Good Medicine

Michael Minasi

Girl and Girl’s Kai James Works Through His Demons Onstage

Girl and Girl Full Session in KUTX Studio 1A / NPR Live Sessions

Imagine you’re one of a hundred musicians in Brisbane, jamming for fun with your friend in your mother’s rural garage, with little in mind other than blowing off some steam. The next thing you know your band is signed to Virgin and Sub Pop, you’re touring America for the first time while on the verge of releasing your debut album, Call A Doctor. On stage each night, you’re doing your best to exorcise your demons. And Kai James has a lot of those.

James, Girl and Girl’s lead singer and songwriter, is lanky, tall, with a curly seventies rooster cut. He’s affable, easy to like, and at first he seems at ease. But you start to see he’s really not. 

I spend a lot of time in my own head,” he confesses. “I’m trying to get further outside of my head, but it’s taken a year to come to terms with all the added stress and that sort of stuff.”

Girl and Girl’s Melissa, Kai and Fraser in Studio 1A

He describes his song “Hello”, the first single off the record, this way:

“‘Hello’ is the story of a young man who requires daily consults with health professionals in order to rationalise his self-destructive thoughts and routines. It’s about romanticising your own misery. Letting those deep, dark, dirty thoughts take over. Understanding that even if you could pull yourself out, you wouldn’t because the constant stress and worry are all too familiar and comfortable.”

Not exactly “Love Me Do”.

Call A Doctor is packed with therapeutic moments like these.

Yet it’s easy to see what led Girl & Girl to big record deals in such a short time. James’ onstage persona is riveting; he might be the most jittery performer since a young David Byrne. But he keeps the dark material at bay with his quirky humor.

Underneath, sharp guitar slashes undercut real melodies, in the Aussie garage rock tradition of legends like Scientists, the Saints, the Celibate Rifles, the Lime Spiders and countless others. Many of these bands went on to fame, at least for a time – Hoodoo Gurus, Midnight Oil, the Birthday Party.

It’s a bit early to predict the path of Girl and Girl, but they are already in the eye of the industry cyclone. 

“It’s been intense for sure,” says James.

Girl and Girl came together after James and his friend Jayden Williams found a rhythm section.

For the drummer, they didn’t have to look too far. 

“We started in mom’s garage, and she lives on this big farm. Aunty Liss would come and walk her dog on the property, and me and Jaden were jamming down there. There’s an old kit down there, and she just jumped on.” 

It sounded fantastic. But his Aunt, who had been a veteran of the Sydney punk scene, hadn’t really been auditioning. 

We had to beg her to stay,” James explains. “She was like, ‘I’ll stay until you find someone else.’ And we were like, ’You could do the job just fine, you know?’”

Eventually, Aunty Liss gave in, bassist Fraser Bell rounded things out, and sometime around 2018, a band was born.

Girl and Girl at KUTX Live at Scholz Garten SXSW 2024

Gigs and a couple of EPs followed, as did an explosive word-of-mouth network. Soon labels came calling.

After a quick jaunt earlier this year for SXSW (including a blazing set at KUTX Live at Sholz Garten), they are back in the US for a long five week tour. I wonder aloud if James likes touring.

I’m liking it more and more each time I venture out. The first time was extremely difficult for me emotionally. The second time, a little bit better. This time, I’ve actually been able to enjoy myself, which is really great.”

On tour ahead of the record release, they’re playing material no one has heard. 

“It’s terrifying,” James admits. “But here in America, not too many people know us anyway. So playing the old stuff is sort of essentially the same as the new stuff.”

James’ issues are always with him, but he seems to have arrived at a certain calm. He’s working hard to stay active and go with the flow. The final stop on their US tour, Seattle, is the record’s May 24th release date. They’re doing an in-store, then jetting back to Brisbane for a real record release party.

“We were warned that this was going to be the most intense tour we’d ever done. And in terms of the amount of time that we’re away, I think we’re away for like five weeks or something like that, maybe like 25, 30 shows.”

“But I don’t know. I’m having a great time. I love it here.” 

And he actually sounds convincing. Mostly. 

“Yeah, I’m having a really fantastic time. Yeah, yeah.”


Girl and Girl KUTX Studio 1A performance

Date: 5-8-24

Set List:

“Call The Doctor”



Album: Call The Doctor (May 24, 2024 Sub Pop Records)

Musicians: Kai James – vocals, guitar; Jayden Williams – guitar; Fraser Bell – bass; Melissa James – drums


Producer: Deidre Gott; Production Assistant: Confucius Jones; Audio Engineer: Jake Perlman, Rene Chavez; Audio Mix: Rene Chavez; Cameras: Deborah Cannon, Michael Minasi; Edit: Renee Dominguez; Host: Laurie Gallardo; words: Jeff McCord

Girl and Girl performance in KUTX Studio 1A

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