“My playback rig decided to stop working the day before the tour starts,” says UPSAHL as she approaches the last rehearsals before her ‘This is STILL My First Headline Tour.’ “It’s how we play all the backing tracks at my show; I’m currently sitting at a tour supply shop to get it repaired.”
Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, in a musical family, UPSAHL looked up to her punk band-playing father, who was always scribbling down lyrics. As a 10-year-old, UPSAHL, alone in her bedroom, entered the world of endless imagination and storytelling of songwriting and never looked back.
Today, UPSAHL introduces a new era of ‘THE PHX (Phoenix) TAPES,’ a record that will pay homage to 90s-era mixtapes and portray UPSAHL’s duality as an artist. This project will consist of regular paired (SIDE A/SIDE B) releases.
With the first compilation, UPSAHL sets the tone with self-installed freedom to experiment, creating without boundaries and limits on her artistic expression. The first wave of singles, ‘GOOD GIRL ERA’ and ‘CONDOMS,’ inhibit the unapologetic UPSAHL fusion of punk and pop that put her on the map in the first place.
UPSAHL possesses the all-or-nothing gene, where you know for a fact she will put 120% into everything she does. As part of her 2023 trajectory, she plots to put out as much music as possible and tour as much as possible while she aims to bring the best version of herself into the studio by finding peace amidst the chaos of it all.
Noctis gets to know UPSAHL as a star, as a performer, as a daughter inspired by her dad, as a songstress demanding more female producers in the writing room, and as a dreamer going after what she wants; without labels, without limits, without fitting into boxes.
How did you get into songwriting in the first place?
I grew up in a musical family, my dad was in punk bands, and we had a band room full of instruments in the house, so I was surrounded by a lot of creative energy since I was born. I think I was naturally drawn to songwriting from watching my dad write songs… I started writing really shittty songs in my bedroom when I was 10 and haven’t stopped since.
Who is UPSAHL today?
Scary question! I have no fucking clue. To barely answer this question, I think right now, I’m feeling really connected to who I was when I started making music… Everything feels so inspiring right now.
When you were only wishing and manifesting the career you have today, how would your younger self feel about the artist and person you’ve become?
I have to remind myself of that every day. Instead of comparing myself to other people, which happens literally every day, I try to think about 10 year old me meeting me now… She would lose her shit and feel really grateful for the life I have now. My family, my friends, my career… I feel really lucky.
Do you remember the moment when you realised ‘this is for real’?
Lollapalooza 2019, I was playing the BMI stage in the middle of the day, and I remember looking at my manager and saying “I’ll be stoked if like 10 people show up to my set.” When I got on stage, I was fucking shocked that a lot more than 10 people were down to listen to me play my music. Playing shows has always been the most important part of my career, and that was the first time I realized that people would actually show up for me… Definitely a surreal moment.
How did your mega-hit ‘Drugs’ come about?
I had just moved to LA, we were in a session talking about how annoying fake ass parties can be in LA… And my friend and cowriter Sean Kennedy joked “I only go to the parties for the drugs.” The lightbulb kind of went off in all of our heads and we were like… “Um.. yea that’s the song we’re writing today.” I released it in 2019, it didn’t really stream that much, and in 2020 it somehow went viral on TikTok.
You’re preparing to release 1-2 track bundle, what can we expect from this new material compared to your previous releases?
This new era of THE PHX TAPES feels like how I felt when I started making music in Arizona as a kid. I’ve been bringing that DIY sort of punk energy to the project. My goal for all of these songs is for them to feel like each song is in its own world. I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to figure out what box I fit into, when really I just don’t want a fucking box. I’m getting to genre bend, explore new parts of my voice, get more vulnerable in my songwriting, and it feels really good.
What is the backstory of ‘Good Girl Era’?
I wrote Good Girl Era about actually following my New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of the year… It only took a few weeks for me to realize that I actually thrive wayyy more in the chaos. I was talking to my co writers Elijah Noll and Evan Blair about it and I literally said “I’m sick of green juice and I hate pilates,” and then the rest of the song sort of wrote itself from there. We got so excited about the song that we forgot to tune the main guitar when we recorded it, so the original demo is sung and played in between keys (literally in a key that doesn’t exist)…. THAT’s the type of energy I was craving at the time.
If you could, what would you change about the current state of music industry, if anything?
I wish there were more female producers given opportunity to be in writing rooms.
When you and your team are planning your tour set and stage design, what are the things at the top of the list?
The goal for the set is for it to feel high energy. I want everyone in the audience to be on the same rollercoaster ride as me throughout the entire show. I grew up going to a lot of punk shows, so I try to bring that energy to my set.
What are some of your must-have items in your closet?
Lately, lotssss of tracksuits. Oh and a good pair of huge ass sneakers that I can jump on stage in.
Looking at your schedule for this year, what are you the most excited for?
I’m playing my first ever run of festivals! There are a bunch in Europe in June, including Rock for People and Pinkpop and then Lollapalooza and Outside Lands in the US and then a couple more in EU and one I can’t announce yet in the UK at the end of the Summer.
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Photographer: Aubree Estrella
Words: Karolina Kramplova