GIANNA GIANNA INTERVIEW + “FAMINE” VIDEO PREMIERE
photography by alex the brown
GIANNA GIANNA don’t make any damn sense. She talks a mile-a-minute, an oral collage of asides and cutting insights on modernity, sexuality and love. Her art is equally operatic. It’s big and bright and boldly oblique, yet it describes life more succinctly than anything I’ve seen. You see it, you feel it, and suddenly the existential dread abates because you recognize yourself in the fullness of this character. The ‘Famine’ video is out today, and her full EP is due this Summer. This interview by Tolliver.
You’re sober. Is that a big deal to you, or is it like, whatever?
Gianna Gianna: I just feel like it’s such an … you really have to have the time and money and the energy to want to do that. I can’t do anything mindlessly. Call it OCD or control freak or whatever it is. But I can’t just be like, ‘Oh, let’s do this fun thing spur of the moment.’ It’s like OK, what are the pros? What are the cons? I’m that type of super-rational person. I’ve been around it my whole life. I’ve been doing music since I was 16, so I’ve seen it. I was always like, ‘Oh, I’ll pass for now,’ and now I’m 28 so it’s like, why now? Maybe when I’m 90 I’ll try mushrooms.
Honestly? That’s the perfect time to do it.
Gianna Gianna: Cuz I heard mushrooms are a really good magnesium booster and muscle relaxer. I feel like a psychedelic would probably be more my vibe. But yeah—not until I’m retired, did the kids thing.
I don’t even know what magnesium does. I know nothing about the human body.
Gianna Gianna: Oh my God, I’m like ‘health freak!’ I love it. Magnesium controls all your muscles. And so if you have a muscle twitch you should take a magnesium supplement and it’ll go away.
I drink this stuff called Huel …
Gianna Gianna: Hmmm. What the …
It’s basically off-brand Soylent.
Gianna Gianna: Hell yeah. Is it cheaper?
Not really. It’s basically the same price.
Gianna Gianna: My friend’s addicted to Soylent. He like swears by it. It seems kinda, like, chalky and—
It’s chalky and lame.
Gianna Gianna: Yeah. Seems weird.
It’s well-documented that you’re a teacher and you do a lot of different things. What is your day like?
Gianna Gianna: OK. It’s weird. I wake up. 6 AM. Get dressed. Go to work. And I always sneak in rainbow flags, there’s trans color blocking. I used to work at a Christian pre-school—I quit two weeks ago. I’m not religious at all. It was super-friendly—nice, cute. I was like OK, cool. But they told me to take down one of my bulletin boards. The pastor’s gay. They’re progressive and they’re liberal and whatever. But they told me to take down this bulletin board that had a trans flag and a rainbow flag. Cuz I did it really blatantly, like huge, and it was for Martin Luther King, Jr., day. Cuz like his right-hand man is gay. Without him, where would we be? But they told me to take it down.
Did they think kids were gonna see the flag and be like HMMYEAHH?
Gianna Gianna: I just think of myself and being queer, [and] what that would have done for me to see that in school. Cuz there are books with mommies and daddies. Why can’t there be … Let’s make it equal. Just equal information. Cuz that’s brainwashing. That heckin’ seems odd.
We’re all out and we’re like, lazy gays in black turtlenecks! But there’s still so much that I’m ashamed of in moments that surprise me. Where I’m like, ‘Why am I hiding right now? Why am I being weird?’ And it would have been so tight if I’d started as a kid being like, ‘Oh, it’s cool.’
Gianna Gianna: I was lucky that my mom and my dad would dress crazy and whatever. And my mom was super-glam and amazon. She’s taller than me. And she’s big and unapologetic. So that’s what I grew up with. Jesse, my other brother—he’s gay. We grew up in Irvine, which is conservative, white. Weird looks all the time. But we just dressed how we wanted, whatever. He wore sparkles in his hair and leopard head to toe. He was really glam. But if there was literally anything in a classroom setting that was like, equal, I feel like it would change lives.
Like an institution. Home is different from an institution.
Gianna Gianna: Totally. Yes. And it’s legal to marry the same sex, so why is that a thing? Why is that a thing in a school still?
Have you and your brother Damien worked together on your music since BLOK?
Gianna Gianna: Yes! So he produced the first four songs I ever performed. Since then I produce, or I get a guest producer. Like ‘Famine’ is produced by my friend Nigel [Wilson]. But mostly I produce.
I was going through your YouTube and whatnot, and it seems like you’re releasing things as they come to you. Is ‘Famine’ leading up to a project?
Gianna Gianna: Yeah, it is. I’m releasing an EP and every song has a music video. And it’s gonna be with this label … I’m still deciding. They have Sony distribution, but they’ve only ever put out gospel records. So I’m like, ‘Have you seen my videos? Are you sure?’ And also my voice isn’t that good to ever be in a gospel choir. So like, ‘Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?’ So I might do that, but I’m releasing the EP either way. So there’s another video called ‘Wrath’ that I’ve already shot and directed and edited already. And then there’s one more music video coming out for this song ‘Collapse,’ and that’s gonna be a DDR video game simulation. And then once that’s released this summer, the EP the next day. Reverse Lemonade [laughs]. And like much more paced out and much more DIY with less of a message. So.
The ‘Famine’ video feels very you. There’s an auteur kind of vibe. I know it was a collaboration with [director of photography] Tyler [Bradberry]. What was the process?
Gianna Gianna: I told him, ‘These are the shots I want. You just make sure the things that I want are in frame.’ And he’d be like, ‘Hey, I have an idea. How about you lie on the grass right there?’ I did the main storyline, but [for example] there’s a living room scene, that’s his living room. It’s so cute, with Ren & Stimpy merch. I edited it. But he’s so pro, he actually works on movies. That was filmed on an Alexa Mini—the same camera Blade Runner was shot on. It’s like a movie theater camera. I was like, ‘I’m not worthy of this.’ I got asked to make a short-film for OUTFEST which was presented by HBO and the Directors Guild of America. And that movie was all shot on my phone. I showed it at the Ford Theater in Hollywood. It’s like that outdoor amphitheater. My cellphone movie was shown on this huge screen. And Molly Shannon presented it and I was like ‘… this is an iPhone movie.’ Right after it was a movie about Jane Austen, like a serious period piece. I was like, ‘Are you guys sure you chose the right person?’ Cuz it was literally on my cellphone. I mean it was tight, or whatever. The imagery was cool of course, cuz like, I made it.
But like … which iPhone?
Gianna Gianna: 6.
Gianna Gianna: Like super not good.
The 6 was a good era though.
Gianna Gianna: I just got Damien an 8, I think, for his birthday. And he’s like, ha-ha! And I still have my like, heckin’ 6—it’s so dirty.
I like that you say ‘heckin.’ The first time you said it I was like, did she just say ‘heckin’?
Gianna Gianna: I don’t cuss either. It’s like I’m straight-edge but I’m not. Like I don’t care. I’m all about being authentic and being myself. So if I were to start [swearing], I would say it all the time. I’ve already dropped heckin like, three times. That would be the f-word. And I work with kids and I’m always gonna work with kids.
So I also sang opera in high school, and I definitely feel like it influences my art now, especially my music that feels more pastiche. Has that been your experience?
Gianna Gianna: I feel like your reference points are almost more important than what you’re saying. Like where you’re coming from—your intention. With that knowledge and dare I say, culture, there’s more of a sense of ‘there’s more to this’ and you get where this person’s coming from. When you know there’s a band and they’re like, ‘My favorite film director is Harmony Korine’ and they’re like, ‘Who’s Passolini?’ Like if you just know Harmony Korine, you have to know their references and know their references’ references. You have to get all the way down to come up with your own voice and vision. You never know what the references are completely, but I feel like you get more like a vibe that ‘there’s something here’ if you do have that background—that there’s more to the world than just like what’s in L.A. right now.
‘Famine’ is about toxic relationships. Is it about a specific situation?
Gianna Gianna: It’s like every relationship I’ve been in, except for the one I’m currently in. I’m pansexual. I’ve been with everyone. And I mean everyone [laughs]. I’ve noticed that what I used to be attracted to was people just coming into their sexuality in terms of discovering that they’re queer or non-binary or whatever. That they’re a lesbian. I noticed that I put up with too much because I’m like, ‘Oh, I know what they’re going through, I’ve been there.’ I wanted to help foster it. But I don’t need to be their mom and I don’t need to put up with certain things. I had to like stop and think, ‘Gianna, just because you’ve faced so much adversity with this coming out thing … ’ Cuz I’m kind of like this huge unapologetic thing, I wear huge heels even though I’m hugely tall, and wear huge jackets and show cleavage and everything … they want me to be heckin straight. They want me to be Kardashian cause I’m already like va-voom! But I’m not, and I faced a lot of backlash at first.
Gianna Gianna: From like, friends. This circle of friends. Heckin friends that got really dark about it. Clearly I got a new group of friends or whatever. But it was so weird. So I always went for these people where I could be like ‘Oh, I’ve been there. Let me help you.’ But then who’s doing that for me? I don’t need it and I shouldn’t even look for that. And now I’m with someone who’s almost twice my age and it’s sick. And they’re non-binary. It’s like ‘You get it. Thank you.’ And we can see eye-to-eye on things. And that’s how I even got to be able to write this song because I got to see healthy and good. Whenever you’re in a good situation it makes you think, ‘Why did I ever put up with anything less?’
Gianna Gianna: I know, right? Too real. Because of that adversity that you face, you put up with too much. And it’s just like, ‘No. You shouldn’t. You just shouldn’t.’
Where are you meeting people? Like people that you end up dating.
Gianna Gianna: Usually fans of mine.
Really glad I asked that question.
Gianna Gianna: I know. It’s so embarrassing. That’s how I’ve met everyone.
Do they come up after shows or like … DMs?
Gianna Gianna: Usually like the DM. Because I’m actually a very introverted person. I’m good at talking and I like talking one-on-one. But in groups I’m usually like, ‘See ya.’ Or I’m quiet. But if someone talks to me I’m like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ So I feel like I come off as not mean, but intimidating. Because I am kind of like a [big gesture] whatever. Or like in person if they feel confident. Always after the show. One time I dated my dentist and that was pretty sick.
GIANNA GIANNA PERFORMS ON WED., MAY 22, AT THE HYPERION TAVERN, 1941 HYPERION AVE., SILVER LAKE. AND WILL ALSO APPEAR ON BLOOD FEAST ON ADULT SWIM. VISIT GIANNA GIANNA AT YOUTUBE.COM/USER/GIANNAGAGGIANNAGAG/ OR INSTAGRAM.COM/THE_FACE_OF_GOD.