On the Road, for the Record: Georgia
A bright red 1982 Simmons drum kit sat centerstage at Brooklyn’s Elsewhere last month as a buzzing crowd inched closer, preemptively setting drinks aside in anticipation for the sweaty, jubilant, uninhibited movement they knew they were about to need. For her first-ever headline show in the US, Georgia, an Annie-Mac-approved Londoner with a knack for driven melodies and a mastery of heart-racing tempo, was not to disappoint them.
After bounding on stage sporting a massive smile and cracking jokes while her team sorted through technical difficulties, Georgia gave it her all from the get-go, making quick work of the audience from behind her kit and whipping the crowd up with the impassioned energy and infectious tunes that she, in many ways, created for this exact moment. Her work, which picks and chooses from the best elements of pop-y earworms and old-school house ballads, is written with the express intent of being danced to, creating a communal space for letting go, and reveling in the acceptance that comes with sharing in an unrestrained dance party. As the night wore on and the crowd became a breathless, grinning throng, you could tell that this is exactly as Georgia had planned.
We caught up with the drummer, songwriter, and producer the next day while she, despite powering through some killer jet lag, was still riding high from the night before. We discussed her live show, her upcoming album, and what drives her to write for the people of the dancefloor.
So, first of all, I have to start out by saying congrats on the show last night. That was insane!
Is that sort of energy typical for your shows?
Yes. We’ve been playing shows all throughout the year to gear up for my next album release, and it’s very typical. Like, the whole thing behind the live show is that it’s meant to help you dance and I really want people to be whoever they want to be for that moment and just express themselves.
That’s actually what a lot of your music’s about, right?
Yeah, totally. These new songs are definitely about that, and there is a definite theme of the dancefloor being a way for freedom of expression. There’s kind of a collective space that we’re all dancing under and sharing each other’s emotions, and I’ve found that very powerful. That’s really influenced the live show and the songwriting, and it’s completely intentional. It goes even wilder than that sometimes–like, in the UK we’ve had mosh pits and stuff like that. I felt like Billie Eilish for awhile. [Laughs]
When you’re performing, do you have play ringleader when it gets that crazy to calm people down?
No, you just keep the energy.
And you’ve been touring for a while now, correct?
Yeah. “Started Out” came out last year in November and from that point on we’ve been kind of touring, playing preliminary festivals, and just kind of getting the juices out there. Feelers–putting the feelers out there.
How’s it been going so far?
Well! This is the first leg of the tour, and it’s going really well. I mean, it’s always a bit of a weird time because you’ve left your comfort and you’re suddenly pushed into intense situations, but I feel like now I’m a pretty experienced tourer, or whatever the expression is. I’ve been on tour since I was like 18 years old because I was a session drummer–I used to play drums for other artists–so I am familiar with this whole scenario. I think it’s all about your team. I have a really great team of people and a really, really amazing record label, and for me knowing that you have these comforts around you makes life a little bit easier.
Have you had a moment so far on tour where you’ve felt, “Oh my god, this is really happening”?
Really! Wow, that’s major.
We played the biggest show I think of my career at Glastonbury and it was a real moment. I looked out from the stage and people were just… there was a sea of people and I could not see the end. There were these Glastonbury moments, these magical things that happened at that festival, and I experienced one and I never thought in my life I would. It was a bit of a dream come true.
I noticed you played some unreleased music last night. How do you navigate the tension between building momentum for the new album by teasing new work while also saving enough for the release?
I’ve been dripping out songs over the course of this tour, but I feel like people are just discovering me and there’s no expectation of “We can’t do that” yet because [my work] is very new here still. It’s just about reeling them in and making them feel like they want to be a part of this world, you know?
That makes sense. And is your new album a departure from the work you’ve done in the past? Is it going in new direction at all?
Yeah, it definitely is. I wanted this album to be a bit more accessible for people in the sense that my first record was quite experimental and I didn’t really know what I was doing as such. This second record is basically taking elements of what was good about that record and developing it and making it sound better and finished and, as I said, a bit more accessible.
Stylistically, though, I feel like it isn’t too much of a departure. I mean, I’ve always been fascinated with people who push pop music in cool directions like Kate Bush, Björk, Robyn, and all those people who aren’t afraid to take the form of pop music and twist it on its head and make it a bit more alternative. That’s always been a love of mine. I did also look to the 80s: I looked to Chicago house and Detroit techno as well as the UK 80s synthpop bands like Depeche Mode. Those are sounds that we are familiar with because, for many mainstream pop people, the sounds that they use all come from there. So I thought that’s accessible, and maybe I could put a little bit of a spin on it myself. I feel like, for this record, I almost approached it like a university dissertation. I did a lot of research, and then I wrote this record.
So, stylistically, you’re digging deeper into some of your biggest influences. What about lyrically and emotionally? Can you talk a bit about the lyrics you choose and what drives you to write music from an emotional perspective?
I’m a very emotive person, and I’ve always been very in touch with my emotions. My mum is trained in therapy and me and my brother were always taught to express ourselves and not be too pent up, you know? I also think, as a child, I was very affected emotionally by music. Music did something to me–I’d have physical reactions–and all the music I’ve written comes from a very genuine place of like, “This is how I’m feeling, and this is how I perceive other people to be feeling.” So, the lyrics were just really inspired by people.
I also was influenced by my own personal journey. I stopped drinking for the making of the record, which was a very intentional decision. Stuff had spiraled a bit out of control and I became a vegan, I became quite health-conscious and wanted to be healthy as a person and that influenced my workday as well. In hindsight, I see these songs as almost like a personal journey as well.
For some others–I have this song on the record called “Ray Gun” and another called “Til I Own It”–I think they were written out of a sense of me feeling quite political. Not political in a sense of self-righteous stuff, but, I come from London, and during the period of making this record a lot has happened to the country. Obviously, Brexit happened and you saw a lot of really angry people, a lot of really frustrated people, and it’s kind of chaos, actually. London really feels the chaos of the country, even though people think it’s this disconnected city, and in a couple of ways, with the gentrification of London, extreme wealth moving in, and a lot of shit like knife crime on the rise, a lot has been happening to my city which was out of my control. There are themes of that running through the record as well.
Let’s go into that. How do you walk that line when you’re coupling something like dance music with a more political tone?
Well, I want to be clear, this isn’t a political record per se.
But actually, you could see dance music itself as quite a political movement, because historically it was music for disenfranchised outsiders trying to find an identity and a way of expressing themselves because society had sort of forgotten about them. For example, with Chicago house in the 80s, you had gay, black people who could not express who they were in life finding a home in music and in these house parties where they were able to express themselves–and that’s a fucking beautiful thing. I mean, it’s hard enough being a person of color in America and all over the world, but imagine having that as well as being gay. With music being a way they could be who they are, that’s what makes it quite political. When I discovered all of that, I was like, “Wow”.
Same with the UK rave scene. The UK rave scene was working-class people also trying to find who they were because they had been forgotten about. That’s why dance music is probably one of the most powerful forms of underground music because it’s where people can truly find an identity. There were a lot of people who didn’t know who they were and were searching for something and found themselves in these amazing illegal raves. Phenomenal times, really.
And that goes back to what you’re seeking out in your shows: that same illicit but free feeling, right?
Totally. I’d rather see that than like a band that is just trying to express their egos. I’m really not interested in that anymore. I think it’s about the people now, you know?
Absolutely, and that certainly came through last night. Anything else you want to add before we wrap up?
Well, Brooklyn’s the shit, isn’t it? I love New York and it’s fantastic I’m out here. It means the world, really.
Well, it’s pretty clear New York loves you too.
Georgia’s next album is due to release on January 10th, 2020. In the meantime, you can catch her on tour here.
Stay tuned to Milk for more on the road.