Illustration by Andrea Lux
Story by Merrill Watzman
Meet Lili Trifilio. She’s the frontwoman of Beach Bunny, a Chicago based power-pop group, or at least that’s how she describes their sound for interview purposes. Their debut LP, “Honeymoon,” was released in February 2020 with a pastel illustration of a rollerskating girl with bandaged knees crying into a rabbit on the cover. The LP is a follow up to their 2018 EP “Prom Queen;” the titular track achieved viral status on Tik Tok.
After receiving a review from “Pitchfork,” Beach Bunny embarked on a U.S. and Euro tour, ending with a performance at Coachella, a first for the band. Trifilio was grateful for her success and excited for her summer until her plans, like, all of ours, came to a screeching halt in the face of a global pandemic.
Lili and I meet for a Zoom call. She picks up in her childhood home on the Northwest side of Chicago—just like a lot of us, she’s staying with her family during this time. Her hair is a shade of pinkish blue and it’s messy and cute (like her). Nearly everything she says is followed by a playful giggle. She’s a sweet and bubbly 23 year old, but her music is somewhere where she can be honest. Her lyrics read as earnest as a diary entry. And that’s why people love her.
MW: It’s a weird time where nearly all of our connections are being made online. What is your relationship with the internet—before COVID and now? I heard a song from your EP was viral on TikTok.
LT: I don’t know. I feel like recently I’ve developed this weird thing where I’ve downloaded TikTok, I’ve joined the club. I was really against it forever. So now I’m very much vibing with TikTok. But Instagram and Twitter I’ve been taking a social media break from because the first few weeks I was so in it, ‘cuz there was not that much to do. But now I’m trying to step back and not let that affect my mental health.
MW: Do you believe in genres? Do you feel comfortable categorizing yourself into one genre?
LT We always say that we’re indie or power pop. I feel like that’s mostly for interview purposes. But if people want to label it whatever they want I’m cool with that.
MW: Have you been categorized as ‘sad girl music?’
MW: You’re young. And you’re a girl. Have you faced any unfair criticism? Or do you find that people are dismissive of your music because of your POV?
LT: I think older folks maybe don’t get it as much, I think it’s more annoying—it’s like when bands that don’t sound that similar happen to have a female front woman, and they all get grouped into a ‘female vocalist genre’, when they don’t sound similar.
MW: You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to—is there anyone who you hate getting compared to?
LT: Nah, I don’t think I have anyone that I hate getting compared to. But I will say, there was a time that I had very bleach blonde hair, and Snail Mail had very bleach blonde hair and people would definitely just interchange our names, and I like her, so I didn’t have an issue with it, it was just kind of like? People would come to a Beach Bunny show and would be like “Are you also Lindsay?” And I’m like no no no… you came to the show… what do you mean, how do you not know this?
MW: Who are your musical influences, or artistic influences, and do you believe in stealing from your heroes?
LT: Recently I’ve been super into PC Music like Charli XCX and 100 gecs and stuff, which, I don’t know if that’s influenced Beach Bunny in any way… but that’s what I’ve been jamming with. I would say musically I really like the band is Hippocampus and I’ve definitely accidentally borrowed stuff from them.
MW: When emotion is such a big part of your music, how do you deal with mental health? Can art exist without suffering? Can you write when you’re not sad?
LT: [Laughs] I feel like that’s a challenge that I’m trying to navigate right now. ‘Cuz I’m feeling like I’m in a really healthy mindset, which is nice. But I feel like having that whole catalogue of that certain type of music is kind of weird to be like I’m gonna write a chill, neutral song [laughs]. ‘Cuz I’m not particularly happy, I’m just kinda like… I’m fine? I do think I definitely use songwriting as therapy though, which does have its pros and cons for sure.
MW: What’s your favorite song on your record currently? I’m sure it changes.
LT: I feel like my go to is “Promises,” which is the opening track just because lyricly, it meant the most to me at a certain point and kinda helped me navigate a situation. I also like “Colorblind” because it doesn’t get played that much and I think it’s fun and dance-y.
MW: Is it a secret? Where does the name Beach Bunny come from?
LT: I wish there was a more exciting story. Basically, I just wanted to start doing open mics. And my name is kind of hard to spell, or people spell it wrong. So I was like, what’s something Google-able? And at the time I wanted to make surf-pop so it just kinda fit the vibe. I just thought it was kind of cute.
MW: It’s not that deep.
LT: [Laughs], yeah it’s just chill. It’s cute.
MW: Do you feel like it fits now?
LT: I think so… my dad a few times has been like ‘Now you have guys in the band. Do they like it?’ And I was like I don’t care!
MW: Dream collab? Is it Charli XCX?
LT: Yeah, probably [laughs] that would be so sick. I don’t know in what context that would happen but that would be dope. I would love to feature, or if she produced a song I would cry.
MW: As an emo girl and self made artist, do you find it difficult to create during quarantine or is it ‘business as usual’?
LT: I think not being able to like jam with other people kind of sucks. ‘Cuz I have a lot of ideas and I can’t fully flesh them out with them.. without all the other instruments. And I’m trying to make this pop side project and learn how to produce on Logic and all of those programs. And that has been very hard, I’m very bad at it. So that side of songwriting has been a nightmare.
MW: You’re teaching yourself production now?
LT: I’m just trying to watch YouTube videos and sort of navigate. It’s weird feeling like I know how to songwrite, in one aspect, but also like, this is a whole different language that I don’t get yet.
MW: I think people really admire the authenticity and raw emotion that you access in your music, or at least I do. Do you have any advice on how to, say, lean into your emotions?
LT: That’s a good question. As far as the arts go, if you’re trying to get your emotions out that way, you can always remind yourself that no one has to see it, it can just be for you and help you get through it, and then later on if you feel like sharing it, you can share it with the world.
MW: Do people ever ask who your songs are about?
LT: Sometimes. I feel like people in my close circle already know. It’s a little awkward but it’s alright [laughs].
MW: You have over one million listeners on Spotify alone. And many fans. Who is your most surprising fan? It can be a celebrity or even an Uncle you don’t talk to that much [laughs].
LT: That’s funny…oh.. let me think…the craziest message we ever got, the message was in all caps “LOVE YOUR MUSIC!” no follow up, was Phinneas Eilish. That one was very crazy. I didn’t even know what to reply. I was just like “likewise!!” That one was really crazy. That one was the biggest one.
MW: What’s your sign?
LT: I’m a Libra. All about that balance!
MW: Do you like astrology? Are you ever mad at anyone?
LT: I’m trying to work on this. I’m definitely an avoid-conflict style. So whenever there’s tension I’m definitely just trying to chill and mellow it out but I’m trying to be more assertive.
MW: Have you been skating during quarantine?
LT: I’ve been trying to. I go around the tracks or the tennis courts or whatever in the ‘Burbs [of Chicago]’ I want to learn how to do some tricks so if there’s a music video in the future I can bust them out.
MW: Do you make art in any other medium?
LT: I try to. I like drawing and I like graphic design. I need to take it… not more seriously, but I definitely go through phases. I wish I was more consistent.
MW: Is there a musician people would be surprised to hear you listen to?
LT: Sure. Probably 100 gecs because they’re very… um…polarizing. They’re a group that I enjoy and I don’t really know why and I don’t know if they’ll ever have an influence on Beach Bunny, I just love them for whatever reason.
MW: What comes first for you—the music or the lyrics? Or both?
LT: I think each song is kinda different, I feel like I switch off. I never write all lyrics or all melodies, it’s kind of like ‘that would be a good chorus!’ and then I kind of puzzle piece it.
MW: Right? You start in the middle and work backward and forward.
LT: Totally. I feel like that happens with all art. It’s weird. The human mind is weird.
MW: Your aesthetic is so on point yet not overly self aware or curated—do you ever feel like Beach Bunny is a persona or like you’re a caricature of yourself?
Yeah a little bit. I try lyricly and to be fairly genuine but with photos and videos and stuff I think I go towards the character realm.