Actress Lola Kirke and singer Lily McQueen have been musical collaborators since college, when they accidentally formed an all-girl country music band during Hurricane Irene.
The power had gone out in their small college town in upstate New York and they were riding out the storm in a bar. They joined an impromptu jam circle, with three other friends, and the bartender asked them to come back next week. "'You're a band!' He told us," says Lola over the phone from LA. They even put out an EP — under a name they almost immediately regretted.
"We disbanded after college and I've just kind of been working on this project ever since," says Lily from Brooklyn, referring to her current solo act singing buoyant, heartfelt pop-rock under her own name. "But it all started with me and Lola in college," she laughs.
So it made sense that when Lily wanted to make a video for her latest single, "You're Not Ready for My Love," she asked Lola to direct it. The video, as Lola describes it, is a throwback to before college, to when their friendship really began: in middle school, in New York. "We would have these massive sleepovers where we would just stay up all night dancing or making these videos," she explains. "We would dress up as the Spice Girls a lot," Lily remembers. "We had alternate Spice Girls characters. Just like really weird, far-out Spice Girls characters."
Lola now lives part-time in LA, so when she came back to New York recently, she rounded up their friends (including one of their former country band members) and filmed them hanging out: making up dance routines on her roof, shotting beers in the bathtub, and singing into hairbrushes.
"It was really spur of the moment," says Lily. Lola filmed for five hours and had a first cut 12 hours later. "Remember, everyone left at ten, and I stayed up until five in the morning editing diligently while we watched the Oscars and ate pizza?" Lola reminds Lily.
The feeling of spontaneity was intentional too, so is the fuzzy DIY effect of the footage, which Lola shot entirely on iPhone. "We wanted to explore that kind of agency that people are given. And the way you can heal yourself through representing yourself," explains Lola. "In the video there's this narrative of re-empowering yourself with your friends. I think that's what differentiates between the 13-year-old girls that we're basing the video off of and the 26-year-old girls we are. There's this element of heartache and self-loathing that enters your life in between those ages. And I think that, I don't know, we just wanted to approach it in a non-cheesy way."
"And that speaks to the song for me," Lily adds. "You know, realizing that something isn't right, as much as it hurts, is something that I came to realize through talking to my friends. It's a sad song but it's also an empowering song." Underlaid by power-ballad 80s synths and anthemic percussion, "You're Not Ready for My Love" is the kind of song you want to crank up in your bedroom as you belt out the lyrics like Pat Benatar and throw yourself around as if you could thrash out all your heartache through your hair.
It's also the ultimate ode to female friendship. "I wish that we would team up forever and ever and ever," says Lola. "We're friends for the long-haul." Recently, she's been playing some of her own music in LA, so perhaps there's still a chance their band will make a comeback.
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Alasdair McLellan
The 35th Birthday Issue