INTERVIEW: STRAIGHT GIRL | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The moniker STRAIGHT GIRL mightn’t ring any bells, yet for a select few the music and performances of Holly Readman have already left an indelible mark. Those listeners and gig-goers may instead recognise the Hartlepool-born, Leeds-based artist by the name of N/\L/\ – and despite only playing a handful of North East dates it’s fair to say the 22-year old has made quite the impression.

A truly magnetic on-stage presence, Readman’s live shows are a striking and exhilarating force to behold; synthesizing thudding, unabashed beats and sizzling dynamism with combative lyrical matter and a tangible emotional core. This characteristic ‘sad-dance’ sound and full-throttle approach are topics I’m keen to explore, but first things first: why the name change?

“Rebellion against Facebook’s unnecessarily strict naming laws mostly!” They joke. “There’s a lot behind it; a lot of boring stuff like the original name being too difficult for fans to find and adverts being rejected because of the spelling and things. But N/\L/\ also didn’t really mean anything. As soon as I changed to STRAIGHT GIRL I felt an instant shift in who I was becoming and it felt really ‘right’.”

I like to picture my mental health as a screaming baby, and being STRAIGHT GIRL is my platform to roll around on the floor and scream back

Stylised in bullish block capitals and intentionally contradicting their preference for gender-neutral pronouns, it’s also a shift which reflects an increasing embrace of their own identity – a key milestone in an ongoing pursuit of expression: “I hope [the name change] incurs me to break down my own walls and talk about being queer lyrically too,” they reveal. “It’s taken me what feels like an eternity to get to a point where I’m wearing my identity as my badge of honour, but for some reason I still find it hard to verbalise it in my music. I’ll get there!”

Having spawned from formative influences such as Alice Glass and the Chemical Brothers, this quest for self-acceptance gathers pace on hyperenergetic new single Ugly, a forthright electro punk banger epitomising that brash sad-dance mantra: “I think it’s probably the purest form through which I can represent myself as a person,” they surmise. “I love to be sad, and I love to dance. I like to think I’m very in touch with my emotions, especially my sadness, and making sad-dance music is my way of inviting everyone to come celebrate their sadness with me.

“From when I was a bairn I knew I was going to be a musician,” they continue. “I knew I was going to be a front-person, and performing feels like an affirmation that this is 100% my natural habitat and what I was born to do.” This evident drive belies long-standing travails with anxiety and depression; conflict Readman tackles openly both in lyrics and conversation. Considering their apparently boundless confidence before an audience, I ask whether performing live comes as a form of escapism?

“Not at all,” they counter; “if anything performing feels like coming home. My mental health is a permanent battle and I drown in it every day, but when I’m performing it’s like I’m fighting back. I like to picture my mental health as a screaming baby, and being STRAIGHT GIRL is my platform to roll around on the floor and scream back.”

STRAIGHT GIRL plays at The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on Wednesday 30th and The Studio, Hartlepool on Thursday 31st October


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