22-year-old musician Knife Girl has found fanbases in Los Angeles and London in addition to her hometown of Helsinki. She’s charmed music critics with her hectic hyperpop and funky new wave and dreams of being a pop diva like Lady Gaga and performing at SXSW.
Egotrippi is a classic Finnish pop rock band formed in the early 1990s. Their biggest hit Matkustaja is a non-album single from 2004, an iconic song about traveling endlessly – and restlessly, thanks to the constant switching of time signatures from 4/4 to 2/4.
When Knife Girl performed Matkustaja live, she mangled the tune with hyperpop production and heavily manipulated vocals while wandering frenetically from one corner of the stage to another. Among the audience, there were facial expressions of authentic disbelief. Knife Girl has just released her debut album "Uniform" through the Playground Music label, a collection of songs ranging from new wave to avant funk and art pop and played by an eight-headed band.
But there she was onstage at Lost in Music, the biggest showcase event in Finland, blasting hectic hyperpop and channeling her inner Charli XCX with a DJ.
“Chaotic”, Knife Girl, real name Lili Aslo, describes her musical path that has gyrated from lo-fi chillwave to 80s worshiping funk. The timeline of her releases adds disorientation: "OONA" (2021), the PC Music inspired EP is her latest recorded material, while the newest release "Uniform" (2022) contains songs composed already four years ago.
“Now I’m working on proper pop songs, think of Lady Gaga. I’m also interested in taking a more electronic approach on the live set. I’m inspired by Ruusut (a Finnish electronic avant pop all star quartet), the way they play electronic music live with triggered instruments.”
Knife Girl says there’s an element of randomness when it comes to her art.
“I’m always going to produce and release music which sounds exciting to me at the moment, even though it might not be easily marketable. For example the "Uniform" sound was born when I was intrigued by Talking Heads and Television and wanted loud guitars.”
Me vs. the world
Maija Kavasto captured Knife Girl’s vision on the cover art of "Uniform". The blob made of mutated human parts expresses the society, a cramped cage where nobody can breathe. Knife Girl is above the lump with a deadpan stare, disappointed and numb, while thrusting a sword in the blob.
“Uniform deals with society’s expectations and how they are forced on us even though they’d fit badly.”
The theme and image derive from Knife Girl’s time as an exchange student in Japan. She travelled there having read manga and anime and expected iridescent subcultures but witnessed school uniforms in institutions and metros crowded by identical business uniforms.
“I’ve surrounded myself with people I love but still sometimes I feel that it’s me against the world. There’s also a couple of songs on "Uniform" that address the challenges of finding a reason to live. That’s an issue I rather deal only by my music.”
Knife Girl started transitioning back home, when most of the songs on "Uniform" were already written. That’s why Uniform doesn’t deal that much about gender issues. She’s talked about trans rights for example in Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest newspaper in Finland.
“I realized that people are expecting certain specific comments from me. I speak gladly about trans rights and I want to normalize talking about mental health issues. But I’m not a political person, I can only speak on behalf of myself.”
Knife Girl’s next release is going to be titled "CUM", she says. Its main subject is gender and sexuality.
“When I started transitioning my view of sexuality and intimacy shifted completely, and that has been an interesting journey. I’m still learning how to fulfill my sexuality.”
These are wonderful things but there’s a flipside to it. As a trans woman Knife Girl is almost always afraid of encounters with hateful people, even hate crimes.
“The Knife in Knife Girl comes from the fact that I dread sharp objects but had to go through conversation with myself that should I carry one for self defense.”