Born out of London’s South-East, Shygirl has been captivating the UK underground, club-pop scene for years. Rooted in futuristic, divine feminie aesthetics, Shygirl has recently cultivated a cult-like following since a number of her records, most notably Uckers, became heavily embraced by TikTok audiences. In anticipation of her upcoming debut album, Nymph releasing at the end of September, Shygirl has recently dropped her latest single Coochie (a bedtime story). The track bears witness to Shygirls soft, angelic melodies paired with her iconic and playful lyricism, that speaks to the adoration of female bodies. For this single Shygirl teamed up with musician and producing giant Mura Masa, however it wasn’t the first time the pair had worked together. Only a couple months earlier, they also dropped hollaback bitch alongside US rapper, Channel Tres.
As she rapidly secures her position as a cornerstone artist for experimental sounds, Shygirl continues to elevate her artistry by tapping into her adept creativity that she’s been nurturing for many years. When presented with the opportunity to discuss her journey up until now, we spoke with Shygirl to uncover more about her musical succession, her experiences with the female body and some of her biggest personal developments to date.
Congratulations on your latest single, Coochie (a bedtime story). Please tell us more about your creative journey up until now.
Gosh, I definitely feel like my journey so far has been super quick to be honest. It’s weird because when you’re making stuff, it all feels like just the other day that I started making music whereas it was actually 2016 and now we’re in 2022 (laughs). It feels like it just happened at the right time. I started in 2015/16 DJing for fun and not really taking anything seriously. So, then I put out a single in 2016, near enough to when I made it, and then realised that I just enjoy making music. I have always loved writing and I didn’t realise how I could write had potential for songs. Once I did, I found out how cathartic that experience was when I was drawing from my emotions and you know, just this urgency to express myself and finally finding gratification in doing so. I had always been creative and done creative stuff, but I never had this space that I feel music has for me. I didn't have any expectations for what I was producing whereas, in the other creative endeavours I had such a clear idea of what I wanted to make that I was never really satisfied making it. It was never as perfect as my imagination, you know. Whereas, in music I was always surprised by what I had made and how it had space for whatever I was feeling. I guess, after putting out the second EP, Alias, when people had such a response to it - it kind of validated my experience. You know when people actually like it, I'm like maybe I’m actually good at this (laughs). It’s always nice having people respond and be so passionate about their association with what you’re doing creatively, which has always been a self-serving endeavour for me. So, yeah that’s where I’m at, at the moment. Right now I feel really content in my musical journey and it selfishly being something that makes me happy.
That is so nice to hear. I feel like the music industry is a little pressure cooker for so many artists, so hearing you reflect in this way is honestly so refreshing.
Yeah, I definitely feel like it’s been nice to work within the machines of the music industry. Obviously when I started, I was completely independent and started my own label. But with this record, I’ve been working with Because and it’s been really nice to have support from people who have experience within the industry but still gave me the space to work however I wanted to. It’s kind of this affirmational space of being able to be an artist and also be consumed on an industry level - it’s been really nice to be authentic throughout that experience.
I read that you put yourself, or maybe others assign you, to genres such as hyper-pop or experimental pop for ‘algorithmic purposes’, but you don’t necessarily align with that description of your sound.
I had a different opinion of it initially, but now I guess I know that it’s just how people want to consume you. I have always been a bit against blocking myself into categories in general, just because I find it quite reductive. But people tend to just like it in life I guess, to feel like a part of something that transcends musical genres obviously. There is a community there that I do identify with, but I feel like I'm sort of out of it, generationally. In my experience, I don’t go into the studio thinking I’m going to make hyper-pop music. I just go in and make stuff and random shit comes out.
So, in comparison to those genres do you tend to describe your music differently?
Sometimes I feel like I’m making really Avant Garde music and then I’m like no, I’m feeling nostalgic today. It’s definitely it’s own thing - I think even in the group of hyper-pop my music does stand out in its own lane perhaps. But then I’m super critical of my stuff, as a maker you look back at your work afterwards and you’re like Oh God cringe I can’t listen to that song anymore. You know what I mean, sometimes you go back and listen to a record again and think I forgot how good this is. It just depends on my mood and how good I’m feeling about myself and about what I do.
Some of your records have been gaining significant traction on TikTok, how are you feeling in regards to that?
I find it really interesting you know, I love social media in general and it really defined me in some respects. I feel like I have a real active social media life and my real life is just reflective of that I guess. I loved the connectivity of MySpace, I’ve been on Twitter since 2009 - so you could probably dig up some real dredgy tweets of me talking about how my mum’s annoying or something. I’ve been online for so long and yeah, I like TikTok but I feel like I’ve been engaging with it differently. I don’t necessarily make music to go viral on TikTok cause I just would not be able to do it. I don’t find it fun to prescribe to and I also feel like that’s not what it is. I think people who do that are missing the point entirely. It’s like a way in which people interact organically and it’s meant to be interesting to see what comes out of it. But yeah, when Uckers went kind of semi-viral I wasn’t even using TikTok that much, so it was nice that it was it’s own thing. It’s just kind of weird how it’s sometimes got nothing to do with the music, they just choose a section of it that’s like not even what the song is about.
Coochie (a bedtime story) is such a fun track - what were some of your original inspirations for the song and how did it come to be?
I was actually working on that when I went to Brighton, with Cosha, Sega [Bodega], Karma Kid and Mura Masa where we rented an AirBnB and started making music. It was super late in the evening and we were just eating pasta and shit, being stupid and drinking tequila. I was just humming away to myself in the corner of the room and Cosha was sitting on my lap and I was just like, wouldn't it be funny if there was a song about Coochie. Like just a nice song about Coochie. I never hear any nice songs about vaginas, you know. At the time I was seeing this girl, back in London and I was like I wanna hear something nice that praises the female form. So, yeah the song was kinda coming, I just started saying all these random words and then started thinking about Grease’s, Beauty School Dropout the song. Then Cosha started riffing off me and we weren't really communicating to the boys what we were doing but they could hear what we were doing so, Karma Kid started making a beat and it all just flowed. It was a nice little jam session where what everyone was doing just worked and was in sync. Then all of a sudden the song was just there, it all happened so quickly and so easy. It was so nice. I’m always drawn to these darker beats and then all of a sudden there was this sweet song. I was writing it as if I was telling a story to someone, a bit like when I watch Princess Bride and the grandad is talking to the nephew or like, Never Ending Story or something. I was thinking, imagine I’m just passing this message on that is so nice and adoring of the female form in this way. There’s been so many instances growing up where even just saying the word vagina has been like eww you know what I mean. Even talking to other women about getting with women and them being like ugh I just can’t imagine going down on them and I’m just like it’s the same as what you have like why are you so perturbed by that. So, I kinda just wanted to have good energy about it and pass that along whilst slightly objectifying women at the same time.
I love that. Even the music video for Coochie is much more hyper fem, anime girl aesthetic compared to Come For Me and Firefly, which reflect more greener, natural landscapes. For Coochie, how did you land on that visual concept and is there a correlation to the other two visualizers?
We still went to the countryside and had the whole beach/coastal experience, but despite being quite different aesthetically, at the same time they were all still about looking out the window of the tram and documenting me and my place in the world. With Come For Me and Firefly it was all about being elemental and being outside and how I'm riffing off that experience and orchestrating my own reality in real spaces. That’s really the basis of the Nymph aesthetic right now, even in the artwork we shot me in the studio with the backdrop as images I had taken. It’s more about me orchestrating my reality based on recognisable things but it's not real. Which is powerful, you know, being able to say that I can manoeuvre in this world where I see fit. Coochie is that as well, even some of the animations and making the characters and stuff - it’s all about constructing a reality that I want to live in.
Looking at your discography on Spotify, which currently dates back to your first single release, Want More in 2016. From then to now, what’s something you’ve been really proud of achieving?
I don’t know, because there’s much. There’s been monumental changes since the beginning, like the first song I put out was me saying music means something to me. I’m putting it out cause I want to make more of it and I want people to know I make music. My first project was me being like oh look I can make something world building here. Alias was a more intentional world, which was me thinking about where I want to be and what world I want to exist in. In the background of all that, I started a label and was working a full time job - then that all changed when I signed a deal. All these things have made me graduate in life and in my adult experiences. You know, there was a lot of stuff happening. Cruel Practice was about what I saw as failures in my love life, and then by the time we get to Nymph, I’m like there’s no failures and everything was a valuable experience. I think Nymph is somewhat what I’m most proud of sonically and where I’m at with my songwriting. When I released that I was proud, I was happy I accomplished something. Since that point, I’ve been really proud of the person that I’ve become because it was really daunting to step up to a certain level of expectation. Whereas, in the past I’ve always worked under the guise of people who did not expect much from me or had this idea that people didn’t expect much from me. Now, working in this arena which I’ve never experienced before, people expect something of me. So, yeah I think this is a really privileged relationship I’m building with the outside world.