Photo by Clement Mogensen
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Photo by Clement Mogensen
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Photo by Clement Mogensen
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Photo by Clement Mogensen
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Photo by Clement Mogensen
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Photo by Clement Mogensen

Ydegirl: »Feels Like the Words are Grinding«

January 12, 2022
Text by Luki von der Gracht

Artist and writer Luki von der Gracht spoke with musician Ydegirl about the power of rhyming, her fascination with the city of Berlin and about the many different characters inside of her and how they play a role in the song making.

Photo by Clement Mogensen

Growing up in Denmark, Ydegirl remembers wanting to be a singer since the age of 7. She is still curious and adventurous like a child. A quality I love about her. Her artist name originates from a well-preserved 2000-year old teenage bog body that was found near the village of Yde in the Netherlands in 1897. The story fascinated her and especially the limbo state between life and death that still accompanies her in the songwriting. Her interest in between-like states and her rejection of binaries is clearly visible on the album. The past and its historical (often female) figures fascinate her a lot, as she imagines being in their bodies or lying next to them and thinking of their stories and emotions.

We talk about how she writes songs and what influences this process. It could be said that looking into the past leads Ydegirl into the future of her life and work. »Sometimes I get this image of my body stretching itself over the curve of history. Stretching in a painful way but also with tenderness and sometimes healing effect,« she says. The past, presence and future mingle into a unique and invisible compilation of emotions, rhymes and rhythm. History meets imagination meets poetry.

This self-titled debut album follows her 2019 released EP notes19 and contains a variety of instruments, like piano, synths, trombone, clarinet, violin, cello, flute, guitar and bass guitar. The songs are brave, powerful and healing. They dance between the real and the unreal, the living and the dying, the hopes and the fears. With her music, Ydegirl created a place of speaking the unspeakable, a place of emotional freedom.

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Photo by Clement Mogensen

Luki von der Gracht: Your work is your fantasy, but it’s also a leash that keeps you connected to reality, I read in a text about you. I really like that and connect to it. It is something you believe so strongly in and something that is…

Ydegirl: … grounding you.

L: Yes, grounding you! It’s interesting that it can be both.

Y: I’m very into things that have a double intention or double function.

L: Making your debut album, was there anything new for you in the process of music-making? What did you learn about yourself?

Y: For every song it’s very different. I don’t know if I ever will, but I haven’t yet found a specific method to make a song. Most of the time it starts with the lyrics. For the music part, I became a better producer and a better songwriter. I learned something from every song, about myself, but also about making music. And I think it is noticeable on the album.

L: So mostly, the lyrics come first?

Y: While I write, there’s definitely a rhythm in my head and then I either produce a track and then improvise the text over it. And just keep improvising and then it turns into a structure. Or I’ll write the song structure by the keyboard and then I improvise the melody over the text. And then I typically go back and re-write the lyrics, back and forth. Sometimes once, sometimes many times.

L: And then in the end you work with the additional musicians?

Y: This is also different for every song. Some songs I write more or less every note and give the score to the band. And sometimes I just bring the chords and the vocal melody and I play the song for them and they improvise over it, and then we talk about it together and that way work out the arrangements. They have a lot of great inputs and ideas. I really love working with them. So here is just a shoutout to Lola Hammerich on the guitar, Thea on the violin, Greta Eacot on drums med Marie Osman Pastré on the clarinet. For a lot of the songs on the album my friend Emil Elg was my partner in crime and also took a huge part in how the album turned out. We talked through many of the productions together. 

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Photo by Clement Mogensen

L: Why are you so fascinated with the color green?

Y: It’s always been around, my middle name is Green. People always think I’m joking when I say this, but it’s true. So mum has always been obsessed with green, as well. Also, the color gives me energy and safety.

L: You moved to Berlin recently. What fascinates you about the city?

Y: I just really enjoy meeting a lot of new people and it feels like there is a lot of flexibility here and people seem very open. Honestly, it’s a bigger city than Copenhagen, where I lived before. And you can just tell it’s much more queer and diverse, which I need. Even the billboards are so gay. I love Copenhagen but it can feel like a village compared to Berlin. Sometimes you just need to move and put yourself in a new situation to think in new ways. I really needed that. I’m so excited to be working with people here, for example with you! 

L: Yes! So the lyrics from your song »Zodiac« I really like and you told me before there’s a line you want to change: »I’m a woman not a mono thought«. I thought that was interesting.

Y: Yeah, it’s the final line in the chorus. My view on myself is changing, and it’s feels less relatable to call myself a woman, so I want to change it to »whoman« as I am in place of questioning. I like that there is kind of a question in there.

L: I think it would be a great album title: »I’m a whoman, not a mono thought«.

Y: True. But basically, the meaning of the sentence is the same. At that point, it was Donna Haraway who helped me realize that feeling split could be a strength. It doesn’t have to be a weakness. And she connected this to different identities, among others to the cyborg and the woman and also duo lingual people. Felt quite queer reading her and this really resonated with me before I even realized this was why I was connecting with it. 

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Photo by Clement Mogensen

L: Do you make music for yourself or for an audience?

Y: Both. I think I make better music when I go into a place where I either forget or decide to perform to myself that no one is going to hears it. Because it’s easier, to be honest.

L: I think your music is very honest.

Y: I’m quite good at performing to myself. I have a secret moniker that I make music under sometimes. I go into this performative state mode and it becomes a part of the process that I’m making music under this secret moniker because there are other rules there. And then it’s easy. Sometimes if I like the songs and feel like it makes sense I take them from this moniker and let them come through Ydegirl and other times they just never make it out from swamp, metaphorically speaking (laughs).

L: So there are many different people inside of you.

Y: Yeah. And not only people. 

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Photo by Clement Mogensen

L: Do you do it very awarely, like dressing up differently or more unconsciously?

Y: I think I’m quite aware of when I do it. It’s a decision I make or desire to go along with when I feel it’s simmering. I go into this place in my mind where I perform to myself that nobody knows where I am. And nobody ever needs to know what I’m doing right now. It kind of works the same way as manifestation, I guess. It feels like I’m drawing an invisible line around me that works as a protection spell. And there, I am safe to do stuff.

L: »Only you know I’m back in the city…«, you are singing this in »I need this«.

Y: Exactly! That’s what the song is about! Going into a place where nobody else knows where is.

L: Well, it probably used to be like this more before the internet existed and we are constantly connected with everyone on the cellphone. It kills creativity, if we’re always connected. Recently I turned off all my notifications and it changed everything (laughs).

Y: Yes, I have my notifications turned off most of the time. But you know I also feed a lot from social media. It can be a huge inspiration to write lyrics. Because it’s kind of similar to life. The interactions and conversations and the feed of images. Even memes can be very inspirational to me. I have some memes that triggered songs. (laughs) Sometimes there’s been a topic or idea on my mind for a while, and then seeing a meme that speaks into this can trigger the actual songwriting. I follow very personalized meme pages, and memes can really help me through my day sometimes. 

L: Amazing! Bog body meme pages? (laughs)

Y (laughs): Yeah, or no for this I have one personal source. I have a person who always sends me bog memes. Swamp memes. I think the person gets them from Twitter or something. I think you’d probably like some of the meme pages I follow. Most of them are queer and lesbian meme pages. 

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Photo by Clement Mogensen

L: How important is the queer community for you?

Y: For me, it is important to be in and connected to the queer community where I am locally at the time. I need that as a queer person myself. 

L: Your lyrics are not always understandable. Is this a deliberate choice? 

Y: I guess I’m often drawn to the taste and flavor of a word, equally or sometimes even over the meaning. Old words or words I hardly know that open up my imagination and a lot of undefined emotions. I’m just really into rhyming. It makes me feel so good. To me, it’s really sexy. Feels like the words are grinding. It’s not about logic or about understanding, but rather the feeling I get about phonetics. Rhyming is quite manipulative and creates this pseudo-idea of context between the words just because of the sounds grind. I love that.

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PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture.