Girl Friday on Their Debut Album “Androgynous Mary” | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, December 4th, 2020  

Girl Friday on Their Debut Album “Androgynous Mary”

Better Together

Aug 24, 2020 Web Exclusive
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Girl Friday interviews always “start with just a moment of confusion,” says Sierra Scott, one of the guitarists and (four) vocalists of the Los Angeles-based band. 

“We have this really intense sensitivity to let each other talk,” continues guitarist/vocalist Vera Ellen. “We have this consistent thing in interviews where once a question is asked, it always be like…” In unison, every member looks around each other through their Zoom screens and cracks up. “Like that,” Ellen chuckles. 

Chatting with Girl Friday is dismaying, it’s like inserting yourself into a friend group that seems to talk in a language only they understand. But its cadence is lovely. Vera directs bassist Libby Hsieh to answer a question because she wants to “see Libby’s face on full screen.” Sierra and Libby reveal they’re in a DuoLingo duel to see who can have the highest streak. There are side eyes and finger guns all throughout the call, but most noticeably, there’s a tangible feeling of respect and love. 

But despite having an almost telepathic communication with each other, the group only met a few years back after a series of mingling at house shows. 

“I feel like it was just like pockets of friends or musicians,” says drummer Virginia Pettis. “Whether it be just like meeting each other and then getting recommended. So eventually we just got thrown in the same pot and it ended up working out, surprisingly. So here we are.”

The group first gained traction as the finalists in the 2018 Vans Share the Stage competition and soon released 2019’s Fashion Conman EP, a tight post-punk project with catchy hooks and slashing guitars that deal with themes of being young, scared, but fully-charged. Their full-length debut LP, Androgynous Mary came out last Friday. And for Girl Friday, it’s been a long time coming.

“We theoretically started writing it very, very long ago,” Scott says. “I think it was kind of when we all first started playing together. We had very, very early versions of at least one of the songs on the album. And we were famously writing it until we absolutely were not physically able to write it anymore because we had to record it. It was a pretty long process: two and a half years.”

While on the call Pettis asks me what I feel when I look at the cover of Androgynous Mary. On it is an elderly looking person dressed in a suit, leaning against their hand with a stern look on their face. “Intimidating,” I say. But after taking a step back, or a more literal zoom into the picture, I would say exhausted. 

Androgynous Mary is about exhaustion—the exhausting life of being excluded from a normative society. Take “Public Bodies,” for example. It begins with a gentle opening; the subtle tap of a hi-hat pairs with almost submissive lick. But then there’s a pause, as if the band is getting the courage to ask something: “Does the average man feel like he’s on the outside?” At the breakdown the guitar picks up and in come a chorus of chants: “Let her be her mother’s only daughter/Let her put her head under the water.” They exchange their lines as if they’re casting a spell. The more voices, the more potential for their message to come true. Let her. Let her. Let her. 

There are many moments like this where the band practically boils over with unfettered frustration. “I said, ‘leave,’ I said, ‘leave,’ I said, ‘leave’/But you heard, ‘love,’” they chant on “Gold Stars.” And in a heavily misogynistic indie-rock landscape, the band, comprised of all non-men, have a right to be angry. But they know that this isn’t only true to them.

“It’s like one of those things too if you’re disadvantaged in some way yourself, I guess with us it would be as women slash not men in music, we know what that feels like, so of course we would want to reach a hand or do whatever we could to support people who on top of that have more disadvantages than us,” Ellen says.

“You just have the ability to connect to anybody and through any experience,” Hsieh adds. “And why not make everybody know that like, ‘Hey, all of you, you guys are welcome in this like experience.’”

This encouragement to allow others into an oftentimes gate kept community is one of the biggest pieces that make Girl Friday an incredibly radiant whole because they execute it with each other first. They don’t just give space to each other in the Zoom call, but in the studio as well. 

“A lot of times someone will bring in a few pieces or words, or a lick or something, and then we’ll kind of all jump on it and contribute and have a back and forth,” Pettis says. “Then sometimes we’ll just be warming up or jamming and then something cool will happen and we’ll be like, ‘Oh wait, let’s go back to that.’ So every song comes from a different place, but they all end with us doing something together.” 

Androgynous Mary feels timeless for these reasons alone. Barring a few of the more relationship-focused songs, the tracks have a universality to them as their genesis came from four different people interpreting one general theme. Sure, there are shared analyses sandwiched between distant anecdotes, but they ebb and flow in a riotous, but streamlined rhythm. And although from an outsider perspective you can’t delineate which person wrote which line, but you can sense the blocks were built by different hands. Four pairs, to be exact. And the final product is quite magnificent.

“As an individual, you can sort of get to a certain point,” Ellen says. “But when you’re in a collective—and that can be with protest action or that could be in a band—your sphere of what you are able to achieve is just broadened immensely. And that’s endlessly giving and endlessly beautiful to realize, especially when you can feel so alone in the world.” 

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