When you listen to Georgia, you get a very real sense that you should not be supine. It’s far too energetic; too aggressively rhythmic for the sheer absurdity of your own immobility not to strangle you as you attempt to “discover chill new sounds” from the comfort of your bed. It just doesn’t work for your twilight meditations or your daily decompression; it’s meant for the urban sprawl, for public transportation to grimy underground clubs where human body heat creates a rising steam and flavored condom dispensers give bathroom patrons weird ideas.
The sound of it necessitates action; intense tribal rhythms propel you forward, and there’s an urgency conveyed in her deadpan voice that prompts you in the vertical direction from your rest. It’s razor sharp, highly distinctive electro-pop that sweats soul, a product of Georgia’s extensive schooling in ethnomusicology and indigenous drumming. This is not a chick that woke up one day like, “I’m bored, I’m making a record, weeee.” This is a person who, since the age of eight when she found she had a god-given talent for the drums, has lived, breathed and probably licked music. But, for the majority of her life as an artist, it was mostly for other people that she created sounds.
But now, after cutting her teeth as a studio and tour drummer for artists like Micachu, Kwes, Kate Tempest, and JUCE, the multi-instrumentalist/ drum god is finally coming into her own as a solo artist with the release of her debut self-titled album, Georgia (out now via Domino). Written and performed by hers truly in its entirely, the album is a voracious exploration of both her hometown (London) and subject matter that transcends love. The beats are beautifully jarring, the production is masterful and it all comes together to synthesize a sound you’ve never quite heard before. Clearly, you guys, I wanted to talk to her.
I called her up on the morning after her groundbreaking show with Hot Chip in New York, and we had a brisk discussion about what she’s doing with all this new-found recognition she’s getting, her parents’ divorce, how drums make you smarter and of course, the time she drank gasoline in Cuba.
Your first US show ever was last night, and it was opening for Hot Chip at Webster Hall in New York. Holy balls. What was that like?
It was brilliant! It was my first time in America playing my own stuff, so it feels really special. It’s really a great experience to be around a great band, and they’re such lovely people. I know Alexis; I’ve played in a band with him before, and I know Joe, and I know Sarah who plays drums, and it feels great because it’s so friendly.
You’re primarily a drummer, so I’ve always wondered, how do your live shows work? Are you running around the stage or behind a kit?
I’ve drummed for a long time as a studio drummer for other people to earn money to sort of take me through my music, so they are still very much a focal point in the live show. But I also sing and dance … I do everything at at once! It ends up being rather lively.
In every interview that I read with you, somebody says that “it’s your time” or “it’s your moment.” What do you plan to do with that moment?
I guess just enjoy it! I just want it to hopefully provide the platform for me to go on and make other records and kind of develop as an artist. I just hope this means I can build up a big fan base so I can do this for the rest of my life.
You’ve also gotten a lot of credit for being refreshing and a lot of people have referenced your sound as something that they haven’t heard before. What do you think that you’re doing right now that other artists aren’t?
You know, I don’t really think about it that much. I just try to make music that is true to me and music that I love, and try to mix it up and not necessarily make it obvious. I’m not a snob and I’m not a hater; I love all types of music, and I think if my music can be seen as refreshing and unique, then that’s a really amazing achievement. But I’ve still got a long way to go to develop as an artist. As I said, this is the kind of platform that is making it really great. And hopefully, as I said, I can keep on developing my sound and get better at it.
One of the things that makes you refreshing is that you don’t just talk about love. You talk about your parents’ divorce on your new album and a lot of things that transcend typical pop music. You don’t hear a lot of songs about divorce. Do you have a different opinion on marriage and monogamy after that?
Not at all. You know, divorce is a terrible thing, but it happens, and it’s just reality. Unfortunately it was a very unexpected thing to happen, and it did really … It did affect me a great deal, because I was seeing my family break up. It was very heartbreaking, but I haven’t formed an opinion on whether marriage is good or not. It’s just life. I’ve been in breakups myself, and it’s just unfortunate … People get hurt. But I still think marriage is a beautiful thing, but it’s a whole other thing to go and talk about monogamy. I don’t really have much of a comment on that, but I hope that maybe it speaks to people going through a similar thing or have been through a similar thing. If it can give people a little bit of hope, then that’s a positive thing to come out of the album.
It’s interesting to me that you went through that experience as a drummer, because I was reading this study about how researchers at Harvard found that drumming and steady rhythms improved cognitive functioning and mood, and they likened its effects to Ritalin. Have you felt that way with drumming? Have you noticed that it’s improved your mood or your mental abilities?
Yeah. Drumming does kind of induce some sort of expression for me. As a kid I was very energetic, and I was quite naughty as well. And I found that drums were a bit of a therapy during that. It did help me to kind of control behavior and get some sort of sense of calmness, and I do think the repetitive nature of playing drums and also coordination helps. You’re doing a lot of things at once and I think it definitely did help me in some way. I don’t feel any smarter though (laughter).
With you, a lot of attention gets focused on your rhythms, percussion and production. But what about your voice? What kind of importance does your voice have, in relation to everything else that you do?
It’s a major part. I feel like it’s a developing thing, but I certainly feel more confident with my voice now, and certainly I was always singing as a kid as well as playing other instruments, and I really love using my voice. I hope it becomes a strong characteristic of who I am.
Are there any drum beats in songs right now that you’re most obsessed with and that you can’t really get out of your head?
Wow … I’m always obsessed with Missy, and Timbaland Productions. “The Rain” rhythm, you know, “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” where it’s like, “BoomDaDaChoomDa.” I love that beat. That beat’s always in my head, constantly. When I’m in the studio, I’m always thinking of that beat.
Your sound is urgent and aggressive, which are things that are kind of characteristic of London, where you’re from. Do you plan to keep it that way? Or are you excited to see where things go as you find yourself exposed to more new places?
I feel like this album is completely about London, actually. And about my life and my experiences in London, and certainly there’s an aggression there; there’s definitely a London sort of swag type thing I’m constantly inspired by. I grew up there, I was born and raised and I haven’t left. And certainly, I wouldn’t be able to be me if I wasn’t from London. I feel very much that I can identify with it, and it’s just a natural thing that it comes out in the music. You know, there’s a bit of rawness, and a bit of the industrial sound, you know?
Definitely. And how much does that play into your personality? Because you’re kind of known for being very unselfconscious and fearless and brazen. Does that come from London as well?
I am quite self-conscious about certain things. I feel like, if you’re from the city, you’re a bit more thick-skinned. You have a certain swagger, don’t you, if you’re from the city? It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing. It definitely comes out in my personality because that’s who I am. I very much identify the things of London with myself. I probably am a Londoner in the truest sense.
One of the most brazen songs you have is “Move Systems.” In another interview you said you were trying to relate it to what you and your girls would do on a night out. What do you you guys do when you go out?
Wow, we go a bit nuts. We go a bit boisterous. We have a good time. It’s very much a part of who I am. All my girlfriends, we’re a very close group of friends … I’ve known them since I was fourteen, thirteen. So we’ll go out and we’ll go wild. We won’t go half-ass. We’ll go in it hard (laughter).
What’s the craziest night that you guys have had?
Well, we went to Cuba, and I drunk petrol fluid by accident (laughter), thinking that it was rum and Coke, and that was pretty wild. We ended up having a pretty nuts time, and I had to go to the hospital, and get my stomach pumped. You know, we’ll go for like, nights, and not get home until one in the afternoon the next day.
And Sheila, your friend from “Move Systems.” Do you still see her?
Not as much. She was just a kind of homeless drug dealer, haha.
What did she deal?
Whatever you wanted (laughter).
Do you have any plans to come out to LA?
Yeah! I really hope so. I want to come out to LA and play shows and maybe work in studios.