Jess Smyth is decked in a long, blonde, blunt-fringed wig and feathered lingerie, prowling around a room filled with masked lovers and scantily-clad revellers. At one point she delicately plucks a strawberry from the mouth of a woman, naked save for a selection of fruit; later, she dead-eyes the camera whilst being spanked by someone in a gimp mask.
The latest incarnation of Biig Piig - as evidenced in the video for recent single ‘Lavender’ - is, it’s safe to say, a distinct jump away from the grainy street scenes and lo-fi sensibilities that accompanied her early output only a couple of years ago. Confident, slick and assured, the track and the world it dwells in is a revelation: a rarely-documented viewpoint of female sexuality, delivered unapologetically and with total power.
“We talked about fantasies and where we were gonna go with it. [Director Ran Yatim] brought in the Eyes Wide Shut reference which I thought was so sick. It was really really cool, [working] in a format that I don’t feel like I’ve ever expressed myself in before, at least publically, where I haven’t felt any kind of judgement,” she beams of the experience. “It just felt so good; I remember finishing the shoot and the adrenaline was so intense, it was amazing.”
Calling in from the LA bedroom where she’s been living since December, the Irish singer is effusive about the sense of freedom that making this month’s EP ‘The Sky is Bleeding’ has provided. Written in London pre-move alongside producer Gianluca Buccelatti, the release - six tracks of intimate, nocturnal slow jams, all whispered vocals and under-cover-of-darkness sensuality - might land in a different realm to last year’s disco-tinged breakthrough banger ‘Feels Right’, but it’s a record that’s clearly liberated more than just a new sonic palette.
“I’ve talked about relationships before, but this is a little more [about] kinks and things that I usually feel afraid of saying.”
“I’ve talked about my relationships before - even sexually with the first track I released, but this feels a little more [about] kinks and things that I usually feel pretty shy or afraid of saying,” she explains. “[Usually] I feel like I’m gonna be judged, whereas I think with this project it feels the opposite. I don’t feel any judgement - if anything, I want to look at it because that’s just a part of what’s going on [with me].
“I had no idea that this sound was the thing I’d been missing to write about what I wanted to write about,” she continues. “It really brought something out of me that I hadn’t felt comfortable to talk about before in the same way. I felt really present in those songs, and I don’t know how people are gonna connect with it or how it’s gonna go - and I’m gonna sound like such an egotistical arsehole but I’ve been listening to them non-stop since we made them and I’m just like, even if the whole world doesn’t understand it, it’s so fine, and I’m grateful to have made them.”
From the visions of escape that populate ‘Drugs’ (“I remember imagining coming over here and being in the back of a car, driving for hours and hours with these rows of car lights,” she recalls) to explorations of bisexualty in ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Tarzan’’s specific female gaze, ‘The Sky Is Bleeding’ may not have been written in the city she currently calls home, but they seem to nod to the move. Slowly building up a group of creatives who’ve helped the singer realise the aesthetic world around the release, there’s something in the striking, sunset-soaked image that adorns its cover - Jess in bunny ears, silhouetted against a hot pink desert sky - and ‘Lavender’’s first video tease that echoes the visceral, transformative thrill of finding your next phase in life.
“I feel like this is just the start of that world, and even thinking about playing live, I think I’m gonna switch it up so it’s more in that world as well because it felt so good and I want that feeling all the time,” she grins. “I’m thinking lingerie, doing a dance routine during those tracks…”
She’s also preparing to head into the writing for her long-awaited debut - scheduled tentatively to begin in September. Intending to stay in LA for the next year or two, now all that remains is for Biig Piig to harness all these moments of self and stylistic discovery into a manageable whole. “I’ve changed styles and crossed over genres so much, I don’t know where to land for the album but I think that’s fine,” she decides. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that you can make something in a bedroom or in a studio in London and see it reach all the way to here. It’s really surreal, but it’s really exciting.”
As featured in the May 2021 issue of DIY, out now.