Pin It
Riot - Lilith Ai and Georgia May Jagger
From "Riot" by Lilith Ai and Georgia May JaggerIllustration Lilith Ai

Punk, soul and sisterhood unite in this riot grrrl tribute

Teaming up with Georgia May Jagger, creative polymath Lilith Ai premieres a new track and a DIY punk-inspired book calling for female solidarity

From Pussy Riot to Skinny Girl Diet, there’s no denying we’ve seen a revival in the past half-decade of the feminist punk spirit that fuelled the 90s riot grrrl scene, an underground movement of activist women spearheaded by iconic bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. Their unabashed cries for female power and we-don’t-care-what-anyone-thinks attitude show no signs of wearing thin for a generation that has girl power and female solidarity at the top of its agenda.

One artist fronting this agenda is the London-based singer and illustrator Lilith Ai, who recently teamed up with her friend, fashion model and dark-horse photographer, Georgia May Jagger, to produce a DIY punk-inspired book entitled Riot, which accompanies Ai’s four-track EP of the same name. “It’s my tribute to the riot grrrl movement,” says Ai, whose EP includes an incensed call for revolution in the title track – premiered below – alongside soft, soulful tracks like “Hang Tough” and “Catfish”. These songs unfold in union with the lyrics, poetry and illustrations of the 148-page book, put together with photographs by Jagger. Ai explains:

“I was helping Georgia move out from her house in London and came across some of her photos. She’d never even mentioned that she took photographs, but they were beautiful so I convinced her to take some for the zine I was planning to make. What started off as an idea for an eight-page, black-and-white zine turned into a nine-month project and nearly 150 coloured pages.”

Jagger’s soft-focus portraits of friends including Ai and Cara Delevingne overlay leafy vistas and cityscapes of London and New Orleans. An ode to the transience of youth, her photographs accompany Ai’s lyrical and illustrative rendering of 21st-century girlhood. Packed with aphorisms such as “Be a sister, not a stranger”, “My pussy, my choice. My body, my voice”, and “I don’t need permission to feel glorious”, the book’s emboldening messages and DIY aesthetic would sit comfortably in Tavi Gevinson’s magazine Rookie or the riot grrrl fanzines that spurred Ai and Jagger’s collaboration.  

Riot also echoes the spirit of Fights Like A Girl, the collective of female musicians and singers set up by Ai and her music college mates. “We started the group because we were fed up with the negativity of girls that didn’t support each other. We just wanted to say, ‘Yeah, you’re good’ and ‘You play really well’ instead of ‘You’re crap’ or ‘I’m better than you.’” Consequently, Ai set up a mini “club night” in her flat with badass girl bands like Skinny Girl Diet headlining, before it grew too big for her living room and moved into a cafe in east London’s Dalston. It was round about that time that Tom Ravenscroft of BBC 6 Music was championing Ai’s debut single “Hang Tough”, a copiously warm song that nods to her love of Tracey Chapman, Queen Latifah (pre-talk show) and Sonic Youth. 

As for the inspiration behind her illustrations, “Adrian Tomine is a big influencem” Ai reveals. “In one of his comics he talks about trying to date a riot grrrl and how she’s so cruel! It hit the spot for me, he’s so funny.” Tomine was also one of the reasons that Ai wanted to be a comic book artist before coming to the realisation that she would never be able to fully make it if she wanted to pursue music too: “I used to sell my zines to comic book stores but once they took their share, I’d only make, like, 20 pence a go, so if I really wanted to take it anywhere I would’ve had to dedicate my whole life to comics, but I love music too much to give it up.” Given her two-pronged passion, Riot is the first of many projects that will fuse her music and illustrations. 

Riot (EP and book) is out December 4. The launch party will take place November 19 at 7pm in east London, for more details click here