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Bayli: Telly Bag
Photography Savanna Ruedy

‘The gayer you are the better!’: Bayli is making fashion bangers for queers

On her latest track, ‘TELLY BAG’, the NYC pop star pays homage to Telfar and its expansive community of It girl fashionistas

Bayli didn’t write a song about Telfar Clemens just to get a free bag, “but I am a businesswoman,” she says, “and I do love clothes”. On her latest release, “TELLY BAG”, the Brooklyn-born musician pays homage to what is perhaps the decade’s most important accessory, reintroducing herself as a fashion It Girl, clad in archive No Sesso, I Am Gia, SlimSMITH, and Telfar’s SS22 collection. “Every bad bitch and beautiful person on the scene is repping the brand, so I just thought we needed a song that captures the moment, you know?”

Despite the pigtails, unaffected vocals, and the singer’s saucer-like gaze, “TELLY BAG” subverts the vapid fashionista trope. “Fashion is armour, especially for the queer community, we use clothes to reclaim our power,” she says, which is a point reiterated within the video, travelling through Bayli’s queer entourage, among them rapper Kid Kenn and Brendan Jordan. As she repeats the mantra “you’re so straight / I’m so gay” for about half of the song’s two minute-long duration, Bayli raises a placard against the groundswell of anti-LGBTQ+ law-making in the US. “It’s just this major expression of gayness. I need to give my girls something that they can actually dance to in the club.”

On “TELLY BAG”, the musician steps into a fresh persona, shedding her honeyed R&B sound for the janky and pixelated familiarity of PC music – much like when she broke away from indie band The Skins, swapping its Afropunk look for something a little more “bimbo”. And it’s an attitude reflected in the song’s opening refrain, “I’m not your doll but I got nice features / take me out to Paris or Ibiza”, but such is the power of clothing, to conjure an entirely new protagonist from within. As Bayli says, “when I have my Telfar bag I feel empowered and seen, as well as the most fashionable bitch on my block.”

Having just supported Shygirl in the US, “TELLY BAG” debuted last week on Telfar TV, the brand’s QVC-style livestream. “There’s Ian Isiah, Gitoo, Aya Brown all doing the live commentary, all these people who I grew up with in New York, walking the streets of Soho together, getting into our first club, getting into our first fights. So it's really a full circle moment.” In our conversation below, Bayli talks bad British accents, Boris the Brooklyn cobbler, and being so, so gay.

Hey Bayli! It’s not even 7am where you are, I’m sorry to get you up so early. 

Bayli: Oh don’t be, I woke up so early today – actually, I always wake up early to meditate. 

Sounds very LA?

Bayli: Very LA! I’ve been doing that since I’ve lived in New York, though, and recently I’ve just been taking some dedicated time to make sure my mental health is 100, focusing on therapy and wellness so I can finally finish my second EP and head to the UK to tour.

No Coachella, then? 

Bayli: Gosh. Look, you’ll realise I’m a fan of everything but Coachella did look a little overwhelming this year. It’s like the biggest pop festival ever and some people preferred it when it was more folky and underground but I fuck with it. Like Doja Cat? Oh my god. Harry Styles? Amazing.

I feel like Telfar’s assless jeans could have been a good choice for Coachella. Speaking of – your latest track is an homage to the label’s It bag. When did you first get your hands on one? 

Bayli: So I got the mini yellow shopper like a year ago and I’ve slowly been building my collection since then, including the UGG collab. Telfar Clemens and I have a lot of mutual friends in New York and I’m so inspired by the impact he’s having on culture. Every bad bitch and beautiful person on the scene is repping the brand, so I just thought we needed a song that captures that moment. As a queer Black artist I really wanted to bridge the gap between our two worlds, I mean I need to give my LGBTQIA+ girls something that they can actually dance to in the club. 

That’s quite a good tactic for a musician, actually. Write songs about a fashion brand you love and get gifted free stuff?

Bayli: I mean, I am a businesswoman and I do love clothes, so that’s a nail on the head there. 

Do you remember when you first felt an affinity with fashion? What was your freakum dress while growing up in New York?

Bayli: Honestly, I’ve had that feeling since day one because New York is the fashion capital to me. Like, I remember styling myself in this all red look – you know, pants, blazer, hat – when I was eight years old and feeling fly as fuck. I was really grungy, though, so platform shoes would have been my freakum dress. I used to go to Boris, this famous shoemaker in Brooklyn, and he would literally nail platforms into my Doc Martens. 

Has moving into the PC Music world altered the way that you dress?

Bayli: I’m not gassing myself up but I think I have very good taste. I’ve always said putting a label or genre on my music is really hard, and fashion is the same. The PC girls probably think I’m basic as hell, though. I might as well be wearing Abercrombie & Fitch with all my streetwear and middle partings. I’m very inspired by the PC world, though. If you’ve ever been to a virtual club, it’s just insane, it’s futuristic and so out-there. 

I read that your mum’s a British punk? Did that influence make its way onto “TELLY BAG” at all?

Bayli: So as soon as I heard the beat, which I got from Johnson Khanna, this awesome producer, it just reminded me of the London club sound. And if you listen I’m almost doing a bad British accent over the track. I can’t tell you why, I just felt inspired by the bad bitch energy. It’s this homage to the global It Girl, which is a general theme of my EP, living fast on the road. 

So talk me through the video, you’re wearing archive No Sesso, Donna Karan, I Am Gia, SlimSMITH. And there’s a couple of famous faces in your posse? 

Bayli: It’s the video that really elevates the song. We just wanted something really high end and to cast beautiful marginalised people. We have Brendan Jordan, who went viral as that young gay boy voguing down on a US news broadcast, then there’s Kid Kenn, who’s one of the first gay rappers to have been signed to Def Jam records. Everyone’s just being themselves and representing what’s happening in gay culture, what we look like and how we move. Telfar sent us a bunch of its SS22 pieces and it’s just this major expression of gayness, it’s about reclaiming the word “gay” again, the gayer you are, the better! 

You do literally sing “you’re so straight, I’m so gay”...

Bayli: That’s why I love pop, I like getting to the point. I’m saying it like ‘girls rule, boys drool’. What with the Don’t Say Gay bill and all the anti-trans legislation, there’s a lot of politics in the US around being queer, and so it’s really about empowering gay people, to help them feel less alone. 

The song doesn’t take itself too seriously, though, it kind of hides behind a bimbo façade.

Bayli: Well I love bimbo energy – in fact, that’s the next song, I’m legit inspired. It’s about capturing a moment, like when we listen to this in ten years we will be like ‘we were in our mini skirt and bimbo era’. And by the way, marginalised people can’t be too serious, we go through a lot of hardship so we need bangers. We need fun. We need playfulness. And fashion is armour, especially for the queer community, we use clothes to reclaim our power… I think that’s what the song is really about.