ALBUM: Girl Friday – ‘Androgynous Mary’

Hardly Art are hardly novices at breaking new bands – the label gave early releases to the likes of Tacocat, La Luz, Shannon & The Clams and Colleen Green, amongst many others – but for LA four-piece Girl Friday, this debut album release on the label reflects a massive step forward for a band after just two EPs, which were self-released. But equally, for a group with this diversity of influence, and this originality of expression, perhaps it’s not so surprising that they’re hosting the band’s new album Androgynous Mary. 

The group came together via a chance encounter when guitarist Vera met bassist Libby at a friend’s house, at UCLA. Impressed by Libby’s particular style of playing bass – the Peter Hook merged with Kim Deal style of which certainly informs the ten tracks on Androgynous Mary. Vera introduced herself and the pair began making music together, bringing in additional guitarist Sierra and drummer Virginia through friends of friends.

What really marks the group out is their refusal to pigeon-hole themselves, generically, with this LP displaying flashes of surf-rock, garage, post-punk, goth, art-rock and pop-punk. And, although the foursome certainly have a broadly feminist identity, this is no mere political screed. Rather, it’s a collage of sounds and ideas from their time together, as informed by “parking lot murals” as the SCUM Manifesto, in a way not dissimilar to Girl Friday’s  hero, Courtney Love.

Album opener, ‘This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For’, is a case-in-point. It’s initially a gentle lead-in that shows off Girl Friday’s gorgeous vocal harmonies and soaring guitar lines, all contained in a mid-tempo post-punk ballad. But, in perhaps a meta callback to its title, the song falls apart into a free-form breakdown a few minutes in, before returning to its original style.

Second track and the album’s lead single, ‘Amber’s Knees: A Matter of Concern’ is built around a choppy, spikey slice of lo-fi indie-punk guitar.  Described by the group as a consideration of “the borders of culturally sanctioned dissociation and the wilful ignorance we often employ to keep things functioning”, its juxtaposition of post-punk and lyrical density gives it a substantial atmosphere that belies the accessibility of its sound. This is also true to some extent with ‘Eaten Things’, which veers more towards a gloomy, grunge sludge bass-led sound, and thumping percussion – “I want to eat you up” goes its chorus, before a grim sounding middle eight that sounds epically gothic.  

Lyrically, ‘Public Bodies’ is a return to the observational nature of the first two tracks, whilst sonically shifting the album into Allo Darlin’ style melancholic indie-pop. Musing on mainstream rejection, isolation and the inaccessibility of healthcare in the USA (that’s one interpretation), it uses images of religion and bodies consumed by capitalist machinery, stating “…if you want your independence, then you trade your health for cash”. The song closes with a Goo-era Sonic Youth style coda, underlining the band’s ability to re-construct their songs, seemingly on the spur of the moment, like an act of collective will. This is also true of what follows in ‘What We Do It For’ – opening with 90 seconds of post-punk instrumental led by spectral guitars (not far from the early days of Interpol), leading to a middle section of balladic harmonies, and closing with a flurry of guitars and drums; it’s like three different songs beautifully crashing into each other.  

‘Earthquake’ is a more immediate, Runaways style garage banger, replete with a shouty chorus which, somewhat appropriately, leads to an emotional shift in the album. ‘Clotting’ contains soft vocalisations and more personally emotive lyrics, not dissimilar to Sleater Kinney’s quieter work, whilst ‘Gold Stars’ is a mid-tempo grunge tale of an unwanted relationship (“I said leave, but you heard love”), underscored by Libby’s bass melodies. 

Closers ‘Favourite Friend’ and ‘I Hope Jason Is Happy’ form a dovetailing pair, sharing a stadium-filling guitar line that shines throughout both – “My head doesn’t fit the crown, does it matter anymore?” opens the lyrics on the mournful former, and the track slowly grows in intensity, dropping away to leave only the sustained guitar lead-in to the LP’s closer. Over a marching drum beat and fuzzy guitars, Girl Friday’s four members sing “My head is on your chest / In the end I’ll be happy if you do your best / You’ve got to fight to keep your breath in this world” and, with that, it finishes.

Precocious, without being naïve, and intelligent, without being pretentious, Girl Friday have crafted a debut that is no mere polemic, but allows imagist lyrics and inventive song-craft to create a palpable sense of character for the listener to lean into. It cuts a slice through influences, that stretch from the early ’70s, up to the present day – sifting, magpie-like, through the works of The Breeders, The Slits, Girlpool, Placebo, and (perhaps unconsciously) the C86 movement. Throughout, that bass sound flows, like a dark river, stretching a taut string across ten tracks, that each ring with their own distinct power. In short, Girl Friday have constructed a debut that’s suitable for all the days of the week.

Androgynous Mary is out 21st August via Hardly Art. Pre-order here.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

Photo Credit: Al Kalyk

Five Favourites: Girl Friday

Set to release their debut album next month, LA’s Girl Friday create genre-bending indie rock, reflecting on life on as young musicians in the 21st century. Juxtaposing dystopian leanings and feminist ideals with a scuzzy optimistic spirit, with grit and sparkle in equal parts, they represent an upcoming unique, empowering force and a new favourite for sure.

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspires them or influences their writing. So, we caught up with the whole of Girl Friday – Libby, Sierra, Vera and Virginia – to discuss the five albums that have made the biggest mark on them. Check out their choices below, and watch Girl Friday’s new video for ‘Public Bodies’ at the end of this article.

Libby:
Beck – Odelay
Definitely not any deep cuts here, but I definitely feel like Beck’s Odelay has had a huge influence on me personally. I remember sitting in my high school’s library eating lunch alone and feeling so emboldened by the bassline in ‘Minus’ and the really nonchalant vocals in ‘The New Pollution’. This album is so special to me. I think it was a benchmark of my adolescent years when I felt so ugly, out of place, and generally full of doom. It was kind of the start of when I started to feel like I could actually pursue the making of my own music.

Sierra:
Tonight Alive – The Other Side
I was completely dumbfounded when I discovered Tonight Alive in middle school. I remember sitting in the back of my English class, thinking I was very cool with my hood up, playing their music videos on repeat from my phone and daydreaming that I was in the band. Jenna McDougall is a huge hero of mine in terms of songwriting and vocal performance, and this album is the prime example for me. She blends merciless vitriol with an emotional vulnerability that lends her so much power. I’m convinced no one could ever stop her from doing exactly what she wants. Yes, this album brings me back to being 15 in my Sleeping with Sirens t-shirt with the sleeves cut off (bless); yes, I listen to it now and still hear snippets from my own life echoed back at me; yes, I am crying as I play it and write this.

Vera:
The Velvet Underground – Loaded
If we’re talking perfect records here. I mean that’s just an endless giving tree of joy. I associate it with a time in my life of freedom and youth and young love. 

All:
Kills Birds – Kills Birds
Sierra: We went to Kills Birds’ album release show at The Bootleg, and my mind was completely blown. I remember looking around and realizing that everyone else’s jaws were sitting comfortably next to mine on the floor. The drama! The percussion! The delivery! What more could you ask for?
Virginia: Kills Birds is one of those bands whose music is impossible to listen to without moving or singing along. Their songs are refreshing but have a familiarity that makes them feel like they’ve been around since the ‘90s.  The whole album is fantastic from top to stop, but my favourites are ‘Only Yellow’ and ‘High’. 

Virginia:
St Vincent – Actor
I’ve listened to this record so many times. I remember taking a trip to LA when I was 15 (which was a very foreign place to me at the time), stumbling into Amoeba Records and walking out with that pastel mess of a CD. From the start it’s filled with a ghostly choir, woodwinds galore, and slinky drums and guitar all topped by Annie Clark’s creeping vocals. There are increasing hints of agitation and noise throughout the song then at 2:33 the floodgates of distortion are opened and the song becomes incredibly glorious and huge. Every song has such rich textures and really takes you for a ride. I love to close my eyes and allow myself to get lost in the cinematic fever dream that is Actor. The feeling I get from listening to that album is the experience that I want to create in the music I make. I want people to listen to it in their headphones when they feel trapped and find an escape. I want them to blast it driving in their neighbourhoods and scream along and feel so cool. I want them to remember the first time they heard it and tear up because it’s brought them so much joy and comfort and courage over the years (which is the current situation that I’m surprised to find myself in oops). Thank you Annie, and in the off chance that you happen to hear Androgynous Mary, happy listening and enjoy. I think we’ve truly made a little treat and I’m proud to release it into the world.

Massive thanks to Girl Friday for sharing their Five Favourites!

Girl Friday’s debut album Androgynous Mary is out 21st August via Hardly Art. Watch the new video for latest single ‘Public Bodies’ now:

Photo Credit: Al Kalyk