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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos


APRIL 2024

“I kind of went a long time without releasing music that now, to me it's time to just be generous with it all and just put it out there and see what sticks,” rising pop phenomenon Griff says to me as we sit down together following her photoshoot for MILKY’s April cover.

Photographs by Vasili Papathanasopoulos.

Styling by Victoria Knowles.

Dress, Nicol and Ford. Jewels, Alemais and Bulgari.

The musical project of Sarah Griffiths, Griff had landed in Australia for a whirlwind week, barely a month since her debut trip down under where she performed a handful of sold-out shows. Now eight weeks later, her latest EP, ver2igo Vol. 2, has been unveiled.

Immediately we begin to talk about Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour, neither of us having seen the pop-spectacle at that point in time. “In my head I'm going, but like, I haven't done anything to get tickets.” I suggest she would serve as the perfect opener for the mammoth show, to which she responds “Right? I didn't wanna say it.” If it were to happen (we’re “crossing all our fingers and toes”), Swift would be the latest in a line of legendary artists who have invited Griff to share the stage. 

In the five short years since she released her debut single Mirror Talk, Griff’s accomplishments continue to pile up. With three EP’s, a mixtape and a string of singles under her belt at the age of twenty three, the gifted songstress took home the Brit Award for ‘Rising Star’ in 2021, had written with Chris Martin and Sigrid, received praise from global superstar Swift, and has supported English icons Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa in stadiums and arenas on their respective tours across Europe. “I had never toured before I did the Dua Lipa tour and that was three months on a bus, waking up every day in a new place. So that was really formative - it was like bootcamp for touring.“ Whilst she and Lipa both orbit within a pop sphere, “It’s the girls and the gays. They're gonna hype you up. It's gonna be like super fun. So that was cool, but still difficult.” 

Dress, Eloise Bristowe. Jewels, Bulgari.

From there she joined Coldplay and Sheeran.“I guess those felt the most different to mine 'cause I guess the bigger you get, there are a big percentage that are real music fans. But there are also a big percentage that are like more passive music fans, and are just there for the experience of it. So trying to get their attention is like, you grow a very thick skin for sure.” Winning over the crowds that flocked to Coldplay and Sheeran’s shows served more like a training course.

"I feel like that's kind of the feeling of Vol. 2, that it's euphoric and there's still a real theme of loss."

Last October, Griff unveiled vert1go Vol. 1 - a considered, subdued four-track release that leaned into a moodier sonic realm, directly contrasting ver2igo Vol. 2. Where the latter offers big pop production and soaring soundscapes, the former is built upon atmospheric and spatial sonics. Both sides are laced with introspective and storytelling lyricism, Vol. 1 chronicles heartbreak prompted by a relationship, whereas Vol. 2 shifts more inward. “I could hear a story and I could hear a feeling of different collections of songs, hence why I was like, 'okay, let's do Vol. 1 and start with Vertigo and start at a place that's super like dark and heartbroken.' And then for me, Vol. 2 is now about like, there's a sense of euphoria - even though it's like still really sad. So I feel like that's kind of the feeling of Vol. 2, that it's euphoric and there's still a real theme of loss.” That theme of loss extends beyond a breakup, into a loss of oneself. 

Dress, Nicol and Ford. Jewels, Alemais, Bulgari and Swarovski.

The EP’s lead single, Miss Me Too, is an existential cut that documents a loss of confidence as we age, and longing to be reunited with our former selves - a carefree spirt with endless belief in the future. Griff’s emotive vocal performance commands your attention atop a dizzying soundscape that tethers together threads of ambience and maximalism juxtaposed within the songs verses and chorus. On Pillow In My Arms, she paints a solemn picture of someone who has lost everything, until the only thing that's left and the only companion they have is a pillow. “It's kind of a silly concept, but I don't know. I found something, there's something quite beautiful in that imagery of like, your pillow's seen you cry, it's seen you dance, it's heard all of your complaints and all of like the deepest secrets. My poor, poor pillow.” It’s her vivid approach to storytelling that shines within her lyricism, these nuanced viewpoints within relatable themes paired with moving production. The visual metaphors continue on Hole In My Pocket, which offers nuerasry-rhyme like melodies. Griff says its a song “about loss. It's like you're at a point where you're trying to look around and you're like, ‘why? Where has everything gone that I thought I had?,' and trying to rationalise that and wrestle with that and be like, 'what is it about my life right now that means that I'm just feel like I'm losing everything at a really rapid rate?’”

"I try not to overthink production and I just try and do what feels right and what serves the song best.”

Griff is the sole producer on Pillow In My Arms. Pulsating percussion patterns propel the song forward, with the songs yearning melodies fuelled by Griff’s impassioned performance. Her advice for self-producing; “I try not to overthink production and I just try and do what feels right and what serves the song best.” On Cycles however, she teamed up with “my favourite producer in the world,” Mura Masa. The polished track closes the EP and ushers in a different sound for the singer influenced by Masa’s artistry. “He finished and did all the production on it. So I think it's really got his sound on that one.” That sound is led by scintillating production and a repetitious synth melody. The song continues the EP’s pairing of lighter and euphoric realm with melancholic lyricism. “I am drawn to like super major kind of melodies and uplifting, upbeat production. I think it's nice to contrast that with really heartbreaking lyrics. So yeah, it's like happy-sad.” This contrasting marriage creates a compelling narrative across the collection of songs that expands beyond lyricism. A pool of emotions is brought to life through these considered choices, that further cement Griff’s prowess as a songwriter.

Video and editing by Blake Lauricella.

Dress, Eloise Bristowe. Shoes, Ganni. Jewels, Bulgari.

She notes that when starting out, writing felt like a hobby and was an instinctual process where the songs felt singular. “I didn't really think that any of the songs would come together as a body of work. So I think that's why they were always mixtapes or EPs.” As she delved deeper into life as a touring musician, writers block began to set in which resulted in larger gaps between writing sessions. “The project has been written in fragments, really. I think I kind of got to last year and was like, 'okay, I've got about a hundred songs here,' [laughs]. I need to start piecing them together.' I could hear a story and I could hear a feeling of different collections of songs” Taking a drip-feed approach to releasing the volumes allows the listener to sit with each track and soak in Griff’s artistry without feeling overwhelmed by a full-length body of work. With each volume, we’re led further into her thoughts and emotions, the technical choices she makes and the experiences she’s lived.

"Do I still come back to this song and really feel something?"

I ask her how she could possibly curate close to a hundred songs into these succinct releases - advice from Chris Martin came in to play. “I think that was one thing I learned from Chris Martin, he was almost encouraging me to be quite cutthroat with it. When you're writing, he was encouraging me, like, if you're gonna write like a real classic album, be really concise with it and wrestle with all the songs and, and keep trying to put them in different picture frames and see if they fit the vision of what you're trying to do.” Ultimately, there was one question she always came back to, “do I still come back to this song and really feel something?”

Dress, Nicol and Ford. Jewels, Alemais, Bulgari and Swarovski.

She finds that her process for writing and creating is in flux. “Each song really does go on its own journey because I guess if I knew where I would find inspiration, I would just be writing hits all the time, you know?” However a few details remain consistent. “I need to feel in a super low pressure environment and I need to feel my most relaxed and well, not even relaxed, but I just need to feel my most almost secluded from the world.” That comfort has found its form in a number of settings, including Airbnb’s in the English countryside and a property owned by Imogen Heap. “There's maybe like eight different houses across the English countryside that I've written this project in. In-between all of my tours I would book an Airbnb and just go by myself, and try and just seclude myself again and get in a head space and shut out all the noise. So that's definitely an environment I need to be in.” Whilst speaking, Griff notes she struggles to work with new people, especially artists and producers she admires most. But there’s still a handful of artists that top the list. “I would love to work with Jon Bellion. He seems like an absolute freak in the studio. I would love to work with Imogen Heap and just see her. The way she hears sonics is amazing. I feel like I would love to work with Jack Antonoff just to know what it's like. He's written some of my favourite songs with my favourite artist, so I feel like I would just like to know how he writes and what that process is.”

In January this year, Griff kicked off a run of intimate live shows designed to reconnect with her audience. “It's been my mission really to reconnect because when you do support, you do kind of lose a sense of who the fan base are… I don't know who’s here from Coldplay or from Dua or from like day one. ”That conscious decision to regain who the core of her fan base is harks back to the earlier days of her career, where she communicated with and built a fanbase online. “I'm quite used to talking to people online as well, and so I think that's helpful. It's been nice to do like underplay shows… intentionally doing small rooms again, just so that people really can feel the songs.” The intimacy of smaller venues has historically allowed the singer to test out new music, instead of catering to a mixed-fanbase in stadiums. “In a stadium it's hard because you're opening in daylight as well…  it really is like you're a tiny dot and you've just gotta try your best. I think I just learned like in those environments, do the upbeat stuff and it really isn't my gig. It's good to be aware that the audience don't know who you are and to just talk about that. I put in like a Whitney Houston cover and people just wanna dance and have fun and then sing Yellow or Thinking Out Loud.

Dress, Eloise Bristowe. Shoes, Ganni. Jewels, Bulgari.

Beginning in Australia and continuing on to North America and Europe, Griff completed the tour prior to the release of ver2igo Vol. 2. Playing new music on the road allows for the singer to recontextualise her music into a live setting. “I love the moment that I step into a rehearsal room and my amazing drummer is my musical director too, and watching him play it and it's like, 'oh, now this song is like, it's really alive in a room.' It's definitely very cathartic and satisfactory to feel the song in the room, and also learn if it works or not.”

With two long-haul flights to Australia in the space of a month, she had plenty of time to soak up the culture. I ask her what’s the weirdest thing she has learnt about Australia during her travels, She replies, “I feel like there are probably loads of things. I find it funny that you guys say, "how are you going?" It's not like weird. It's just like, it catches me off every time. It's like, "Hey, how you going?" I'm like, 'I dunno where I'm going. Like I'm going fine. Like, where am I going?' I dunno.” If ver2igo vol.2 is any indication, the only way is up.


Makeup Artist: Kristen Zinghini

Videographer: Blake Lauricella

ver2igo Vol. 2 is out now!


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