Georgi Kay Wants To Share Her Love Of Horror Movies With You
Georgi Kay has an upcoming show at a shopping mall in the suburbs of southern California, and she’s excited.
“I get a free lunch, so what could go wrong?” she asks, in what I will soon discover is her signature Australian-accented deadpan. At the show, she’ll be debuting a forty-five minute set comprising tracks from her forthcoming debut album, Where I Go To Disappear, and she seems genuinely energized at the prospect of playing her dark synth-pop for people wandering by with shopping bags, many of whom may be hearing her music for the first time. The gig is at Century City Westfield, right next to Beverly Hills.
“All of the fancy-pantsy people go over there to buy new socks or whatever,” she says. “I like putting myself in new and sometimes uncomfortable situations, because it’s a very humbling experience, and it kind of keeps you on your toes as well, I think.”
Georgi Kay, the stage name of the U.K.-born Georgina Kingsley, is disarmingly laid-back, lighthearted and funny during our conversation, despite a preoccupation with science fiction, horror films, and the macabre that influences and informs her music. She’s been playing in bands since her early teens, but it wasn’t until she lost (or won, depending on your perspective) a game of pick-up sticks meant to select her high school band’s new lead singer that she discovered that she could carry a tune.
In the time since, she’s won songwriting awards in Australia, acted in the Sundance Channel series “Top Of The Lake” alongside Elisabeth Moss, and received a Grammy nomination for the dance song “In My Mind”, a collaboration with Australian DJs Feenixpawl and Ivan Gough. She’s toured with Ed Sheeran and Tash Sultana, but with Where I Go To Disappear, which she’s releasing on her own independent record label, she’s preparing to have more eyes and ears on her than ever before.
We chatted with Kingsley about her experience growing up as a queer teenager in Australia, her favorite horror movies, and the essential skill of collaboration ahead of the release of her debut album. Where I Go To Disappear is out Nov. 2 on Monoki Records.
You’re from Australia!
I am. I was born in the U.K., but I was about two years old when my family moved. So I’m pretty Australian.
“Pretty Australian.” Got it. How long have you lived in L.A.?
My three-year visa is coming up to a close, so about two and a half years.
Does it feel like home to you yet?
Out of all the places I’ve lived, it definitely feels the most home-ly, I think because I’m busy and moving in a direction that is going somewhere—or I can see where it’s going, and I get excited about it. So it definitely is home to me.
Yeah, I think so. I don’t know, at the end of the day I could just be tricking myself, but it feels pretty good.
I think that’s okay, though. If you have to trick yourself into feeling like someplace is home, then I think that’s fine.
Whatever gets you through the day, I think. You’re right.
I’m really excited to chat with you about your new album, which is coming out in November. Have you finished recording, or are you still working on it?
It is all done. It’s ready to go. It is just waiting, all nice and warmed up, ready to come out of the oven.
A few months ago I went to Australia to play a festival with some mates of mine, and I was there for about two weeks. I did some writing for other artists, that kind of thing. When I got back, the day after I arrived I had a show, and then after that show was a month of recording all the songs [on the album] and getting them to a point where I was happy with them. It was spanned out over a whole month, the whole process. My co-producer and mixer, he was really great to work with, and it was just out of his studio space in North Hollywood, Toluca Lake area. So I would just go there every day. We got all the vocals down in the beginning of week two, and then the rest of the weeks were revisiting the soundscapes and the production of the songs. That, I think, was a smart thing to do. I think if we spent too much time on each song without looking at the whole scope of every single song, it might have been quite a drastic difference of sound between all of them. It just sounds very cohesive, so I’m glad we did it the way we did it.
How do you feel about putting it out into the world? Are you excited? Are you nervous?
I think I’m so used to releasing material that—maybe it’s a defense mechanism for me to sort of just do it and not think too much, because I think that defense mechanism is what stops me from getting too much in my head about trying to be heard by, you know, the “right people”. I don’t want it to be the biggest hit or anything, and I doubt that it would be, but to me, personally, it’s like a nice weight off my back to release that music, because it’s all very therapeutic stuff that I’ve kept inside for two years or so.
I have an upcoming show this Friday, and Saturday as well, and I’m going to be playing them in their final format for the first time, so I’m excited. It’s a nice breath of fresh air. It is a bit scary, but I’m already thinking about what I want to do next. But it’s also my debut album, so I’m also scared. [laughs] It’s a lot of emotions that I think haven’t quite hit me yet, but they will on the day, and that is going to be a very interesting day.
Right, you’ve got some time. Are the shows that you’re playing this weekend in L.A.?
Two are, yes. These two specific shows, one is actually at a Westfield. I’ve never played a show at a mall before, but I have really strong connects with this booker [Calvin Goldstein], he’s so lovely, he’s actually originally from the U.K. as well, and he’s making some big waves over here in L.A. booking up-and-coming artists, trying to break them through a bit more and help them out.
It’s like a rehearsal for me, it’s two forty-five-minute sets back-to-back. I don’t know who’s going to be there, they said the person they had play last week had, like, 20 new followers and people were rocking out. So it’s little numbers, but people were going up and talking to the artist. I just want to be able to meet new people, and you never know who’s going to hear and how they’re going to share it. It’s a world full of possibility.
That is awesome, absolutely.
It is. But my next show, the one on Saturday, is with a good mate of mine, Dean, who goes by the name Wolf Bay. He’s great too and we’re really good mates, so whenever we get to play a show together it’s a fun time. We have a lot of mutual friends, so there’s no excuse for our friends to not come because both of us are playing. We’re playing at Madame Siam. I don’t know if you know Houston Hospitality here in L.A., the Houston brothers, but they own a lot of really cool themed bars and little clubs. We’re playing in this newly renovated one that is in Hollywood. I’m excited to play that.
I’m doing a lot of stuff in the next two months that I’m very excited about. Other than releasing my debut album, which is a big thing in itself—like birthing 11 little children that are all going to go off and do their own thing—other than that, I’m playing in Toronto for the first time, playing at this festival that’s called Indie Week music festival, and I guess it’s the equivalent of maybe Toronto’s, or Canada’s, South by Southwest, which is awesome. So I get to play a bunch of shows there, and it leans more toward indie, left-field, electronic artists like myself, so I’ll have a lot of fun at that.
And then I’m going on tour with Peter Bjorn and John on the East Coast, so I’ll be playing Boston and Brooklyn, supporting those guys on their tour, which is awesome. So lots of cool first things. Haven’t been to Boston, haven’t been to Toronto, haven’t supported a band that I used to listen to as a kid. I’m excited to do that, so, a lot of cool things.
It sounds like you have a very busy fall lined up!
It all feels like it’s gearing up to something bigger, which is a nice feeling. No matter what you do in life, it’s nice to feel that there’s momentum happening.
Just building up and rehearsing this new 45-minute set, which is all songs off the album—I have all the stems of each song that I can now put into looping and getting it all figured out. It’s funny, a few of them are new but most of them, I have played before but in a different, more demo-rough format, and it feels like I’m learning a new song because there are different elements in there. When I loop live—I’ve never done it, thankfully, but if I mess up one wrong beat or I’m off time, then the whole thing’s screwed up and I look like a right idiot.
I’m so impressed by artists who do their own looping live. I’m always so nervous on their behalf because I’m like, “Oh god, what if something goes wrong?”
It’s crazy how that can happen. I actually supported Ed Sheeran back in Australia, I think it was about four years ago maybe, which was insane, and that was after he released his very first album. To watch him looping everything onstage, just one guy. He looked like he was dancing with his feet. I was like, “Wow, I’ve tried looping before but not on a big pedal scale,” like he had. So I was asking him about it, and he just kind of ran through everything with me and said, “This does this, that does that, practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect.” So I was like “Oh, cool, that’s something I definitely want to get into,” and I would play with one loop pedal compared with his massive set-up that he’s got.
Last year I played with Tash Sultana in L.A., and she does a lot of looping, too. Our sounds are quite different and methods are different, but same kind of basic blueprint setup that’s like a looping system. And I was already doing looping, too, it was like—“Okay, cool, this looping thing is a thing,” however we do it, whatever software we use, it doesn’t matter, it’s such a skill to master and it’s so funny watching how seamless it looks compared to actually executing it, you’re slightly sweating and you’re like, “Shit, I hope I get it right.” But yeah, it’s cool, it’s really fun to do.
When you first write a song, for me, anyway, I will write 8 bars of music and just loop that, and I’ll keep it to a bare minimum. Because if I can write something over the smallest, minimal amount of music elements—about three elements, simple drums, a bass sound, and maybe like a vibe-y synth or something, and I can write a whole song on that, then I know, “Oh, this is a song that I could probably play and release at some point. This is fun, this goes somewhere.” And then I can work on it more. So I think looping reminds me of maybe starting a song from scratch all over again, and the excitement behind that. I’m usually starting by looping all the elements individually, and it’s really fun.
How long have you been playing music and writing songs?
I started writing songs for fun when I was around 13, 14, and I was learning guitar at the same time. And before I even wrote songs, I was writing short stories and poems and entering competitions. I think, first and foremost, I’m a writer. The music part was sort of an interest. The voice, I had no idea I could sing at all, that really happened out of nowhere. Essentially a piece of plastic governed my music career as a singer. I was in a band in high school, I had started writing songs with the band. I never sang, we had a singer, but she decided to leave the band to go do ballet, and all of us were like, “How do you do a rock band and ballet at the same time, that’s so weird.” But she left, so we were like, “Oh, shit, we don’t have a singer.” And so we played pick-up sticks, and I got the shortest stick, I got the shortest piece of plastic, and that’s how my vocal career began to take off.
It’s crazy, I didn’t know I could sing. I was so scared that I used to wear sunglasses, I looked like a proper idiot. I was like “No, no, I can’t make eye contact with anyone, my throat will close up and I will sound like a dying cat.” So probably 13 or 14 was when I started writing music for fun, and it was maybe 16 onward that I started winning awards and that I started taking it seriously. I thought, “Oh, maybe this is a thing?” I don’t know, I’ve just kind of gone with it. I’ve never really stopped to question it. There’s other things I would love to do, but music’s going well right now, so I’m sticking with it.
“i was so scared that i used to wear sunglasses, i looked like a proper idiot. I was like, ‘no, no, i can’t make eye contact with anyone, my throat will close up and i will sound like a dying cat.’”
What was the name of that first band you were in?
It’s a bit rough. I pride myself on not having any shame, but I totally do.
If you want to tell me off the record, that’s okay!
No, no, it’s just lame on my end. We were called The Vain, like the song “You’re So Vain.”
I kind of like that, actually!
Oh, thank you. I mean, if you had seen what we looked like, maybe you wouldn’t be so nice. But it was a good time, way back in the day. We used to do Joan Jett covers, we did a few originals too. We did a Cobra Starship cover. I went to an all-girls’ school, as well, so we were an all-girls band. It was fun.
Can you tell me a little bit about “Lone Wolf”? How did your queer identity inspire that song?
There are times when I feel truly alone, like everyone’s just walking past me and there’s no interaction and no feeling, and it used to scare me. It used to just make me feel like, “Do I have any empathy? Am I normal? What is normal? How am I connecting with people? Can I? Am I just not allowed to for some reason? When I was born, did something not fit right? Am I okay?” And I realized that there are other people like that, and also, everyone feels that to a certain degree in their own way, and it’s absolute loneliness where you feel like you are never going to be 100 percent understood, and that that’s okay. It doesn’t feel great at the time, but when you accept it, it’s one of those things that just is what it is, and when you accept it you can actually transform it into a positive thing. You can harness that feeling, and turn that into fueling your passions or any kind of endeavor you have.
I’m not saying you can’t be sad, of course you can be sad, everyone feels that way, but what’s so ironic about it is that we all feel that loneliness, so we’re not alone at all. And that’s kind of where that song came from.
With my sexuality, I think even before I knew what it was to be gay, I think I was gay. My first crush was a girl when I was seven years old. She was this Greek goddess, and she was amazing. She was in my junior school class, and never once did I question it, never once did I think it was weird or that I was doing the wrong thing. Luckily, and I’m very fortunate to say this, a lot of my friends and their friends have gone through much harsher climates in growing up and being themselves, kind of like a witch hunt, in a way, and being told, “Oh, no, that’s just a phase.” Being taught to hate that part of yourself, which is awful. I’ve got a few friends that have had to deal with that. What I’ve dealt with is very minimal, I think. I’ve dealt with being called names. For a few years, at one point, it was almost every day, being called names on the street, or, you know -- I’d go to visit the girls’ toilet and I’d be told I was in the wrong toilet. Silly little things, [but] when you’re a kid, they sort of affect you. It was mainly verbal stuff. Fortunately I was never beaten up for it, but so many people go through much worse. I didn’t write “Lone Wolf” with that in mind, but I think because it is so ambiguous, and loneliness can stem from so many parts of us as people, because we’re multi-faceted human beings. We’re complicated. Anywhere that a negativity or a sadness stems from [in] us, I think “Lone” Wolf” is a song that can reach out to that part of a person. It can unite lots of different lonely people. I think I referred to it in a previous interview, like “the loner’s anthem” or something. But, yeah—it’s ambiguous enough that you can take it anywhere you like, which is how I like to write. I don’t like to be too on-the-nose about stuff, for the most part.
I’ve read that you’re a big fan of horror movies! I am too.
What are some of your favorites?
I really like It Follows, which came out a couple years ago.
SO good. I think my all-time favorite has to be The Ring, it was really the first horror movie I ever saw. I think it came out when I was probably 13 or 14, and it was terrifying.
God, it just terrifies me. I’m like “Okay, cool, little creepy girl coming out of the TV—that’s great, that’s awesome, can’t wait.”
I like the Blumhouse films, a lot of those are really good. The Conjuring freaked me out for years, actually. [laughs] I love indie horror, It Follows is great, Ex Machina was more sci-fi thriller, but that was also amazing. Big fan of sci-fi as well, like Fifth Element, Blade Runner, even the new Blade Runner is cool visually and sonically. It just has a boring storyline, but visually it’s beautiful. I like writing to visuals as well, it kind of stimulates and gets the creative juices flowing.
So many sci-fi and horror movies have such great soundtracks, too. I can definitely hear those influences in your work, for sure.
That’s awesome. I’m a big fan of old black-and-white horror films, like The Wolfman and The Creature From The Black Lagoon, it’s like a dude in a rubber fish outfit. But there’s something about those, you can tell that when they came out they were really spooky and they freaked people out back in the day. Whereas now, we’re at this point with CGI where it can literally build up anything and make it look so real, like hyperrealism. It’s scary because with animation, you’re able to do anything and make anything happen, which is scary and awesome at the same time. But when you add in modern-day CGI technology, it’s like bringing “anything can happen” to reality and making it even more impactful. It’s crazy.
Yes. Where is it going to end? I feel like it ends with a VR horror movie experience or something.
Oh, yeah. I love gaming as well. My publishing company, Sony ATV—I was so stoked to sign with them six-ish years ago, and one of the first things they did, they gave me a bunch of freebie Playstation games. I’m a massive Playstation gamer, so I was so stoked. It was the best. But now they have VR as well, and I haven’t tried it. There’s a Silent Hill game which has VR in it, it’s pretty intense and spooky. But you can just see the potential of where virtual reality’s going to go, to the point where you won’t see a difference anymore between virtual reality and reality. And that’s some Matrix shit that’s going to happen, you know?
I know. I don’t know if you watch “Black Mirror” at all, but there was an episode about that—about an ultra-real video game experience.
Yeah, it was the horror one. I can’t remember, he put a lens on or something—he was in this house, and he couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t.
Yeah, it was so scary. It was such a mindfuck.
I mean, the only difference between virtual reality and reality is the difference in sensory information, pretty much. As soon as we’re able to connect up to a virtual reality system that applies taste and smell and touch and all of the main senses, then you’re lost. And if you can even trick your mind into thinking you just ate, or you just drank, or you’re actually going to work even though you’re still hooked up to the mechanism, that’s where it gets morally debatable.
I do have a new song out, I’m not sure if you’ve heard it, I’m sure you’re extremely busy.
Yes, I did listen to it! It’s great, I really enjoyed that one as well. Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired it?
“Toxins” is the name, and I think it’s a similar thing that runs through a lot of my songs—accepting insecurities, or what we perceive as negativity, or dark shit within ourselves— accepting that and turning that into a positive. Accepting it in the first place is a positive, and then being able to flip the switch on it, and kind of flip the switch from dark to light is something that I like to talk about. It’s a therapeutic thing to do, and I think a lot of people don’t know what to do with dark thoughts and feelings, or whatever it is. It doesn’t dissipate, it always transforms into something else. I learned that in physics. [laughs]
But it’s true, if you can transform a part of you, like I was saying, into something that will be good for you and for others, then that’s a good thing, you know? It’s like a yin and yang balance. You use the dark stuff to sort of fuel the good stuff, and vice versa. It’s in perfect balance, in a way. So “Toxins” is about that. I’m super excited to see the music video, there’s a lot of black toxic paint in there, I’m covering myself in it, like a witchy sort of vibe, and then I got a really bloody face as well, and I’m just walking through the streets dancing really badly, but there’s sort of a use of light humor in a pretty solidly dark groove song. I didn’t want to be too brutal in the visuals —I wanted to make it more fun.
That must have been really fun to shoot.
It was a lot of fun, I realized how unfit I was. I had to dance a lot, but it was really fun. My mates who came and were a part of it, they acted in the film and I was so stoked and happy that they did. I think it’s going to be really fun.
You’ve worked with some pretty well-known producers and DJs. Have any of them given you any particularly good advice, or acted as mentors for you?
I have a favorite book, it’s by Oscar Wilde and it’s called The Picture of Dorian Gray, and one of the best quotes in there is, “Every experience is of value.” So no matter what I’ve done, in particular the collaborations—a lot of them have actually been across the world via email, me going into a studio where I am and sending over the fresh vocal files, and then that DJ or producer working it up and then going back and forth. Which is awesome, because not all of us are able to afford to fly to Turkey and write a song and stuff.
I think I’ve learned a lot of patience, learning to work with people. If they send me something that maybe I’m not super stoked on necessarily because it’s too produced, [I’ve learned] not to jump the gun and say, “Oh, no, it doesn’t need a vocal,” but if I really do love the song, say, “Hey, can I get a raw version, less instrumental on it, just the bare bones, because I’d love to try and write something.” A lot of DJs and producers, they make music and the last element they think of to add on to the song, for the most part, is the vocals. So a lot of requests I get sent over, the songs sound complete, so much that there are all these melodies on there that limit how much I would sing on it. So it makes it difficult. But if they’re if they’re willing to work together to make it more minimal so more melody can come through with the vocals, I love doing that, rather than just saying “No” straightaway. I’ve learned to be more patient and more understanding. Production-wise, if I’m ever in the room with them, I’m learning all these different shortcuts on how to do this edit or this, or learning how to produce myself. Which I do, I’ve produced all my music.
So it’s cool to learn all these technical things, but also life lessons that help me better communicate in a work environment with people that are a collaborator or a partner on the project. I like to think it helps me better a better person.
Yeah! I think no matter what you’re doing, knowing how to collaborate and work with other people is such an important skill.
Yeah, definitely for my own music, I like to be as insular and alone as possible, up to the point where I’ve done as much work as I think I can do, and then I can bring in a second or third party and ask their opinion or whatever, and take it from there. Whereas if it’s a collaboration with a DJ or producer, or even collaborating with a bunch of other producers or writers writing for another artist, that’s fun then because I’m not protective about the project. It’s not mine, it’s ours. You learn a lot more, too, because you’re in a bigger group. The best way I can think of it as an analogy is meeting people in the same room through different doors. You’re able to see their path and think, “Oh, we met here, but it makes me feel more open-minded to see which route you took because you met me here. So we’re both here, but you took a different way. I took the stairs, you took the elevator, and I might take that way back down.”
Wherever you learn a lesson, it’s going to affect other parts of your life. I just try and be as humble as possible, and remind myself that I don’t know anything. And I don’t! No one does. And if we just open our minds and we’re more empathetic towards others and just listen, and try and understand their perspectives and which position they come in from, then we can learn a lot more about them and ourselves.
It sounds very simple, but I think it’s something that a lot of people have a hard time with, for whatever reason, because they let their ego get in the way or they’re not good listeners. It sounds like you have a lot figured out already.
A friend of mine once said to me, “The only two things stopping people from doing or saying or thinking or feeling, or whatever, is ego and fear.” And I think that is, to an extent, true. If we’re not afraid to do it, or worried what people might think when we do it, or say it, whatever, then we don’t want to do it because we think it’s above us or below us or whatever it is, it’s that ego that gets in the way.
When none of that exists, fear means false evidence appearing real. And it’s not real, neither is ego. It’s a man-made thing. You can feel fear, but it’s also -- it’s not pain. Pain is a real thing, and it’s genuine, and it hurts. Whereas fear is something that you feel, it’s not alive, it’s just a thing you make up in your head or you allow yourself to feel, like something bad’s going to happen, or you worry. Same with ego, it’s not a physical feeling or a manifestation in front of you that you can feel—“Oh no, ego! Fuck!” and then run away—unless you look in the mirror, maybe. They’re both restrictions that we’ve made for ourselves, and it’s almost as if we’re doing it on purpose without realizing it, to limit how far we can progress and evolve as people, and as a conglomerate group. I just think it’s interesting, that humans create and destroy so much to create and destroy again, instead of just go beyond a loop, you know. Maybe that’s why I like looping. [laughs]