San Francisco-based alt-pop artist Floyd spent her childhood dressing up like Cyndi Lauper, bouncing around her bedroom with a hairbrush in hand daydreaming of her own flight into rock stardom. Her latest single “Sorry Sorry Boy” has the playful, upbeat attitude of her ’80s idol, with some ’90s flair mixed in. It’s easy to envision Julia Stiles, à la 10 Things I Hate About You, stomping off to the strum of Floyd’s guitar, leaving Heath Ledger confused on the bleacher steps.
“It’s actually hard to write a pop song,” Floyd says. “It’s not as easy as people may think it is. It’s a real craft I would say, it’s a real skill.” It’s a skill she’s been honing throughout her career, shifting like a chameleon with each new band or project. A change of clothing, a new haircut, and some matching chords have allowed her to weave around genres, bending them beneath her fingertips in a variety of projects that even includes a pop country album.
Violin was Floyd’s first musical iteration; she played at her school’s orchestra program in Olympia, Washington, about sixty miles south of Seattle. In junior high school “the hormones hit,” as Floyd says. “I got really heavy into pop music, dumped the violin, picked up guitar, picked up piano, started writing songs. From that, I went into grunge. I just kind of followed the trends because great music is great music, it doesn’t matter what genre it is.” The nearby Seattle music scene provided inspiration from bands like Bikini Kill, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden, as well as style notes. “You couldn’t go to Nordstrom and pick up combat boots. I literally drove to a military base and got my combat boots,” she remembers.
After high school, she packed up and went south to San Francisco, which has been home base ever since. Her first band was a folk duo (think Indigo Girls) called Windowpanes that played in some of the city’s most famous defunct clubs like Hotel Utah and the Red Devil Lounge. A newspaper clipping from back then touted the band’s biggest get: “Newcomers Windowpanes opens the show.” The headliner was Train. Even though the band was decidedly folk, Floyd mixed it up with a short, box dye black hair. Playing with style and genre came naturally to her and quickly became an important (and fun) aspect of her craft.
“It’s just this really weird mix,” Floyd says, thinking back on the different kinds of music she’s made over time. “And that’s kind of followed me around for all these years because people are like ‘We wanna know who you are. What genre are you?’ Music’s a business; if people can’t figure out how to categorize you, then they don’t know what to do with you. That hurts on some levels, but now with the age of the Internet it doesn’t seem to matter so much because people’s palettes are a lot more eclectic and there’s a lot more opportunity for people to be exposed to all different styles.”
Floyd’s life hasn’t been all music. She got her undergrad in psychology, her graduate degree in applied psychology. Knowledge outside her art is something important to her.. “I learned how to integrate my art into my broader life,” she explains. “I didn’t want to be one of those musicians that I was for a while, where life’s always disappointing you somehow because you didn’t make it as a big rock star. That was a lesson that took some time to learn, for sure. When I meet other artists that are younger than me, when I kinda feel that vibe, I’m like ‘You know what, life is awesome and there are so many wonderful things beyond music. Figure out how to integrate the artist in you into your life so you’re not missing out on all these other awesome things life has to offer.'”
“Sorry Sorry Boy” took fifteen years to finish, beginning as a quick riff she wrote in the back of a cab in 2004. All her recent songs, including her most recent single release “Shine,” were songs she had sitting around on her iPhone. “I’m a terrible finisher of songs,”she admits. Floyd, as a project, got off the ground after she met producer Ed Clare at a songwriting conference three years ago. Along with producer Georgann Ireland, they sifted through her back catalog and pulled out the gems that would make up project “Lucky Number 7” as Floyd calls it. During the writing process, she quickly realized that with this set of songs she was going to go all pop, with no shame and full swagger.
“I think I went through the thing a lot of musicians go through where you’re like ‘Well, if it’s pop you don’t have anything intelligent to say.’ You know what I mean? ‘That’s dumb.’ ‘That’s cheesy.’ ‘If you’re doing pop music then clearly you’re not a talented artist. You’re not legit.’ I definitely went through a bit of that. I’ve changed my ways and grown up quite a bit since then,” she says with a grin. “Sorry Sorry Boy” doesn’t hold back: it’s full of delightful ’90s retro nods, from Floyd’s playful “woos” to lyrics that drip with Lisa Loeb level sarcasm.
“Hey baby tell me can you hear me?/I think it’s time for me to speak/Baby I’m out of patience/You say high maintenance/but I can barely breathe,” she sings against a steady, but decidedly real, drumbeat. Recorded pre-COVID, it benefits from live in-studio instrumentation, something Floyd purposely sought out. “That was an intentional choice on my part because I wanted to be really true to musicianship and rock and real instruments,” she explains. “We actually booked [musicians] out for the two days for the recording. I wanted a real drummer – I didn’t want to use synth drums. I wanted a real guitar player, all of that. That’s a very different thing. You need an actual studio, not a bedroom. You’re not gonna be able to do that in your little room, right?
Intentionality is something she’s focused on right now, making sure everything she puts out has guts, attitude, and positivity. “Life is such a gift. I want to challenge myself to write about things that will inspire others. To write about things that are positive,” she says. She’s determined to be more selective, to take her time with writing because “it matters to me how my art makes people feel. I don’t want to use cliche rhymes. I want to come up with new things. There’s only a few key universal themes; how do you stick within those themes but say it differently and still get the point across?”
It’s a trick writing good pop music – the hook that sticks with you, transports you into a mood, a vibe, a hair flip. “One thing I’ve learned is that if you keep hearing something over and over and over again, regardless of what the world thinks: You gotta do it,” Floyd says. “It’s authentic if you are.”