KCSB’s Promotions Director Ryan Miller sat down with electronic artist Galen Tipton (aka recovery girl) to discuss her artistic vision, newest projects, and viral success on TikTok. Watch, listen, or read to learn more!
Ryan: Welcome everyone to 91.9 KCSB-FM in Santa Barbara! My name is Ryan Miller, I’m the Promotions Director for the station, and I’m joined today by the wonderful and incomparable Galen Tipton. How are you doing today Galen?
Galen: I’m doing all right. A little sleepy as we were talking about before, but you know, I can’t complain about it right now. *laughs*
Ryan: There you go! Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today, I am so thrilled to be able to talk to you and give our listeners a little insight into your world.
Galen: Yeah, totally!
Ryan: So for people who may not know who you are, talk a little bit about yourself, your musical style, influences, that sort of thing.
Galen: I guess when it comes to musical styles, it’s a little hard to pin down. If you haven’t been following me for the past, like five or six years, it’s sort of all over the place. I definitely can do stuff ranging from, like, really experimental out there collage stuff like club music, to then working on a pop project—recovery girl—which is semi-hyper poppish. But I started it before that was even, like, a thing, and I’m going to keep doing it after hyperpop dies. I don’t know, I feel like I probably got a little something for everyone across the kind of underground music sphere, potentially.
Ryan: That’s a good way to put it, honestly. And it’s interesting that you bring up the term hyperpop because I feel like lately it’s kind of been a little contentious in a way, like some people really kind of lean into it and others are a little bit more opposed to it and don’t really kind of want to be put in that box, I guess. Where do you stand on that? Do you sort of agree with what people are saying? Do you think that it’s not really, you know, that big of a umbrella?
Galen: I feel like the reason that a lot of people are upset by the term itself is because the term as we know it was made by Spotify, like it’s literally the name of a Spotify playlist. I don’t know, Spotify has tried to like “make-up genre names” before like escape room and stuff like that. But hyperpop’s the one that just like, you know, we’re in the right place, the right time, and it’s like something that’s really stuck and people actually think of as a genre. Like I know people make fun of escape room a lot, but also I can’t think of anybody that would be like “yeah, I’m escape room” or like “this is an escape room sound” where it’s like with hyperpop is pretty clearly defined.
But the fact is, you know, corporate Spotify has some ties to it. I think that’s kind of where a lot of the shittiness comes in. For me, you know, I’m down to use it to my advantage if I want to, but I’m not going to confine myself to the term. If people want to call what I do hyperpop, if it helps them find my work, super cool, but when I’m making stuff I’m not necessarily being like “yeah I’m gonna make a hyperpop track today.” It’s just, this is what I’m currently interested in right now, and I really like doing it, and if it becomes hyperpop and that’s really popular, then yeah, people can find it. Again, I’m still gonna be doing this until after the playlist isn’t popular and doesn’t exist.
Ryan: You go! That’s a great way to put it, honestly. I think it just seems like a lot of people kind of default to putting others in that box and then they want to either venture outside of it or don’t feel like they necessarily fit into that. I mean, it’s not a bad thing, but I do agree with what you said in the sense that, you know, if it is what it is then so be it, and also not sort of wanting to be put in that almost like capitalistic sort of label.
Galen: I think there’s a lot of people that by default people find it really annoying or like not serious, which I think is, like, people not wanting to consider themselves hyperpop cause they’re trying to be taken seriously or something like that when it’s just like, you know, who really cares? A lot of these people are just having a lot of fun making incredibly catchy music and that’s why it’s popular.
Ryan: So one of the tracks that I would say a lot of people tend to know you by is “Tadpoles Lullaby”, which was released off of your compilation carepackage last year (and is also my Zoom background). That song ended up going pretty viral on TikTok and became a popular sound for people to use for their videos. How did that make you feel?
Galen: I’m honestly still kind of blown away by it. I didn’t have a TikTok at the time when this was like starting to sort of snowball. I got a message from a random person on I think Twitter being like “hey do you know that your song’s been used in, like, 50 TikTok videos?” And I was just like “that’s fuckin’ wild, I guess I should make a TikTok account and just follow it.” And then just within the period of a couple of months getting, like, thousands of videos made and just… I don’t know, I’ve made songs with the intention of being like, “this is going to be my meme song” or “this is the song that has the chance of going viral” and I never would have expected something like “Tadpoles Lullaby” to be that, like it’s lowkey four years old at this point.
Galen: It’s been on my computer since, like, 2018. There was a lot of stuff that I put out around then, and I did not have as big of an audience as I do now, so I kind of wanted to kind of package all of these similar-sounding songs together and then put them out. And then like, I don’t know, four or five months after that it’s just randomly going viral on TikTok. I’m still like incredibly perplexed, but it’s fun. It’s become my most listened-to song extremely quickly. It’s easily passed everything, even stuff that I’ve had out for years and on streaming services for years. It’s a really wild thing for me, still.
Ryan: A lot of people talk about the TikTok algorithm in a way; I’ve kind of called TikTok a very hyper-visible platform in the sense that with other sites like Twitter and Instagram, you can kind of keep things a little more contained, but with TikTok, it’s like all eyes are on you all the time. So it’s a little wild how that song just absolutely blew up so quickly as it did.
Galen: Yeah. I don’t claim to know how it works, but if something you do starts to snowball, you can do massive numbers so easily. It’s just fucking ridiculous. I don’t get paid for TikTok streams, but the fact that my song has been listened to millions of times on TikTok just blows my mind, like not even comparable to actual streaming services. I’ve barely like passed like half a million on “Tadpoles Lullaby”, which is still kind of a lot to me. TikTok is just fuckin’ wild with how many people are just using it, seriously.
Ryan: I think something I saw the other day regarding TikTok that if it wasn’t for, you know, the current state of the world we’re in, it may not have blown up and may not have grown to be the super mega platform that we have today. I remember even when a lot of people were sort of looking at TikTok because it was transitioning from when it used to be musical.ly after it was bought by its new owner, a lot of people still were kind of treating it as if it’s kind of cringey in a way, but now it’s like you can’t escape it.
Galen: Yeah. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but I remember in the past year, year and a half, there had been a handful of times where it’s like “oh, the government’s gonna shut TikTok down,” more than once. And I think that may have caused a lot of people to be like “oh shit I gotta download this.” It’s that, like, forbidden quality of it.
Ryan: So another moniker that you tend to go by online and within your music is recovery girl, and you mentioned it a little earlier. Who is recovery girl, and what makes them so different from the artists that we know of as Galen Tipton?
Galen: The short answer is recovery girl is me doing pop. It’s very focused and compartmentalized into me focusing on pop songwriting and being able to use my voice in some way. The sound and the style is a lot more limited; I look at stuff under my given name, Galen Tipton, and it’s like I’ll literally just do whatever I want. and it’ll all like kind of find a way to fit into like that persona. But recovery girl is much more restrained, and it’s like me purposely challenging myself to write better, catchier music.
Ryan: And I mean, it’s worked, like you said earlier. I think some of your songs as recovery girl have been picked up by the Spotify hyperpop playlist.
Galen: Yeah! I’ve lowkey been on it since almost the beginning, which is wild to me. One song that I put out recently for the recovery girl & friends project coming up, “summer makes me so depressed”, got on the playlist almost immediately. I’m not doing the same numbers as a lot of people on the playlist, but it’s nice to know that somebody at Spotify is paying attention.
Ryan: And still, being on the same playlist with artists like Charli XCX! I mean, you know, come on!
Galen: Oh yeah, exactly. Just like, notice me Charli! *laughs*
Ryan: So you mentioned recovery girl & friends, which is coming out pretty soon, right?
Galen: Yeah, July 17th. Half of it’s out already, you can pre-order it on Bandcamp for a dollar. There might be one or two more songs that come out before then to kind of get people hyped. But yeah, that’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been making that mostly during the pandemic and every single song is a collaboration with one or more people besides the very first one, which is only like a minute long. So like, 99% of the project is just me working with friends, loved ones, peers, people that I messaged and did not expect to get a response like GFOTY and Lil Mariko. Both of them like being so fun and easy to work with. I did not expect either of them to respond at all, so it’s been a wild ride getting everything together.
Ryan: The fact that you were able to get in contact with Lil Mariko and GFOTY is honestly kind of nuts, that’s wild.
Galen: Just Instagram messaging. It’s like, never be afraid to like message somebody you literally have nothing to lose and like, you’ll be surprised at their response to you.
Ryan: Yeah, shoot your shot you know, the worst you could hear is no. Are you a very collaborative person when it comes to your just general creative process?
Galen: Mostly, yeah. I really enjoy working with other people, and a bulk of the music that I have out is collaborative. There’s something really magical that happens when working with someone else. It puts you in a very different headspace than when you’re just working on your own stuff and you’re more focused on just making the song be as good as possible through any means necessary. And when you’re doing that with one or more people, I don’t know, really fun, unexpected things can happen. And I liked that kind of mystery factor to it.
Ryan: And you mentioned the song in particular “summer makes me so depressed” on the album. Why do you hate summer so much? I think when we tend to talk about things like seasonal depression and mood, a lot of people kind of associate that with the fall and winter, but for you it’s summer. Why is that?
Galen: You know, I definitely get some winter season of depression, and I say this in the song too, but I just get overheated really easily. Like I can’t stand the heat, and I think that was even like before getting on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, which it’s pretty common for those to also make your body be really susceptible to heat. But also after graduating college, like summer vacation doesn’t exist anymore *laughs*. Life is literally the same old, same old as it’s been. And now I’m just too fuckin’ hot and feeling like shit. But, you know, I’m still going to work every day, still doing all this shit. I live in an attic in a place with no AC, so it’s just, all of it’s bad for me, particularly. I’m not a fan. *laughs*
Ryan: At least you’re not in Seattle! I have a lot of friends who were up there who were just absolutely suffering this past week.
Galen: Damn. I’ve thought about moving to Seattle sometimes. Just cause in general, the temperature sounds like it’d be a lot better than where I’m at right now, just in fucking Ohio and it’s muggy and hot as shit and I hate it. *laughs*
Ryan: We don’t really hear a whole lot of like electronic artists kind of come out of the Ohio and Midwest area. Do you feel like your like local environment inspires you when it comes to your music? Or is it just sort of a place for you to live?
Galen: It does inspire me actually. For the people that don’t know, Orange Smoke Records is based out of Dayton and Columbus in Ohio. And Keith Rankin, AKA Giant Claw, and Seth Graham both live around here, both are IRL friends, both are making music that I still consider years ahead of so many people and just like not getting the recognition that they deserve. I mean, Keith’s been getting a lot of recognition for the visual art that he’s been doing, he just did art for the new Chromeo live album.
Ryan: Oh, I think I saw that!
Galen: Yeah, yeah, exactly. That’s Giant Claw. Keith Rankin is such a fuckin’ awesome, talented guy, but literally there are more people around me that I hope will blow up before I do, because they’ve been in this for longer and doing work that I think is just super crucial in inspiring me. I also live really close to diana starshine, and we’ve become really good friends and collaborators over the past couple of years. Those particular three people—Keith, Seth and diana—are some of the reasons that keeping me around here besides the fact that I can’t afford to live anywhere else at the moment. *laughs*
Ryan: That’s so sweet though, I love how you say that. And speaking of diana, you recently collaborated on a project with her, which is a giant Charli XCX cover compilation called Pop 3, which actually at the time of this interview came out yesterday on the 2nd. How did that come about?
Galen: That coming about was totally her thing. So it’s summer vacation for her, she’s back home with her family all the way out west in California. I think literally at the beginning of June, she was just like “I need to do a Charli XCX cover album, this will be fun to work on”, and just pulled all of these really awesome artists and friends and stuff together with everybody working on one track on their own. diana’s already an incredible vocalist and songwriter, so if she’s just covering Charli XCX, it was a really big influence on her. She already has the range and the chops to be able to do that, so it’s not a ton of work on her end just to get really cool instrumentals from people. And then she just fucking sings her ass off on top of that. I’ve recently been kind of in a not great mental place, so being able to like focus as kind of a lowkey support person for that project has been helpful for me mentally. So just, you know, focusing on working on something for someone that I care about. Mike made a couple of tracks for that and then mastered the project as well. It turned out really fucking good, the fact that she was able to get everything together in lowkey less than a month is incredibly impressive. And, you know, we’ve got a lot more that we’ve been working on together coming out hopefully before the end of the year.
Ryan: That’s seriously incredible how diana was able to conceptualize this whole project in under a month, and you didn’t just help master it but work on covers of “Gone” and “Boom Clap”. And still, the fact that this was all done in under a month?!
Galen: Yeah. For those tracks, they kind of came together really fast for me. I did “Boom Clap” already, but that was originally going to be the only thing that I did. And then when diana reached out to me and was like “I’m trying to find someone to do a cover of Gone,” I was just like fuck it, I need something to work on right now that’s gonna make me feel good, I’ll do it. And then I kind of forgot that it was one of my favorite Charli songs ever, and I was like, okay, let me do the vocals, for Christine and the Queens’ part too. Being able to do a couple of tracks for that was a really good outlet for me at the time. diana is absolutely incredible and I’m so impressed and proud of her for being able to get all of this shit together so quickly. *laughs*
Ryan: And it’s really interesting because I feel like, especially within the course of the past few years with Charli working with more collaborators like A.G. Cook and even SOPHIE, she’s kind of seen as almost like goddess in this sort of realm of what we consider to be hyperpop. But you also have a little bit of leeway with that, because you’ve worked with umru, who’s done production for Charli, and you’ve also played at Subculture, which was hosted by Dorian Electra. Being in close proximity with people who have such direct ties to her, do you feel like that inspired your work on Pop 3?
Galen: Not necessarily. Here’s my thing, I think all that music is incredible and forward-thinking pop, but I’m always just like, y’all could be going so much weirder and so much stranger. Maybe I’m only thinking about it in the aspect of just like “how do I push this farther with it still being pop?” I’ve definitely talked to and am semi-friends with umru and Dorian, but I’m not super close with either of them. And I don’t know, I’m always thinking of just, how can we keep pushing this to its limits? And not saying that I’m doing that, but I never want to settle. I fucking love what all of them are doing, but I’m just like just get weirder, get stranger! Like you guys can do it, I know you can.
Ryan: Just gotta keep girlbossing it out, you know? *laughs*.
Galen: Yeah. *laughs*
Ryan: Since you’ve been able to work with them, um, do you happen to have, like, XCX World on your laptop or anything? You know, maybe just in your hard drive or anything, you want to just, you know, where is it Galen? Where did you put it? *laughs*
Galen: *laughs* I actually don’t have it! I’m going to be super real, I don’t listen to Charli all that much. I fucking love and respect her. It’s not all the time, and isn’t totally my cup of tea if that makes sense. When I’m listening to it, the tracks that I like from Charli are like the ones that are the most strange and abrasive, and I’m glad that she’s been working with more different people from PC Music and stuff, but, I’m always waiting for those tracks because it’s just like to me, that’s where the real magic that Charli is doing is.
Ryan: I totally agree with you. You also recently performed one of your first live shows after what, the past year and a half? Do you love performing live, how did that make you feel?
Galen: I enjoy performing live a lot. The show itself was kind of meh, basically it was during one of the pride events that happens in Columbus and I was the very last person performing that night. And pretty much everyone that was there had already been there all day. So literally, the crowd went from like 50+ people from the previous act to me coming on to like… nine and some change, all of those being just close friends of mine, which was still super duper fun. I have missed performing live a lot, I really like facilitating fun, dancey, mosh-y type experiences for people. But it was definitely a little awkward, just being so long since I’ve done that.
Ryan: Yeah. And honestly, I feel like we’re still kind of getting out of that post-pandemic anxiety, and still trying to navigate that phase. Even with us here at the station, as we prepare to transition back into going back into the studio and recording live, it’s a little terrifying in a way, but it’s also so exciting at the same time. And I think that’s why I feel like people are a little bit anxious, but it’ll honestly get easier as time goes on.
Galen: Yeah. Like I know they asked me when I was performing if I wanted to perform as recovery girl, and I still haven’t done a recovery girl live show yet. And I was just like, well there’s already so much anxiety about performing for the first time in a year and a half, I’m not going to like add on top of that. Like shit, I haven’t done a live performance as recovery girl before either. so I’m hoping that’ll happen at some point this year. I started recovery girl with the intention of like this stuff being live performances, moving to get to that point.
Ryan: I don’t know, I mean, a Galen Tipton back-to-back recovery girl debut set sounds pretty sick to me.
Galen: That could be fun. And that might be happening in a couple months in Germany. *laughs*
Ryan: Ooh okay! There you go, that’s awesome!
Galen: Yeah, I’m hoping this is announced by the time this comes out, me and diana will be performing together at the end of August in this village in Germany at this queer music festival, which that coming together has been fucking wild, but that’s going to be really fun. I haven’t left the country or been overseas in over a decade.
Ryan: That’s so sick. That’s just wild, honestly.
Galen: Yeah. *laughs*
Ryan: There were a lot of people also talking about Primavera Sound for next year because a lot of PC Music artists are performing and then we also have Love Goes On in London at Pitchfork. So it’s kind of crazy just how rapidly things are just changing, you know?
Galen: Yeah. I’m hoping that we don’t regret how rapidly things are changing.
Ryan: Yeah, I totally agree with you. But hey, you have seriously grown so much over the past two years and really honing and perfecting your craft, and from what it sounds like you’re still not done yet. You just want to get even weirder and more experimental. So what’s next for you?
Galen: The most concrete next thing for me is diana and I have a full collaborative album that we’ve been working on for Orange Smoke Records that is super close to being done. I kind of just got to sit down and do it, cause a good chunk of the work is on my end. Me and Giant Claw have been working on a collaborative album for the past three or so years, and that’s starting to come together that might get done soon, not sure. And then I have lowkey another recovery girl mixtape that I made with a local friend of mine that honestly I think it’s like some of the best material that either of us had ever done, so I’m trying to figure out when that’s going to come out. I’ve been lowkey trying to like get in contact with Dylan Brady to be like “hey, like put this out on like Dog Show Records or some shit” cause I don’t know, this fits that. I’ve been working with this local artist and friend Atlas Moe, we’ve been friends for a long time and he’s really involved in the hip-hop community here. We’ve just been like “we got to make something together, we’ve been friends for so long, we should do this.” It’s a really fun intersection of all the weird hyperpop happening right now and a lot of out-there, real hip-hop stuff coming from his end. I’m really excited for that project. I think that most of all, recovery girl & friends is going to be cool because of how many amazing people and that’s not even out yet, so I haven’t even seen how far that’s gonna go. A lot of it’s just kind of finishing up a lot of stuff that’s like that needs to get done and then I can start thinking about what I want to do for myself.
Ryan: That’s so exciting! Honestly, with the concept of you doing something sort of hip-hop infused, I feel like that’s kind of a big inspiration for a lot of people within hyperpop, digicore, those sort of genres. So that’s really cool that you’re going to start kind of, you know, getting into that sound a little more.
Galen: Yeah. Like I would just say, oh, white people doing hip hop, in general, most of the time isn’t a great idea or doesn’t go over very well, but I’m still obviously really inspired by that scene and people that are doing it. Being able to work with somebody who’s directly involved in that scene and who’s a really good friend of mine I think is a, like, not shitty way to do it. *laughs* We’re both kind of building off of what each other is good at rather than just doing too much solo recovery girl hip-hop stuff like that. I don’t know, that’s not totally my scene.
Ryan: Yeah, that sounds great honestly. And lastly, as begin to wrap up here, where can people find you?
Galen: I’m on, like, every streaming service I’m pretty sure. I’m trying to get more stuff on Tidal because it pays people more. I’m on Bandcamp, just look up “Galen Tipton”, and you’ll find me and all the recovery girl shit. I’m on Instagram (@genderlessgenderfulgirl) and Twitter (@galenwctipton). I’m on SoundCloud still, and I know that’s kind of dying out, but it’s still a nice little place to just put stuff up.
Ryan: Wait, people consider SoundCloud to be dying?
Galen: Kind of? I don’t know, I haven’t seen people as hype about SoundCloud, and maybe that’s just been from my perspective, I’m not sure. I know SoundCloud has lowkey been having an identity crisis over the past couple of years because of streaming services becoming so popular, so it still seems kind of weirdly out-of-place at the moment, but I don’t know.
Ryan: I do agree with you because I feel like the main SoundCloud scene itself is starting to kind of splinter, but at the end of the day, it’s just a place to throw your music up there.
Galen: Yeah, exactly. Using SoundCloud and Bandcamp are so crucial in the sense that if you want to get stuff up on streaming services, either you’re going to have to pay for it, you’re going to have to wait a while, and you’re going to have to follow a lot of like weirdly strict rules about how you like put stuff up and how stuff is named and shit like that, whereas with Bandcamp and SoundCloud you can just put shit up and then it’s up, it’s online, it’s good to go, people can listen to it, buy it, whatever.
Ryan: Yeah, exactly. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. It was so great to talk to you. To everyone listening, be sure to check out Pop 3, which is diana starshine’s project that Galen features on, as well as recovery girl & friends that is coming out later this month. But thank you so much, Galen. Once again, it was really great talking to you.
Galen: Yeah, thanks for having me on! This was a lot of fun.
Ryan: Of course!
Interview conducted by Ryan Miller