Interview: Girl Ray talk getting recognised ahead of release of Earl Grey

Girl RayPoppy Hankin answers the phone with a gush of warmth and geniality, and quickly explains that the rest of Girl Ray, classmates Iris McConnell and Sophie Moss, will be along in a moment. They are all hanging out at Poppy’s house in London, and despite massive album acclaim, a spot at BBC 6Music Festival 2017, and a sell-out tour, Girl Ray are feeling pretty domestic and pedestrian this afternoon.

Poppy says of the experience: “2017 has been a huge year for us, but it doesn’t feel like we're anything different just sitting here at home right now. Recording the album felt really special, it felt productive in a way we haven’t been before. But it’s hard to understand what has changed for us when we're all together like this, at home, being pretty normal.”

2017 has certainly been a defining year for the three 18-year-olds from North London. Their debut album Earl Grey is due for release on 4th August 2017 via Moshi Moshi, the band have already been named 'Ones to Watch' by the Guardian, and of course there's that live performance in Edinburgh for BBC Radio 6Music.  All of this from a band of schoolmates that only two years ago were singing ska in Poppy’s bedroom.  Domesticity aside, there must have been some standout moments this year?


Iris, who by now has joined us, agrees: “For me, it was going to a festival, Beaches Brew, to watch King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  We weren’t performing so we were able to just chill out and eat pizza for five days. It was bliss.”

But even when chilling out, Girl Ray can’t escape their growing fan base. “We aren’t the biggest party animals, so while we were at the festival we were often woken up by our neighbours," recounts Poppy. " One night, at 4am, they were at it again, so I decided to go round and ask them to turn the music down.  It was then, of all the times and places that I got recognised.  Not sure they were particularly pleased to see me given that I was asking them to turn the music down.  But hey, I got recognised!” Iris adds that it's “not exactly rock and roll though, Poppy...”

It's easy to see why Girl Ray have made such an impact this year. They have a sound that wanders somewhere between Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Chrissie Hynde, and that kind of sassy, sweet innocence that comes from a genuine love of the music with no pretensions to fame.

Poppy agrees their sound is unique, but explains it comes after a lot of practice: “When Iris and I used to play together when we were about 14, we were pretty terrible.  We played ska mostly, and we knew we hadn’t found our sound because everything we did was pretty awful. It wasn’t until Sophie joined when we were 16 that we started to take it a bit more seriously, and then our sound just sort of appeared. We don’t try to sound this way, it’s just how we sound.”


“I think it helped that by then Poppy had a girlfriend and we all had more going on emotionally, and so had something more real to write about," Sophie chips in. "Then we started to get decent recordings and sounded more polished, because we were singing about stuff that really mattered to us."

“Now when we play it is like a delicious meal, just the perfect mix,” Poppy rounds off.

Like many new bands today, Girl Ray owe much of their early success to streaming services like Spotify and Soundcloud. Poppy is generally in favour: “Without Soundcloud we would be nowhere right now. I think as an industry we just have to accept and celebrate the move to digital, because it allows people to try out new music. Our fans can get a taste for us on a platform like Spotify, and then hopefully buy the album because they enjoy our stuff.”

Iris agrees: “I know Spotify sucks, but I'm a total fan, even though we don’t get much money from the immense amount of plays we get..." Cue lots of self-deprecating laughter. "Seriously," she continues, "the recommended section and weekly playlist is like ‘whoa, damn’. Digital has also exposed us to a lot more music than would have been available to us 10 years ago, and that can only make us better musicians.”

Sophie chimes in: “The only thing I dislike about music streaming services is that people have such a short attention span now. You put hours of work into your music and you know people can just turn it off after 10 seconds because they haven’t invested in it like we have.  You just want to shout, ‘hey that’s not even the best bit yet!’”

“We never expected to make money from physical sales," Poppy adds, "so we're kind of okay with anything we do make.”


Speaking of resurgences, Girl Ray, like thousands of other young people in 2017, voted for the first time on 8th June. "We are all a bit confused about what happened with the election to be honest," Poppy admits to the sound of nervous laughter from her bandmates. "We started off all optimistic and thought what a great opportunity this is going to be for young people and issues like student debt, and now we're like, huh? Suddenly the Tories are forming a government with a bunch of  homophobic bigots, and I have to remain optimistic!”

“For the most part I'm hopeful," Sophie adds as a calming influence. "We've at least now got a decent opposition, so I remain hopeful.”

Despite a genuine sense of emotion at the outcome of the general election, Poppy explains that politics isn't top of the band's agenda. “We know that musicians like Nadine Shah are using music to make a political statement and we wish we could do something like that, but to be honest it's hard as three middle-class, white girls to do it properly without sounding like a twat. I also think that our generation exists in a bubble, and statements on gender, sexuality, and race that would have been controversial two decades ago are much more normalised for us, so we don’t see it as anything other than music uniting people in love.” Iris just says that it's simply "not us.”

So there are no plans for any politically motivated albums in the future, but what is next for Girl Ray? “Festival dates, a bit of recording for the second album [and a] headline tour," according to Sophie. "In fact, we are about to embark on the busiest 12 months of our lives.” Poppy interjects that she “would like to record a Christmas number one. I already know what it's going to be called: "I Wish I Was Giving You a Christmas Gift This Year".”

And that’s how I leave Girl Ray, just as I found them: laughing, singing and teasing each other. Three obviously close friends who happen to make delicious music. “We hope people will buy the album," Iris says, finally. "Because we are really quite proud of it, put loads of effort in, and they might be surprised.”

Girl Ray's debut album Earl Grey is due out 4th August 2017 through Moshi Moshi Records.


One Response to “Interview: Girl Ray talk getting recognised ahead of release of Earl Grey”


  1. Interview: Girl Ray talk getting recognised ahead of release of Earl Grey – Live List - 26/06/2017

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