Miss World Talks Social Media Culture, Collaborating with Ariel Pink and Cole MGN, and Upcoming Music
Miss World has been on our radar here at WMF for a while now, coming to our attention through the the very channel her work so often playfully addresses — social media. With EP Waist Management (2017) and full-length Keeping Up with Miss World (2018) already in her discography, we’d noted tantalizing clues about possible new recordings, and were eager to touch base to find out more.
Though from the UK, Miss World seems remarkably at home in Los Angeles, so it felt natural to catch up with the artist during her recent L.A. visit. Amid a flurry of recording sessions with Ariel Pink and Cole MGN, Miss World found time to sit down with us and cover several topics, including her recent SXSW experience, past recordings, new projects, and more.
Bobby Weirdo: You were in a recording session this afternoon, just before you came over here. Are you recording for an upcoming Miss World album?
Miss World: It’s the first time I’ve done this, but today I was writing a pop song with people, like as a hired songwriter -- it was interesting. The rest of this week I’ve been in the studio with Ariel [Pink] and Cole [MGN] making some new stuff for me, and I’m excited about that.
BW: I was going to ask about this. So the material you’re working on with Ariel and Cole will be on your upcoming…
MW: On my next thing. Nothing’s set in stone yet. I met Ariel the first day I arrived here, and then two days later [we] were in the studio, making stuff. It’s been really good.
BW: So what do these sessions with Ariel and Cole look like? Are you all three writing together and recording as you write? Or is the material already written, and Cole and Ariel are producing, singing, and playing?
MW: I met Cole during a previous trip to LA., maybe a month before I met Ariel. Cole and I had been experimenting with a few ideas at his studio Downtown. I wanted Ariel to come in and do some things, and he was down, so then we started writing stuff together. I have material I want them to add sprinkles to, and we’re writing new stuff, too. They're both so crazy talented.
BW: And will this material you’re working on with Ariel and Cole be for Miss World?
MW: I think so. Some of it’s verging on duets with Ariel -- just because we’ve been having so much fun -- and some of the tracks are totally Miss World. It’s still early days, but it’s sounding really good and fun.
BW: Is this material that you’re working on a departure from Keeping Up with Miss World?
MW: I came in to these sessions with a real specific idea of a sound that I knew I could get from those guys.
BW: Keeping Up with Miss World was essentially all you, and now you’re collaborating on this new music. Is it too early to describe this new music, and how it’s different from Keeping Up with Miss World?
MW: I think it’s too early. Collaboration is cool once you have defined what it is that you do solo. Then you find the people who understand you, who get your ideas and can take things to a different level without changing what makes you unique. Collaboration will always be a departure, — to what degree, I can't say right now. I can say that lyrically, it's not a departure, because my lyrics are always just whatever’s coming out of my brain and that's the [Miss World] character. But when I’m collaborating with anyone, it never sounds sonically like what I do at home.
BW: You bring up the character, and I wanted to see if I could parse who is who. You’re Natalie, there’s Miss World, there’s Natalie Bang Bang…and then there’s the band Shit Girlfriend. Laura [Mary Carter] is in Shit Girlfriend, and then who’s the other person?
MW: It’s Miss World – she’s in Shit Girlfriend.
BW: One of the interesting things about Miss World is that the music takes you to a place that’s not necessarily 2019. It evokes something from the 90s, it evokes something from the 60s…it’s dirty, garage, rock, all these kind of things. But then the lyrics reference Instagram culture, reality TV….
MW: Plastic surgery….
BW: I think that’s an interesting juxtaposition, because it could have been a natural move to put those lyrics in more of synthetic context. Instead, you went the opposite direction and used more traditional, organic, noisier sounds. Was it a conscious decision to have that tension between those two elements, or did it just happen that way?
MW: It was definitely an organic thing because that’s just the stuff I like to listen to. I like a classic, timeless sound. I don’t like the radio in 2019 or wherever we are now. I’ve always liked the same kind of music and I’ve always written with a guitar, so with Keeping Up I just wanted to make something that I’d like to listen to sonically. And then lyrically, it was again just whatever I was thinking about. It’s a cohesive project, and there’s a character, but it’s still organic.
BW: The Miss World character is so American that it’s surprising you’re not American.
MW: Do you think it’s very American?
BW: Or it could be a caricature of a certain type of American. But maybe it’s just an example of culture – of all sorts – coming out of America and ending up other places as well. Because you could so easily be a Southern Californian, but you’re not.
MW: That’s funny. I've always been a fan of pop culture and the music that reflects it. I guess that was a conscious decision --- to make a record that I like listening to but that also has context and layers. Something that could be appreciated on a cerebral level as well as a superficial, sugary, hooky level too. I love juxtapositions, and I like using comedy as a tool to talk about dark things. Maybe that's a quite British thing to do.
BW: You often appear onstage and out and about with two blow-up dolls, Freya and Angeline. How did they get their names?
MW: It’s a weird story. Once, somebody asked me their names, and I just came up with the names on the spot. Then I started seeing the name Angelyne everywhere, and that she’s a Hollywood icon, famous just for being famous. The OG Paris Hilton. Subconsciously, I must have been aware of Angelyne – it’s so great.
BW: You recently played at the Old Blue Last in London. How do Miss World shows go down in that pub environment?
MW: Oh, they go down good! They do whenever you just mention that the songs are about Instagram and social media. It’s cool in the pub. I like to call my band 'The Incorporated”. Miss World and The Incorporated - it makes me feel like Prince [and The Revolution].
I was making similar music in London for a long time, and people didn’t really get it [there]. So I think that maybe I’m not that reflective of London, which is fine. I get inspired by things I see – like being on my phone a lot, or on my computer a lot. Everything I’m following, aware of, or seeing on TV is not necessarily from London. I don’t think there’s a scene in London – not while I as there the last few years anyway.
I think where I fit in and have a community is online. You say it’s American, but it’s just sort of whatever I’m finding online. American culture —and especially Los Angeles – is the hub of all this: the superficial, reality TV, Kim Kardashian…I just find that stuff interesting and entertaining, and I’m absorbing it in my own way. I feel like everybody’s absorbing it in a similar way.
I’m a part of this culture – this trashy thing. I’m taking part in it, and I’m looking at Instagram every day. I’m not going to then go and write a song about how I feel deeply heartbroken, because I don’t feel that every day. I’m talking about my immediate experiences, and also what I hear other people talking about. I hear people [saying] “Did you see that on Instagram?” all the time. You can talk to anyone from any country about Kylie Jenner’s lips. A fifty-year-old man would have an opinion on them, which I think is so funny. And interesting.
So I [thought], “why aren’t more people writing about this stuff?” I like trashy, scuzzy music, I like Nuggets garage rock, I like lo-fi stuff. I love live music. I like dirty, grimy stuff, and I also like talking about the glitz and glamour of Kylie Jenner’s fake lips just like everybody else. I like relevant things, meeting people and finding common ground, and talking about modern life. I think the music and the lyrics come from this raw, immediate place and that's where they are linked.
I hate forced, radio pop stuff. I liked pop when it was edgy, and that’s the kind of stuff I still like to make. I was making my music for years and years and people would say, “Nobody likes guitars – what are you doing?” So I just put it out thinking no one would like it, and that was fine. Now, more and more people are getting on it every day, and some labels want to re-release it but I just want to make the next thing.
BW: Do you have a favorite venue to play in London?
MW: The Old Blue Last is probably my favorite – it’s always busy and it’s in a good part of town. Have you been there before?
BW: I have.
MW: It’s a shame that a lot of venues are closing down. I left London in 2016 and went to Toronto. That's where I met Tony Price, who taught me about sprinkles and dirt and raw magic music production.
L.A. is such a hot spot now for influencers and that stuff -- it's like the geographical mecca of the Instagram world. But it’s also such a hot spot for music; It’s where everyone wants to be. I feel that’s covered in my sound and lyrics, too. Everyone always thinks I’m from here.
BW: You released Keeping Up with Miss World on PNKSLM, which is based in Stockholm and you’ve played at least one show in Stockholm…
MW: Once as Miss World.
BW: Did you work with PNKSLM just for that album?
MW: It was just for that album, but Shit Girlfriend is putting out a single on Record Store Day through them. I met PNKSLM because Shit Girlfriend just put out a video for our first song on YouTube, and they wanted to put it out on vinyl. I also put out my single, Buy Me Dinner, on my own. They then liked that and asked if they could put out a mini-album. That pushed me to make the full-length. I like PNKSLM; They’re good guys.
I did SXSW last week and I was going to have to drop out. I really wanted to do it [with a] full band, but couldn’t afford to bring a band there. Luke [Reilly] who runs PNKSLM put together a band from Sweden – members from other PNKSLM bands. We didn’t even rehearse together – we just played and it was really, really good. They were incredible musicians.
BW: Your SXSW show was done in in conjunction with Burger Records. What’s the connection there?
MW: When I was putting the album together, I asked Burger if they were down to put out a physical cassette. They’ve been super helpful, putting me on their shows. I’m always giving them content, and they’ve been supportive with sharing it. I really like them.
BW: I think that’s something that can be really important-- taking the initiative as you build your creative output, and doing the initial work yourself.
MW: It was really important for me to be completely in charge of not just the music, but also the visuals. I see the project as an overblown selfie. I direct and edit all the videos, and my friends will shoot them. I like having my friend, my sister, or someone who doesn’t have an agenda shoot. I’ve even shot a lot of video footage on a tripod, like “Carb Your Enthusiasm”.
I guess I’m OCD – I want it exactly how I want it. I’m not trying to be too ambitious with it, either. I’m doing it within my means, and therefore it’s a full expression of what I want and what I can execute. I don’t feel I need to outsource to other people to express what I want to [express].
That’s a journey I’ve been on because I’ve been making music for a long time. People would say they wanted to make a video for me, and I would hate it. I [realized] I needed to learn to make my own videos, do my own shoots, and produce my own songs. [Keeping Up With Miss World] is exactly what I wanted.
BW: It’s funny talking about creating content for social media. Part of Miss World is highlighting some of the absurdity of that culture, but the irony is…
MW: I’m using it. That’s totally perfect for me in a way. I feel I can push it to promote things because it’s ironic to me and makes me laugh. If I want to, I think I can do the cringe shit that people do [on social media] because it’s Miss World, and it’s in on the joke. It's a satire.
I’ll be on the tube or in a café and people are just on Instagram. It's kind of gross but I love public transport because that’s when you can really stare at people. Everyone’s on social media, and it’s interesting to be a voyeur and see what people respond to. Like they may really be looking hard and long at a picture and then not like it. Then they’ll keep scrolling and like a picture of a cat, or something really safe.
I think about the people that have the big following and get a lot of likes, the people that are not getting likes, and why that is…there are just so many layers that I find funny. I also find it disturbing, but fascinating... I wanted the album to be a reflection of the simple, dumb, dark, embarrassing things that are going through my brain - that maybe I wouldn’t want to admit feeling as a participant of the modern world, but these are feelings everyone can relate to. That’s what Miss World is all about. A millennial in limbo - paralyzed as a result of over-exposure to unreachable Facetuned lifestyle goals.
BW: So you’re continuing to work on these new recordings with Ariel Pink and Cole MGN. What else does Miss World have coming up?
MW: I will put out some new music this year. I don’t know if it will be the Ariel/Cole stuff – I have a lot of unreleased music. The next thing might just be another EP — an extension of what Keeping Up with Miss World was. Then there might be some surprises on the new, new stuff.
Follow Miss World on Instagram here.