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girl in red
girl in redCourtesy of press

girl in red: ‘I really don’t fuck with dating apps anymore’

With her debut album about to drop, Marie Ulven talks Euphoria, queerness, loving Phoebe Bridgers, and how she's longing to hear some ‘oontz-oontz’ music

Marie Ulven can’t wait to paint the town (and the world) red. The 22-year-old, best known under the moniker girl in red, has been cooped up for far too long, and now... “I just wanna go out clubbing, mate!” says the Norwegian singer-songwriter, conjuring a jarring cod-English accent in the middle of our Zoom interview. “I just want to be in a dark room and dance.”

2020 was set to be ‘The Year of World In Red’ for the Dazed 100 artist until, well, it became the year of something else entirely. Now her debut album, If I Could Make It Go Quiet, is arriving on April 30, pushed back from its tentative autumn release last year.

The 11-track treatise justifies Marie’s comparisons to contemporaries Billie Eilish, Clairo, and King Princess through her lyrics and penchant for brutal intimacy, but heightens the emotional impact of her work with a particular focus on the interaction between sex, rage, and yearning. “I’m not upset / I’m fucking pissed / I spelled it out / You’re illiterate,” she snaps on “Did You Come”, the album’s fantastically biting second track.

But as with many previous girl in red joints, Marie isn’t afraid to wrestle with the ramifications of her own untoward behaviour, trying on uglier feelings than most artists dare to venture into. For example, workaholism meets poor emotional etiquette on the viscerally honest “hornylovesickmess”. “I don’t wanna be the type of person who calls you up / Every time I need to get off, but / I guess that’s what I’m turning into,” she sings, later admitting, “I treated you like trash / And you deserve more than that”. Phew. 

Running the gamut of her life in Euphoria references, Tinder bios, and TikTok memes, Marie caught us up on everything that’s going on with her right now.

When I went to one of your last London shows in May of 2019, I was really struck by the sense of community in the room. What’s the absence of that physical support felt like?

girl in red: I miss touring so much. Touring makes being a musician feel real. I haven't felt real, this past year, because I've just been in this bubble and it's just been really strange. I just feel like I'm floating around in the world. 

Before we get into the songs, I want to get the cover of your new album, which is a painting by the artist Frederik Wiig Sorenson. What’s the story there?

girl in red: So I was at a gallery last fall when I first saw his work. And I was like, 'Yo, this painting looks so sick.' So I checked out his other stuff and stumbled upon this image. And I just thought: this looks like me. This looks like girl in red in a hoodie – I wear hoodies every single day, 24/7. I just felt that image on a spiritual level.

Let’s talk about “Rue”, a song you’re re-releasing with If I Could Make It Go Quiet. Are you a big Euphoria fangirl? 

girl in red: I really love that show. I think that was one of the better shows I watched in 2019. I saw a lot of myself in (Rue) in terms of her way of looking at life and dealing with certain things... Not that I do drugs! I just saw how she was very much living for her family, and there was something there that really resonated with me. I saw a lot of similarities between the stuff that had happened in her storyline that had also happened in my life – which is my storyline – so I just realised like: ‘Oh, okay, I'm Rue’. And that there are so many different Rues in the world.

Thinking of a song like “hornylovesickmess” – what’s the relationship with your confessional impulse like? Autofiction is obviously very hot right now.

girl in red: Usually I'm quite skeptical of very storytelling-y songs that are like, ‘I did this, and then I did that’. But this song does feel kind of like a diary entry: it's brutally honest, super self-aware and a little bit witty. 

I feel like I have a very low key, non-pretentious relationship to making music. I'm getting comfortable with admitting [in interviews]: ‘I don't know why that happened. I don't know why I wrote those lyrics – I just did.’ There are so many songs on this album where I’ve just written certain lyrics because I think they were great, not because I had to get this gigantic thing off my chest.

Besides Euphoria, are there any core artistic influences for you outside of music? 

girl in red: I'm getting inspired by a bunch of weird things lately. Like yes, I'm inspired by books and films. But the sun is really inspiring sometimes. I like taking pictures – sometimes you see some beautiful lighting and you just want to capture it. 

“Being queer to me just means living your best life. Like I’m queer and I’m gay and I just don’t care! I just want to chill” – girl in red

What would you say is the weirdest, most extra part of your creative process?

girl in red: I don't know that I have any? But if I were to say anything, I guess it would probably be that if I get really excited about a lyric, at some point I will just scream about it. I literally jump around if I make something that’s really good.

Your sexuality is obviously a huge part of your work. What does queerness mean to you at the moment?

girl in red: Fluidity… Or something. Being queer to me just means living your best life. Like I'm queer and I'm gay and I just don't care! I just want to chill.

Has lockdown made you reflect on that at all?

girl in red: I think it’s made me realise that clubbing is a really important part of discovering who you are. It really is. In Oslo, there’s this great place called Blå – my sister works there as a bartender and it’s a very cool place to go. The music is so good, and very… oontz oontz oontz.

And then you expect me to believe that you don’t do drugs? I mean, okay.

girl in red: I don’t do drugs! Just give me a beer and I’m good to go. 

Romance-wise, do you have a dating app of choice at the moment? 

girl in red: I really don’t fuck with dating apps anymore! I’ve come to terms with the idea of meeting someone in real life. But yeah, if I had to pick it would probably be Tinder or some shit. I've actually had a lot of conversations with my fans about Tinder while playing shows, because a lot of them have seen me on Tinder. But I've not matched with anyone on Tinder before. I'm too scared to even swipe right on anyone. 

So what did your Tinder bio used to say?

girl in red: My sister came up with my bio. And it says, ‘Yes, it’s me.’

What do you think of “do you listen to girl in red?” as a meme on LGBTQ+ TikTok? When did you notice that had happened?

girl in red: I don’t really know when I found out, I just remember seeing it on TikTok and just thinking that it was really fun. It’s such a cool thing, really, to be able to have that kind of cultural impact on something; to be incorporated into the language of people.

Do you identify with any particular subculture(s) in the queer community?

girl in red: I had this exact conversation with a friend the other day. And yeah, I’m not sure what category, in quotation marks, I fall into really. But I’m a huge Phoebe Bridgers fan.

If I Could Make It Go Quiet is out on April 30