We Live In Public: Molly Soda Skypes With PC Music’s GFOTY
It can be hard to tell if Molly Soda and Girlfriend Of The Year are very similar or very different. The former is a 27-year-old American artist and internet personality named Amalia Soto whose most famous works include a collection of self-leaked nudes titled “should i send this?” and a social media-documented romantic relationship with a large stuffed bear. The latter is a Londoner born Polly Salmon in 1990 who started releasing shrewd hyper-pop with the controversial pseudo-underground juggernaut PC Music after serving as an editor at the “fun future style and culture” magazine Super Super. Both trade heavily in personal brands in distinctly “millennial” ways, but their personas seem starkly at odds. Molly is self-conscious yet irreverently posts what seem like purposefully unflattering selfies and reflections on celibacy and/or sobriety, while Polly’s vibe can be cocksure to the point of recklessness; her output is manicured and her press escapades involve anecdotes about manipulating and/or cheating on her boyfriends (which, of course, seem to ironically contradict her moniker). When they hooked up via Skype—Molly from her home in Detroit, Michigan and Polly from an impromptu holiday in Portugal—it became clear that they both investigate the same issues to do with contemporary celebrity, girlhood and dating, although they approach them very differently.
Girlfriend Of The Year: Hey Molly, what’s going on with you?
Molly Soda: Not much. I just woke up a little while ago. I wanted to chat with you because I really like what you’re doing in terms of emulating a pop star. For me, “pop star” automatically means someone super famous who’s signed a big record deal and really made it big. But you’re taking all those elements and bending the idea of what it means to be a pop star. I think that’s really important—especially on the internet, which allows you to achieve pop stardom in a different way. You don’t have to be discovered. It’s not like you have to be in the Mickey Mouse club to get big.
GFOTY: Yeah. It kind of just came to me. It was like God chose me out and was like, “You’re going to be a star,” and I was like, “I know, right?” I was born a star.
MS: Have you always felt that way?
GFOTY: I knew it the second I came out of my mother’s vagina. Dad looked at me, crowned me a star—and then got divorced and got me a cat.
MS: Did that filter into your everday life and your interactions with others?
GFOTY: What, the divorce?
MS: No—like, knowing that you were going to be a star.
GFOTY: It made me feel bad for other people. I’d look at them and think, “You’re not a star, no.” I’d just tell people that: “Try something else.”
MS: I didn’t have that sense of being star when I was little at all. I mean, I think where I am now makes sense when I look back on what I used to do with my friends or in front of my family. I was always forcing them to watch me sing or I would stand on tables and sing. But it was always private. Now I’m interested in exploring what’s personal and what’s private, performativity online and the way that we share our intimate moments and spaces.
GFOTY: I’ve been aware of your work because I used to do Super Super . I was literally looking at my old laptop the other day and found all these pictures I have of you. I like all your old stuff. Tween Dreams was great. It was like Lizzy Maguire on another level.
MS: Tween Dreams is unique because I did characters in it, whereas now I see my work as not so much character-based. But I think all of those themes—young adulthood, going to the mall, hanging out in your bedroom, all that sort of stuff—is still really prevalent in my work because it’s comforting to me and I genuinely like it. I also think there’s something a bit funny about it.
GFOTY: My work isn’t really character-based or not-character-based. It’s definitely not “performance art.” It’s just like, who I am. I put myself onstage and however I feel comes out. I’m not an artist and I’m not trying to make a statement; I’m just advertising me.
MS: As much as I’m trying to put myself out there and do things off the cuff, there’s always a level of self-consciousness that comes out in my work, which is why I try not to be embarrassed by anything that I do and keep pushing my limits. I’m really interested in the way that we behave alone in our spaces and what we do when we make that behavior public, because it’s never going to be truly private. I’m always reaching towards and an understanding of privacy and putting it all out there, but there’s definitely a level of curation that happens. For every video that I post online that feels very sincere, I have 10 others that didn’t make the cut. You would say that you’re not curating anything that you put out?
GFOTY: I’m not curating anything; I’m just doing it. If I curated it, what would be the fun? It would be depressing to be like, “This isn’t actually my life.”
MS: But it is your life. Just because you’re curating an image doesn’t mean it’s not your life—because those things did really happen. We’re always performing to a certain degree: I’m performing right now; I perform differently in front of my parents; I perform differently at the post office.
GFOTY: That’s true. I do wear a suit at the post office, and I guess you could call that performance. I never really thought of it like that. You make a very valid point: you have to act a certain way in certain situations. I should learn from that.
MS: But you’re still being yourself. It’s just another facet of yourself. You turn different things on and off.
GFOTY: I’ve definitely done some stuff that I regret, but I’m not going to change. If you just be yourself, people believe it more and enjoy it. For me, I’m pretty much the stereotype of what a really gross guy would say of a woman. If everyone followed the GFOTY lifestyle, they’d become really great housewives and make a lot of money from rich men. But people shouldn’t try to imitate me. It would make them strong and powerful, but in the long-term, I think they’d get disowned. My dad’s pretty much disowned me now. I have to keep pretending that I’ve gotten hacked on Facebook.
MS: You’re friends with your dad on Facebook?
GFOTY: I think he’s got like, 15 accounts with fake names that I’m friends with. I’ve had ex-boyfriends who’ve made fake accounts to follow me as well. My last one turned on the location services on my phone so that he always knew where I was.
MS: Oh my God! Did he turn it on because he was afraid you were going to do something to him, or because he wanted to know where you were all the time?
GFOTY: He wanted to know where I was. Maybe he thought I was going to do something to him, like turn up at his house with a machete and chop up his face. But I wouldn’t do that.
MS: I’ve kind of had experiences like that, but right now I don’t date. Well, I don’t actively date. I don’t try to date because of control and power dynamics, because I like having control over a situation or like, the idea of taking another person’s actions and thoughts into account is slightly terrifying at times. You think you know someone, but then you hear about your boyfriend tracking you while you’re dating, and you’d never have imagined that he would do that. So it’s hard to have someone really close to you turn on you. I don’t want to experience that. I find value in vulnerability and I’m definitely not closed off to it, but I think that I tread lightly when it comes to that. I’ve become a lot more comfortable being vulnerable online than I am in person.
MS: …But only because there’s no rejection online. I mean, there is, obviously: people can say mean shit about you. But everyone that’s reading or looking at my stuff is choosing to consume what I’m putting out instead of me feeling like I’m burdening someone.
GFOTY: What’s the point in following someone if you don’t like their work and you’re just going to attack them? People follow you because they want to see what you’re doing.
MS: Exactly. So you’re immediately accepted.
GFOTY: I kind of prefer the idea of people opting in to following what I’m doing. I don’t feel vulnerable at all—or maybe I prefer feeling vulnerable. I like people not liking me. It’s more fun. I praise myself enough, so I just want to hear people say I look like John Travolta. No one’s come up to me in real life and said anything horrible to me, but online, people feel like they can just slay you.
MS: People feel safe behind screens. You forget that someone behind the screen is an actual human being with emotions, a history, a past and things that they want to do. I think in order to be a persona online you have to not let that bother you at all.
GFOTY: Exactly. I don’t usually get bothered about things. But recently I played a show in London with Animal Collective, and there was one half-second vacuum in whole set, and someone managed to get “You suck!” in there. It killed my vibe, but it shouldn’t have.
MS: Did you let it show that you were affected by it?
GFOTY: I did. Obviously I carried on and fucking smashed it…but like, my hair was down, so it kept getting in my face. Usually if it gets in my face I’ll move it, but for the rest of that show I left my hair in my face the whole time, as if I couldn’t look at the audience anymore. But it’s better to get extreme views than to get an average response. When a lot of people absolutely hate me, I think I’m alright.
MS: I’d rather have people be discussing me than not talking about me at all. I think I’ve been pretty chill about criticism because, you know, people who grew up online have already dealt with it in their formative years. When I was a teenager I dealt with that a lot on Livejournal. By the time I was older and started a Tumblr or Twitter, I had already gotten used to the way people were online.
GFOTY: I know what my flaws are. I know that I’ve got a giant nose, and that’s it, really. Nothing apart from my big nose will get to me. So there’s nothing anyone can say that would really affect me, unless someone killed my father or mother or anyone close to me—or my cat. I don’t think a death threat is going to be that scary, either. Is anyone going to go all the way out to find my stupid little flat and attack me? No. It’s all fake. People don’t mean it.
MS: I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been concerned about what people have said to me, but it’s always been like—it’s usually fine. Sometimes people will message me things that are obviously about my private life that they know, and that’s when it gets scary. It’s like, this is someone who knows me and literally resorted to going online to get at me.
GFOTY: That’s creepy. What have people thrown at you? People always comment on your body hair, right? Does that piss you off?
MS: No, not at all. It’s so dumb. I find it pretty amusing. My artist name is obviously not my real name, but I don’t think I need it to distance myself from things people say to me anyway. My real name is Amalia Soto, and that’s very easy information to find. If you wanted to find it or my Facebook, it’s incredibly easy to do so, and I don’t care. I think when I first started I wanted to be more of a character or have a separation between IRL and URL, but at this point it’s one and the same. And I think it’s that way for everyone, to certain extents.
GFOTY: I put a different name on myself because “Buy Polly Salmon’s album” doesn’t sound very exciting. My name is “Girlfriend Of The Year,” and I am a good girlfriend. I don’t think you have to stay loyal to someone to be a good girlfriend. I ironed his shirts every single day. Sometimes I’d make him bacon and he’d be like, “Fuck you, bitch, this isn’t crispy enough,” so I’d fix it up for him. That’s what being a good girlfriend is all about. I’m not a good Jew, though, am I? Bacon, especially on the Sabbath. But that’s a different story. You chose Molly Soda because you just love soda, right?
MS: I actually don’t drink soda, at all, ever! I picked something that sounded like my real name. One time a friend called me “Molly Sodajerk,” and that stuck with me because I really liked it. I wanted a nickname growing up but I never had one.
GFOTY: The story of my name is…well, I had a boyfriend at the time and I’d just cheated on him with two other people. I think I was feeling pretty bad about what I’d done. So, I was like, “I’m going to show him that I’m a really great girlfriend by starting a blog telling people how to be great girlfriends.” I was just making myself feel better about the situation.
MS: Basically I’m like the anti-girlfriend. But not really. In a normal sense: I’m not a girlfriend.
GFOTY: You don’t have to be in a romantic relationship to be a girlfriend. I’m just a friendly girl.
MS: Right, I call my friend my “girlfriend.” It’s not just a term for someone in a hetero relationship.
GFOTY: You’re really pro-celibacy?
MS: No, I’m not. I’ve had stints where I’ve talked about celibacy, but I’m not pro-anything like that that. I just don’t actively have intimate relationships with men for the most part. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t or that I won’t; it just means that I’m very cautious. And also, I don’t drink, so that factors in. I definitely had more sex when I was drinking.
GFOTY: I guess that’s true. You know when you have a one-night stand and you go home and bang, and then you wake up in the morning and you try again and it’s really awkward? I guess I can understand that sobriety can make it harder.
MS: Yeah. For me now, the idea of going home with someone I don’t know is terrifying to me because I always feel like they could be a really awful person. You don’t know them. I always feel like men might use it against me if I let them get too close to me. That’s slightly fear-based.
GFOTY: Have you got stuff that you wouldn’t want to get out? I don’t really believe in secrets, so I’ve got nothing to hide. There’s nothing that would embarrass me if it got out.
MS: I feel the same way. But I feel like when you have sex with someone, you feel like you can claim some sort of ownership over them. You’re like, “Oh yeah, I fucked Molly Soda. I can go tell everyone about that,” and that colors peoples’ view of me. I hate that so much, and I also feel like it complicates my relationships with other women.
GFOTY: I don’t really worry about people saying, “I fucked Girlfriend Of The Year.” Good on them—they did. I think it’s more of an embarrassment to fuck Girlfriend Of The Year. I think people are more like, “Can this be our secret?”
MS: No way! I had a specific instance where I hooked up with someone in college, and they were talking to other people about it while ignoring me. That happened before I feel like anyone cared about who I was, so maybe I’ve always been afraid of that. I had OKCupid for a second, and people literally messaged me being like, “Why are you using Molly Soda’s pictures?” So I had to delete it. But people should do whatever the fuck they want. If I really liked someone, I wouldn’t not-sleep with them.
GFOTY: I had Tinder once, and that was also fucking weird. Once I went on a date with a guy who threw up all over my shoes, went into my bed, and then the day after he told me that he had a girlfriend but wanted to keep seeing me. Another guy I was seeing was even like, “Yeah, I had to Google you after our first date because I thought you were really weird, and I had to make sure you weren’t.” People don’t usually admit that Tinder is essentially a gateway into finding more out about someone. It’s creepy, isn’t it? I Google absolutely everyone: I go through their whole lives; I go through who their dad is; I find their addresses. Then they get on my phone to search on me and can see I’ve been searching up their dad. You’ve got to learn to delete your history.
Published June 13, 2016.