Meet… RICH GIRLS
We all know by now that, if you prefer human solidarity to egoistic stupidity, 2016 was a hell
of a shocking year. One to get all liberal-minded and tolerant souls really worried about the near, scary future. And if, on top of it, your heart also broke on a more intimate level, like mine (my father died) and, certainly, that of countless other hurt ones too, I guess comfort was/is a much-needed remedy to ease the pain. In my case, genuinely touching music was and always will be the most valuable companion to ventilate my mental ache. Harrowing and honest sonic melancholy coming straight from a sorrowful heart is what I cherish in sad moments. Therefore discovering garage pop band RICH GIRLS, formed by the California raised and now New York based musician LOUISA BLACK, was truly special. I had/have their new five-track EP, titled LOVE IS THE DEALER on repeat the last few months. Black is a poignant singer/songwriter, blessed with a sincerely grief-stricken and captivating voice and a razor-sharp pen to translate her massive pain into uncompromising words. She writes gloomy tracks for her and our tears. Let’s listen to a heart-piercing one before meeting the outspoken author…
I’ve read somewhere that you started your former, UK-based band, THE BLACKS
because you felt indie rock was boring at the time. True or false?
“True. The Blacks were a backlash against soft establishment indie pop. College yuppies singing about Oxford commas. Remember that? It was fucking horrible. We hated bands
like that. So we set out to do the opposite. Make a lot of raw noise with as few instruments
as possible. I loved that band. We broke up in 2009.”
Did 60s/70s gospel & soul singer Doris Duke really inspired you to start RICH GIRLS?
“Yes. I was moping around London without a band or a job or any friends. The Blacks were done. I could barely listen to music and I hated England. It was a real low point. The only thing that sounded good to me was this obscure soul record, Doris Duke’s I’m a Loser. The total abjection of it. It reminded me that if nothing else I could still write a pop song.”
What’s the story behind the group’s name?
“Total misdirection. It was a dark joke when I was feeling the very opposite of rich. I had this dream version of a band in my head but the reality was this sad-sack solo project. And I didn’t think anyone would be interested in that. So I invented a name to disguise the fact that band was just me in a bedroom writing songs on Garageband.”
I feel a lot of heartache and tristesse in new EP ‘Love Is The Dealer’. How much of your own reality got into the songs, Luisa?
“It was a very personal record. And that was new for me. I tend to hide behind personas. Or not hide exactly, but I use them as a tool in songwriting. When the record was done I thought, wow. This is such a downer. No one’s going to like this. So I was surprised to find what a high tolerance for gloom people have. Apparently everyone is heartbroken.”
For many, like me, great sad songs feel like comforting companions. Were you looking for comfort when writing those new songs?
“I don’t think so. If anything I wanted to reflect pain back at the world. Like, oh you think I’m worthless? You don’t know the half of it. Watch this.”
The first time I saw the video for ‘Loaded’ I was a bit ‘what is going on here’ confused. After a couple of views it looked charming and funny in a weird way. What or who inspired the clip’s concept?
“Like most Rich Girls songs it’s about compulsion. So the video centers on two people being constantly pulled in and out of each other’s orbit. And I had wanted to do a dance video for a long time so I worked with Michelle Fletcher, this amazing choreographer. I wanted spastic minimalism. I think we managed that.”
Overall the guitar lines on the EP really sound poetic to me like telling their own story and matching your pained stories and passionate voice just wonderfully. Like in ‘Black Night’. Natural chemistry between you and guitarist August Churchill?
“August was the first official Rich Girl and he’s a lifer like me. He gets what’s in my head. But he’s a much more tasteful guitar player than I am. I always push him to go insane. You can hear that on Black Night. It’s glorious.”
After more than 2000 years sexism and racism are still a dreadful problem. Why is it that humans, in general, isn’t capable of living in harmony and with respect for each other? “Too many people operating out of fear and small-minded judgement.”
When a group is fronted by a woman many music writers spell that fact literally… ‘this is a female fronted band’. I can’t remember I ever read ‘this is a male fronted band’. Does that bother you?
“It bothers me when it flattens out the meaning. As if all women in music stand for the same thing. They don’t.”
How does it feel to be a woman in a country where the president-elect is an abusive sexist and that his followers – millions – obviously don’t care about that?
“It feels horrible. Like we turned back the clock 100 years. And also like we’re racing toward a violent end. But one thing it’s done is liberate my hatred toward bigots. I feel zero obligation toward compromise of any kind. Not with family, not with friends, not with anyone.”
How easy or how hard is it to express the songs’ intense and intimate sentiments vocally when you’re on a stage, Luisa?
“With Rich Girls I found a voice and a style and it was the first time I really started to take chances. I’ve fronted a band before but I really learned how to sing in Rich Girls. The vocals are at their best live.”
Any joint rituals before the band hits the stage?
“I’ve always loved trios because there’s nowhere to hide. And that can be a rush but you also feel vulnerable sometimes. So I started this ritual before shows where I make the guys stand in the dressing room with me and we have to make ourselves big. Meaning you try to take up as much space as possible—stretch your arms, plant your legs. And the idea is if you imitate the physical action of being powerful, you also trick yourself into feeling it and then you can take that feeling with you on stage. It sounds bizarre but it works.”
What song made you cry in 2016?
“Kate McKinnon singing Cohen’s Hallelujah. Brutal.”
What album had an impact on your heart this year?
“I’m going to answer with a single. Beyonce’s Formation. What an incredible gesture.”
The number one artist on your list to tour the world tour with?
“Adele. I’m her dark punk alter ego.”
Social media: a blessing or a pain in the ass?
“A self-inflicted surveillance mechanism.”
If you could travel in time which artist would you ask to co-write a song with Rich Girls?
“I would time machine back to the moment Iggy was writing Neighborhood Threat and say let’s do this one together.”
Chrissie Hynde or Karen O?
“I’ve had both haircuts. Don’t make me choose.”
Jeff Buckley or Nick Cave?
“You’re cruel. Nick Cave.”
Saddest event of 2016?
“The presidential election. By far.”
Happiest event of 2016?
“Casting my vote for the first woman president of the United States.”
Many thanks for this interview, Luisa. May the road rise with Rich Girls…
“Free music. Just take it. We’re making our entire digital catalog free. Do not pay for it. Repeat: do not pay for it. If you pay for it we will donate every cent to some oppositional group like Planned Parenthood Action or the Southern Poverty Law Center. But we don’t want your money and we’re not asking for donations. Just take it if you want it + keep the underground flame.”