Guard’s Down, Heart’s Out: A Conversation with girl in red

girl in red © Jonathan Kise
girl in red © Jonathan Kise
girl in red dives into debut album ‘if i could make it go quiet’ and how it represents the culmination of her fantastic journey so far with Atwood Magazine.
Stream: ‘if i could make it go quiet’ – girl in red

 




if i could make it go quiet’ girl in red’s debut album, out today, is nothing but quiet. “Serotonin,” its opening track, is a frantic explosion that wears frustration and honesty so deeply on its sleeve that it shakes the listener into motion. There’s something deeply engaging in listening to someone so young (Marie Ulven, aka girl in red, is only 22 years old) talk about depression as clinically as “running low on serotonin” and then suddenly burst out rapping about all the twisted things depression makes her think of doing.

if i could make it go quiet - girl in red
if i could make it go quiet – girl in red

There’s a pop-punk influence that pervades the album and makes every song sound like a teenager calling out their parents for not understanding them, and Ulven takes full advantage of this energy. “Did You Come?” sounds less like a question and more like an interrogation, “You Stupid Bitch” begs to be moshed to, and “hornylovesickmess” is soaked in the emotional conflict of transitioning into young adulthood.

The album is a sequence of rich and loud moments that are incredible to listen to. Every track is great, but listening to Ulven take full command of her powers and have fun while so bluntly talking about her inner self is the best part of the listening experience.

Then, out of nowhere, comes the quietness.

The introspection. The solitude that accompanies every young person and reminds them of its existence in between every loud chapter. “rue”, despite its beat, is dark and troubled like the character it is based on. “apartment 402”, an album standout, grips onto cracks on walls for air as it exists in seclusion. “it would be like this”, album closer, is a lush instrumental that gives you hope that things will one day be as great as the song sounds.


22-year-old Norwegian Marie Ulven, the woman behind the girl in red pseudonym, explores the facets of broken hearts, lust, mental health and all that being a Gen Z-er encompasses beautifully on her debut album. girl in red’s success has been growing exponentially since the release of her single “i wanna be your girlfriend”, and if i could make it go quiet proves she’s here to stay and that there’s no limit to what she can achieve.

Atwood Magazine spoke to Ulven about the creation of her debut album, how it reflects her growth as a musician so far, the importance of speaking about mental health in music, and why one of Ulven’s most listened to artists is herself.

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:: stream/purchase if i could make it go quiet here ::



A CONVERSATION WITH GIRL IN RED

if i could make it go quiet - girl in red

Atwood Magazine: First of all congrats on the album, I have been a fan of yours since “summer depression”. It was the first song that I listened to and I was like ‘Oh my God, finally someone hates the summer too!’. I've been wanting to speak to you for a long time and I feel like I've watched you grow so much since that time, so I just wanted to say congrats and it's been amazing to watch your career thus far.

girl in red: Thank you. I mean, it’s really cool to every now and then get to chat with some of the OGs, you know. But it’s been an interesting journey so far and I feel like in some ways I’m just starting out, so I’m really stoked.

At least for me it feels like I have been waiting for your album forever! You always release singles and EPs and I was like, ‘Where’s the album? Where's the album?’ so it feels really good to know that it's finally here. Why was this the perfect time to release your album?

girl in red: I think it’s the perfect time because this is the time where I had one, you know? l didn’t have an album before and I hadn’t made one, I wasn’t ready to make one because I was still taking my time growing as a musician, and still taking my time to figure out who I was and who I am, at least who I thought I was and who I think I am. I didn’t want to rush into an album and then end up with some half-assed shit. I feel like I spent my time well on this.

girl in red © Jonathan Kise
girl in red © Jonathan Kise

You talked about feeling ready to release and make an album. How did you know that you were ready to do this?

girl in red: Ah, it started out with just getting ideas and instead of being like, ‘This is cool, might put it out sometime’, I was like, ‘This is really cool, I see this in a bigger body of work’. I feel like that was the switch, I just started thinking album really. It wasn’t like something happened. Where I was at in my career at that time I was also kind of like, ‘Yeah, I want my next thing to be an album I don’t want to keep putting out songs like this’.

I do feel like your sound has changed so much ever since I first started listening to you, but I love this album because it reminds me a little bit of your older stuff but it's definitely such a jump from where you started, it shows such growth. What do you think in the album best represents girl in red?

girl in red: Well, I think why this album is good at telling who girl in red is, is that I feel that the sound has jumped, I’ve grown so much as a producer and a musician, but still innately every song sounds like girl in red to me. That’s the most girl in red thing about this record, is that all the songs are so different but they’re all so girl in red, and they all feel like me, because they’re all coming from me. Let’s say “Serotonin”, no one told me to do this rap part and try it out with another producer, no one has told me to do anything. These are all decisions I’ve made and been like “I want to do this” and so I just feel like it’s just so me, really.

What does a song need for it to be considered a girl in red song?

girl in red: That’s interesting because I make a lot of music and and some things I’m like, ‘Oh, this would be really cool if Ariana had this’, but I think the girl in red songs are the ones that I just love so much, the ones that I’m just like, ‘Oh I want to listen to this’. I’m one of my most listened to artists because that’s always been my criteria, ‘Do I want to listen to this? Do I like listening to this?’ It always baffles me when people are like ‘Oh you listen to your own music? That’s so awkward’. No! If I didn’t listen to my own music, how the fuck would I even make music, how do you think music is being created?

girl in red © Jonathan Kise
girl in red © Jonathan Kise

Now I’m going to talk about specific songs. First of all, fucking thank you for “Serotonin”. because I feel it on another level. I love it. I suffer from depression as well and these few days I've been listening to the song on repeat and it feels good to be able to sing, and be a little bit happy and joking about something that makes me really sad sometimes. I love how high energy it is and I love how much fun you're having with it and how bold it is, just how different it is from everything you've ever put out. Could you talk to me about the creation of the song?

girl in red: So I started making that song when I was at home in March 2020, that was last year, and I headed back home because I was completely dysfunctional. I was at an all time low with my depression and anxiety, and my OCD was really, really, really bad and I just wasn’t able to, you know, exist almost. lt was so hard for me to do anything so I had to go back home, which wasn’t really a good thing either because that just made things even worse, kind of. So I was at home, and I was just playing some guitar and I was recording some stuff and I recorded it on Tik Tok. It started out as this rock, sort of beat with this rock track, but with hip hop or kind of like trap beats.

I just made this thing, I was like, ‘There’s something interesting here, that I want to dive further into’. So that’s really just where it started and then I started hearing rapping in my head and I was like ‘Yo, what is this’ and then I brought it to the studio and I wrote this rap part that I had heard in my head for so long. So it just happened, FINNEAS joined the process at some point, and he was like, ‘I love this rapping, I love this is so cool’. He added some extra energy and this really cool clap snare, and it was just a very interesting process for it to come alive but it had a really strong exciting DNA about it that I just really liked.

Why do you think it was a perfect song to open your album and also, with the release of the song, announce the album to the world?

girl in red: Because I’m genuinely really moved when I listen to it. When I listen to that outro, the outro is so big and it’s so powerful and listening to that I just feel like it really sets the bar for what this album is.

On “Body and Mind” there's a lyric that talks about your guard being down, and listening to the album, the lyric couldn't sound more true. You've always been very honest in your lyrics and your work, but I think that this album just takes it to another level. What is the pro and what is the con, of being so open about you and your feelings in your work?

girl in red: I guess the pros are I get to make music that I feel emotionally connected to and that I feel has any level of purpose and feels real. I guess the only con is… there aren’t really any cons but I guess like, I did an interview and because I’m being so open in these lyrics I think a lot of people think that ‘Okay, so she she will answer anything’. When this person started asking about my medications I just had to be like, ‘I’m actually not comfortable talking about that’, even though I had a line in “serotonin” that says “stabilised with medicine” doesn’t mean that’s something I want to talk about in real life or in an interview. That’s what’s so great about music, is that I get to decide what I say and what I don’t say. I don’t feel like there are any cons about being so honest because I wouldn’t be so honest if I wasn’t comfortable with being that honest.

That's fucked up that people did that to you, I'm sorry.

girl in red: It is kind of strange right? I could probably talk about it with my friends, I have three really, really close friends that I talk to a lot, but yeah I feel the same way. It’s kind of like, I wouldn’t ask that to anyone, but then again I’m sort of getting used to that. I guess this will probably eventually not even be a con because I’m probably going to know how to deal with it. It’s so new for me, and I’ve never had anyone ask me a question like that, especially in an interview. I’m just happy I get to make music, I’ll be expecting some weird questions.

It's just not people's business. I'm also on medication and I talk to people about my medication like, I don't care, but it has to come from me. If someone came up to me and was like ‘Yo, what are you taking right now?’ I wouldn’t answer. It’s so weird. Anyway, “rue” is amazing. I love that song and the music video so much, and that you're wearing the hoodie that she wears in the show. I am a huge Euphoria fan and also a huge girl in red fan, so that song for was basically heaven for me. How did the show inspire you to write a song like that?

girl in red: What inspired me is that watching that show and seeing Rue just made me realize a lot of things about myself. That’s where this inspiration comes from, because the song isn’t about me singing about the show, or singing about Rue. I’m singing about my experience, my life and how I kind of felt like Rue, and how there are so many Rues in this world. So in some way I’m a kind of Rue, even though I’m not a drug addict. I just felt like the way she saw the world, there was just something there that I just had a lot of understanding of, and how she thought of things. That’s really just why that song was called “rue” and I had this little homage with the red sweater.

I’ve just really felt like a burden, something when I saw Rue and how she was definitely a lot for her family. I felt like a lot to my family and this is kind of me singing to my loved ones, like ‘I’m trying my best here, and I don’t want to make it worse. I want to make it work’. I’m doing what I can I’m singing to them in this.

On both “rue” and “serotonin” you talk about mental health, but the songs are very upbeat so it feels like you could dance to anything that you're singing about. But “apartment 402”, which for me is a huge standout on the album, it just sucks you in a little more. Mental health becomes a theme on the record, and it's consolidated with this song. How important is it for you to talk about mental health in your music despite being this young and knowing that weird questions about medication will probably show up in the future, how important is it for you that you don't like hold anything back in that sense?

girl in red: It’s really important to me because anything else feels really fucking boring, you know. “I’m so tired of Photoshop” or whatever that song is, I can’t remember, but I’m so fucking tired of the Photoshop, I’m so tired of things that I don’t relate to and I don’t understand. I’m like what are you going through here? I feel like I hear the same lyrics all over the place. There are a lot of great catchy songs but sometimes I just feel like they could have just had the same lyrics. I just feel like it’s important for me to do what makes me want to make music and being honest in that way is that.

As a listener, I can thank you for doing so it feels very good when you hear everything that you go through and being talked about. So on the album’s journey, something that fascinated me is that it's so transparent lyrically and so energetic sonically, and then it closes with an instrumental which is gorgeous, but it's just like a complete left turn. I read the instrumental is a response to the album title. When you were composing that song, what were the feelings that you were trying to channel into it?

girl in red: Oh, the last track, “it would feel like this”. I mean, I feel like this album is so full, like it’s very eclectic and it’s very energetic, and it just has a lot of things to it, and I feel like you kind of need that space at the end to feel a little bit of peace, like that quietness, you know, and I just really feel like that little instrumental piece, it feels like that quiet place I want to be in, that place where I feel okay. That’s why I feel like it’s so important. It’s kind of like the movie credits of this album.

if i could make it go quiet - girl in red
if i could make it go quiet – girl in red

But now let’s talk about something else that has no words, your cover art. It’s so captivating. Why did you choose that cover art and that artist? What about it do you think represents the record?

girl in red: Well, so when I saw that painting, I was like, ‘Holy crap!’ I felt like I was looking into a mirror. I’m looking at it right now, the actual painting, and it just looks like me. I’m constantly wearing a hoodie, and it’s kind of like that, where this person is feels like this weird headspace I’ve been in, you know, and I just feel like if if this character could only say one thing, it would just be, ‘if I can make it go quiet’.

I just feel like that’s what this image says to me, and just the fact that it looks like me, and it’s not even made for me! It’s something I saw and it grabbed me and I was like, ‘This is beautiful’. This person is kind of ugly and weird looking and that’s kind of how I see myself also. I was just really moved, and then I bought it with no intention of using as a cover, but I then eventually was like ‘This needs to be the cover’.

girl in red © Jonathan Kise
girl in red © Jonathan Kise



girl in red © Jonathan Kise
girl in red © Jonathan Kise

Two last questions: If you could define the album in one lyric, which is not the album title, what would it be?

girl in red: There’s a crack in every wall.

Do you want to explain?

girl in red: I just feel like this album is kind of sad but it’s also very hopeful, and I feel like the line, ‘there’s a crack in every wall’ which is from “apartment 402” is about the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s about that letting the light in. Even the title is like ‘if I can make it go quiet’, there’s a wish there for something to be better.

Now the last one: what would you do if you could make it all go quiet?

girl in red: Sleep.

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if i could make it go quiet - girl in red

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📸 © Jonathan Kise

girl in red’s Essential and Euphoric “rue”

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