The Euphoria of Georgia
"I wanted to write an album that would inspire positivity, optimism - an album full of technicolour textures and sounds that would inspire the listener’s imaginations"
Image credit: Will Spooner
For over a decade now Georgia Barnes AKA Georgia has been crafting left-of-centre, dance music inspired synth-pop sounds, having released three diverse records that showcase both her evolution as an artist and willingness to further hone her sound and experiment with new ideas, rather than rest on her laurels and stick to tried and true formulas.
This has never been more evident than in the creation of her third album, the recently released and incredibly appropriately titled Euphoric. While no stranger to collaboration, having worked with the likes of Mura Masa, Gorillaz, Shygirl, Baby Tate, Dan Carey and even Shania Twain, Euphoric marks the first time Georgia has invited someone else to work on one of her own records with her.
Co-produced by Vampire Weekend co-founding member and esteemed producer Rostam (whose credits are far too extensive to list but include the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, HAIM and Clairo to Mr. Oizo, Frank Ocean and Das Racist), the result is ten dynamic, vibrant, melodic and yes, euphoric cuts that expands on the club-oriented sounds of previous album, 2020’s Seeking Thrills.
In a twist of fate, after already having decided to switch things up for her third album, after her collaboration with Mura Masa, Rostam DM’d Georgia who proved to be the perfect first collaborator for a Georgia record. Featuring lead single It’s Euphoric, the quasi-title track was the first song the pair wrote together and went to inspire the direction, vision and colourful soundscape of the album.
Having recently played a number of festivals, including Primavera Sound and the Radio 1 Big Weekend, and with a busy touring schedule around the UK and Europe for the rest of the year, Georgia will be swinging down under for a whirlwind trip to play a couple of solo in-store performances at Red Eye, Sydney (August 9) and Sound Merch, Melbourne (August 11). Ahead of her visit, we jumped on the line with Georgia to chat about releasing her second album just before the global pandemic, the magic of collaborating with Rostam, her newly developed live show, what the word Euphoric means to hear and more!
So we’re chatting just after the album has been released… how does it feel, how was the weekend with it out?!
It just feels amazing, actually, I feel such a relief. I think it's been quite a big build up of just kind of being in this limbo state of talking to people about the record when they haven't heard it. Now it’s out I feel a massive sort of relief, I can take a breath and now enjoy this moment of people actually hearing the songs. I just can’t wait for people’s reactions. Yeah, it feels like I can finally enjoy it.
For sure! Before we chat Euphoric, I want to quickly ask about with your last record - Seeking Thrills, which came out in January 2020, you know, just before shit really hit the fan, so what’s it been like releasing a record this time around, not into a global catastrophe, and what was it like releasing Seeking Thrills?
Well, who knows whether there’s gonna be some other terrible world catastrophe? I hope not… Yeah, Seeking Thrills releasing was again a massive relief. I think there was also this real hype around it because everyone loved the singles so much that I didn’t know whether people would like the album as much, but that wasn’t the case. Luckily, during the pandemic, people just really took to that record, you know, they really played it a lot and sort of connected to the songs in a different way during the lockdown period - I think it provided a sort of escapism to some people that perhaps they needed. In terms of me and my career it was pretty damaging in terms of the touring side of things which is so important nowadays because that’s how you can earn money, so to have two years of touring suddenly pulled from you was a shock and I do still feel the effects. We’ve had to build up things again, it’s not been the most perfect entry into live music again, so it’s taken a bit of adjusting and that was kind of crappy.
The thing is, the industries are always so fickle - one minute you’re riding a high and the next you’re not, it’s all part and parcel of the job, really. So I just got on with it, and over lockdown - I actually had met Rostam previously to Seeking Thrills coming out, we met at the end of 2019, November or something. We’d already written It’s Euphoric, the first single, so throughout lockdown I kind of had this exciting prospect of perhaps making a new record with Rostam. Nothing had been confirmed, but it gave me a stimulus to kind of shut the doors and just get back into the studio and write some ideas and stuff. The pandemic was sort of a blessing and a curse for me, which I’m sure it was for a lot of people, but I can’t help but think without it, I wouldn’t have written any of this music, and might have not confirmed working with Rostam, so looking back on it it, it was all chaos, but it was all good.
Ahhh interesting, cos I was wondering when you first linked up with Rostam, and to know that you guys had written It’s Euphoric before Seeking Thrills was even out, that’s fascinating to know that timeline… Because I wanted to ask about the fact that the single and then album is called Euphoric, written during a period that was the opposite of euphoric for a lot of people, but now knowing it was written before the pandemic changes the narrative I had a bit.
I mean, it’s quite bizarre really. Yeah, looking back in hindsight we’d already kind of set the theme for the album by writing that first single. The word Euphoric, through that song, kind of got me through lockdown, actually, and set a precedent for the whole feeling of my state of mind writing this record. I supposed it was the total opposite - a lot of people were living with a lot of shit hanging over them and I think Rostam and I wanted to write an album that would inspire positivity, optimism - an album full of technicolour textures and sounds that would inspire the listener’s imaginations. That was the goal really, and we’d already felt that writing It’s Euphoric, then during the pandemic that feeling kind of heightened, and we were both talking to each other a lot about life and were like “let’s just write a record that’s inspiring”. I think in some ways it was probably a bit of a reaction but it certainly wasn’t a lockdown record. We just wanted to make music that was optimistic, full of optimism.
So what was it like, and what led to you wanting to work with another producer on one of your own albums for the first time - you know, you’ve written on other people’s projects a lot, but never invited people to write on your own?
So in 2019, before the summer I wrote a song with Mura Masa called Live Like We’re Dancing, and I spent a few days with Alex in the studio and they were fantastic days in the studio, and we became really good friends after that. He was speaking a lot about musicians, his friends and stuff like that, and Rostam’s name was brought up. Somehow, maybe Alex sent Rostam the demo, and a few days later I got a message in my Instagram inbox from Rostam just saying “I hope you don’t mind me reaching out, but Alex sent me the demo for Live Like We’re Dancing and I really love your voice”. I was obviously ecstatic that he’d reached out and taking that time was really sweet and proactive, so we started the communication between us before the summer of 2019, and then at the end of 2019 I went to L.A. for the first time to play my first ever showcase there. I just so happened to have a couple of days off on that trip, and I messaged Rostam just being like “I’ve got a few days to spare, can I come over and we make some music together or just hang out?” and he was like “sure - come over!”.
Within the first hour of meeting, we wrote that song - well, everything you hear on that song is what we write within the first hour of meeting each other. It was this weird, natural dynamic that I don’t know how you put into words. We just really got on creatively and on a human level as well, I really understood his views on life and his views on music, and I share very similar creative concepts. Technically, he’s a completely different musician to me, he's a trained musician so I found that really intriguing to be around and I thought I’d learn stuff If I worked with Rostam, and become a better musician - it was this natural thing and it was very exciting. I came back to London and spoke to my manager. I played her the song, she loved it and was like “wow, this is such a cool, new direction” and I was like “I think we should ask Rostam to do the album?”. There was something about our relationship, I don’t think that would have happened with other producers - he just gave off this real inspiring vibe and was excited by working with me, it didn’t feel like he was doing it out of a chore. Some producers I’ve got into the studio before have been like “we’re not on my own project but I’m going to this this and blah blah blah” - Rostam really wasn’t like that, he seemed genuinely excited to work with me and it just felt like a really positive, cool direction to go in. Yeah, I think it would have happened with anyone else, there was just this natural spark between us.
If only they could all be like that when you collaborate!
I know! Exactly, I know. Sometimes it can just happen like that in a creative process, you find your person or find the collective or find the space or whatever that spark is, it just brings the best out of you. I have to say, I haven’t had that with a lot of people in the studio, and I think once you have it, you don’t want to let it go, you want to explore it more. I think I could have quite easily said “Oh, I’ll still do my process in the same way”, which is on my own in this studio in London, and I’ll keep plodding along doing my thing, but what Rostam brought to the table led me to make that decision and led to that new direction, new way of writing songs which has been sort of life changing, really. Now that I have this whole other sort of knowledge of how to make music, yeah, I have to say the whole thing was just euphoric, it is the word that comes to mind - it was just euphoric making this record. There was no moment where I was like “this is fucking shit, this is wrong” - there was no moment like that, it was just all kind of pure magic.
I’m getting inspired just listening to this, and you’re not the first person I’ve interviewed who has worked with Rostam and sung his praises! So let’s talk more about you and your record now…
I could talk about Rostam all day!
*laughs* I’m sure he’d be stoked! So let’s talk about live stuff a bit more now - you’ve just played some festivals and Primavera a few months ago, and before you come down to Australia for a few smaller in-store performances, how’s the new record feeling live? Was it a consideration how you could play it live while you were writing?
Yeah, we would have lots of discussions, Rostam and I, about the live show, and he’s very much like, once he’s involved in a project, he puts his heart and soul into it. We would talk endlessly about live and talk about how to translate this music, and he was quite adamant that I got a band. I also thought that was the next evolution for me, and a lot of the instrumentation on this record is live instruments. So I came back after the record was finished, and I have a fantastic musical director called Tristan who I sat down with and played the record for, and we were like “yeah, let’s go on the hunt for some wicked, amazing, talented musicians”... so that’s what we did. Last year we had a load of auctions - I’ve been really working on the live show since October of last year, so it’s been a long process of working out how to translate this music live. I’m so excited, but unfortunately for these Australian shows, because it’s just a promo trip, I won’t be taking the band, but hopefully next year we’ll be playing some festivals out there and maybe a few of my own shows, and I can bring the band.
What we developed for Seeking Thrills was this really cool kind of dance pop show which was very catered to the audience having a good time on the dance floor, so it was taking that essence and mixing it with these new songs, but not losing the spirit of that show, just improving it with new musicians. The only thing I can think to compare it to is it’s a bit LCD Soundsystem, it’s kind of got some things similar to Tame Impala, like dance floor pop meets psychedelic, trippy sort of sounds, so I’m really excited. The shows that I’ve done thus far with the band have gone down so well, it’s been kind of amazing, and lots of people have commented on the talented musicians that I’ve got. I want to showcase the live capabilities of humans and necessarily put all the attention on the visuals, more sort of like “how can we make a live band the most exciting live band possible”. So that’s what we’re going for, and it’s an all female band, so that’s quite nice. It’s quite a strong aesthetic, I think.
So sick! I’m conscious of time at this point of our chat but could take a whole different direction and ask about gender and electronic music and your experiences, but I think that’s a discussion for another time… the other thing I’m thinking is if only teleportation existed cos of the logistical and financial hassle in bringing a full band from London to Australia - I interviewed Hot Chip last year and had a similar discussion… so you are heading back down to Australia...
It’s not actually financial, though. It’s basically because these shows are smaller, in store shows, we couldn’t bring everyone - it would have been a bit ridiculous to have a whole band in these small shows, but I am very hopeful we’ll be back next year.
We can only hope! When was the last time you were in Australia, Georgia?
I was in Australia supporting Jungle in 2019, and we played all around, it was a great tour. People had a great time and they’re just massive, massivemusic heads, so it was a good bill, me and Jungle. Yeah, it was a good night of music and I love playing Australia, going to all the different areas, it was wicked.
And how serendipitous that Jungle had just had a new single out and a new album on the way as well?
I know! I know, it’s awesome, they texted me the other day like “Congrats G on the album, so funny that we’ve got ours coming out in a couple of weeks”. Yeah, I think this year is gonna be a busy year for releases… well, I mean, it always is, but it seems like since COVID there’s just more music than ever.
We’re spoiled, right? I could have a best of 2023 list done today and it would be completely different by the end of the year, I’m sure… so finally Georgia, with the album finally out, and I’m sure you having said, read, and heard the word a million times, what does the word “Euphoric” mean to you, what does it conjure up in you?
I think it conjures up optimism, like I keep saying that. But in that moment of pure Euphoria you can wish for things, you can set out some goals, you can make decisions about doing stuff differently, giving yourself a less harder time. I don’t know, I just feel very optimistic, and that’s what I hope people feel listening to this record, that’s my number one goal.
I love it, I can definitely vouch for myself that’s how I felt! Amazing, Georgia, thanks so much for chatting today!
Thanks, lovely to speak with you!
Georgia's new album Euphoric is out now via Domino
Georgia Live Australian In-Store Performances (Solo)
Wednesday 9th August, 5pm – Red Eye, Sydney
Friday 11th August, 6pm – Sound Merch, Melbourne