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In between finishing a degree in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin, Ruby Smyth, aka Trophy Wife, has been working on writing and recording her first EP, Art, to be released later this year.

Following the first single, Birthday, the Irish musician more recently released Beauty Queen, the second single to be taken from the EP, and recently added to ‘RTE Radio 1 Recommends’ playlist.

The upcoming EP Art – including the already released Birthday and Beauty Queen – was written in 2018 while Ruby was living in Barcelona, and recorded on her return to Dublin in the summer of 2019. Speaking of the writing process of Beauty Queen, Ruby told us that it was “different to any song I had ever written before….”

“I was living in Barcelona at the time, and it was the first time in my life I had been somewhere without any instruments with me for an extended period of time. I didn’t even have a laptop with me to create something using midi. What came first was the idea for the chorus melody, and I began fleshing it out on Garage Band on my iPhone. The first thing I did was put together this kind of choppy Wurlitzer part, which didn’t end up making it into the final cut. Then I added a really crap sounding midi tremolo guitar part and bass and drums. I still quite like the drum loop on the original demo, the drums on the finished version is really just an extension of the original part. The vocals were recorded into my earphone mic at 4am while all my roommates were sleeping (not as glamorous as it sounds lol, I promise). When I returned home to Ireland several months later, all I had was the chorus fleshed out on Garage Band and some lyric ideas for the verses. When elevating it from demo to finished track, it all came together pretty quickly, as I had a really clear idea of what I wanted it to sound like. The finished version is obviously a lot more polished than the demo, but it still remains pretty close and I really like that about it. At one point there was this really insistent arpeggiator in the final chorus that I had a love/hate relationship with. In retrospect, I am very glad she got the chop!”

Speaking on the meaning of Beauty Queen, there appears to be a few different paths… “At the time, I was in my second to last year of college and thinking a lot about female identity as I was writing my thesis on it. I was reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, and engaging with a lot of criticism/etiquette books from the 1890’s-1950’s. When I am reading about something like that it tends to permeate my brain so I was definitely reflecting on beauty standards / general standards women face both today and throughout history. In ways, Beauty Queen may sound like a love song, which, I guess it kind of is, but maybe not in the way people would expect. It walks the line between appreciating female beauty, but questioning its role in society. The song fundamentally centres around the challenge of loving someone who has endured a life of being defined solely by their appearance, and the pain that comes with keeping up a facade that is ultimately, psychologically and emotionally, empty.”

Whilst Beauty Queen is an indie-pop musing on female beauty standards, the complexities of Trophy Wife’s sound go further. Floating between genres, styles and eras, Ruby has described Trophy Wife’s sound as being “influenced by a diverse number of sonic and aesthetic palettes.” With influences notably ranging from Jazz to Pop to Classic Rock, some of Ruby’s early inspirations (Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis and Debussy) have been met with her contemporaries (King Princess, Clairo, Lizzo and MUNA). The artist told us: “I would classify Trophy Wife’s sound as indie, the songs are also definitely pop. But I also have some shit recorded that’s really guitar heavy, because some times you need to just rip. I also love making beats and pull a lot of inspiration from various genres from jazz to electronic music. Really, I’m not sure, the music just slaps – so if that was a genre, I’d try and be that! But if I had to say – I’d go with Alt-Pop/Indie Pop. Oh, and very emo (for the most part).”

Fusing a depth of knowledge of Art, Literature and Music, Trophy Wife has created an upcoming EP that is simultaneously Pop and Alternative. Creating from a perspective of recognising and embracing the highs of Pop Culture, Trophy Wife remains aware of its darker side, aiming to create accessible, popular music whilst infusing this with challenging concepts and lyrics.

I asked Trophy Wife to give us a few songs to dig in to during isolation, here were the top three suggestions…

  • Fall in Love, Yuno – “Man it just gets me in sad girl hour and I love that. I love the warm sounding piano, I hear it and I feel understood”
  • June Gloom, Allie X – “I’ve only gotten into her lately but I really like her album Cape God, it just really goes off, this song is my favourite so far.”
  • Cherry Coloured Funk, Cocteau Twins – “A classic album that I have been revisiting this quarantine. I don’t know what I can say about it that hasn’t already been said but their music just gives me a really specific feeling that I find myself coming back to time and time again. Also will never get tired of the way they mix sounds, it really be true that every time you listen you hear something different, and that to me is timeless.”

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