With her unapologetic feminist lyrics and tongue-in-cheek humour, GIRLI is the older sister we wish we had growing up. We caught up with the pink-haired musician to discuss all things girl power and her hopes and dreams for the future.
GIRLI wears Ellesse tracksuit, Paul & Joe pearl button coat
How do you identify yourself?
I think I identify myself as an ever-changing artist, I’m of course a musician but also in the modern era, I feel like I have a certain responsibility by having a social media presence. I hate the word influencer, but in a way, my online presence has formed a part of me and who I am. There’s my songs, then there’s my interaction with my fans and people online. Nowadays you’re never just a musician, you’re loads of different things, but if someone asked me what sort of music I made, I’d say Alternative Pop.
You have a strong cult following, especially within the arts community, you even get your tour photographer to take portraits of fans queuing outside while you’re on the road. Why do you feel it’s so important to not only just engage with your fans, but almost you almost act as their less authoritative guardian or friend?
I think because when I was 14/15 and going gigs and discovering bands that was my escape from school, bullying and bullshit. I found my solace in bands who had a connection with their fans and always looked up to them. Looking back now, when I started doing my own music projects, I realised the responsibility I have to the people who are listening to my music and engaging with me online, and how that I could help them. For me, having people on stage or online when I was younger, saying; “It’s ok to be gay”, “It’s ok to feel shit”, “It’s ok to be different”, it was so important to me. I felt like they were my friends in a way.
GIRLI wears Dafna May blue dress
You start your shows with a message to announce that attendees should treat and see your performance, as safe space. As the idea of safe-spaces become more mainstream and capitalised, in hand with the closure of independent venues, how do you think we can ensure these safe-spaces are kept inclusive and affordable to those who need them most?
I think it’s got to become a culture. Venues, small or large should have visible safety awareness posters up; security guards that are properly trained on how to deal with harassment or how to deal with people when they come up to them because they feel uncomfortable. Every band should be talking about it on stage and online, then slowly, that becomes the culture; when you’re at a show you’ll then have an environment where everyone knows how to behave and treat everyone with respect. It only starts with an idea, then it spreads. When you have bands that all the member are cisgender males or they have a predominately cisgender male audience, when they discuss how it’s not ok to touch people in the crowd is so powerful. We need to be educating everybody about safe spaces in general.
It’s becoming more clear to people that people in creative positions of power, should be run by those who understand or live with these experiences. Do you feel the same theory should apply with other people in creative positions of power?
I think it’s so important that anyone that has some form of position of privilege or power should bring everyone else up. It’s a complicated issue because, if you have a situation where you exercise white privilege, you should just use that power in a positive way. If it is an all-male band wanting to talk about feminism, I think that’s great. It works in all ways I think.
What’s your idea of feminism?
Feminism to me means to go together, it means equality, its means intersectionality. I think it is such a shame that word has become something that people use as a big buzzword.
GIRLI wears Claire Barrow jeans, ASOS ruffle maxi dress, orange gloves, Topshop glasses and Melissa shoes
Because the term has been hijacked so much by brands, how can we ensure people still value its true meaning? It’s funny because for me I always thought it was weird that there had to be a word to describe equal respect and equal rights. I think in a way it is weird because when brands use that word, half of me is going this is just for capitalist, corporate use yet these brands aren’t actually doing anything for the cause. At the same time, it is still spreading awareness and making it more mainstream; having T-Shirts that say feminist on them. I think what is important is that we don’t want to make feminism this elite thing, where you have to believe certain things to be a feminist, I believe feminism is for everyone and for me it is this belief where everyone should be equal regardless of their gender. It is such a fine line between protecting feminism and making it something that is for everyone.
Your lyrics are so open and honest about your own struggles but also, about the hardships we all face as women due to the patriarchy, especially with your songs like Hot Mess. Why do you choose to write this way? Would you say it’s your outlet for your frustrations? Honestly I just write about what happens to me, my own experiences and I have written songs like Hot Mess because I think it is important to talk about those things, I wanted to get it out there and I wanted people to hear about it. I was angry and frustrated and for me when I feel any sort of way I put it into music, so for me that was why I wrote about that. I am really happy that people engaged with that and responded the way that they did because if it is a song that empowers people to not put up with bullshit like that, then that makes me super happy.
"I think what is important is that we don’t want to make feminism this elite thing, where you have to believe certain things to be a feminist, I believe feminism is for everyone and for me it is this belief where everyone should be equal regardless of their gender."
What do you wish were covered more by mainstream media and news outlets?
I think there is still a massive issue with the right winged media just shaming groups of people, it is just crazy how so much sexism, racism and homophobia there is on the front of mainstream newspapers (you know the ones). That for me is something that is so backwards and it is crazy how that still exists and how nothing has been done to make that illegal. It is discrimination and it is disgusting.
I was looking at something yesterday a friend posted where Serena Williams was fined at the US Open for objecting to a decision and she was fined £70,000 for that. She kicked up a fuss about it because she said there were men that are worse on this court, but because I am a young Black woman you are discriminating against me in this way. In the media the next day, especially in right winged newspapers there were all these cartoons of her displaying like an animal, jumping up and down, that is literally 1920s shit. It is racist and sexist, and the fact that this was allowed to be printed and the way they were describing her. It is crazy, the different portrayal of women in the media, not just women but people of colour, gay people and trans people, I think for me that is so crazy.
GIRLI wears stylist's own Feminist T-shirt and Jennifer Esson vegan leather jacket
You have an extremely distinct style, although you’ve explained that your upcoming music is more grown up, could you tell us a little bit about that?
I started releasing music as GIRLI when I was 17, now I am 20, that is such a big leap in terms of how I have matured and naturally my music has followed with me. I am really lucky to have built a fan base over that time that has stuck with me and enjoyed watching my journey and supported me for being me. The music is just a matured me, I think a lot of my music was very impulsive because I was so young, I just said whatever. I feel like now I have honed my craft a bit more and I am more concise with what I say and how I say it.
Also, when you start your music career quite young, you are sometimes pigeon holed into a sound before you’ve even developed as a person. You obviously grow as person and move out of that space, how are you navigating that?
I’m finding it really hard, I find it difficult because things move so quickly now, people in all creative industries with social media, everything is so hype and now and then it’s gone and then what’s fresh, it’s really difficult because the culture has changed but people haven’t changed. It takes a long time to develop yourself and grow and your journey. It’s hard because I am trying to find myself and develop myself to be the best artist I can be, it’s almost like people don’t have the patience for it which is really frustrating. The good thing is that there are people who have the patience for it and a lot of them are the people that follow me, that’s kind of the test, who is going to stick by you and believe in you and see what you are going to come out with next and who is going to be bored and move on.
As this is the future issue, what are your hopes and dreams for 2019?
I am having to learn to embrace not knowing what is coming next.
This article originally appeared in BRICKS "The Future Issue", which you can purchase here.