In the past year alone, Squidgenini (pronounced; Squid-jeh-ni-ni) has supported notable bands such as Kilo Kish, Nai Palm, Japanese Wallpaper and The Drones. With her new release exploring a simplistic style of electronic pop, Squidgenini’s Alligator accentuates an illusory and surrealist lyrical narrative that reminds us its easier to just say “I’m just not that into you dude” than allow things to get to another level. Squidgenini’s minimalist use of bass, drums and catchy synth line transcends her melodic intelligence and allows the listener to not only laugh aloud from her relatable humour but vibe out to an organic beat that make your eardrums feel like they definitely do not want to be “left the fuck alone”. Stepping away from her more instrumental oeuvre, Alligator explores an mc, lyrically driven style of work that is an unswerving yet absurdist rejection anthem. What emerges from the quality of Squidgenini’s Alligator, is her ability to represent and communicate a common experience that is shared across all colours of gender and sexuality.
With the help of video calling and facial filters- I caught up with Bella, AKA Squidgenini, in her living and working space (that is technically the shed of her share house in Melbourne) to speak about the launch and release of her newest ep.
Firstly, where did you get the name Squidgenini from?
My mum used to call me Squidgen, it comes from my grandma. It’s a kind of matriarchal lineage thing of ridiculously weird pet names. I added ‘ini’ on the end and it became my online username. When I was trying to think of my musician name I just ended up sticking with it. This one time someone told me “you can’t be called Squidgenini, that’s so fucking weird.” I was 18, so I thought I couldn’t be called that but then I thought, “Nah, its genius!”
How long have you been making music for?
Kind of on and off for 4 years. When I graduated high school, I was like “what am I going to do with my life, what the heck?” and my cousin was doing a music degree so that sparked the idea to do that. I hadn’t done music before year 12, I had been doing art. Although I had always been playing piano, as I’m classically trained in that. And I could always sing but I just never really did. It was one of those things, you know, when you’re born with these abilities and you think everyone has the exact same skills as you.
How did you get from classical piano to electronic, hip hop/ pop?
My cousin had Ableton and gave me the torrented version, so I pretty much taught myself from there. I always wanted to do music but I thought “what can I even be? As much as I enjoy their music, I don’t want to be Nora Jones; I don’t want to be Alicia keys… what options do I have?” You know when you’ve never even thought of an option like “I love pop, I love hip hop, I love electric sounding things…” but you think you can never make it because people in your sphere have never done anything like that.
And there’s always negative chat—I’d sit down to do it and my brain would be like “what are you doing? You’re shit.” It was the most intense form of resistance I’ve ever felt in my life. And it hasn’t gone away… I still get that shit all the time. In trying to gain control over the negativity, I had this realisation that routine is not the antithesis of creativity. Creating a positive morning routine requires heaps of self-discipline to do every day… but I think it’s vital for me making art and basically working for myself. It’s Kind of like building a womb or being a good parent so my creative inner child can flourish.
How do you create the foundations for your songs?
Its different all the time. Most times I’m just think to myself “cool I’m going to make music now”, setting the time to make the music. It’s weird to talk about because it’s so new for me. Even when I was 18, I was/am so lazy, I never really pursued my music as ‘Squidgenini’. But I’ve been taking it seriously for about a year now.
Alligator I wrote 2 years ago, most of the songs that I’m playing I wrote 2 years ago.
I did a year of music at Uni, and I got so anxious and stressed. Because people would ask me what I was doing and I’d tell them I’m studying music at Uni and they’d respond with “oh so you’re a musician?” and I’d be like “no, yes, kind of – I don’t know, I don’t want to talk about it” because I’d just keep thinking about how I didn’t make music and felt like i was constantly having an existential crisis.
But When I started playing shows that’s when it became real. When you’re playing a show – it’s a two-way communication thing – they’ll dance, or they’ll sing along or even just stare at you… I love the interaction. the human connection; that’s the point of it all for me.
Where do you draw musical inspiration from? Your triple j unearthed site mentions the undoubted ‘superstar’ Justin Bieber and actual goddess Erykah Badu.
Does it? Oh my god, hahaha! I vibe off a lot of stuff. Obviously Justin Bieber and Erykah Badu are huge influences. I grew up in America so hip hop / pop/ early 2000s southern hip hop influence is definitely there. The Internet’s first album really influenced me and MIA. Like her first album. I got her first album when I was like 11. It was lifechanging.
Who are your favourite artists at the moment (if you have any currently)?
Yes! I’m really into Princess Nokia. For her music but also for [her use of] social media and [using it as] a platform to speak about things. She’s amazing… The fact that she’s more than just a musician but a figure for change, bringing people together and telling stories. I think its really important.
ABRA is awesome… she is a singer producer from Atlanta. She’s fuckin’ sick. She’s like dark pop.
And Jessie Lanza, I really like Jessie Lanza. Bit of techno Pop vibes, I don’t know how to describe it but I love it. When i first started making music I felt like there weren’t many artists out there that I felt similar to, but now I look around and there’s heaps. It’s such an exciting time to be woman making electronic music… goddess energy on the rise every day…
Alligator is so different to your other songs like Fire, what made you move from your electronic esoteric vibes to the more pop/ hip-hop (mc) style of Alligator?
Well, my biggest qualm with releasing Fire as my single was that it is so different to anything else I’ve ever made. But I thought this is such a pop banger I’ve got to release it as a single.
Whereas Alligator I wrote like 2 years ago, and that was back before I was doing Squidgenini. But I thought it would be a great single. I’ve come a long way with my stuff and I think its super important to have people follow the journey [as opposed to] being like “okay great that was me then and now I’ll show you the new me” but I kind of want to show you all of the parts.
Alligator came from inspiration. I was so angry, actually not even angry just frustrated, when people keep messaging you and they don’t understand your personal space. And back then (when I first wrote it) I think I would’ve struggled more to be like “hey could you leave me alone, or hey I’m not into you/ into this, lets just leave it” and be on good terms. Like in a nice way too- you can just be like “nah I’m good” and they’re like “cool!” (or you hope they’re like “cool”). I didn’t fully explain that and so I vented my frustration into a song. And now it’s just a reminder for myself to let that person know my boundaries before it gets to that point. [I figured out] its just better to be upfront.
Did you mean to make it mc style?
Nothing like that. It was just super inspired. I just made it and it just came out.
It’s a kind of tongue-in-cheek ‘lols’. Kind of like “haha everyone can relate to this”. I also want to make sure that it’s not a boy-girl thing, it’s for anyone who has ever felt that they want to tell someone to leave them alone and they felt like they couldn’t. I want my humour to be represented in my art platform, and its hard. It’s hard to feel properly represented. Especially when in the ‘single-age’ like – I am a multidimensional human being. I have so many sides. So when you release something you’re like cool this is a tiny little blip of me. So like I’m really excited to eventually release my mix tape so people can be like cool this is who you are and what you’re doing or at least more of an idea of who you are.
Why alligator not crocodile?
Well its funny, because I just name my Ableton sessions weird things so I named this one Alligator before I knew what it was going to be about. And I had just recently downloaded all these weird animal noises on sample swap. And they had these alligator bellows and I thought that was so sick. And then I just started talking about alligators walking on a tightrope and I thought “what the heck are you talking about dude?” I basically freestyled the whole song.
Is Alligator more like your style over fire?
Not exactly. It’s just such early days. So I don’t want to put any boxes on what I can or can’t create. But Alligator is more similar to the stuff I’ve made before.
I’d never written such a minimalist track. It’s so vocally driven… whereas all my other stuff is super instrumental. In my other songs, I have all these layers of synths, bird noises … whereas this one was bass, drums and then a synth line came in.
Will we be hearing more of this style of songs?
Yeah I think so. I’m writing a mix tape/ album that will probably be released at the end of this year. And I’ll have a bunch of tracks … but I don’t really know. What I’m working on now is kind of Alligator-esque. But yeah, I don’t want to put any boxes on myself.
Do you have any upcoming gigs?
I played in Brisbane on the 7th of April. I’ve been playing a lot of chilled, bar gigs which I love because its fun and very intimate but in terms of sound quality I love playing in clubs. Or places with massive subs because like I think if anything my music always has like hella bass.
I’m going to do an east coast tour when I release the mix tape – probably October, maybe November. Still vibing it.
[Come to Sydney!]
Hopefully I’ll play a gig in Sydney soon, just someone hit me up like “hey come play, I’ll pay you money for it” and I’ll be there.
Satisfy your ear drums’ dreams with Squidgenini’s sick and incredibly fresh track below.