Stef Fi – Girlhood
Stef Fi is the solo moniker of Big Joanie singer and guitarist Stephanie Phillips. In April the Girlhood EP dropped on Bandcamp and it slipped our net. We eventually spotted this via bandmate Estella Adeyeri’s recommendation on Twitter. Ahead of another Bandcamp fee free day for artists this Friday, now seems a good time to be reviewing it.
Girlhood was recorded in 2018, with Emma Wigham of Witching Waves on drums and Claudia Mansaray on bass. The EP has a slightly fuller sound than that of Big Joanie. This is partly down to Wigham’s projectile full kit drumming in comparison to Chardine Taylor Stone’s minimal tom and snare approach. The production is also warmer, creating a more intimate mood.
The songwriting approach, though, is still very similar to Big Joanie so will certainly appeal to fans.
Phillips’ vocals are instantly recognisable on the sombre What Remains. The jangling guitars and soft drums create a tense atmosphere that somehow feels like it’s on the verge of falling apart. The delicate backing vocals add a touch of brightness to the plaintive tone.
Nowhere is probably the highlight. It’s a quiet loud quiet loud grunge ripper with a great chorus “Don’t call me a liar, I know fucked up when I see it”. There are some nice wispy synths that follow the guitar in instrumental phrases, which in turn follow the vocals in the verses. Ever reliable producer Mark Jasper has mixed an immense sound here.
Title track Girlhood is inspired by footage of police brutality against a young black girl in 2015 (according to another review by Get In Her Ears). It’s a powerful statement. It highlights the longstanding issue that became so clear for all to see following the murder (lets call it what it is) of George Floyd and the continued need for action. The fact this has been waiting for release for two years only adds further gravitas. Phillips’ vocal here is haunting. The atmosphere she creates with the chiming guitars is brooding and intimate.
Closer “The Garden” returns to a grungy sound. The simple four note bass line, crunchy guitars and soulful backing vocals, provide that Nirvana/Ronettes amalgamation that has somewhat become a trademark.
This is just as vital as Phillips’ better known project and somehow more emotionally raw and powerful. A physical release will be on the way later in the year.
You may enjoy this if you like: Big Joanie, Throwing Muses, Nirvana