Girl Ray – Interview 2017

Girl RayGirl Ray have become one of 2017’s most hyped bands. Their music is raw and deep. There’s a complexity to their songs which is disguised with subtlety. Do they deserve the hype they are receiving? Absolutely. Their music boarders on melancholic but is countered with their natural charm and beautiful airy vocals. Just before their debut Earl Grey was released, singer and guitarist Poppy had a brief chat with us to talk about the band’s journey up to this point.

First of all, congratulations on the album, it’s really fantastic.
Thank you, that’s what we like to hear

You’ve even got Mac DeMarco wearing your T-shirts!
We kinda forced that on him.

How so?
The official story is that he’s a huge fan. The unofficial story is that Iris, our drummer, met him at his after party in London and they were talking for a while. His address is public and when she was in New York her and her friend went and forced it on him and took a picture.

Going back to the beginning, you all formed at school during your A-Levels and it was just two of you at the beginning?
Yeah, it was me and Iris at first we’ve had different formations and versions of Girl Ray since we were 14. We tried very unsuccessfully to make a band happen for a long time and then eventually it all worked.

What was the point where it did all click into place?
It was a curve in the songs we were writing; they were kind of jokey, not intentionally. We were 14 or something and just writing nonsense and we took a step back and came back to it when we were a bit older. Then you have slightly more mature things on your mind and songs get a bit more complex.

At what point did you decided to make music?
My brother Mike was in a band called Let’s Wrestle, who were kind of a bit culty on the indie scene. So he was in a band and as a younger sibling you always think your brother is the coolest person ever. So he was getting ready to go to SXSW and I was getting ready for bed and I was like “right I’ve got to be in a band”. Iris and I had a similar taste in music and we’d talk about wanting to be in a band and it never happened even though we wanted to be in a band so much. There wasn’t one record, for me at least. I remember being at a White Denim gig with Iris when we were 16. I don’t really love White Denim, not as much as she does. But we were just watching them and we were like “right we’ve got to make this happen”.

What did the original Girl Ray sound like as opposed to now?
It was incredibly lo-fi but not our intention at all. The only recording stuff we had was Iris’ dad’s old Mac with Garageband and none of us really knew how to do it so we just pressed record and used the computer speakers. It sounded technically really awful but listening back it was really sweet actually. We just didn’t know. Someone told me that Bowie triple tracked his vocals so we thought we should do that; it was technically so rubbish. They’re quite charming, it’s just very lo-fi but not intentionally at all. In fact, those recordings that are now private so nobody could see them again, they’re going out on a bonus disc for Rough Trade.

You’ve supported and played with some brilliant artists, Meilyr Jones, Teleman I could go on. Was there anything you picked up any advice given, that sort of thing?
We’ve supported some of our absolute favourite bands. The thing that I take away is seeing such incredible performers, they’re just so confident and get the audience going, I think that’s the most important thing. Before, when we were gigging we were quite sheepish and I think the audience could probably feel that a little bit. Every time I see a great live show I just get totally inspired. In terms of advice the only thing I can remember was Josiah from Whitney, he bought us a round of shots and was like “this big band did this for us when we were really small, so I’m going to do it for you now and maybe when you’re big you can buy drinks for small bands” and I thought that was quite sweet. Not really advice but I remember that.

You’ve recently signed to Moshi Moshi, what drew you to them?
They’d put out some of our absolute favourite bands and they seemed like… I dunno, I’m going to sound like such a twat but you just get a feeling about a label and I think you get that whether you’re on it or not. Each label has their own personality and Moshi Moshi just felt really right. The people that work there are just so lovely and the bands they’ve put out are incredible and it just seemed like a really a good choice.

You’ve said that the album’s very honest in its lyrics, do you ever worry about being a bit too truthful and someone may hear something.
Oh yeah, definitely. The majority of these songs were written completely to make myself feel better. Again, total cliché but if I’m sad it just makes me happier to write a song about it. You kind of have to access what’s going on and it does feel like a weight off your shoulders. With this album I wasn’t so aware if this person will know it’s about them. With the next album I’m already writing songs for it. I’m gonna be a bit more terrified, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or whatever.

You played a tribute to Arthur Russell along with a Brighton band Early Ghost earlier this year, can you tell us a little about that and why you wanted to be part of the evening?
It’s funny you say Early Ghost, the frontman Mike O’Malley is a really good friend. He tours with us now, he plays keyboard and guitar and he helped produce the album. He got us into Arthur Russell and we all really love Arthur Russell. They’re such fun songs to play.

Mike and I work really well as a team; he’s also very technically minded which is kind of rare in some ways. He sort of made things that we wanted to happen, happen. I’m being incredibly vague but he could make our dreams come true in that respect. He’s been involved with us since we started. He helped record our first set of real demos. He just completely gets what Girl Ray is about in terms of its sound. Working with other people you realise how rare that is.

Chris Middleton