What is the next best thing to being in Brooklyn, NYC? Well, being on the phone to Heather Elle, aka Flossing runs pretty close, as she walks around her Bushwick neighbourhood whilst we chat. At one point she stops at a café and asks me “What time is it in the UK? Like, 6?” I tell her its nearly half five in the evening “Ok, which means I can start drinking” and asks for a Bloody Mary but they’re out. They never have any apparently.

Whilst we are going to be talking about her music and her sexuality and everything around the release of her new EP, we spend a fair while as she leaves her apartment just shooting the shit about critiquing in music, Coldplay, Idles, Brooklyn, and Rough Trade moving to Rockefeller. “I don’t, like, hate it being there, but then again I have a bias because when I first came to New York at age 18, I used to queue up for Saturday Night Live tickets at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. So I like that area because I have those memories, but no one wants to make a casual trip to midtown Manhattan for music”.

Heather extricated herself from the restrictions of being a silent partner in several bands, having been bassist in both Bodega and The Wants up until Covid and the lockdowns struck. She released her debut EP under the Flossing moniker last year. Queen of the Mall is a fantastic electro-industrial pop record with one of the best singles of 2021 in ‘Switch’. She has now released a second EP, World of Mirth recorded quickly in the wake of the euphoria of the release of her first. It was in this period that she started down the road of self-discovery and came out as queer as World of Mirth was announced. “These EPs would probably not have been written if there wasn’t a pandemic. Well, I don’t know if that is true, but I could still be in those bands, I felt like it was coming to a head, that I was leaving them as I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t creatively fulfilled. There was the promise of writing, but when it came down to it they had other plans. It didn’t seem too accepting of new ideas. So, I probably would have left anyway but it felt like a catalyst to get my confidence back as an artist and songwriter and create a vision, actually work on these songs that I have been sitting on and package them up and find myself again. This new EP coming out was written while I was compiling the first EP, so everything was written last year or the end of the year before, end of 2020 through to end of 2021 when I wrote World of Mirth. I had these songs pretty much done in terms of arrangements but then Elijah Sokolow came in, he had contributed to the first record, and he has a producer mindset and mixing skills, and he is such a strong person to work with so I needed to bring him in and fuck with the songs, let go a little bit. I was very much on my own for the first EP, and called the shots, and that was appropriate for those songs, because I had been sitting on them for so long and I cared for them, but with these four songs, they were so new, I had less emotional attachment, so I thought ‘fuck it’ I trust this person now as an artist, so I will be vulnerable and let them tear them apart and critique them and add their talents and it worked out”.

Despite the change in her personal life, and it naturally infiltrating her songwriting, the new EP is just a result of the outpouring of songs in the wake of Queen of the Malls release. “There isn’t a big cohesive concept to the EP, though once again a lot of grief is in there. With EPs there is more of a tendency to group together songs coming out of you when you are figuring out your footing or are in a phase. Now with these nine very different songs under my belt, I feel more confident to move forward and write a full record. I have a clearer vision of the sound I want to go towards which is more industrial and dark, plus I now have James Maclay to help me write and record proper drum parts and push me further out of my comfort zone. I don’t think there will be as many pop songs on the LP, but who knows because I am such a pop song person. If I go and do it with the said intention of getting out of my comfort zone, then I will hopefully succeed in creating something unique to myself and therefore unique to what is already out there.”

Heather came out as queer as part of the EP announcement earlier this year but it had been a lifelong journey to get here. “Coming out as queer was definitely something that I now see I had been dealing with my whole life but never had the words or the history to come to terms with it, which is why the revolutionary feminist group that Tai from Bodega organised and this podcast ‘Private Life’ that we’ve been doing, has been really pivotal in my understanding of gender in society and how it is used as a means of control and oppression. The role of gender in my life has always been a discomfort for me, and I’m now able to be very vocal about the pull of the compulsive hetero regime. Hetero culture is so grossly celebrated and the incentives are everywhere to give in and join the cult, that I was literally brainwashed to the point that I forgot where I came from”.

Looking back, I was an incredibly queer child throughout elementary school. I was confused about my body and how I wanted to dress, even awkwardly stuffing both my bra and pants…in elementary school! I remembered that I’d also asked my parents to call me by new names for a few months at a time, either gender neutral or masculine. I felt I was always in this weird in-between. Like most girls, my self-esteem from middle school until college became pretty fucking low. I was born in Virginia, in suburbia, in a cul-de-sac, and it felt like everyone was acting, like no one wanted to be unique in any way. I didn’t know how to label it, I just felt it intensely like kids do”.

It was unintentional to come out as queer with this EP, it just happened. I was writing a statement about my first single ‘Men on the Menu’ on a trip to visit family in Minneapolis, after having a discussion earlier in the day about male violence in the home with my younger cousin who’d somewhat recently come out. I wanted to refocus my statement from attacking men to instead be about myself, so I just asked ‘what is really going on here?’. The answer that immediately popped into my mind was that I have been queer my whole life but got led astray, and that’s why I’ve had so many issues with straight men — issues collaborating with male musicians, issues with sex, issues in relationships, and most importantly, issues identifying as a cis hetero woman. It’s funny looking back, me waking up in a manic state at 3am, panicking that I had to write this press release and thinking, ‘I’m not attacking people, I am discovering who I am again”.

Being a woman in the bands she was in previously weren’t always a happy place and weren’t who she was artistically. “The groups were all male, guitar heavy line ups and there were a lot of uncomfortable moments. There were women around, but I felt we weren’t uniquely expressing ourselves, men always had the final say. But, at the same time, you always wanted to give people the benefit of the doubt, I really loved these people and wanted to be involved, but it took a while to realise it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. It took a long and arduous journey to figure out my role, or how I was seen in these groups, and I didn’t like it, I thought ‘this is not me’, I don’t want to be remembered as the bass player in guitar bands, I just don’t want to be remembered like that”.

Leaving these bands, to go solo was a big step, and one of the things holding Heather back was confidence. “Confidence, or a lack there of, was a huge factor, it is for a lot of women, we are told to be quiet and demure and not be assertive or aggressive, and we have literally been bred this way. Any women who spoke out or revolted in the past were murdered or abused to the point of silence. The women I have worked with are really powerful women, Lydia from Gustaf, Tai Lee, Nikki Belfiglio are crazy powerful women, and I look at them and I could see that their voices, and my voice too, weren’t coming across as much in these projects, and I was like ‘we need to break free of this, we could make such good art outside of this’ and I am so happy Lydia is doing her own thing, I am doing my own thing, Tai has so many cool projects outside of Bodega. I can’t speak for Nikki but I think Bodega is great for her, but I would love to see her do her own solo thing too. I think all women should do their own solo thing to be free”.

As with all bands and artists these days, you have to play the social media game as part of your marketing. Something Heather isn’t hugely enamoured with. “I feel like I am old enough to recognise my relationship with technology, or if I am fighting against the necessity to post about me or my work. I just feel like it is so forced and disingenuous. I would rather say nothing or something unrelated to what I am ‘selling’, but then I struggle and I post whatever and I think I could have done better but there was a time crunch. I try and not to think about social media, I have a manager now who does social manager for Captured Tracks so she is trying to help me think more in that realm but even then I can’t get that jazzed up about it, but I also think that historically in my life I have never wanted to be centre of attention, I definitely have my moments, but I have always had a problem promoting myself, or talking about my work in social settings. Right now, Flossing is a big part of my life, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t. It is a bi-product of everything that is going on in my life and because there isn’t a cohesion, it doesn’t lend itself to social media well, you have to have a very singular vision and intensity about it to make it really work. And money and a team. I don’t have much money to throw at it”.

Being in America, from the outside in the UK, seems a frightening place for women and anyone different. “It’s really scary. I felt safe to come out in New York as it has such a beautiful LGBTQ scene, and I started intentionally to surround myself with that scene after I left my ex and the two bands. I have only maybe been in five social situations with mainly heterosexual people, I intentionally escaped that in my social life, and I felt so accepted and hearing the stories of my friends and their friends, I thought ‘They are my stories too’ and I am starting to understand myself better. But it is scary now, recently in the last few months, the anti-trans and anti-gay legislation, children aren’t allowed to even talk about that without their parents possibly being arrested, its really scary in some states, and now the anti-abortion laws passing, it is very anti-women, very fascist. The first step to fascism is controlling the bodies of others, whether it is slavery, genocide, eugenics, birth. It is scary in some ways to have come out, but I feel lucky to be in New York City. But I am scared for the future of this country, and women and girls, and gay and trans in this country. It is going to get worse, and I feel really helpless and hopeless”.

But there is always hope and the power of music and community can shine a light on the oppression and degrading of people’s rights. “I hope all the issues can radicalise people, I hope I can inspire people to be more true to themselves and be radicalised and political, and have these difficult discussions and I hope I keep involving politics in my music because for so long I didn’t, but it is important for artists to make people think and help their audience question things in their lives”.

With two EPs under her belt, the live band is evolving and starting to play gigs. “We’re hoping to come to the UK. We’ll be playing New York for a bit, but we just shot a live video in an old Mafia headquarters, which is now a non-profit artist run space, gallery, recording studio and performance space. We shot three songs, art directed, coming out slowly but surely, to announce we are now a live act. We are aiming for a UK tour, but flights and gas are more expensive than ever, so it might not be worth the loss of money right now, even though it is all I want to do, I just want to get out of America and play, but you have to have the money and a plan and everything in place. So hopefully soon”.

In a world with so much confusion and hatred it is heartwarming that someone like Heather is able to discover her true self and be able to live it, whilst making some of the most interesting and intense music out there at the moment.

World of Mirth is out now on Brace Yourself Records to stream and out soon on red vinyl. Order here.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.