QSC Aspiring interview: How nightmare suburbia inspired Girl w/The Pearl’s ‘kids’

The easiest way to understand Girl w/The Pearl is to imagine you are heading to the pub with a particularly musically skilled group of mates. They approach music and hanging out very much in the same way, using their time together as an intensively fun and productive exercise in releasing creative passion. Mylo, Max and Dani explain the story behind the band name, how Robin Gibbs’ grave gives them good luck, and why a tongue in cheek take on nightmare suburbia inspired their latest single, kids.

You're Bristol and London based. How does that work?

Mylo: Max and Dani live in Bristol together and I'm in London. Max and Dani will fire some stuff over or I’ll fire stuff over. A lot of the time we'll write and record in Bristol and I'll come down because it's easier to go where the other two are, rather than both of them making the trip up to me.

Max: When we first started, I was living near Oxford, so it's sort of the middle ground.

When did you meet and decide to form a band?

Dani: We all met at university. I met Max in 2015 and we met Mylo a year later. Me and Max studied together and Mylo was in halls with us.

Mylo: Max and Dani were making music together and I was doing an acting course. It was my first introduction to meeting all these musicians. I was working on an animated show and we needed someone to score it. We hit up Max and Dani because I knew that they were fantastic musicians. 

We worked together on three episodes of this cartoon and I looked at Max in the studio and said, ‘Shall we make music that's not to score something?’ We had a bit of a reunion a couple of years ago and we didn't know how it was gonna work. That first session was pretty sweet and we've been going since.

Where did the band name come from?

Mylo: I was walking around my girlfriend's flat in Glasgow and I was like, ‘I want to set up a band’. I had ‘girl with the pearl’ rattling around my head for weeks. I have no idea why…maybe I saw the painting somewhere? It had a nice ring to it. And the ‘w/’ – I like the classical art mixed with modern day poppy, kitschy internet speak. It was a mixture of old and something quite glamorous, and something new and poppy.

we call ourselves a Britpop band; we don't tie ourselves down into one genre

What do each of you bring to the band in terms of individual musical styles and preferences?

Mylo: We all have very different backgrounds, influences and inspirations. That's why we call ourselves a Britpop band; we don't tie ourselves down into one genre. We've got lots of room to experiment and try different things while still having a label that describes the vibe, but not musical specifics.

Dani: I grew up listening to Britney Spears and Sugarbabes – real bubble gum pop. I was never super super into music until I was a teenager. I listened to a lot of metal or rock music, blues, jazz. I started playing in some rock bands and I made a lot of blues and folk music.

Max: From my early upbringings, It was The Beatles, The Kinks and a lot of punk music. When Dani and I met at uni, it was house music – a lot of Daft Punk. We played in some punk bands and did some experimental noise stuff as well. Bit of everything really.

Mylo: When I was a lot younger, classic rock got me into music. The first band I saw live was AC/DC and when I was about 13, dubstep came along. That was a weird era of really aggressive intense-sounding stuff. That came and went very abruptly when I was a teenager. I mellowed out a bit and I got more into house music, more drum and bass, and then I got into hip hop when I was in my early 20s. Now I listen to all sorts of stuff and I'm looking for new sounds and bands all the time. Actually, I've listened to way more bands since working with Max and Dani.

sometimes it's everyone in the room just making noise until it coalesces into something worth working on.

What do your writing sessions look like?

Mylo: Each writing session will be pretty eclectic but I think that's the fun of putting a little project together, even just putting one song together by having different influences. We've got this motto that when we're creating, if there's a clash of ideas where it's like, ‘I want to put this in’, or someone's like, ‘We’ve got to put this in’, it always ends with both. Both always go in, it's never one or the other.

Dani: We're all always mulling things over in the background while doing other things. Someone will bring an idea to the table and then we'll develop it like that. Or, sometimes it's everyone in the room just making noise until it coalesces into something worth working on.

Max: Our first EP was made in my old flat, which was near Oxford, over that really hot summer. We all got in the old studio space and four songs just fell out of us really fast. Then we've had others where Mylo comes in with something and we've bounced off that, where a lot of it has been written, and then we put our flavour on it. Or me and Dani have sat down and written a tune before, musically, before bringing it to Mylo.

Mylo: I’ve got a little loop station that I tend to write on, because I don't actually play, but I create all these little beats and instrumentals on the loop station when I'm on my own, and that can sometimes inspire lyrics. That has led to some cool things.

Max: All of our releases have had different origins, which is one of the fun things about it. It's always fresh and different. That's why we don't prescribe ourselves to a proper genre as well. That freedom to have fun together is super important.

Mylo: Yeah, totally. Our most productive sessions that felt the most sparky were the ones where everything is written in the room. We got cursed after our first EP where our songwriting got drawn out massively. When we were living in Thame, we were writing our first EP. It's right by the Bee Gees’, Robin Gibbs' grave. 

Every day on our morning stroll, we'd pass the grave stone, pay our respects and give it a little rub for good luck, and then that recording session was great. Most of the songs were all written, done and dusted. 

But since we haven't been paying our respects, the songwriting has taken a long time. We basically vow for our next longer project, we want to write it in the room. We're strongest when we are in the room together and the vibes are there.

What inspires your songs?

Mylo: I'm inspired by the music that Max and Dani play in the room, and that tends to start shaping my thought process. I might have been thinking about something in that week, or that month, and the particular sound that Max and Dani will bring might spark off one thing. The stuff I've written lyrically tends to be about relationships, the seasons and the changing nature of things. With our recent release, it's veering a bit away from the more relationship stuff to a bit more slice of life.

Max: [Looking at Mylo] I always think that you write narratives, and that's what I love about it. Quite often when we've been jamming, you'll put lyrics to it and it's almost like a film unfolds in my head.

Mylo: You're absolutely right. When I write something, regardless of what the content is, I always like to feel like it's got a little narrative arc. I've done a bit of writing before and I think that structural kind of training, I can't get rid of. We always want it to have a beginning, middle and an end somewhere in there, even if it's hard to find!

Mylo: You’re a classically trained actor and writer by day and musician by night. Are you drawn to one more than the other?

Mylo: My background is acting. I've toured around the country in theatre shows. That's where a lot of my training has come into it. That's my primary career and how I've been feeding myself for the last couple of years. When you're not acting, there's a lot of time in between those projects. If you've got a real itch to create, then that can eat away at you if you're not doing something. I've always been musical and I've always loved music, but I never had the confidence to do it on my own. 

But obviously, I’ve got Max and Dani around me now and they're so amazing to work with, so I just thought, why don't we give it a go? It's now probably the thing that feeds my soul a bit, and maybe more than the acting stuff in a way because there's ownership over it. 

You're building something with people you care about. Girl w/ The Pearl has been a real good time across the board. There's been no times where it's been like, ‘This is a slog’. Having those two things in tandem has been really awesome.

With our recent release, it's veering a bit away from the more relationship stuff to a bit more slice of life.

Dani: You have been making music since you were just 13. Can you remember the first song you wrote?

Dani: I think that was probably one of the first songs I wrote with a band I was in. We were practising and in a static caravan in an allotment somewhere in the middle of the countryside outside of Birmingham – a bit of classic rock. I think the song was named after the brand of oven that was in the caravan.

Max: You have a master's thesis in game design. How do you fit that around the band?

Max: It was quite a whirlwind of a turnaround, retraining after COVID. It was something that I got into originally through music and I was looking at it as an easier way to make a living off of music, to be honest! It was quite a niche thing but then I became obsessed with the design of it. It's really all about expressing a narrative. You can create a beautiful sense of empathy through these shared experiences, so for me, it all fits together and each complements the other. We always make time for Girls w/ the Pearl. It's gotta be done.

it’s this place where everyone exists in their own little bubble of beige. It's nightmare suburbia.

Your new single, kids is about rootless, well-off suburban kids forced to face the realities of life. Where did the idea stem from?

Mylo: It’s a collection of observations about my experience growing up in a suburban commuter town and observing what can happen for a lot of people who stay in those places maybe a bit too long. It's a place where life isn't very tough, but it's also not super glamorous or exciting; it’s this place where everyone exists in their own little bubble of beige. 

I think living in the shadow of a really cool place that has rich history and a big arts and cultural scene can create a bit of a crisis of identity. I've observed that and I was also inspired by the fact that idyllic suburban places are often the backdrop for horror films, so there's a little bit of that in there as well, even though it's tongue in cheek. It's nightmare suburbia. It just fell out after Max played a very tasty bassline in a session.

Max: That was an interesting one because we changed the drums a lot to be fair, but we had this bass riff and then the lyrics went on quite fast. We were working on another tune for ages and this one was on the back burner for ages. Dani finally came in and said, ‘I've been waiting for months to get these guitars on there before mixing it’. They came in and it was so good. It still puts goosebumps on me.

Dani: I was very frustrated with that song [laughs]. I really, really didn't like it for the longest time and I was convinced that it wasn't going to make it, so a lot of the sounds of the guitar on that single were inspired by my frustration.

What’s next for the band?

Mylo: we're about to release another single called Nine Times. That's very different to what we've done before. It's very stripped back guitar and vocals. We always want to switch it up with each release, so that'll be something different, and hopefully people like it. Other than that, we are working on this next body of work and also hopefully doing some shows.