Beaming, ecstatic faces being filmed on home computer webcams are singing along in a fan reaction video to ‘Hyperfine’, the newest single by G Flip, born Georgia Flipo. Those faces belong to “Flippers”, members of a 1,000-strong Facebook group who were given an early preview of the single’s official video. Some have rainbow flags draped around their shoulders; one differently abled person dances and sings while strapped into a harness. Other than Flipo’s bandmates, most of the faces belong to women, some still in their pre-teens. The connection those fans feel to their idol is palpable.
“It’s weird, but it reminds me of before, when I wrote a lot of these songs,” says the 26-year-old Melbourne-based multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer, remembering the early days of recording in her bedroom studio. “I remember closing my eyes – this is before anyone knew who I was, so lame – but I’d pretend I’d have an audience.”
When I speak to Flipo, her camera is peering into the inside of that same studio at her mum’s place in Melbourne. Light coming from a window is glinting off her trademark oversized spectacles and long shock of blonde hair as we awkwardly wave at each other through screens, fibre optic cables, networks and code.
She begins by giving me a studio tour, apologising for discarded online purchase packaging lying on the floor. On one wall is her glowing self-designed logo, a frowning face with two broken hearts for eyes. On another, platinum and gold record plaques commemorating her hit singles ‘Drink Too Much’, ‘Killing My Time’ and ‘About You’, her breakout track. The studio door is covered with graffiti.
Her signature drum kit (she’s been playing since she was nine) is set up next to a Roland SPD-SX percussive sampler. She uses them in tandem to combine live and electronic elements to heighten drama in her anthemic pop songs. On ‘About You’ and ‘I Am Not Afraid’, she uses her hi-hat and snare to fill in the higher frequencies over a processed kick drum that anchors the song. Flipo quickly has me laughing, triggering the tinny preset melodies on her go-to keyboard, a Casio WK-210 that she taught herself to play at 14. Then she points to an AKG D5 microphone as another lower-quality piece of kit that adds a raw edge to her songs – a preference she inherited from her dad putting on Green Day and Rancid when she was growing up.
“I’m just rough around the edges… I’m just a bit messy, a bit all over the place”
“I grew up with this rough-around-the-edges, unpolished kind of vibe my whole life, and then my mum listened to, like, Top 20 kind of pop… so I feel like my music is that exact blend,” says Flipo. “I think me as a person, I’m just rough around the edges. I haven’t brushed my hair in 13 years. I haven’t had a haircut in 13 years, actually. I’m just a bit messy, a bit all over the place, like, look, there’s a plate there I should take away.”
Flipo has a wildly enthusiastic personality. She sends through a video partway through the interview, taken at NME’s photoshoot for this story. She’s dressed in a blazer and shorts, her impish grin lit up by the flaming brands she’s holding.
“They let me light stuff on fire, it was so sick,” says Flipo. “I lit drumsticks on fire, they were like ‘Alright, I think we’ve got it’, and I was like ‘We should do bigger flames’.”
Bigger is certainly better for Flipo. For her next batch of music, she will tap a pool of more than 40 finished songs, some of which were written at the same time as the tracks on her debut album ‘About Us’. But the production on some of the new songs will venture into uncharted territory for Flipo, bringing in jazzy chord progressions and horn sections.
Flipo plans on releasing a new track every eight weeks or so, but nailing down details on what’s coming next is tricky. She appears frustrated at the sluggish pace of the industry, saying she wants to release as many singles this year as her team will let her.
“There’s definitely a solid 10 that I’m keen to get out there. The process takes so long to get a song out, that by the time those months have passed I’ll change my mind,” says Flipo. “I’ve got planned what I think I’ll release, but next month I might decide ‘Nah, scrap that song, I’m gonna put this song on now’. It kind of always changes.”
She has so much music in the bank, in fact, that she’s paused writing for herself. Instead, she’s focusing on writing for other artists. “It’s great to work with other producers and collaborate on ideas,” she says. “Because our music industry’s so small, most people when they get to a certain level end up moving elsewhere.”
Like Flipo herself. Even before the pandemic struck, the confines of her bedroom were becoming too small. Her rapidly ballooning fanbase and ambitions were pointing to a move to Los Angeles, where she had bunkered down for songwriting sessions over three trips and had two weeks of sessions booked for when she next touched down.
LA is where ‘Hyperfine’ was recorded, with producer and writer Tim Anderson, a founding member of dance-punk band Ima Robot, and Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe fame. Anderson has worked with some of pop’s biggest artists, including Billie Eilish, Halsey and Solange. Without naming names, he says collaboration doesn’t come naturally to all musicians and navigating around fragile egos in the studio can be a fraught process.
“Maybe I’m being a little bit negative and judgmental, but a lot of people who are talented are self-consumed. The ‘lead singer syndrome’ propagates among musicians, and it’s cool, you learn to deal with it and it turns out it’s usually from a sense of insecurity or whatever,” says Anderson. “Georgia doesn’t come off like any of that. She just instantly seemed like an old friend. It’s a rare thing to have none of it feel like pulling teeth.”
He remembers ‘Hyperfine’ coming together quickly, in no more than four or five hours. Flipo kicked it off with her sung melodic ad lib (which became the “huh-ha-huh-ha-ha” at the beginning of the song) and the track title. Anderson recalls that in the studio, Flipo’s a quick writer who often works off the cuff. She reminded him of the rap artists he has worked with: Flipo zoning out and freestyling into her phone to record notes, before coming back moments later with a melody. She’s quick to discard ideas that aren’t working, and knows instinctively when to dig in on a hook.
The downside? Anderson worries that Flipo’s easy-going, down-to-earth nature could hold her back from achieving her ambitions.
“I know she wants to be bigger in America,” he explains. “And how do you do that while still just being G? This cool girl with a baseball hat, who made her own video at the beginning, made it in her bedroom. That’s hard because you have to become a larger-than-life rock star at some point, if that’s your goal. For some people, that’s a tough challenge.”
But from day one, when record labels were circling in the wake of the success of ‘About You’, Flipo has been determined to retain control of her identity and present her honest self – swapping out her boardshorts and five-panels for sequins and skirts was never an option.
“There’s no difference between G Flip and Georgia Flipo. They are literally the same person,” she says. “I’m very unfiltered and just ‘this is who I am’. I wear these clothes. I’m blind. I like wearing a hat because my hair is so long and thick, it gets in the way of what I’m doing. If I’m playing drums I don’t really want to wear a headband on stage, so I wear a hat that keeps my hair out of my face. I’ve always dressed the same since I was a kid.”
Not physically being in Flipo’s studio feels unnatural. When the bit-rate on our Zoom call drops out and makes the video feed glitch, I worry about missing subtle body language cues. But for Flipo, this is how and where it all began.
It was in this studio where, after touring as the drummer in the rock band EMPRA for a few years, she recorded and uploaded both the music and video for ‘About You’. The story’s well documented. The song blew up after being uploaded to triple j Unearthed the day before Valentine’s Day 2018, with the YouTube clip clocking over 120,000 views in its first week (it’s now sitting at close to a million). After only two days of practice, she played her first live show as G Flip at SXSW and then, she was Lollapalooza-bound.
Just watch a video of her set at Laneway Festival 2019 to see the track’s reach. Less than a year after its release, it seems like every person in the thousands-strong crowd is singing along. At the end of the song, Flipo leaves the stage to embrace hysterical young fans in the front row. She can’t do that right now, though. Instead, confined to her studio, she’s been hosting stripped-back performances over Instagram Live, letting fans in on unfinished songs and demos.
“There’s no secrets I have, so it’s easier to let my life be on show. It doesn’t faze me”
She’s not the only person doing this, of course – English pop star Charli XCX has recently released ‘How I’m Feeling Now’, an entire album, with artwork and videos, recorded over a month in lockdown. While some might argue that an artist’s vision shouldn’t sway to the whims of the crowd or – shudder – algorithms, Flipo is embracing new technologies to change the way she releases and performs music.
“I love reading what everyone thinks of each song and seeing what songs are more popular,” says Flipo, who uses the data culled from her demos – like repeat video views, DMs and comments – as guides for what to release next.
Online performances under lockdown have created a new dynamic between performer and audience, too. There’s no applause, for one. Instead, audiences show their appreciation by furiously tapping tiny heart symbols at the bottom of their phone screens. “It’s definitely weird,” says Flipo, who’s used to rowdy festival crowds. “Like when I’ve done the Instagram Lives and I finish a song, it’s silence and then you’re like, ‘Thank you!’, and you just go into the next song.”
Resourcefulness and adaptability have become necessary for most artists in lockdown. To film the official video for ‘Hyperfine’, for example, the clip’s director Dan Wakehurst instructed Flipo to construct a blue screen in her house to perform in front of. That footage was then animated using voxel graphics (similar to what’s used in Minecraft), plunging the viewer into a manic pixellated world starring a marauding wombat.
Artists big and small have been using the medium of online video to connect to their fans for years, but under lockdown, it feels like the access to their personal lives has reached a new tipping point. They’ve been pushed to shed more and more of their privacy through social media, and now, we’re being let into their houses – their most intimate spaces – to gaze upon their messy floors and scribbled-on walls. Perhaps with recording equipment becoming more affordable, allowing artists like Flipo to write, record, film and release massive hits without ever leaving their bedrooms, this voyeuristic journey is inevitable.
“It’s no longer like the ’70s, where they’re in Led Zeppelin and [they] put out the record and you might see them if you go to the airport, and then they’re in a magazine,” says Flipo. “Everything is way more on display and everyone knows details about your life.
“I’m very open about my relationship, how I’m feeling, how I grew up. Everything’s already in my music, and I’m very honest about my life. So I don’t really have anything to hide. There’s nothing, no secrets I have, so it’s easier to let my life be on show. It doesn’t faze me.”
Still, sharing so much of your life online can expose you to risk. Flipo didn’t want to share with NME the suburb she lives in and doesn’t put her name on packages being delivered to her house, having had problems with obsessive followers. One person allegedly believed they were in a relationship with Flipo, and both she and her partner Jemma have received sinister, unsolicited contact from strangers.
“I’ve had someone call me and be like, ‘Just so you know, all your information is online if you go through this link in this dark web thing’. And he’s like, ‘You need to make sure you hide all your information, G Flip’,” she says. Despite these intrusions, Flipo reassures me that she feels safe and supported by her label and managers.
Flipo’s debut album ‘About Us’ was a blazingly honest, warts-and-all document of her long-term relationship with Jemma. She shares her inner world with her fans, friends, songwriting collaborators and a therapist. But while some artists struggle with the constant scrutiny, wishing to retain some privacy, hiding things has only ever held Flipo back.
While she says she was a happy teenager, and even had a couple of boyfriends, it wasn’t until after graduating from the Star Of The Sea Catholic girls’ school in Brighton, Victoria that Flipo fully came out. The whispered gossip from her secondary school classmates about other LGBTQ students made her suppress her own queerness. She always felt that a part of her identity wasn’t being fully explored.
“Your sexuality is such a big part of your life. As soon as I made that clear, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I feel so good’”
“I’ve shared so much of my world with all my people, but there was like, this one thing that I just hadn’t shared, and I’m an over-sharer,” says Flipo. “I didn’t come out in high school because I had a fear of being ostracised or, you know, labelled as ‘the gay girl’. Rather than, like, she’s a dope musician, she’s a great drummer. I didn’t want that to be my label.
“When I first got with a girl, it was one of the best feelings of my life. It was, like, I know exactly who I am now. Your sexuality is such a big part of your life. And as soon as I made that clear, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I feel so good’.”
Finding the strength to come out required meeting other queer people at university. But in her teens, other than her drum teacher, people she could identify with and look up to were few and far between, and virtually non-existent in music media.
“When I was growing up and getting older, I actually read this quote: ‘Create the things you wish existed’. And I was like, I wish there was this like queer, drumming, chick pop star,” says Flipo. “If I was a kid and I turned on the TV, and after the chick shaking her booty there was this pop star who’s a singer-drummer, who dressed however they wanted to dress, that would have inspired me or just made me feel comfort knowing that there’s someone in the world that’s like me.”
Flipo has created the thing she wished existed. She doesn’t need to sit in her studio imagining an audience anymore. Instead, she only needs to look at those beaming, ecstatic faces leaving heart symbols on her videos. When people stream Flipo’s Instagram Live performances, watch a music video, or, one day in the future, go to a live concert, they get to see someone just like them – maybe even for the first time. Others will see someone different, and that’s important, too. But what they will all see are those spectacles and hat, lightning drumsticks and an authentic, funny, generous person who can’t help but share her world.
‘Hyperfine’ is out now via Future Classic.