Internet Girl is the product of a generation raised online. This unique group wears these digital roots on their sleeves — when they’re wearing any at all. Internet Girl’s appearance and sound may not be easily describable, but their overall vibe is unmistakable — slick, coherent, and undeniably fresh.

The team behind Internet Girl’s high-paced, guitar-textured hyperpop are Ntsika ‘TK’ Bungane (vocals), Matt Burgess (drums and production) and James Smith (guitar, bass and production).

We had the chance to catch up with the band before their Rare Cassette show last week, where they opened for Honeymoan and PHFAT in a packed warehouse venue.

From Teen Rebellion to Internet Girl

TK and Matt have known each other since they were 11 years old and have been making music together since high school. “Matthew hit me up. We just wanted to make something bigger than ourselves. [We] came from a conservative town so…” TK tells us. 

Matt picks up the thread, “Yeah, for me it was a form of rebellion as a child, really trying hard to do something my parents really didn’t want me to do. It was my favourite thing to do and I was good at it.” 

After Matt and TK decided to begin making music, they were making trap and hip-hop tracks. “When we were younger, that was our attitude. We were doing a lot of drugs in high school, and we wanted to just tell people about that, you know. Thought we were really cool. Then you grow up and you want to do something a bit more fulfilling,” Matt says.

Internet Girl

[James tunes up in the quiet before the storm. PHOTO: James Browning]

The pair were looking for a whole new sound – something indie, more commercial. James was a fan of their work and reached out to them over Instagram. After inviting James to meet up with them in Johannesburg in September 2019, Internet Girl was born with the release of Follow Me Around in February 2020.

Chaos and synergy

Snappy, tight beats provided by Matt drive the momentum behind TK’s distorted vocals, dressed up by James’ guitar that ranges from frenetic fuzz (‘Brokeboy’) to indie dreamy (‘Die in LA’). “Our attitude is a combination of electronic music, hip hop, and then, like, indie. That’s what we’ve been listening to all our lives, so it’s a mashup of those things,” Matt says.

A few of their songs deal with the yearning for success and escape from a regular life, but another common theme in their tracks is relationships. “It’s so weird because I don’t even have a lot of relationships. I guess it’s like making up for not having a lot of relationships,” TK laughs. “A lot of the time when I write songs I’m talking to myself.”

“Some songs are more true than others. Songs like ‘Brokeboy are very true to something [TK] went through, so we went through it. Where others like ‘Sex symbol’ are just a song,” James adds.

A big part of Internet Girl’s sound is the collaboration with other artists, like fellow genre pioneer Hugo Pooe. ”[He is the] coolest guy in SA, in my opinion,” says TK. When he isn’t sprinting back and forth with mic in hand, Hugo switches to TK’s hype man and ensures there’s never a low-energy moment on stage.

Internet Girl

[Hugo Pooe’s laid-back attitude disappears when he’s performing. He clearly leaves it all on stage. PHOTO: James Browning]

“Me and him have such a crazy synergy. Me and the band in general, you know. It’s like I’m TK’s evil twin. He brings the destruction in a nice packaged way and I bring the chaos,” Hugo explains,  “We’re Goku and Vegeta… at the end of the day we’re on the same side.”

Young. Fresh. Virtual.

Young, fresh and virtual were the answers the band members gave when asked for a word which describes their aesthetic. “As three people, and the collective identity of three people, you can’t define it with one word,” James protests. He, nonetheless, settled on an answer — “Virtual implies the electronic influence, captures our aesthetic, and tells the story of how we became a band.” 

The key ingredients to Internet Girl’s recognisable style include pastel colours, crop tops, mesh shirts, roomy fits and zero pretence. “It comes naturally. It’s intentional though,” James says, “We did really think about this new visual aspect, so it is quite intentional,” TK continues.

Internet Girl

[James, TK, and Matt on set for their forever’ music video. PHOTO: Supplied/Internet Girl]

“We are all chronically online. Me especially I think — very addicted to the internet, grew up on internet culture and Discord and shit like that, so it comes through in our look and sound,” Matt explains.

Surrounded by screens

Internet Girl’s music videos really bring it all together — the stand-out style, the restless passion, and their decidedly modern attitude. The fun concepts are matched with professional production to create a set of infectious, polished experiences.

From kart racing in ‘Be My Guest’, and the lovingly-crafted charm of ‘Die in LA’ to ‘Next Summer’s car crash and ‘Forever’s irresistible energy on the Atlantis sand dunes — we couldn’t recommend this band enough.

TK tells us that the videos are about 70 percent the band’s vision and 30 percent great execution from the directors. “The directors we work with have always been our homies, so we kind of already know what the deal is when going into it. Royd [Ringdahl], who shot our early music videos, grew up with [us] since grade five. He really understands our aesthetic,” he tells us. 

Straining against the walls

Streaming has been a huge part of Internet Girl’s success. They generated around two million streams by the end of 2020. A quick glance at their top Spotify tracks shows that they have now comfortably surpassed seven million. Interestingly though, most of the attention has come from audiences outside of South Africa.

Internet Girl

[The band sees themselves eventually seeking success overseas. Until then they pay the rent with day jobs, production work, and modelling gigs. PHOTO: James Browning]

“We’re different, people haven’t heard the kind of music we make, there’s really no other way of putting it. In SA, [our music] is very weird, it’s very different for a lot of people locally, and I think that’s why the success has tended to be overseas,” says James. “Especially because our influences are from overseas, so [our sound] will always lend itself to that side,” TK adds.

“I also think South Africans aren’t fully tapped into — and it’s a weird way to put it — but Discord culture. And that’s a big part of who we are and our sound,” Matt says.

“[With] Discord culture, there’s a certain music and sound that goes with that,” explains James, adding that it hasn’t really caught on in South Africa, “But I like the thought of it being something we can help be more popular here. That’s a really cool thought — people coming up, making music with friends over Discord, because that’s how we’re finishing this EP — having to do these sessions online and with load shedding, it makes it so much harder,” he adds laughingly.

Internet Girl’s Highlight Reel

We asked the band about their favourite tracks and James was first out the gate, “My two favourites are songs that haven’t come out yet — ‘Don’t reply for days’ and ‘Sex symbol’.” 

However, even though it’s not his favourite song musically, the song ‘Fuzz Boy! holds a lot of sentimental value to James. “It reminds me of meeting Matt and TK for the first time. I came into the band as a fan, originally, and that song is just — it takes me back to a very emotional time in my life where everything I wanted to happen was happening,” he explains. 

Internet Girl

[“Making something from scratch is just the best feeling I can have.. I’m so blessed to be doing it with my friends,” James gushes. PHOTO: James Browning]

Matt was next to add to the highlight reel, “I’d say ‘Popstar is my favourite song that we’ve made because it’s so left field and sounds super unique. And then also ‘Die in LA’ has sentimental value to me because it was the first time I think people heard our music and thought, these guys are actually doing something legit,” he says.

For TK it’s between ‘Popstar’ and ‘Asshole’. “‘Popstar’, like with Matt, I think it’s a really good song. Also, I never thought we could make a song that dope,” he says.

Support the homies

Internet Girl released their single ‘difficult’ with poptropicaslutz on 14 October, and are planning to drop another track in about a month. Their new EP will be released by the end of the year. After that, it’s time for them to shop around for a new record deal.

If you’ve got some steam to blow off, you can catch them live on 29 October for a Halloween romp at the Hearty Collective in Woodstock. 

From their collaborations to their music videos, this group puts the “homies” first. “It’s a blessing to be able to work with people who are our friends. Everyone we work with and collaborate with are our homies,” James says. Internet Girl takes that same camaraderie to their shows — bring enough people and energy to set them alight and you’ll find yourself in a frenzied crowd in no time.

Author

​​I write about the tech sector in hopes we can find human-centred alternatives to the mess we’ve made for ourselves. I get involved in the music scene because leaving passion unpursued is a sin. When my feet aren’t busy on the sokkie floor, you can find me chasing silver linings.

1 Comment

  1. Fantastically written, interesting and informative read. Had never heard of Internet Girl before, and halfway through I started playing their tracks on Spotify in the background for the rest of the read.

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