“Deciding to go blonde, to change up my style, makeup, videos, artwork and take it in a more pop direction was so exciting for me”
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGES BY FIONA GARDEN
London-based singer-songwriter girli has long been building her dynasty. The moniker of Milly Toomey, girli is known for her strong alternative pop style, drawing on electropop and pop punk influences. An established face amongst alt circles, she returned with single I Really F**cked It Up in September to a sparkling reception, headlining two intimate shows at Folklore in Hoxton in October.
DIVA caught up with girli to chat about her latest single, supporting her LGBTQIA fans and evoking change in the music industry.
DIVA: Your latest single – I Really F**cked It Up is out now. Congratulations! Could you tell me a little bit about it?
girli: I wrote this song about doing destructive things to feel excitement and absolutely hating myself for it. It’s about being in the best relationship you’ve ever been in and self-sabotaging once it gets to the best bit. It’s about hating myself for making the person I love cry but loving the high of the drama as I watch it unfold before me, knowing that my words created it. It’s me asking myself, why am I like this? Why do I find it so hard to break toxic patterns? I wrote this song after a long period of writers’ block, and it fell together in the perfect way. It’s my favourite song I’ve ever written.
DIVA: This is very much a new era for you, and you’ve worked on a creative directed by Fiona Garden. How are the aesthetics accompanying the music?
I knew after I wrote this song that the visuals had to be on a level with the music. The song questions identity and talks about how I feel like different versions of me at different times, so I naturally felt like “this is the moment where my hair changes”. Deciding to go blonde, to change up my style, makeup, videos, artwork and take it in a more pop direction was so exciting for me. The pink relating to girli before this new era is still there, hinted at in two pink highlights in my hair, a pink door in the music video, pink background in the artwork. Fiona and I bounced off each other when planning the visuals for the project – she hyped me up so much about this new era.
DIVA: You’ve been on a journey of self-discovery and you’ve come out the other end realising that it’s okay not to have the answers. Could you tell me a little bit about this journey and how it’s showed up in your music?
I’ve spent my whole career as girli being asked for the answer to “who am I?”. There’s so much pressure in this industry an as artist to be this perfectly branded and packaged thing that’s easily sellable to the masses. It leaves no room for the real-life confusions, chaos, indecision, questions of being a human being, especially in your teens and twenties. I realised that I didn’t want to cram all the complexities of myself into a little box. That set me free.
DIVA: You’ve been making waves internationally this year, playing Pukkelpop, Sziget, Prague Pride and more. What’s it been like out on the road this summer? Any favourite memories or highlight, stand-out moments?
It’s been wild!! I haven’t had one show where the crowd didn’t blow me away with their energy. Headlining Prague Pride was the highlight for me, because it’s my first time headlining a pride festival and to walk out to 5,000+ people screaming my songs back at me was really something.
DIVA: To accompany the release of your EP Damsel In Distress, you hired an all-women and non-binary crew. Is it important for you to enhance diversity in the music industry?
Completely. I think artists choosing their teams is a powerful position for making change, because the guys at the top aren’t gonna do shit about diversity. You have to reflect the change you want to see in the world in the team around you.
DIVA: You’ve previously opened up about identifying as queer. If you’re comfortable to do so, could you tell me a little about your coming out story?
I identify as bisexual, or queer. I came out when I was 14, to a couple friends and family at first, and then more publicly in my late teens. I’m very lucky in that I always had a very open and supportive family, and I found friends who were queer or allies.
DIVA: Elsewhere, what do you think could be done to improve representation across the music industry? Does the industry in its current form support women and LGBTQIA artists as much as it could?
No, it doesn’t. It’s still dominated by cis straight men. But things are changing, slowly. The LGBTQIA+ community, both the artists and the fans, contribute so much to the music industry and it’s hard to ignore.
DIVA: More Than A Friend became a viral queer anthem during Pride Month in 2021. How did you channel that queer visibility in this song specifically and how do you manifest this representation across your music?
I just wrote a song about an experience that I had that I couldn’t find any songs about, released it, made a music video with a girl as my love interest, and the LGBTQ+ internet community went mad for it. It shows that people are craving queer love stories in music. I just write about my own experiences, and as queer person, those experiences connect with other queer people.
DIVA: You have a lot of LGBTQIA fans, which is fantastic. What does it mean to you to represent them and give them that representation?
It’s amazing! It makes me feel all fuzzy and happy because when I was a teenager, I looked up to artists who openly sang about their queer experiences. It’s wild that my music can be that for people.
DIVA: What’s next for you? What does the future look like?
My new era has arrived, so there’s a LOT coming ;))
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