- Words Matilda Carnall
After the release of her debut EP “Bitter Sweet”, Unflirt discusses dream collaborations, touring with childhood friend beabadoobee and her love for crochet.
With a candid and open approach to personal experience, up-and-coming artist Unflirt is the songstress intertwining bedroom pop and dreamy shoegaze. She’s racked up over four million streams for her intimate tunes and, having just wrapped up a string of live shows with beabadoobee, the future’s looking promising.
With the release of her new EP, “Bitter Sweet”, the 22-year-old feels she’s found her sound. It features four tracks that divulge love-gone-awry, youthful naivety and longing for more. “Differently”, the newest addition to the release, is a melodic retelling of regret giving way to closure. Raw and honest, it’s an offering to rival her highly successful 2020 track, “Crush”.
Unflirt’s still in the infancy of her career, having only started releasing music during lockdown. Despite having no formal training, bar a few basic guitar lessons from her father, her sincere songwriting and beyond-dulcet tones have resonated with many.
Already marked for stardom, we catch up with Unflirt to discuss all from touring through to her last karaoke tune.
Hey Unflirt! Tell us about your new single, “Differently”, it sounds like you really put your heart on your sleeve with this one. Was the creative process any different to your previous releases?
Just like my other songs, I wrote “Differently” in my room with just me and my guitar. I love writing this way as being alone in my own space allows me to be honest with myself and with how I’m feeling. I wrote it all in one night when I was feeling so terrible and confused, and writing it was like therapy for me. Then, I had a session with my producer Mack Jamieson the next day and he completely brought what I had envisioned to life.
The song is about regret and being stuck in an endless cycle of wishing things could be different. But after the super heavy climactic ‘end of a movie’ type instrumental break which I love, the song moves onto acceptance and choosing to move on. This song was the closure I needed and represents the end of this one phase in my life, where I was stuck for a very long time. I think it’s the perfect song to end this project and make way for a new chapter of life and music to begin.
For everyone listening to the track for the first time, what would you like them to take away from it? How do you want them to feel when listening?
I hope people can listen to the song and relate, but also know that it’s okay to be stuck on something so bad and have it completely consume you. I hope they can also take away a feeling of relief by the end, as I feel like you can only get over something by just going through it.
Do you have any dream collaborations? Or are there any producers in the industry you admire and would want to work with?
This is definitely the most unrealistic and biggest stretch in the world but it’s my biggest dream to work with Arthur Verocai. He will probably never know who I am – which is fine – but he is a Brazilian musician who has composed and produced some of the most beautiful soundscapes ever and I take so much inspiration from elements of his music. Other than that, though, BADBADNOTGOOD, King Krule or Yves Tumor would be so sick. Still probably very unrealistic but a girl can dream!
Your music seems inextricably tied to your identity and you seem immensely proud of your heritage. Do you consider music as an extension of who you are?
100%. I can’t live without music. I can’t even do simple tasks like clean my room or shower or be on the train without listening to something. Even with my own songs, I treat them like little diary entries where I can just dump all that I’m feeling or what I want to remember from experiences in my life. I’m not sure if this is healthy but it has become routine for me to cry about something and then immediately pick up my guitar to write. Both writing and listening to music help me process things and I don’t know what I’d do without them.
We read that your early musical experiences included performing karaoke sets for your family, with tracks by Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder and the Beegees featuring heavily. Nowadays, what’s your go-to karaoke song and why?
It’s been so long. The last time I remember doing karaoke was when my friends and I went for my 21st birthday and I was screaming “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy. Super unserious but it’s just so fun to sing, especially with your friends which is what karaoke is about.
Music became a passion for you over the lockdown period: a time when many struggled with the situation’s solitude. How did music help you during this time and when did you realise it could be something to pursue after lockdown?
I was in the first year of my Film and TV degree when lockdown happened and that definitely was a challenging time when I lost some passion and interest for the subject. For some time before lockdown, I had been contemplating doing music.
But when it actually happened, I got so invested in learning how to produce my own songs on my pirated version of Logic and was writing with my guitar every day. Lockdown let me get comfortable in the process for a while and this helped me gain the confidence to drop my first song. I was so surprised with all the good feedback so I dropped another song a few months later which was “Crush”, and I guess this was when I realised music could actually be something I could pursue. It replaced the passion I had lost for film but I couldn’t be more grateful that it had happened.
And what do you think of the post-lockdown music landscape? Are you finding it easy to play shows? And where do you go yourself to engage with the wider music community?
Since lockdown ended, I’ve loved being able to actually meet other people in music and work with different producers. I found it so amazing that, with the right people, the ideas I had could actually come to life – which they couldn’t when I was doing it by myself with my very limited producing skills.
Before going on tour with Bea, I had only played three shows. However, I think this tour is where I really gained confidence and enjoyed performing, especially as I was playing acoustic sets every night by myself. It really opened me up to how my music could connect with people in an audience and it was all such a crazy and surreal experience, especially having started this all in my room away from the world. To engage with the wider music community, I love going to gigs and different events where DJs play. London always has loads of those so it’s super sick.
Speaking of gigs, you’re going on tour with Beabadoobee soon. Can you give us some insight into how you became friends, and when she started supporting your work?
Me and Bea actually met at our mutual friend’s birthday party when we were around 11 years old I think. I would bump into her every now and then at Filipino parties but then we ended up going to the same sixth form, where we got closer and we’ve been friends since. She literally just DMed me a week before the tour started asking if I wanted to come – which was the best surprise ever. It was the most perfect first tour experience especially because I was supporting a friend. Our Filipino parents actually met for the first time at the show in Paris and it was such a heartwarming full-circle moment.
With a burgeoning music career in your sights, are there any hidden hobbies you have that you like to do in your spare time? Or any ways that you try to switch off from music entirely?
I love to crochet and pick up different little projects when I have time. The last thing I made was a cute little side bag which I now wear everywhere. I also love spending time in nature and love travelling. I actually just came back from Brazil where I stayed for 3 months. It was such a dream but I was definitely switched off from the music world, even though I was still writing with my guitar here and there.
To wrap up, how would you like to see out the rest of 2023? Is there anything that you’d like to achieve for the rest of the year?
I am super excited for 2023 and I just hope to make more music that I love, release more music (maybe another EP by the end of the year) and play more shows. With music, I kind of just ride the wave and see what comes but I am super grateful for any opportunities that come my way, all in their own timing though. I’ve never done any collabs or features so maybe that could be a cool thing to tick off the list this year!