‘This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For’, goes the title of the opening track of Girl Friday‘s debut full-length album. There’s certainly something familiar about the wistful guitar melodies that the song kicks off with, but the L.A. outfit – consisting of guitarist Vera Ellen, bassist Libby Hsieh, drummer Virginia Pettis, and guitarist Sierra Scott, all of whom trade vocal duties – refuse to be pigeonholed into a single genre. It’s not long before Androgynous Mary charges into a riveting bricolage of post-punk, grunge, and goth rock, anchored by the unique chemistry and dynamism that characterizes the self-described ‘Goth Wiggles’. There’s a raucous energy simmering throughout the album’s ten tracks, from the listless disaffection of ‘Public Bodies’ (“Does the average man feel like he’s on the outside?”) to the generational malaise that pulses through ‘Earthquake’ (“I just want to feel like an earthquake / Everything is boring for fuck’s sake”). Along with their ability to jump across genres, the group also displays a knack for traversing through a wide range of moods – from righteous anger, to melancholy, to playfulness. Beneath it all, however, lies a feeling of togetherness, one that infuses these songs with a glint of hope and a sense of purpose. “In the end, I’ll be happy if you do your best/You’ve got to fight to keep your breath in this world,” they sing in unison on the album’s closer.
We caught up with Girl Friday for this edition of our Artist Spotlight series, where we showcase up-and-coming artists and give them a chance to talk about their music.
How did you form Girl Friday?
Sierra: We drove to Virginia’s old apartment in the dead of night and played songs very quietly under her loft bed because we didn’t want to make her neighbors angry, and it was a weeknight after all.
Libby: It just happened I guess.
How do you work together as a group? Do you follow a particular process when it comes to constructing your songs?
Vera: Not particularly. I think with music you have to be open to receiving the song in whatever manner it presents itself in. We have a lot of iphone recordings of jams that will likely never eventuate for sure. Ahhh the song graveyard…
Libby: You just have to let it be what it wants to be.
When did you start working on your debut album, and how did the project change shape since then?
Libby: The project changes, distorts, and grows into something else much like this clownery of a reality we are alive and breathing in.
Sierra: We started working on this album in approximately 49 BCE. Back then, it was but a fever dream, and now it is a full fledged daymare who is healthy and happy to be alive.
You’ve described the album as being inspired by “parking lot murals, divine intervention and subverting Western ideologies about holiness”. Could you elaborate on that?
Libby: Listen to it and tell me!
Sierra: Like each of those things, this album will outlive us all.
I see the album as ultimately being about friendship and togetherness. How did the bond you share as a group affect the writing of these songs?
Vera: Being in a band is very much like being in a relationship with 3 other people. Sometimes it’s magic, sometimes it’s tragic, as are the greatest love stories.
Libby: Sometimes you want to punch someone in the eye, and sometimes you want to call someone on the phone and tell them how much you love them.
What was your favourite track to record, and which one posed more difficulties?
Libby: ‘This is Not the Indie Rock’. We didn’t have any of the key parts written before we went into the studio and Norm has this wonderful standup grand piano. It was a delight to fuck around for a bit and hammer out a little diddy on the keys.
Sierra: ‘Earthquake’ was the most fun to record because we got to scream like a choir of mice and turn on every distortion pedal we could find in the studio. I faced a good old fashioned challenge with the guitar solo at the end of ‘Amber’s Knees’ because our producer Norm Block asked me to double it months after I made it up on the spot and promptly forgot it.
Virginia: For ‘Eaten Thing’, we were able to record old fashioned string synths on an ARP Solina that really took it to spooksville, then added some Vermona drum machine beats at the end to add some definition to the sludge and make it sound more industrial. Anytime toys are brought out in the studio I can’t help but have a good time. The most difficult challenge was trying to stay focused and keep spirits high when the inevitable studio hanger set in. Also metronomes.
How do you feel now that the record is out? Are you already working on anything new?
Vera: I’m proud of us. We created something. You have to take the little wins as they come. Tomorrow I’m finally going to the record store to buy it so that’s when it will feel real. Always working away, sometimes the dead space between songs is part of the creative process.
Libby: I’m proud it’s done and it feels surreal and strange. And of course, whistle while you work you know, just trying to carve some diamonds out of the rough these days.
Androgynous Mary is out now via Hardly Art.