From left: Savannah King wears jacket by Reformation. Shorts by Zadig & Voltaire. Shoes, her own.
Brianna Lance wears t-shirt by IRO. Jeans by AG Jeans. Shoes, vintage.
Christian Owens wears shirt by Anthony Vaccarello. Shorts by Rag & Bone. Boots, her own.
Lyla Vander wears waistcoat by Topshop. Camisole by IRO. Shorts by Rag & Bone. Boots, her own.
Downtown New York garage surf rock band Bad Girlfriend isn’t shy about their ragtag, fly-by-night origins. “We booked a show even before we really had a band,” grins the all-girl group’s strawberry-locked guitarist, Christian Owens. “And once we found [our drummer] Lyla [Vander], we named the band after someone’s bad girlfriend.” The bad girlfriend in question was “a great lady,” insists fellow singer and guitarist Brianna Lance: “Smart and funny—just not the best girlfriend.” The only other ‘Bad Girlfriend’ in the city—a cover band made up of “kind of middle-aged ladies”—was “run out of town!” teases Owens. “They were kind of talking to us and everything, then they just got scared and changed their name,” completes Lance.
The four younger Bad Girlfriends—Owens, Lance, Vander, and bass player Savannah King—aren’t nearly as Machiavellian as they might jokingly (endearingly) suggest. They came together through mutual friends and shared practice space (between the beginnings of this band and an all-girl topless reggae band, apparently). And when bassist King joined the band, she had no real musical experience—just a recommendation from a friend of the band’s and an enthusiasm to give it a go. “I was like, ‘I just—I’ll do it! I just know how to play bass,'” recalls King. “So I played bass lines on the keyboard and showed up to the first practice and fell in love with these girls. It pretty much never stopped from there.”
The sound the band created was a melange of garage rock, Sixties surf, and dream-tinged pop. They’ve been described as a sort of East Coast Best Coast, and listening to beachy, reverb-heavy tracks like “Colors” and “True Blue,” both off their recent Touched EP, it’s easy to see why. “None of it is ever forced,” muses Lance. “It’s never, ‘We really need a song that sounds like this meets this plus this.’ It’s just whatever we feel like. And luckily I think we all naturally play so specifically the way that we play that it never comes across as being like a random song out of left field. We’re not really the type of people who are like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna play like I’m in Prince’s band right now.’” Though, “that would be cool,” Vander admits.
Rather, Bad Girlfriend is comfortable in their homegrown, scruffy signature. They draw inspiration from everything from “that chord in that Echo and the Bunnyman song” to Kate Bush to some “weird, almost global beat,” the girls explain. Lyrics are both highly sensitive and personal in nature. “When I write stuff, I write about the worst part of myself so I don’t actually bring it into my real life,” explains Lance. “You take the most insecure, bitter, worst part of yourself or something that you’re just not happy with, and put it somewhere beautiful.” Later, onstage, it’s “literally like standing naked in front of people,” she continues. But, it can also be “just really great” Vander adds.
The group, who hole up at their Lower East Side practice spot and can be found lounging nearby at Ludlow style haven Reformation (where Lance serves as head designer), is slowly, organically preparing for larger exposure. They played at the Troubadour in Los Angeles early last month, but there doesn’t seem to be a huge rush on attracting outside attention, because there doesn’t need to be: “It’s really special,” Owens says of their group relationship and creative process. “We all get to have ‘affairs’ with other bands and do other projects, but when we work with other people, especially for me, it reminds me of how lucky we are to work with each other,” Lance adds. “It’s rare.”
Take a look at Dan Martensen’s exclusive photographs of our inaugural Last Supper, featuring a performance by Bad Girlfriend, here. For more information, please visit BadGirlfriendBand.com. Stay tuned tomorrow for Dan Martensen’s . Styling by Clare Richardson. Makeup by Maki Ryoke at Tim Howard Management. Hair by Rudi Lewis at Management+Artists. Prop styling by Peter Klein. Production by MAP.