Morgan Maher


Harmony On “Shoplifting From Nike” & Going Solo

The ex-Girlpool member’s pop songs glimpse the cartoonishness of life.

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Harmony is a once in a generation songwriter. Since she was 15 years old, writing and performing as one half of Girlpool, her exacting lyrics have had the ability to cut to the heart of a feeling you could never name. She can turn a phrase as easily as spinning a globe; the whole world is better for it.

Now, she’s releasing her debut solo EP, Dystopia Girl, out Aug. 25 via her own imprint, Fantasy Corp. On the project, Harmony weaves a glittery tapestry of icy, electric pop ballads and bops about being on the other side of something, whether it be your own dissociation, your own apathy, your own heartbreak, only to have to come to terms with how long it took. She writes about the whirring worlds of chaos and plasticity, or cartoonishness and reality, places where nothing is as it seems, and everything deserves a second look with an eye that’s been dusted with glitter. Her lyrics unlock invisible trap doors on Hollywood Boulevard; turn your head sideways and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see the world like Harmony, even for a single verse.

Today, Harmony shares the second single off the EP, “Shoplifting From Nike,” a bassy, synthy power-pop anthem about the godly pursuit of vanity, among other things. “Life's lived best in debt/ Tryna make my rent/ I'm rich in my mind/ ‘Cause everything is mine,” she sings on its two-and-a-half breathless minutes, referencing everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hulu on airplane mode, Sanrio, Tumblr, and Winona Ryder stealing lipstick.

The release is accompanied by a Morgan Maher-directed music video that is a glorious work of high-femme camp: a world where girls in animal print bikinis wear mascot animal heads to traipse down Hollywood Boulevard and steal from Best Buy. To watch it is to look inside Harmony’s brain; Dystopia Girl, after all, is set in the backdrop of Hollywood, Harmony’s hometown, a place where the offness lies not just around you, but inside of you.

Dystopia Girl is Harmony’s first release since the breakup of Girlpool, the band that she and Avery Tucker formed in high school and ended in 2022 so they could both pursue different projects — a natural impulse after being in a band for nine years. The EP is sonically wide-ranging, but there’s a throughline from the songs Harmony wrote on Girlpool’s last album Forgiveness to tracks like “Dystopia Girl,” and “Angel Kisses,” which she says are all thematically aligned. The beating heart behind Harmony’s fevered lyrics is also always a dynamism, an ability to hold so much at once: humor and heart, sadness and ecstasy.

NYLON caught up with Harmony ahead of the release of “Shoplifting at Nike,” to talk about how she wrote the track, what makes a Harmony song a Harmony song, and the cartoonishness of life.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

I would love to hear a little bit about what the songwriting process was like for “Shoplifting at Nike.”

I feel like it's owed to my teenage self a little bit, but it's also that mischief that still exists in me for sure. I don't steal, but I used to when I was a teenager, a little bit, and it was right after the housing crisis. God bless the 2008 housing situation. The real heads will remember.

Basically I had a session with [producer] Wyatt [Bernard] and someone he writes with all the time is this guy Austin [Corona]. We were like, “Let's do a session, all three of us.” Austin's a really good guitar player, so we're going to do a guitar song. I was kind of horrified because I don't use a lot of guitars. I was like, I don't know how this is going to go, but maybe our reference is “We Appreciate Power” by Grimes because there's full guitar there. We pulled that up and we were playing with this kind of harder idea, and I just started writing on top of it.

I'm kind of closing my eyes and vibing. I was like, "Okay, you guys tell me if this is weird: ‘Vanity, it's all love.’ Because I have this opinion that materialism and spirituality are the same thing, and whatever people find fully is equally valid to anything else. I was like, “This part I'm not sure about, but so annoying: ‘Shoplifting from Nike.’” I'm like, “Is that weird? Do you like that?” And they were like, “That's cool. I like that.” It was weird because that shoplifting idea came so separately from me talking about Winona Rider stealing that genuinely, my subconscious was working in this way that I don't understand to this day where it was like, only later did I realize I talked about shoplifting earlier in the song.

It was a very spiritual songwriting process. I don't know where it came from honestly. But a week ago I was listening to it and I feel like this is for my teenage self and about just being kind of shameless and free and not being ashamed of what is around you and the things you do and just owning yourself.

Not being ashamed of the things that you want or maybe what you'll do to get them.

I don't want to be political about it, but the way the world is structured is not great for most people. I think growing up, I did not benefit from having financial endowment. We actually were victims of the housing crisis in 2008, and I had to live at my mom's friend's house. We were not in a good spot. We got kicked out of places that my parents were renting. We did not have good financial situations. I think I had so much shame growing up in L.A. around not having resources.

Harmony’s debut solo EP, ‘dystopia girl,’ is out in August.

What do you think makes a Harmony song a Harmony song?

I was thinking about this the other day when someone made a comment about me making pop music online. First of all, I have been trying to make pop music since 2016. And second of all, I'm so uninvested in sonics, honestly, because I really just care about songwriting. That is what I'm passionate about. I'm not like, this needs to sound like this. I don't operate from that place. I feel like for me, if the song is hitting right, then that is good. I really like ‘80s music, Madonna and Tear For Fears. I also really like modern pop music and elements of modern pop music and musical theater.

It's more in the writing, I think. There's this kind of optimism and pessimism that's felt simultaneously in the music. I feel like the songs are not usually too one dimensional. It's not usually about one feeling. It's kind of a more nuanced thing.

“Shoplifting at Nike” is partly about the balance of reality and cartoonishness. Can you talk about that?

I feel like that's such a theme in all of my writing. I don't know if it's growing up in Hollywood. Even in Girlpool, “What Chaos is Imaginary,” that song I wrote, there's a lyric [about how] there’s always this line between perception and things just being absolutely insane and ridiculous. You're like, “Am I perceiving this accurately?” Or, “Is this as insane as it is?” I think that's always something I'm really interested in. Life is so cartoonish and weird. I don't even know how to explain it. There's just moments. You're in the grocery store line and you see someone and something they're doing is just off and not right. You have to check yourself because you're like, “Is this normal? Are we good?”

I think that's what the EP kind of is. It's like you're perceiving something as weird, but you're also weird for having to negotiate with anything and having to have something be right or wrong. Why are we constantly in a state of judgment? It's like we're afraid and we have fear and trauma. I just think the way we look at things says more about ourselves.

When things start to feel really cartoonish, I get in a mode where I'm kind of gaslighting myself. I'm like, “Is it really like that? Is that really happening? Is it as cartoonish as it seems?”

I feel like the new video, it's so OD. I was like, “we need furries,” but then we couldn't find furries. I was like, “Okay, we at least need to get mascot heads and girls and bikinis.” It looks insane, but it's like, this is what life feels like sometimes. I don't know how to explain it to you. This is real to me. It's not even creative. This is just what it is. That's I think what I'm most inspired by, is the offness of reality and in the Lynchian way where it's so normal that it's weird or something. When you're not on airplane mode, you're like, what is going on?

Harmony’s ‘Dystopia Girl’ EP is out Aug. 25.

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