shygirl's music is sexy, south london asmr
“I love seeing emotions that’re considered to be taboo, the worst of us, and just being like: fuck it, I’m gonna explore that.”
“I love seeing emotions that’re considered to be taboo, the worst of us, and just being like: fuck it, I’m gonna explore that,” says 26-year-old SHYGIRL. It’s something that the south east Londoner does in her dark club music; delivering assertive, sexy, savage lyrics with a signature ASMR sing-talk vocal. “That’s how I feel about music,” she says. “I want to explore the most bitter I’ve ever felt, or the most jealous. I just let myself be in that for a minute, it’s healthy to feel things.”
Her move to making music was something of an accident. Her friend Sega Bodega asked her to try singing over a beat of his and the result was so good it became her bassy 2016 debut, ‘Want More’. Onto an abrasive but very good thing, the duo continued collaborating, releasing further singles and eventually her killer debut EP ‘Cruel Practise’ in 2018. “When I play my music to these road guys that I date, they’re like, ‘yeah, it’s cool’ but they don’t know how to move to it. But for some people, it really speaks to them. It’s not for everyone though. It’s definitely polarising.”
By this time, SHYGIRL had met French producer Coucou Chloe and the three of them joined forces as the collective and record label, NUXXE. “I’ve seen how good for you it is,” she says, “not just for your career but for your soul, to not be in it alone. There’s no highs and no lows, just moving forward together. It’s really nice.” In fact, she and Chloe just returned from their first Asia tour, something which she describes as really insane. “The way I grew up...” she says. “It’s not that I never thought I’d be able to do it, but it’s insane that me making music for myself has taken me out to Shanghai.”
Fans of great music will be excited to hear that it has also led to SHYGIRL collaborating long-distance with Arca for the past year. “She messaged me when I was spiralling in the middle of an acid trip,” SHYGIRL remembers. “A message popped up saying she loved my vibe and I was like: wow, I didn’t know I needed that message until right now. How is your timing so good? We’re like penpals, which has been a really nice process, one that has pushed me to develop differently.”
“My music hits the queer community,” she adds, “and that’s where I live, where I’m coming from, so it’s nice that I’m being heard properly. It’s really special to know that I’m contributing something to the scene that took me in, and it’s really saying something that people identify with it.”
Regulars at East London’s favourite club night PDA will already be familiar with SHYGIRL, who is an established part of the family. “I never had role models growing up,” she says, “but when I met Misha, Carrie and Akin... I finally found some.” Reflecting on the closing of the night, the end of an era, she believes that the related uproar over venues closing down is both misunderstood and misplaced.
“Everyone gets so attached to spaces, and that’s not what London is,” she explains. “I think by now people need to realise that it’s not an institution, it’s the fact that we make those spaces. Every time something closes down, something else will come up, and that’s because the people want it. The need is there. If they shut down all the clubs, it wouldn’t be the end of the parties, you know? I don’t think the answer is to hold on to the place, just hold on to what it gave you, what it showed you about people and the culture of music and being social,” she says, wise beyond her years. “London will always have that.”
Photography Josh Olins
Styling Max Clark
Hair Cim Mahony at LGA Management.
Make-up Ciara O’Shea at LGA Management using Fenty Beauty.
Nail technician Trish Lomax at JAQ Management using Cnd.
Set design Max Bellhouse at The Magnet Agency.
Photography assistance Jeremy Young. Digital technician Brian Cleaver.
Styling assistance Giovanni Beda, Joe Palmer, Monica Armario and Gal Klein.
Hair assistance Tarik Bennafla and Rohmarra Kerr.
Make-up assistance Jade Smith.
Set design assistance Miranda Latimer.
Production Etty Bellhouse.
Production assistance Molly Senior.