Meet the irritating-on-purpose pink princess, hurtling tampons at her fans and dividing opinion like a jar of Marmite.
Taken from the Fame Issue of Wonderland.
“The first time we met, I was trying to sneak you into the Wonderland party,” I remind GIRLI, real name Milly Toomey, over the phone while I’m distracting her from her English A-Level homework. “That was jokes,” she half-groans. In my memory, the then 17-year-old singer was wearing a huge fur coat — all bubblegum-braided hair and fuchsia-pencilled eyebrows. It was a free bar and my memory’s a blur: she could have been wearing anything, as long as it was her trademark pink. I didn’t get her into the party I’m ashamed to say, but hours later, Toomey had crept past the bouncers, a flash of colour on the dancefloor.
“I hate being 18,” she sighs from her bedroom, which, I’m assured, is a pink palace. “Suddenly everything’s allowed. I think you lose the excitement of knowing that you’re not meant to be drinking, knowing you’re not meant to be in a club and sneaking in.”The north- west Londoner is finding mischief in plenty of other places, though. Toomey’s been compared to Lily Allen, the PC Music girls, Lady Sovereign and Baby Spice. But really, she’s like a Powerpuff Girl who’s munched a multipack of ProPlus.
Back in May, she released her debut track onto an unprepared Internet. “So You Think You Can Fuck With Me Do Ya?” is an erratic, hyper-feminine sonic assault, sampling everything from Mario-Kart sound effects to iMessage text tones.“Hey! You thought I was going to do a ballad? Fuck off. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever,” Toomey spits.
“That was just one of the first songs I wrote as GIRLI,” she remembers. “I was feeling pretty pissed off and I thought it was important to make people aware that women can be angry and in a legit way. Not just in a cat-fight screaming way… I write pop music… I think pop music at the moment is very middle-of-the-road and doesn’t really garner many extreme reactions. I wanted extreme reactions.”
While GIRLI might be the kind of kid to laugh in your face if you told her you didn’t like her, Toomey’s a touch more unassuming. On paper, a girl in a Barbie pink adidas tracksuit throwing tampons at her fans might hint at art-school pretension, but it acts as a front for a teenager trying to make it big in an unforgiving industry. “I’d say GIRLI is just me with a name that I think sounds cooler than Milly,” Toomey laughs with a dry rasp. “It definitely gives me a front to be a little bit more crazy and fearless. In real life, I am shy a little bit and I’m a little bit human. When I go on stage, I lose all fear because I think, ‘It’s just GIRLI. I can go back to being Milly at any time.’ People judge GIRLI, they don’t judge me… not so I have something to hide behind, but have a protective shield. It makes me feel a bit more like I can play a character if I want to, if I feel like Milly’s a bit too shy for that.”
Live, expect to witness Toomey and her comrade DJ Kitty in full-blown pop-brat mode. They’ll no doubt be donned in Buffalo platforms and lingerie, occasionally handing out condoms after the show with hand-written messages. Better safe than sorry. “I don’t know,” Toomey wonders when I probe about the tampon obsession. “I wanted to take something that’s a staple thing that every woman uses, that’s clearly an image of being a woman, and just make it less taboo — [to] make it this playful thing. I remember reading something about a Lily Allen song [in which she says the word] ‘period’. Radio 1 wouldn’t play her. I remember thinking, ‘That’s so bullshit, are we scared of periods or something? I’m just going to start throwing tampons at people.’ I think my favourite reactions are from the guys. I did a show in Leeds and then I threw them all out, then this old guy came up to me and was like, ‘Is it heavy-flow?’ That was just brilliant.”
Already been to a GIRLI show? You’ve heard “ASBOys” then, Toomey’s second single that starts like an M.I.A.-esque call to arms. Think war-beat drums and harmonised off-key chants, in which she comes for every London wasteman you’ve ever hated. It’s been four months since the track’s release, which means there’s new music on the horizon. “I’m so desperate to release everything at once, but I’ve been told that’s not a good idea,” Toomey sighs. I’ve been promised a single and an EP in the near future, but when I press for more details, the singer exclaims: “Oh, fuck! I need a title!”
She’s been busy in those four months though, taking part in Louby McLoughlin’s project OKgrl, a cyber-stylised fashion and music platform, and stylist Kylie Griffith’s GRL PWR — a female-only arts collective. And don’t forget about GIRLI.fm, Toomey’s hectic spoof radio show that she hosted from her “mum’s wardrobe” and includes (faked) interviews with Britney, the Spice Girls and Skepta. “I did it with my friend and collaborator Ian Watt,” she explains of the film and songs rips she used to compile her “conversations”. “We’re probably going to get sued mega!” “If you ever get a week free, you should make another one,” I enthuse.Toomey agrees, but between shopping for pink, recording her next (hopefully) polarising track and stocking up on a lifetime’s supply of tampons, I think she just might not have time.
GIRLI wears vintage VERSUS pink cotton jacket from a selection at ROKIT VINTAGE and white cotton joggers by ASHISH
Photography: Megan Eagles
Fashion: Toni-Blaze Ibekwe
Make up: Anastasia Brovik using MAC COSMETICS
Hair: Shiori Takahashi at Streeters
Words: Lily Walker
With thanks to God’s Own Junkyard