girl_irl Interview

Formally a touring DJ and an ongoing producer, girl_irl is one of many aliases of Em Perlman. Their perspective of the future and intuition to stay one step ahead of the game allows them to bring familiar yet undiscovered sound for the sole purpose of your enjoyment. Inspired by their diverse roots, girl_irl is exploring all aspects of today’s sonic landscape, tapping into new genres and bringing a new sound with it. Em’s MENA roots combined with an Atlanta upbringing brings forth new inventions. With their first single, “Sinclair,” going viral and even gaining admiration from The Needle Drop and Alternative Press they are carving out a new lane in the music world and taking 2022 by storm. 


Rei Low: So before we jump into the questions, how’s your day been?

girl_irl: I’ve been really busy, running around a lot but I always am. 

Rei Low: So, research shows that for the ages of 11 to 16 our music taste is solidified, what albums do you consider fundamental to your early tastes? Artists? Genres?

girl_irl: I don’t really think I developed my own music taste until around the age of 19 after a long term relationship. Before then it was a lot of the music I was around living in Atlanta: Nelly Furtado, Timbaland, Luda, Wale, the 90s punk my brother always showed me and the Jazz and Soul my dad loved. Around the age of 14 it shifted with my tumblr phase. It mainly consisted of music like The Smiths, Joy Division, crystal castles, crim3s, etc. I think the main artist that has stuck with me from my tumblr era would be poliça.

Rei Low: What significance does Sophie have to your sound if at all?

girl_irl: I actually got into sophie a little later in Spring of 2018. My friend at the time brought up that he had two free tickets to a small show she was playing at Drunken Unicorn. I had lready listened to some of her stuff before and loved what I heard and so I decided to go. The night before the show, I followed Sophie and woke up to a shit ton of notifications on instagram. It turns out she followed me back, I think the reddit threads are still floating around the internet today. Not 100% sure why it happened, could’ve easily been an accident but it opened me up to an entirely new world. The concert was incredible and definitely pushed the Atlanta scene in another direction. It gave a lot of innovators another bubble to belong to. 

Rei Low: What about PC Music’s influence on your sound?

girl_irl: I admire how it was so overly-commercialized for mainstream media that it shifted into a sort of campy critique. GFOTY always comes to mind..

Rei Low: Looking through your inspiration playlist, there seems to be some international selections, where are some hotspots and what artists that you admire outside of the U.S.?

girl_irl: I was brought up with an international background and am always getting new song recommendations from friends and family around the world. Once you step outside the western bubble of mainstream music you really find a lot of similarities. Like some of my favorite artists out of Brazil following similar drum patterns and rhythms as others out of Egypt who are following the same vocal melodies from artists out of France. And it’s always been that way. I don’t think a lot of American music has the capability for it regardless of how hard they try.  

Rei Low: Yea I noticed you had some heavy syncopation and counter rhythms going on in Siren.

girl_irl: Luca Rassi added some really special production to siren and Cyberkills also killed the remix. They’re insanely talented.

Rei Low: What is the most powerful Arca song or project to you?

girl_irl: I love Arca and think she’s breaking a lot of new ground but she's someone I haven't listened to as much as I should. I actually went to her Kick release show a little while back and it got me back into doing a whole deepdive of her discography again. 

Rei Low: How is your sound inspired by your fashion and vice versa?

girl_irl: I always thought it would be cool to have my music overlay with fashion, I’ve soundtracked a few smaller fashion shows and have done a few private NYFW events this year. I don't know why or how I got here and can’t fully gauge where I’m at but I'm grateful for it.

I think I’ve always been this way: bob, slacks, probably some sort of crop top…only until recently I've become friends with this incredible stylist who’s helped me get even more out of my comfort zone, I think we click really well. I love the bob, it feels iconic, but I'm thinking about dying it a couple times and then shaving it. The only reason I got it in the first place was because I was dealing with a lot of hair loss, and I brought it back from my childhood. It’s stuck since! 

Pretty sure I’ve always just gone with whatever I like, I finally getting a little more comfortable sharing what I do music-wise with my parents and I remember showing my mom some photos from shoot while I was in LA she told me something along the lines of how I’ve been marching to my own drum since I was little. I don’t know. I’m a twin and love being a twin, but I think that helped me form a more solid identity to who I am, what I wear and what I create. 

Rei Low: Who are some of your go to designers or pieces or colors? What do you think when you're in front of a camera?

girl_irl: I’ve always loved Armani and have been a sucker for clothing with fluid movement like the 2019 Palomo Spain collection. But lately I've been into YVMIN and Pressure clothing, overall though I know what I like and know what I don't and just kind of run with it.

Learning how to act infront of a camera is a very new thing for me, I was a fashion and film photographer for a while. It’s taken me a little longer than normal to build up the confidence to be on the other side but reminding myself that being hot is all about acting hot and I never look as bad as I think I do. I know my angles now! I never really thought about how to act in front of a camera: there's more to it than posing for LinkedIn. 

Rei Low: When did you know you could pursue music as a viable career?

girl_irl: When Sinclair was released I got a lot of emails from labels and managers wanting to connect and stay in touch, even spoke to a few in person, over zoom, etc. I didn’t sign anything, it was way too early but it did put the thought in my head.   

Rei Low: Do you plan on remaining independent?

girl_irl: There are some promising labels, but not until there’s a fair budget or streaming split.The Industry is wild.

Rei Low: What inspired you to make the leap from DJing to writing and recording original songs?

girl_irl: It was the pandemic - it allowed me to focus on writing and producing for myself instead of for other people.

Rei Low: Do you consider yourself ethnically DIY?

girl_irl: I was very deep in the Atlanta DIY scene, started off in the hardcore bubbles, moved to rap, pop and so on, eventually ended up DJing. I still believe in the DIY scene, I respect the hustle but it’s hard and I think more and more people are seeing that it’s not as feasible as it used to be. A lot of people want to have a budget. I'm all for it. I feel really grateful that some of my close friends are professionals and we help eachother out a lot. They’ll mix a song for me, I’ll write for them or hop on a track or whatever. I don’t know how to mix for shit honestly, but generally I believe DIY’s going away.

Rei Low: Do you think the proliferation of studio equipment has empowered you?

girl_irl: I believe in getting your shit done. Everything I've released has been myself or through people I trust because I love seeing the stats on the backend. Found out on soundcloud the other day someone from Bolivia was listening to me, I don't know anything about Bolivia! So it was really cool to see. 

Rei Low: Have you considered getting a manager?

girl_irl: I’ve always been a hyper-independent person but I recently accepted I probably need a manager. I was offered management in June and turned it down because I thought I could handle it. I feel fortunate enough that I am in a stable place to leave my full time job but now music is another job in itself. 

Rei Low: Have you gotten out of your comfort zone since entering the music industry?

girl_irl: For sure, you learn a lot really quick. Eventually everything falls into place though. I’ve always been picky about who I spend my time with and I was a little naive in the beginning of everything. There's really shady people in the industry, it really pushed me to remind myself to treat this like how I treat everything else and tread lightly but firmly, which is something I knew but it’s an entirely different situation when you’re the one in it. Even if you work with a bestie you treat business like a bandaid and get it over with so you can move on to what y'all are good at. But yeah, it's important to move smart. 

Rei Low: What was your favorite memory from performing, and what experience did you learn the most from?

girl_irl: It was really cool to play in Chicago, it was my first time there and I didn’t know that many people but they were screaming back the words to my songs. When I had my short lived time as a music journalist I remember writing concert reviews and thinking how cool it must be to have people singing your words back to you, I didn't realize it all happened until I looked at videos the next day. There was a lot going on but it was silly and fun. There wasn’t enough space on stage so I ran through the crowd and then climbed back on stage and DJed my next track and ran back and forth.

In April of last year one of my first performances was for one of Ivy Hollivana’s parties. I still feel like completely bombed to this day, regardless of what people say. I’m hyper critical of myself and always have been, a lot less critical now though. I didn’t fully know how to act on stage, the b2b was a different story but I learned and I grew. A little later in the year I ended up playing a show with this incredible artist, Madge, there was also a killer drummer for both of us. I was like: this is the right way to do it. This is fun. 

Rei Low: Do you ever practice performing in your room? I know I do. 

girl_irl: Before a show usually! Doesn’t always matter though. Sometimes anxiety hits, it hits right and things go better as planned, but still not as planned. 

Rei Low: How has your life changed since the release of Sinclair?

girl_irl: I’m doing music full time now. But I remember the night it was released I was texting my circle of friends I share demos with while I was dog sitting at my cousin's house and stress texting like, “What's gonna happen? This and that. it’d be cool if I got 3000 plays max maybe 1000 if I was lucky.” At the time, I was working from home at a bad job, and I literally remember it being midnight and then my phone was blowing up for the next 48 hours and then that weekend again when Anthony Fantano gave it best track of the week. That Thursday it dropped that I was on the Glitch playlist then the hyperpop playlist. Very surreal. 

Rei Low: What is the difference between girl_irl and Em? Is girl_irl a project or persona?

girl_irl: I consider it more of a persona. I’m aware that I can come across differently in person than how people think I should act.  Sinclair was created as a personal coping mechanism: it came with a lot of unpacking. One of the most cathartic things I think I’ve ever done. Girl_irl is like an alternate version of myself.

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