Meet... Art School Girlfriend

London-based producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Art School Girlfriend returns with her debut album Is It Light Where You Are.

Synth-driven and hauntingly dreamy, Is It Light Where You Are takes on themes of lightness and darkness and Art School Girlfriend, aka Polly Mackey, takes the audience on a journey through falling in and out of love. With three singles off the album, ‘In the Middle’, ‘Softer Side’ and ‘Is It Light Where You Are’, Mackey describes the new album as “torn straight from the pages of her 2019 diary.”


In addition to an upcoming headline tour planned for late 2021, Mackey has garnered support tours with Marika Hackman, Orlando Weeks and The Japanese House. With several singles and EPs Measures & Into The Blue Hour under her belt, Mackey has an impressive standing discography.


In the midst of an exciting release, we caught up with Mackey to talk about her new album, the creative process, and her growth as an artist.

Congratulations on the release of Is It Light Where You Are! How has this release been different to your other projects so far?

The creation of this record was very cathartic and necessary for me. I’m pretty sure a lot of people say that about their break-up albums. I’m not very good at processing emotions; they can feel like a burden to me. By turning them into art made them feel useful and also allowed me to process a lot of shit. It certainly crystallised a very specific point in my life, and it will always stand in its own uniqueness for that reason, compared to a lot of my previous output. My next album already feels different to this.


Delving into the motivations behind the project, you said that this album comes “straight from the pages” of your 2019 diary. Could you tell us a little more about the inspirations and influences behind the project?

I don’t ever want to dig up too much detail - it’s all in the songs - but I was going through a very difficult period and learning a lot about myself. It was the first time I’d felt a lot of things like generalised anxiety and proper panic attacks. I was using my diary as a kind of therapist. Very stream-of-consciousness. It’s not comfortable to read back on, but it’s an amazing resource for lyrics!


You wrote and co-produced this album. How long did it take for the project to come together, and how would you describe the creative process of the album?

The album was written very quickly but produced very slowly, just due to studio time. I’d do as much as I could at my home studio. Riley MacIntyre, with who I co-produced the majority of it with is a very busy guy, so we’d just go into The Church Studios for a few days at a time across a few months.


Do you have a favourite song off the album or one that’s particularly meaningful to you?

'Give' is a favourite. The production is like nothing I’d made before. More like piecing together sounds rather than traditionally conjuring an arrangement. It’s incredibly organic and raw but also incredibly over-produced, which is a relationship I’m becoming more and more interested in.

With several singles, EPs, and tours under your belt, how would you say your sound has evolved throughout your career to this point?

Since I finished the album, which is a couple of years ago now - I’ve become a lot geekier. Especially over lockdown, having built more of a studio setup. I’ve also been getting involved more in the academic side of sound and production, which has meant I’m becoming more interested in audio capture, audio manipulation etc. I’m becoming more interested in effective instrumental music is at communicating vs music with lyrics. Also, though, I’m very conscious not to leave proper songwriting behind. That’s always the most important bit.


A debut album is a huge landmark in an artist’s career. How has this project helped you to grow as an artist, producer, writer, etc.?

I’m sad not to be able to tour it as much as I usually would have - especially as I was sitting on it for so long before it came out. But it means that I’m already working on another one, which I’m excited about.


What do you hope listeners will gain from the stories told on the album?

I’ve had some amazing messages from listeners about how it’s helped them through stuff that blows my mind. But I think we as listeners will always want to connect with the ‘big life subjects’ and hearing your own experiences through someone else’s lens can always help you look through your own with a bit more romance and understanding. That’s why we like to listen to sad music right? Helps romanticise the really shit bits of life.

What can we expect from you in terms of music for the rest of this year and the next?

I have something small coming out soon, then something bigger coming out early next year. I’m writing my second album in the meantime!

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