well lately have they?). But far more reassured than shaky.
‘I’m like ‘okay, this is me now, this is GIRLI’. Yeah, I’ve been writing a lot of new music and developing my sound way more… realising what kind of music I want to make. I think the thing that brings my newer stuff together and some of the stuff that I’ve written that I know is coming out soon is a general kind of new attitude. It’s more pop, but it’s still bad ass and still gritty. I always wanna be super honest, and I want people to see that what they’re witnessing is the real deal’.
‘I wanna be a musician my whole life and I think that’s something I’m learning a lot. When you’re young you just wanna do everything now but I’m realising if you take time and build things properly then the good times will last longer’. I press her about her upcoming tour, dying to find out. ‘I’m going on tour in October around the U.K. and I’m super fucking pumped. In London I’m playing at Heaven, which is one of the cooler venues and also an awesome gay club at night. I’ve been there a lot, I’m super excited. I’m gonna have another song before that tour as well and I’m just gonna be playing lots of new material. From the stage design to the lighting, it’s all gonna reflect the new me’.
And to dreams of a legacy? ‘For me I wanna travel as much as I can. I wanna take my music everywhere and play shows in crazy cool places that I’ve never heard of before. I wanna keep growing, I wanna have a career, I don’t wanna be a hype, super hot one minute and then no one gives a shit the next. I think that’s the big thing I’m learning right now’.
Honestly, you can put me in a paper bag because I am sold. As a man who has far, far too long feeling underrepresented, it’s refreshing to see someone so assertive, switched-on and grounded in charge of our future. I’m sorry… conformity can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because it’s dead.
The future is GIRLI, that’s a fact.
Words by James Hawkridge