QSC Aspiring Interview: Tragic Sasha on music & Millennial angst

Whether it be trading Instagram time for playing solitaire or feeling like a character from the Sims in real life, Tragic Sasha’s brilliantly unique songs tell of millennial angst and attempting to live in the modern world with her mental health intact. A rising star in the UK’s left-field pop music scene, Sasha chats to Headliner about her new single Head Over Heels and her upcoming debut EP – about trying to feel adequate in a society that often tells us we aren’t.

Sasha Gurney chose the tongue-in-cheek artist alias Tragic Sasha – many Brits will relate to the fact that they’d sooner opt for a self deprecating name over some of the ‘soon to be a millionaire’ styled names you typically see in the US hip-hop scene. 

There’s little to deprecate when it comes to her music trajectory, however. She’s consistently been dropping singles since 2016, which have accumulated hundreds of thousands of streams — although she very understandably bemoans the millennial musician issue of being played thousands of times on streaming platforms, with eye-watering low payments accompanying them.

You probably wouldn’t hear me on Capital FM.

Sasha is giving her time to Headliner very generously as it’s her 27th birthday on the day of interview. She’s at home with her parents in Surrey, where she’s staying while also splitting her time at her boyfriend’s in London, where her studio is. 

She has lived all around London, on and off, (a very typical story of young creatives struggling to afford to live in the UK capital, which is consistently one of the most unaffordable cities in the world).

“I went to L.A. in January for a little holiday. I was doing a bit of work out there as well, because I write and produce for other artists. I love it there. London can be quite a sharp place, especially if you don't have the money to enjoy it. But as most people know, no artists really have the money to enjoy London,” she laughs. “We're all just trying to try and get by really.”

While Tragic Sasha’s music undoubtedly does go underneath the umbrella of pop music, to merely refer to it as pop would be doing it a disservice. “You probably wouldn’t hear me on Capital FM,” she says. 

“Maybe late-night Radio One, or BBC 6 Music, if you will! Although I have been writing some more upbeat stuff recently, especially when writing with other artists. I get to dip my toe in a few different genres.”

London can be quite a sharp place, especially if you don't have the money to enjoy it.

While there are plenty of artists from the Millennial generation who’ve built a fanbase and made music their career, there are few who make the actual experience of growing up in the nineties and noughties such a big part of their songwriting as Sasha. 

Following on from the Baby Boomers and Gen Z, many of whom typically own cars and property, Millennials are the generation who have entered the job market during recessions and faced with the fact that many jobs have been replaced by automation — meaning unemployment and struggling to afford rising rents and house prices has become a huge issue for young people.

“It really does inform my music, the notion of just trying to get by in these times we’re living in with all the chaos around us,” she says. 

“I’m 27 now, so heading into my late twenties, and I know a lot of young people have the same struggles — trying to find a job, especially in this cost of living crisis when everything is so expensive. Not knowing what to do, where to live, this combination of having so much choice, but everything is so chaotic at the same time. And then you have all these people on TikTok saying I should move to Barbados and become a digital nomad!”

One thing Tragic Sasha definitely has a firm grip on is the visual component of her music — her singles always have pleasingly uniform cover art, her Instagram is a delight, and her two latest singles have fantastic music videos. 

As we build up to her upcoming EP, Bottle It Up was selected as the lead single, with an anthemic chorus and Sasha’s signature and tasteful use of autotune. And for the aesthetics out there, the video is an absolute delight.

Expect more themes of millennial angst, I’m very on brand!

“Each of the songs have their own little visual stories,” she says. “And Bottle It Up is the first of five. The videos aren’t related, I’m not that clever! I wrote the song four years ago, I’ve been sitting on it for a long time. The song is about bottling up your emotions rather than talking about things. That feeling of guilt a lot of millennials have and not knowing what to do.”

And she’s followed that up with Head Over Heels, a deft slice of lo-fi pop, displaying Sasha’s unique strength of marrying singalong choruses with her production style of keys that are ever so slightly off-key, a drum-machine style beat and a general edge that ensures the track has no hint of a bubblegum sheen. It couldn’t marry more perfectly with the video, in which Sasha is a Sims-style, house-bound avatar, as things slowly unravel throughout.

Sasha explains: “My little Sim is just going through the motions, trying to go about her life. But her emotional state is feeding into the world around her. She’s trying to iron a shirt, but it’s riding off the ironing board and glitches into the floor, and the whole world around her starts crumbling into chaos. I actually wrote the song before the pandemic, and it prophesied the loneliness of the next two years.”

And if the strength of these two songs is anything to go by, then it’s time to get very excited about Tragic Sasha’s five-track debut EP, her first full collection of songs after diligently releasing so many singles for several years, as is the norm in the Spotify-age.

She concludes by revealing “the EP is called The End Of The World, which is also the name of the next single, out in March. I also wrote that one before the pandemic, and then it did feel like the world was ending! Expect more themes of millennial angst, I’m very on brand!”