There has been no escaping the viral success of GAYLE’s breakthrough single ‘abcdefu’. And rightfully so because the angsty anthem is a singalong smash that will have you screaming every word you wish you could say to that toxic person in your life who has repressed you for way too long. The runaway hit found its spotlight on TikTok last year before transporting to every radio station and topping charts across the world.
Her debut EP ‘a study of the human experience’ continues that bold, honest, and brash style of songwriting with a collection of tracks that are equally vulnerable as they are punchy. Showing the many different sides to her artistry, she lays the important foundations down and candidly brings listeners into her world. There’s a bit of humor thrown in for good measure with tracks like ‘ur just horny’, next to songs like ‘luv starved’ that have raw vulnerability as she explores the way she’s reacted to trauma.
I recently chatted to GAYLE about the personal lessons she learnt while creating her debut EP ‘a study of the human experience’, the contrasting of vulnerability on ‘luv starved’, the viral success of ‘abcdefu’, and her grandmothers surprising reaction to it. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your debut EP ‘a study of the human experience’ is an honest, confident and sassy collection of tracks. From working on this body of work, what would you say is something you learnt about yourself as a human?
GAYLE: I learnt that I don’t like commitment as much as I thought I did. I’m still trying to figure it out as I think I commit to people I know won’t actually commit to me. I think subconsciously there are parts of me that know they aren’t going to treat me that well, or be that committed, so I fully commit to them because it’s easier doing that knowing it’s not going to work out. So that was something I learnt during this EP as I was writing about my relationships and them not working out even though I was so committed to them, and I had the realisation that they weren’t that into me. Like surely I had to know? With my most recent ex, he would tell me he loved me and then ghost me for 2 days. Like, there is no way I actually thought he loved me. But I kind of did.
TB: ‘sleeping with my friends’ is an absolute anthem with its punchy hook and crunchy production. Can you explain the creative process behind this track?
G: I think there is a difference between “sleeping with your friends” and “friends with benefits”. I’ve done the whole friends with benefits thing and it can be really fun, and sometimes I get a little bit more attached than I want to, and sometimes I’m perfect at it and don’t get attached at all. But I was at this point where I was so numb romantically and sexually where I just did things where I didn’t know why I was doing them. People would initiate things with me and I would just do it, and then later I would be like “why did I just do that?”. For a really long time I put that onto myself and I was really sad with my behaviour, and I felt like I ruined friendships out of feeling numb, lonely and bored. It really hurt my own feelings, so I wrote this song as a reflection of where I was at.
I slept with this dude and then after he was treating me differently, and he was telling all of these subtle lies that I started to catch up with. One thing I really liked about him was how nice he was to me, he was so sweet, so respectful, and was never rude to me. But then after we slept together he started being rude to me, and would try to pass it off as funny. But no, you don’t get to be nice to me and then change the whole dynamic after sleeping with me. That’s not it. I started to feel like it was my fault, and then reality hit that he just wanted to get into my pants the whole time. I was like, oh, he was just using me to get what he wanted, and after he got it I was less interesting to him. So then I got pissed and wrote this song.
TB: Well since writing that song have you actually listened to your own advice?
G: Yes, I actually have! I have also been feeling less numb when it comes to that now too. This is something I am going to speak about more later, but I realised I was really scared of saying no because one time I said it and somebody didn’t listen to me. And after that experience people would try things with me and I would just go through with it and go through the motions as I was already in such a triggered place. And I just didn’t know that for a very long time. I would do things and then question why I would do them. Usually I would feel really empowered by my decisions to have sex with someone, but I was in a place where I was really numb and it wasn’t this empowered decision anymore. Whereas now I actually feel things again, and I tell people how I feel, and I don’t go through the motions anymore now knowing what that fear was. I have more control now.
TB: ‘luv starved’ is another standout, but for different reasons. The vulnerability is stunning, and it’s particularly spotlighted through the use of the demo at the end. Where in the process did you decide that using a voice note was going to be exactly what you needed to highlight the story?
G: The original demo actually had a voice memo at the beginning of Sara Davis and I sitting on our guitars at 1am singing that refrain. Originally I wrote the idea on piano and then brought it to Jonny Shorr and Sara Davis, and Sara hates piano ballads. She can appreciate them, but most of them are not her vibe. So we walked into a session at 8pm, and I knew I couldn’t bring out a piano ballad, so we made it into this mid tempo guitar track that was a lot faster, and it had a beat the entire time. I was listening back to the demo and the thing that really stood out to me was the vulnerability. And to me it just connected in that moment that it was a piano song, so we switched it back to piano and made it slower.
So we had the voice memo at the start and at the end of the song, but once the full vision came together we realised it was most impactful at the end to finish it how the song was originally started in its raw form.
TB: ‘abcdefu’ has had a whole life of its own thanks to its viral success on TikTok. What are some of your favourite videos you’ve seen of people using the sound?
G: Do you know what is funny? One of the highest streaming days ‘abcdefu’ has ever had was on Thanksgiving. And the second highest day was the day after Thanksgiving. And I think the reason why is because people were spending time with their family and hated it *laughs*. There were these TikTok’s made of these family photos, and the kids were flipping off the mum in the photo but the mum didn’t know. And the mum posted the photo on Facebook and was so oblivious.
There’s another one that makes me laugh so much because the video and the audio just seem like the polar opposite. This mum posted a video of her children sleeping in a bed with the father, and it’s so sweet, but then ‘abcdefu’ is playing the whole time *laughs*.
TB: You’ve done a few alternate versions of the song, with my favourite being the Royal & The Serpent one. What is something you learnt about the song and your connection with it through watching the song evolve by giving the song so many different perspectives?
G: Something that really changed the song and perspective for me was actually when I played the song for my grandmother. I was so nervous because what was my grandmother going to really think of this song. And she said to me; “you get to say all the things I didn’t get to say at 17”. And it’s true, my grandmother wouldn’t have been able to say what I say and that be accepted, and even my mother, and even now some people still think it’s offensive. I don’t do what I do to be offensive, but that really puts things in perspective for me. So singing it in different ways and seeing it connect so universally has allowed me to explore what singing these words actually means on a bigger scale.
TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions about the EP. Are you ready?
G: I’m ready!
TB: The emoji that best describes my debut EP ‘a study of the human experience vol.1’ is…
G: The big eyes emoji.
TB: The song that went through the most versions to get it to where it is now was…
G: Probably ‘abcdefu’, that song has SO many different versions. I’ve lost count.
TB: The song that nearly didn’t make the EP was…
G: ‘sleeping with my friends’.
TB: The song I’m most looking forward to performing live would be…
G: ‘sleeping with my friends’, that one is going to be so fun to perform live.
TB: Another name for the EP we played with was…
G: I nearly did “A Study Of The Human Condition’ but I liked “experience” better. And another one I have held close to me since I was 15 is, “Floating In Space’, but that might be a future project.
TB: The first song I’d want you to play to your friends from the EP if they haven’t heard of us or our new music yet would be…
G: Probably ‘sleeping with my friends’ as that one is the perfect in-between of everything.
‘A study of the human experience’ is out now!