South London-based emerging talent Hussy is the thrilling example of an artist who knows no bounds with their creative direction.
The multi-instrumentalist and engineer, whose real name is Sophie Nicole Ellison, amalgamates her vast influences – from Sonic Youth to Madonna and Bill Callahan – and DIY ethos into a fizzing blast of captivating, genre-crossing indie pop.
Singles Moths, New Fair and I Tried, a trio of cuts from her forthcoming new EP, showcase her masterful ability to merge varied soundscapes, refining and expanding on the guitar-driven wonder of 2019 release YLMD and the self-released double A-side of Slayer/Playtime the previous year.
“With my older stuff I was getting frustrated because I hate being pigeon-holed into one genre or one thing”, Sophie told Daily Star. “I feel really proud of the songs on it (the new EP) because it’s showing different aspects of my tastes and influences.
"I don’t just listen to pop and indie music for example. I listen to loads of experimental stuff and electronic stuff.”
After growing up in Northumberland, an area she says allowed her to delve into her own musical world, Sophie moved to Liverpool to study sound engineering at the Institute for Performing Arts before embracing London life.
She began working under the pseudonym Hussy in 2017 after spotting the term on a t-shirt and was drawn to the playful and assertive nature of the supposed misogynistic slur.
While Covid-enforced lockdowns may have seen her gigs cancelled, the newfound time allowed Sophie to focus on completing the EP, which, as a result, has evolved into a “mini-album”.
Now 2021 is set to become a landmark year for Sophie and her Hussy project, with the EP set for release on July 23, headline shows and a tour with Willie J Healey.
Daily Star’s Rory McKeown caught up with Sophie to talk about the creation of the record, her singles, influences, career so far, and future plans.
Hi Sophie. When did you get in to music? When did you launch the Hussy project?
“I feel like I’ve been doing it a little while but not necessarily publicly. I guess I’ve been releasing stuff since 2018.
"I’m a studio engineer as well, and that’s my background. It began with me recording myself and it’s become his really insular project where I record myself and play everything. I have my really good friends play live with me, which I really enjoy.
“I feel like I’ve been doing it a while but Covid has been insane in knocking things back.”
How has it been as an artist navigating the pandemic? What challenges did it throw your way?
“It’s been a weird one. Right before it happened I had loads of really good things that were on the horizon, in terms of live stuff and gigs. That all halted.
"It did give me a chance to pause and finish this EP that I’ve done. That was going to be so much shorter than it ended up being. Because I had all that time, I ended up turning it into a mini-album.”
You’ve recently released the excellent singles Moths and I Tried. When did you write and record these?
“I Tried is probably one of the oldest songs I’ve had. I recorded half of what’s on the EP just before the pandemic hit. I finished half of it at home. I worked on Moths a lot to give it the vibe it has now.
“Sometimes I’ll make a song and I’ll want it say something and feel like it’s communicating that. I have to really work on getting it to that point. That went through a few stages.
“I Tried came out just as it is pretty much.”
What can we expect from the EP?
“I feel like it has a thread but everything is quite different. With my older stuff I was getting frustrated because I hate being pigeon-holed into one genre or one thing. I feel really proud of the songs on it because it’s showing different aspects of my tastes and influences.
"I don’t just listen to pop and indie music for example. I listen to loads of experimental stuff and electronic stuff. Even thought it’s not directly doing that, it’s hinting that there are deeper influences I’d say.”
Do you enjoy delving into soundscapes with your output? Do you think it’s important for artists these days not to be pigeon-holed and be more embracing of genres?
“Definitely. For me it’s so important. I don’t know how someone can just be into one thing. I feel like it really depends who you are as an artist. It makes you feel more well rounded.
“It deepens it for me.”
With Moths and I Tried you’ve got this awesome 90s alternative sound. What drew you to that style of music? Were you consuming anything?
“I never directly want to say it’s this thing, I like to subconsciously have things going on. I was listening to a lot of Smog and Bill Callahan, and quite a lot of sparse music. Some of the non-single songs that are my favourites are quite sparse.
“My influences from growing up like Sonic Youth. That’s in all my guitar playing, for example. Even though it wouldn’t sound like it’s them, it’s just in there in small details. People who know it will pick up on it.
“I was obsessed with Madonna for ages, with the Music album. I love really opposite music. My goal is to eventually try and merge that somehow.”
How important is the DIY ethos to you as an artist?
“It’s hugely important. Doing it myself in that way and playing everything and producing it, it strengthens what I’m trying to communicate in that voice. The way it ties in with how I grew up.
"I grew up in the middle of nowhere. You have no peers to share music interests with. Music was this world for me that I could delve into. I had to learn different things and instruments myself because I didn’t have anyone else to play in a band with. That’s how it started.
"Even when I went and studied engineering it was layering sounds. That approach stems from my background and being that self sufficient. It’s a way for me to challenge myself and I really enjoy it. I would like to collaborate with some friends in the future but for now this is what I’ve done!”
You grew up in rural Northumberland before studying at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and moving to London where you are now. How do the three compare and how has each location moulded you as an artist?
“Where I grew up it was so isolated. I’ve honed my individuality there and not having to rely on other people to discover things. If you want to do something, you had to find a way to do it. You couldn’t rely on other people.
“Going to Liverpool was the first time I was playing with other people. I was thrown into the social deep end but in a really good way, and being immersed in that music scene. And here (in London), it’s the same thing. You can’t but help soak up your surroundings and what’s going on around you.”
What do you make of the scene right now? There’s a real charge of exciting music coming from the UK and Ireland, what it like being a part of it?
“It’s difficult to answer because of the pandemic. Before that I feel like it was really thriving. There was a really strong DIY scene going on here. I feel like I’ve disconnected slightly because I haven’t been able to play gigs and grow that way but I’m really looking forward to getting involved in that again when stuff is possible. It’s starting to become possible.”
Have you got any dates lined up?
“Not until October. I’ve got a headline on the 7th October and a small tour supporting Willie J Healey. I’m so excited for those, they’re going to be full live band shows as well.”
You must be so eager to get back out there.
“I’m so excited! It’s been so long. It’s crazy. Right before this happened I was playing a festival in New York, a really small one called The New Colossus Festival. It’s before you play SXSW, it like your stop on the way to that. I was playing that and literally everything was shutting down as we were playing it. It was a weird vibe.
"I’ve been to New York a few times, I have friends there, and it was such a weird vibe because it was all shutting down. Flights were getting cancelled. The day we got back everyone I knew got Covid! It feels like it was such a dramatic story.”
Can you remember when you first wanted to become a musician?
“I feel like I’ve always done it. I feel like I’ve been doing it a while, not publicly necessarily. I’ve always done music and art. It’s been an on-going thing. There was never a moment of ‘Oh, I want to do this’, I was just obsessed by it.”
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How would you say you’ve evolved as an artist?
“One of the main things is that I really want to merge all those influences a bit more and make it something a bit more unique.
"I get frustrated when I keep getting called grunge or dream-pop. I feel like I want to transcend those things to make it something more unique. Even though I love those things so much, for me that’s what I ultimately want to achieve.”
It must be an exciting period for you.
“It’s great but it can also be slightly overwhelming a way. You have to really funnel what you’re trying to do. At the minute I’m doing whatever the next thing is. I guess I’m thinking a lot about what I’m trying to say with it. There’s endless places you can go with it. It’s exciting.”
Are there any acts out there right now that you’re really enjoying?
“I’ve been listening to a lot of Eartheater, she’s amazing. I’ve been listening to Amen Dunes quite a bit recently. I’m really into Kim Gordon’s side project Body/Head. I got a bit obsessed with Steely Dan over lockdown. Faye Webster, Sam Evian. I’ve never listened to Tori Amos but I was checking her out the other day.
“It’s very varied. I really enjoy it being a bit all over the place.”
Do you have an ultimate goal?
“I’d like to be self sustained. I think everyone’s ultimate goal is to self sustain this. I really want to be able to fulfil these visions of how I want things to sound, and have it really grow, and make proper records that people will hear.”
Are you hopeful for an album?
“I’d love that. I’m just writing and if it feels like it’s going to be like that, it will be that.”
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