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U.S. Girls


It takes a unique mindset to survive in the music industry. U.S. Girls mastermind Meg Remy has one such outlook. 

"All things shift. Nothing is 100% always forever," she gently muses. "It's just we're caught up in something that we don't even know what it is. So, I think getting too down about anything is a waste of energy." 

Speaking on her time in the industry – a term that Remy readily attacks, "industries of all sorts are toxic" – that began back in the late '00s with a spattering of self-released singles, she offers a profundity that only focuses on her internal creative spark allows. From this, she's transformed those tracks into a career that only marches to the beat of its own drum. 

Similarly, the basis for U.S. Girls' output – and Remy's survival in the fickle music machine – boils down to a statement she offers: "I have no boundaries, I have nothing I have to stick to." Explaining further she says, "If I want to make a song that sounds very dark and kind of machine-y, and then next I want to make a song that sounds very sweet and wistful I can because I'm not nailed down to anything." 

It's this reasoning that she ended up here in the first place. "I feel certain in opens everything up, which I think is why I pursued art from a young age before I even knew what being an artist was. I lived in that way, my brain worked in that way. It is what I was drawn to for that very reason because it helped me makes make some sort of sense of life." 

"It wasn't that long ago that artists had to hide that they were pregnant while they were"

Making sense of life is where U.S. Girls finds its essence. Rooted throughout Remy's offerings under the moniker comes a breadcrumb trail of who she is – in the past, present, and future. Often this is reflected in the sounds she creates. Where her debut for indie-staple label 4AD, 2015 'Half-Free' dealt, the follow-up, 2018's 'In A Poem Unlimited', and 2020's 'Heavy Light', embraced a broader pop sound. 

"If it's making me scared, if it's making me have to look at myself or question myself it means I'm on the right track," says Remy. Describing it as less of a fight or flight than "an excited fear…it's more you're pushing yourself." 

For her latest album, Bless This Mess, that came in the form of the album cover. Showing Remy while pregnant, she recalls the moment of its conception as, "I started thinking, Okay, I'm thinking of all the musicians I know of who had children while also making music. There are so many people who had children, but I couldn't find many album covers with pregnant people on them, and I found that really interesting." 

"It wasn't that long ago that artists had to hide that they were pregnant while they were," she continues." And so it felt like this is something I should pursue, trying to get this image and putting it on the cover." A powerful pose struck with an unbuttoned tuxedo shirt revealing her belly, the poise strikes through to the heart of its matter. "It's just such an innate truth. It's such a basic necessity of life. We can't have anything if people weren't born our culture would not exist. So it felt like this kind of, you know, basic truth." 

The bringing together of ideas is rooted in her sounds, but collaboration is another strength of Remy's. Over the years her collaborators have included the likes of jazz-funk ensemble The Cosmic Range, a range of Canadian folk artists, and her husband Canadian artist Maximillian Turnbull aka Slim Twig. "If I'm collaborating with people and getting the best from them if I can see that they're giving the song, or the arrangement or whatever, their best, I know we're on the right track," she explains. "That someone's going to gift my song their skills. That to me is like wow, okay, that's amazing that you're doing that for something that's gonna come out under my name, that I'm gonna then get all the cultural capital for that exchange." 

Indeed, acclaim hasn't been short for Remy and U.S. Girls. Consistently toting a heart bursting with experimental pop, her evolving sound often incorporates all aspects of music from disco to synthpop, baroque and new wave is a veritable smorgasbord of all that evokes a powerful reaction. But her journey to success has been just right for Remy to the palate. "I've found that U.S. Girls has gone up one step at a time, and it hasn't been some massive leap," she explains. "And that to me has meant that something's going right because I do think that in this day and age – and it's probably been this way always – that it's like all the sudden you're super famous, it's because someone made it so, and all of the systems have agreed that you should be there…it's all basically rigged." Mentioning The Beatles as a case study in such matters. A band who have permeated time and culture, the truth is the odds were steered in the favour. "They had massive machinery behind them. Massive money, like the merchandising of that band alone, is…it's shocking like there was like Beatles Tampax you know what I mean?" She laughs. "Fame is a really strange thing. It definitely doesn't mean you're making good music. And I don't think it means that like you worked super hard. I'm not sure what it means other than someone saw that they could make money from you." 

"It's me in a cave with barely any light trying to sort this thing out..."

For all the insight Remy offers, there's one truth that holds her to ransom as it does everyone else. "It's impossible to not think about the future," she admits. "You have to, but I've always found that if the thing that I'm most engaged with is the kind of personal test with myself – of pushing myself, questioning myself, digging in, expanding my empathy, my imagination of these things...if that's the main game I'm involved with, I can't go wrong." Knowing that she has control of this one vital aspect is what keeps U.S. Girls fully functioning in the dog-eat-dog world of music. On what it is specifically, she explains, "it roots you in the now. The only thing I can control is the things I make. I can't control what the music industry does. I can't control how people digest the work or receive it. I have no say in any of that. So any kind of focusing on that would really be a waste of energy that could be put towards making things or working on trying to be a more useful human." 

The horizon isn't all doom and gloom, Remy's thankful for the trajectory life placed her on, particularly now she's got twins in tow. The flexibility of a career not bound to 9-5 means she can be around for childcare. "I'm really blessed with that," she says. "But that's not to say that working in this industry – and having all my friends work in music – [we have] these endless conversations, and the conversations have changed so much over the past 10 years." 

Recalling chats of "real desperation", the focal shift into metrics more than ever, and not just weekly or monthly reports, but actual live data as toxic as it is damning. "There's a reason why all these numbers are visible. You know, it's to make us feel insecure and to keep us looking at the numbers. It's like my mom would always say, a watched pot never boils. And that's the same with these metrics. If you're staring at your metrics, they're not going to move an inch." 

For all the industry-slamming chat, it is an inevitable part of life. But as someone with an insight garnered through time and experience, does Remy see a way out of the cycle into a more sustainable and self-sufficient world? "I don't know..." she says honestly after a ruminative pause. "You could say a lot of people are releasing their own music, you know, they're going straight through Bandcamp...but those outlets are all supported by larger industries. Everything we do now is online, and that is a massive industry…I think we can never be out outside of the industry. It's just not possible at this point." 

Lamenting for a time when regional scenes ruled and you could tangibly survive off such local success. It was thought, for a brief moment in a post-COVID world, this was going to resurface but the online world still reigns supreme. "It could happen in the future when travel is becoming less possible," she continues. "Even for an artist at my level which is, I'm low level but I have resources – I have a team around me, of all these things – and it's still very difficult. Maybe when travel becomes literally impossible, except for the über wealthy, maybe that will happen [then]." 

With Remy, It's all big ideas and big conversation. This heart lies within U.S. Girls, which is why her impact feels like a rock gently tossed in the ocean with ripples curling outward. Her mark on the world is set and has helped her comprehend her space in not only the world writ large but also within the musical landscape. 

"I don't really listen back through my catalogue early records the first U.S. Girls records are so distorted. They're so experimental. It's me in a cave with barely any light trying to sort this thing out..." she ponders. "And that music is available to stream or buy or whatever, directly alongside the music I'm making now, I love that. I love that that would be very confusing for people [when] they hear the more glossy hi-fi stuff and then want to seek out past things and every record that they're going to get is going to be different. And it gets more challenging as you go back and back and I'm really I'm proud of that." 

Ultimately, legacy is all we're left with. Our lasting impact may be that of a briefly lit match, or an inferno that lasts centuries, and for Remy, this is what her substantive catalogue is building towards. "I hope I live to be 80 years old and have made music that whole time and will have a very, varied catalogue," she says. "But then also, you know, it's a song. That's what's so weird about the music industry. It's such a new thing when you think about the history of song even. Yeah, what songs have existed for hundreds of years even? Not very many. Mostly religious songs, and national anthems. That's what I like about music too is that the music I make exists because I'm alive and then when I'm gone it will kind of dissolve like a fog." 

Dissipating fog aside, for however long that may be, U.S. Girls' time has indeed left its mark on the world. Remy's wisened words ring out like a glowing sermon. "Whoever hears your music, or sees your painting, or eats the food that you make, or any of these things like we affect everyone else that we touch with the things that we make or how we treat them or any of that," she ends. "And so we do leave behind the legacy. And it's how we are to others and what we share with others. And that is a real thing that lives on and that affects each person and it spreads on and it's really the only thing we have that we can have any control over or do is is what we share of ourselves and how we treat others."

The new album "Bless This Mess' is out the 24th February on 4AD.

Words by Steven Loften
Photography by Emma McIntyre
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