Julie Miess, singer and keyboardist of Half Girl, on monsters, melancholia and the making of Berlin’s most exciting supergroup.
It’s been three years since Miess (of Britta and Mutter), Vera Kropf (of Luise Pop), Anna- Leena Lutz (of Die Heiterkeit) and Gwendolin Tägert (of Mondo Fumatore) released the single “Lemmy, I’m a feminist”, a fun punk rock intervention into ultra-masculinity. In September, they finally released their debut album All Tomorrow’s Monsters, a bilingual garage-punk gem that combines flawlessly catchy melodies with a much-needed freedom from rock ’n’ roll clichés. We spoke to Miess (photo, second from left) prior to the band’s performance at Volksbühne on January 22.
How did you come to form Half Girl?
It was really my dream band. I was playing with Jens Friebe, and we went to see Anna – his drummer’s daughter – with her band Dessert Surprise. When we walked into the club, I had this sight of Anna, wearing a golden mask and beating the drums like hell. I had a similar experience when I saw Vera the first time. I always thought: these two in a band would be a dream. We formed for a one-off event in the summer of 2009.
You sounded like a riot grrrl band on your debut single “Lemmy, I’m a feminist”. Your album doesn’t. Has something changed?
Actually, some of the songs on the album are older than “Lemmy”. I’d like to answer you, “I don’t know why these songs are different, it’s just how they came about.” But of course, there are reasons. The album wasn’t really a linear development – we call it our “Best Of” because it took us so long to finish.
You sing in English and German, often switching from one language to the other in the same song.
The first pop songs I heard were English songs, apart from very early bad experiences with [German Schlager singer] Heino. So in the beginning, English words came easier, at least when using songs as a way of telling stories. But of course, German was the language I wrote my diary in as a teenage girl. I feel like I actually needed this indirect route to approach German again.
You sing a lot about monsters.
I wrote a dissertation about monsters. But I’d been interested in romantic horror films before that. Monsters represented the breaking of the norm. I also liked positive monster figures, monster heroes or heroines like the female werewolf in the film Ginger Snaps. Of course, there’s a friction between us liking monsters and many people not liking them… Celebrating negative descriptions is also a type of of empowerment.
You also made a brilliant cover of Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World”, a love song.
It’s also inspired by the loss of a father. I would also read it as a very good description of a severe state of melancholia, where you hate the birds for singing because you just can’t join. It’s about der Welt abhanden kommen [being lost to the world].
Why tackle love songs at all, though?
It’s a way of releasing powerful emotions. But that’s a banal answer. In love songs you can also act out power relations. For example, in “Psycho”, which is also a cover [written by Leon Payne, famously recorded by Eddie Noack]. In the original, the lyrical “I” is a coded male. When we sing it, it’s suddenly feminine. So calling into question the position of the lyrical “I” could also be the purpose of a love song.
You’re playing at Volksbühne in January with St. Michael Front.
They’re a boy band. At first the plan was to make an all-girl-band evening. But now we have the boys. I’m really excited to see them play. We’ve also been working on pyrotechnics and some surprises to fill out that great venue.
Half Girl w/ St. Michael Front Jan 22, 19:00 | Volksbühne, Mitte