Girli: "I never went out to be controversial, it just happened"
Girli isn’t your run-of-the-mill pop star.
Published: 8:57 am, October 24, 2016
“Well, when I get back from LA…” Girli starts laughing at how ridiculous that sentence sounds. “That’s such a pop star thing to say,” she mocks, putting on a cartoonish voice and, for a fleeting moment, she becomes the two-dimensional character she’s often reduced to. Bubblegum pink, throwing tampons and courting controversy with a determined glare, Girli is larger than life. But only just. Amongst the politics and the protests stands Milly Toomey, grinning and well aware of how ridiculous it’s all become.
From the tongue-very-much-in-cheek flourish of “I’m a pop princess, a sassy songstress, we’re all very impressed. My, what a revealing dress,” on ‘Girls Get Angry Too’ to the, “You thought I was going to do a ballad? Fuck off,” welcome of ‘So You Think You Can Fuck With Me Do Ya?’ Girli has quickly established herself as an artist who says exactly what she’s thinking. She can tell what you’re thinking too, and dances with that power. Constantly one step ahead, ACME weight on the cliff above, she’s ready to hit.
“It’s so fucking typical,“ she mock-sighs. “I never went out and was like ‘I’m going to be controversial’. It just happened.”
It all started age 14 after Milly went to a Tegan and Sara gig. Her dad dropped her off at the venue so she could queue early and she spent the rest of the evening “fangirling so hard. It was the first time I’d properly seen women on stage in a gig setting. I remember being blown away and thinking, ‘Shit, they’ve made a room full of people feel happy. I want to do that.’”
And from that moment on, Milly chased it. First came a handful of “quite shit” indie pop bands where she “played Electric guitar really badly and sang. I found some YouTube videos the other day of one of the first gigs I did with my first band. It was me and these two other girls who were a bit older and now, looking at their eyes in this video, I can see that they were thinking ‘this is shit’ but for me, it was the best band that ever existed."
The rest of the gang might have quit to go to uni, but Milly remained firm. “Good riddance. Funnily enough I came out to LA to visit family a few years ago and I ended up jamming with some musicians, producers and people out here. Then, when I went back to London I started doing stuff on my own and realised that this is fun. If I have a weird idea, I don’t have to explain it to anyone but myself. Suddenly anything’s possible.”
Since the release of ‘ASBOys’ last year, it’s a belief that’s come real. For every one person hailing her the saviour of pop though, there’s another writing her off. “I like it that people are shocked,” she smiles. “There are definitely people that hate Girli. The thing that I think is healthy is that as I get older and make more music, I separate Girli from me. That’s good because if people are hating on Girli, it’s okay, suckers. We can take that right now. I think it’s funny. I never set out to divide opinions, it’s just because I’m a girl who’s more outspoken than perhaps other women in the industry. If you talk about things that people may be uncomfortable hearing about, you get controversy. It’s always healthy to have some sort of awareness to the fact that some people don’t like what you’re doing, and that’s okay.“
There’s a reckless abandon to everything Girli has put her name to so far. A search for freedom at any cost and that devil-may-care attitude isn’t just an act. “I like that I can sing about the fact I don’t care, because in a way, certain aspects of me really don’t. I’m not going to not say things just because some people might not like it but it’s also a really human emotion to really care about what people think. I like involving that in the songs. A lot of the new stuff, it’s not out yet but it will be,” she promises. “It’s a funny mix of being really strongly opinionated and having loads of things to say about shit but also writing about the things everyone knows about, like having crushes on people or feeling like you want a boyfriend. I write political songs and then write songs that are meant to be about really normal things. That’s all part of the human psyche. It’s good to write about all of it.”
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New single, ‘Girl I Met On The Internet’ is “about being a teenager and all of your confusion, sadness, anger and all the shit that sucks about your life. You have that illusion that it can all be solved by finding The One, finding that girl or a boy to go out with and they’ll make you happy and then everything’s going to be okay. It’s also about seeing your friends in relationships and feeling really jealous of that. I kinda created a story about meeting a girl on Tinder or Twitter and falling in love with the idea of her. Believing that if we were together it would be so great, but really, all your problems are going to be solved by you and not someone else.”
Challenging pop and something more, Milly never planned to start something. “It was just a normal thing. I just talk about being a woman making music or gender or political stuff with my friends,” so when it came to writing lyrics, “it just came naturally. If I’m going to make songs about my life, because they are just me talking about shit that’s actually happening, none of it’s made up but that’s what going on with my life. I’m being told I don’t get angry because I’m a girl or I’m being told I should dress like this because I’m this or that” - she holds up two fingers. “Well, maybe I’m going to write a song about it.”
“Everyone expects certain things to happen with my music,” Milly admits. “And I want that too. I feel pressure but good pressure, it’s just me telling myself ‘come on, you can do this. You’re aware you’re not making music just for you. You want to make people feel the same way, that they get as excited by your new songs as they did your other stuff’. I think that’s a good pressure. You want to be the best and make the best songs you can make. You want people to enjoy it.
“I remember the first time I did a gig and people started singing back my own lyrics, ‘this is fucking crazy’. Until then my music had only been listened when I played it or made it, so for it to be involved in other peoples lives is such a crazy thought,” she pauses for a moment. “You know what, if people listen to my music and think yeah, that made me feel good for three minutes, then that’s my job done.”
Five dynamite tracks in and Girli has defied classification at every turn. “I think I really like it being eclectic,” she ventures, deciding in that moment. “I think that reflects my personality. I don’t think as an artist you should make one sort of music. A lot of artists choose to only release one style but then make loads of different stuff on the side but me, I make it and want people to hear it all.”
And it’s all coming. There’s almost definitely an album coming next year and, before that, there’s a fire mixtape and a handful of singles ready to go. Drawing inspiration from films and books like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (“It’s the most insane book. I recommend anyone read it who hasn’t”), as well as the world around her, Girli is so much more than a caricature. “I’m constantly inspired by people and my friends. At the moment I’m writing a lot about how people deal with growing up and all the shit that comes with being on the cusp of adulthood, as well as writing about the same old fucking sexism and shit like that which always seems to be relevant.
“I definitely want to be seen as who I am and that’s not just the whole ‘I’m political’ thing. I also want to kiss that person, that kind of thing. It’s all just human. Even though Girli is in some ways a larger than life character, I also want people to be able to relate to it. It is just me and I’m just a normal person.”
Taken from the October issue of Dork, out now - order your copy here. Girli’s single ‘Girl I Met On The Internet’ is out now.