Interview: girli

Tabitha Smith

girli is fast becoming an icon of queer pop music in the UK. Shortly after the release of her second album, ‘Matriarchy’, Impact’s Tabitha Smith met with the singer to discuss new music, pop culture, and the incredible community she has curated through her music.

girli came down to meet me in the reception of her hotel and we tried to find a seat that wasn’t directly under a blaring speaker so we could hear each other better. The singer, whose real name is Amelia Toomey, had come to Nottingham to play in the city’s renowned record store, Rough Trade, the first floor of which has an excellent space that regularly holds album release shows and signings. girli’s new album, ‘Matriarchy’, had come out the previous week, so she had been playing a few smaller shows like this before her big UK and European tour kicks off at the end of May. “It’s been really really cute,” girli gushed about her recent shows, “and very intimate too.” These shows seem to be quite different to usual, as girli admitted she’s “quite an active performer; I jump around and do a lot of running around the stage.” This has made these record shop shows more close-knit, but also “quite intimidating”, particularly as girli had noticed the difference in lighting in these venues; “when the audience are in the dark, they feel like they can let loose a little bit more” she explained, but in these venues that light up the audience more, girli believes that the crowd might “feel a bit more self-conscious about losing their shit”. Either way, the singer seemed really excited to play the Nottingham venue, as she admitted that it had been a while since she had last visited, saying “hopefully the girli fervour has built!”

Growing and encouraging her fanbase is something girli is fiercely dedicated to, and is largely what the album stands for

Talking all things Matriarchy, girli was still on a high from the album coming out. Speaking about how she’s loved playing songs from the new album, girli admitted that “I’m always surprised by how everyone knows the words to Matriarchy”, the first single and the album’s namesake. The song brought a lot of new fans to girli’s music, something which continues to surprise her; “I’ve been on this girli journey for the whole of the last six or seven years, so I forget that people are just hearing about me!” Growing and encouraging her fanbase is something girli is fiercely dedicated to, and is largely what the album stands for. “For me, Matriarchy means community, it’s this imagined utopia where anyone who’s screwed over by the patriarchy can flourish and thrive,” girli explained to me. The artist wants to encourage a safe space for anyone who feels marginalised or on the outskirts of belonging, which is definitely reflected in her music, which is often very personal. “Being vulnerable is the ultimate way of showing you love someone,” girli explained, “people are really drawn to art that is vulnerable because they feel like this person is telling them ‘hey, this is the stuff I’m going through.’” This could not be more true for girli fans, who seem to thrive on hearing such honest lyricism; “it’s so healing.”

The sense of unity amongst girli crowd members is evident, especially in the videos of fans at the gig venues. Aside from their dedication to wearing cool outfits and travelling far and wide to see girli’s performances, the fans really show an outpouring of love when they recite girli’s lyrics back to her. A highlight of the tour so far for girli was how quickly the fans have learnt the new songs. girli explained how “there was a girl in the front row at Glasgow literally singing every word to all the new songs and I asked her afterwards at the signing, how do you know these songs already?” The fan had apparently been listening to the album on repeat since its midnight release, and was ready and prepared to sing along to all the new songs. It’s these songs in particular that girli is excited to take to larger stages while touring Europe. “Getting to sing these songs for the first time is so strange, especially because I’ve been listening to the demos for like the last year, waiting for it to come out, so that’s really cool.” Fans have also been coming to shows with thoughtful gifts for the singer, with a personal favourite so far being a gorgeous dress that a fan had made. “They called it the Matriarchy dress and it had all of these hand-drawn pieces, and sewn on images from the videos and the album, with lyrics too,” she told me. “I get a lot of amazing artwork; I just feel so lucky.”

Recently the artist has curated a digital archive called ‘girliverse’, an online space for her fans

This relationship with the fans works both ways, however, with girli giving just as much to her fans as they give to her. Recently the artist has curated a digital archive called ‘girliverse’, an online space for her fans. “I wanted to replicate the matriarchy world as a website and I thought it would be really fun to have the matriarchy mansion.” girli explained how it emulated online games she used to play as a child, such as Club Penguin and Habbo Hotel, and it made her think “what if you could go into the mansion, and in each room there’s different things you could explore, about the songs and about me and you could connect with other fans”, so that’s what she set about to create. The site goes as far as to include scans from girli’s real life diary, giving her fans insight into her day-to-day life. “I give them a lot,” she laughed, “maybe too much!”

It is evident that girli puts a lot of thought into every aspect of her career, even going as far to dub herself as the ‘queen of overthinking’. I asked her if she had any advice for those who often fixated on these things, and she recommended fully acknowledging your feelings and allowing yourself to process them. She highlighted the importance of “learning to not run away from the things that are causing you anxiety and just sit with them, because when you run away from something it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger.” She also recommended journalling and finding hobbies to occupy yourself; make sure you’re “spending time away from your phone and being in nature!”

The queer community distinctly overlaps with girli’s fanbase, something which she is always excited to embrace. We talked extensively about how LGBTQ+ representation in the media, particularly of queer women, has been growing recently. girli expressed an adoration for pop star Chappell Roan, whose popularity has been soaring recently, with girli recounting when she realised things were changing; “I was like, oh my god, this is in the mainstream!” Billie Eilish’s new music has also created a lot of change, as girli expressed such joy at the idea of her vast fanbase accepting her queerness, saying that “all of her fans, whether they’re queer or not, will be like ‘oh that’s so normal!’ And that’s just so huge.” Looking at queer culture in the UK, the new dating show ‘I Kissed a Girl’ from the BBC has created a lot of positive discourse surrounding LGBTQ+ identity, and girli was ecstatic to hear her music played in the background of some of the episodes. “We deserve that representation,” girli affirmed, “and I think we’re entering this era when there’s going to be so much more representation and so many more spaces.” As for her favourites, girli is rooting for Amy to find love in the Masseria, a contestant who has grown on her through the show’s duration. “I’m sorry for judging you,” girli said, “you’re my favourite!”

Matriarchy is the moment right now

As for girli’s summer, she is still very much all things Matriarchy. With her European tour taking her until the end of June, the artist doesn’t have anything new planned as of yet. “Matriarchy is the moment right now,” she said, “but maybe there might be a little deluxe [version of] Matriarchy, because a lot of songs didn’t make the cut!” She did admit however, that she is constantly writing music, so there is always something in the works. Other than doing “lots of touring and slaying”, girli is looking forward to a “queer joy summer”, where I hope she takes some well-earned rest.

Matriarchy by girli is out on all streaming platforms!

Tabitha Smith

Featured image courtesy of WMA Agency. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @girlimusic via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.

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