Delilah Holliday remains punk: ‘Streaming platforms are a necessary evil’

The British singer’s most recent album protests different social issues while making people dance in the dark

Delilah Holliday
The artist Delilah Holliday.
Alonso Martínez

“I didn’t decide to go solo,” Delilah Holliday explains to EL PAÍS in a melancholy tone during a conversation on the rooftop of a recording studio in Mexico City. “It sort of happened and it was kind of hard. The wheels fell off naturally.” Before she began releasing songs on her own, the London native was part of a riot girrrl punk band called Skinny Girl Diet with her sister Ursula. Despite the pain, she shows no regrets and stresses that being on her own has given her greater freedom in the versatility and variety of genres she can explore.

This has even changed the way she presents herself on stage. While in the past it was her and a guitar, now she appears behind turntables and a computer. She has traded punk for techno. “I feel there were a lot of similarities between the two genres. I wanted to explore it, as well as ambient, and in the end I ended up mixing it with the social commentary of living in London, and being born and raised there.” The result is songs with hypnotic rhythms, which she dances wildly to in her performances, accompanied by social and political criticism, a tradition in British punk. Holliday grew up in Holloway, North London, witnessing increasing problems with housing affordability, crime, and the effects of gentrification, which led to the displacement of residents and the alteration of the community’s demographic makeup. “Sometimes you can feel powerless about these issues, and I think the best way is to transmute it and make it into art.”

The album she has created is Invaluable, which is comprised of two EPs she released over the past year and whose relevance has not faded. Themes such as crime, hopelessness for the future, drugs and the desire for change (political and personal) are embellished by complex rhythm sequences with a dark touch that provoke a desire to dance but also lead to a moment of introspection. “And I think the political is mixed with the personal because it affects you as a human being. All these decisions are made by people you won’t know and who don’t care about ordinary people,” she says and explains that this kind of music came naturally to her.

“It felt right at the time,” she says, which was important since she was going through a tough time as a songwriter. “I didn’t like who I was then. But then I thought it was ‘invaluable’, all the experiences that got me to this point, in the sense that we should be proud of our personal experiences, our path, and not on social media where we can get so lost in our own minds comparing ourselves to other people. You should be sure of your path and value it”, being that the origin of the album’s title.

And how does one lose sight of their goals? In the modern music industry, where Spotify determines success (while offering minimal reward to artists), it can be easy to do so. “It’s almost a necessary evil that you have to bow down to. But if there was a world that didn’t have to be like that, then I would choose it. But on the flip side, there’s great music accessible to people no matter where they are in the world. I think as long as you’re doing it authentically for yourself, you can feel safe. I think if you start wanting to get into TikTok trends and have your streaming numbers hit a certain level, it becomes soulless. So you have to stay true to yourself and do what you love.” That’s personal. As for the audience, she notes, “I hope I can give them some solace with the art that I do. And if they listen to it, that they can feel something good.”

Looking to the future, Holliday hopes to mix this new techno sound with guitars, blending the punk past with the present, where she is now more confident and free to do what she wants. “In another world I would still be part of the band, but I’m glad I’m not.”

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