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East London duo Girlhood’s origin story is unconventional, but then again, there’s nothing ordinary about Tessa Cavanna and Christian Pinchbeck’s infectious soulful-electronica tunes or their ongoing use of a narrowboat to record their music.

“I was walking along the canal, singing out loud because that's the sort of hammy person that I am,” recalls singer-songwriter Cavanna as she chats with Clash. “I was just singing along the river and [producer] Christian heard my voice and he's like, 'It's really great'. And I was like 'Aw thanks, blah blah blah. I do sing a bit here [and there]' and then he's like 'Oh, I'm just producing and working on something. Do you want to have a look?' And the rest is kind of history. We just sort of [became] friends and now we're Girlhood.”

Since the duo’s fateful meeting along Regent’s Canal in East London (although Cavanna notes, “I don't condone getting into stranger's houses, cars, boats, whatever. Like guys, be careful out there!”), the two have been making music on-and-off since 2017 and are about to welcome their debut self-titled album, out October 23rd.

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The pair solidified their signature soulful sound on their EP, ‘Girlhood Vol. 1’. Mixing eclectic 80’s hip hop beats with warm-toned vocals to create relaxed R&B-electronica tunes, the duo quickly became the ones to watch. Cavanna and Pinchbeck work in tandem to create Girlhood’s eclectic sounds, with Pinchbeck producing and Cavanna lending her stunning vocals and songwriting skills.

“It was good to meet someone like [Christian], who was so open to like, kind of just vibing and stuff,” she shares. Although the duo has different working styles and music tastes, it’s what makes Girlhood’s sound so organic and unique. Three years after creating a nuanced and fresh sound, the duo is now ready to drop the LP, which is Cavanna expresses is “a body of work that I’m really proud of.”

It’s been a “long body of work in the making” over the past two years, but Cavanna is ready for everyone to hear their more nuanced sound. “I feel proud. I feel like a parent like, 'My baby's out! It's beautiful,’” she gushes with her infectious giggle. The album includes some fan favourites from the EP, such as ‘Bad Decisions’ and ‘Say It’, but instead of being a collection of individual tracks, the record aims to tell a more complete narrative.

“The album felt kind of like a theme started developing,” Cavanna says. “The individual songs are just kind of like a bunch of kids playing and then the album is like, they all meet up again as adults, and they're like, 'I got some solid ideas. Some of them are a bit crazy, some of them are cool.' But like more grown, more complete.”

Part of the reason the album feels like a step-up from the EP is that Cavanna and Pinchbeck utilised a proper recording studio in addition to their beloved narrowboat. “For me, the narrowboat was like the seedling. Like, kind of [a] growing [thing], and then we got to the studio and like these fully formed, grown woman songs came out and I was like, 'Oh, OK!’”

Across the 11-track album, Girlhood introduces the overarching theme of “life and its peaks and its dips a little bit”, but hones in on the topic of womanhood (“With a name like Girlhood, I guess I've got a bit of license here!”), specifically on tracks like ‘Queendom’, ‘Sister’ and ‘It Might Take A Woman’.

“[With femaleness] if you lean into it, it gives you so much and it's not a weakness to want to embrace it, like whoever you are, it's OK to have a feminine side whether you're a man or a woman,” Cavanna shares. “In the same way that it's good for us as women to have masculine sides. We need the balance, it's all about the balance. At the time when I was making or writing the lyrics for Girlhood, I guess I was trying to restore that balance a bit, so it's like, 'We're just gonna overdo it. We're just gonna put lots of women stuff, we're restoring some balance!’”

Girlhood has had some career milestones, including opening for Poliça and performing at Latitude Festiva (which was “trips”) and The Great Escape Festival, but one of the coolest moments for Cavanna was at their most recent show in London last year. “People were like singing the lyric back. I was just like, 'My god, they know the words!' That's nuts, that is surreal.”

With the album’s release date quickly approaching, Cavanna hopes listeners take away whatever they need from the rhythms and the lyrics. “I want the people to make it theirs. I want them to find their meaning and their narrative and [add] their story to it [...] I would like people to take away from the album everything they need and I hope it gives them some solace or some comfort or makes them laugh or makes them feel heard.”

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Girlhood will release their debut album on October 23rd.

Words: Caroline Edwards

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