They released two assertive, high-energy EPs; they worked with über-respected producers; they showed just how quick and commanding women can be; now, they’re about to say goodbye. GRRRL PRTY — rappers Lizzo, Manchita, and Sophia Eris, plus DJ Shannon Blowtorch — are breaking up this month, aiming to keep up with their artistic growth and their other projects. But first, they’ll play one last show at Rock the Garden.
Back in 2013, GRRRL PRTY began with five ladies: Sophia Eris, Lizzo, Manchita, DJ Shannon Blowtorch, and Quinn Wilson. The band played a six-month residency at Minneapolis’s Icehouse, which Eris remembers as one of her favorite GRRRL PRTY experiences: “Watching it grow and grow and having a show full of women each month — I’m very proud of that.” By the time they played their first crew show at First Avenue, though, five had become four; Wilson left early on.
Since then, Lizzo and Sophia Eris have toured the world together, Manchita has helped run Greenroom Magazine, and Shannon Blowtorch has played an incredible number of shows both in the Twin Cities and elsewhere (also taking over The Current’s airwaves every Saturday at 11:00 p.m.). But even as their individual lives barrel on, the women have made time to collaborate with each other.
Part of the GRRRL PRTY magic is the rappers’ incredible choreography and performance skills. “The first time we got on stage together,” Manchita said, “we realized we had a really good chemistry and balance.”
“We all love to dance,” Sophia Eris added, “so we wanted to incorporate all of our styles — not just vocally, but also physically.” There’s nothing like watching the three rappers move in synchronicity, looking like they have all the power in the world — especially when they’re together.
Like dancing, merch is a key part of the GRRRL PRTY legacy; Eris-designed GRRRL snapbacks and beanies pop up everywhere in Minneapolis and St. Paul, especially at shows. “First, we made them for ourselves,” Manchita said, embroidering the individual performers’ names on their hats. Then, they gave them to a few friends at their Icehouse residency. From there, the merch took off; even Salt-N-Pepa have asked for their own hats.
GRRRL PRTY have always been about supporting each other and uplifting the community. Manchita had kind words to say about Eris: “On stage, you can see her athleticism.” She turned to face her friend. “You’re really captivating, and the way that you move about the stage — you have a very special, beautiful presence of natural, physical grace.”
Manchita also gave a shout-out to Ashley Gold of local synthpop duo Holidae: “One thing about Ashley is that she has this really lustrous voice. And she’s also just a really good person, and it comes through in her live shows. I feel like you can feel her heart when she performs.”
GRRRL PRTY listed several more local women whose work they admire, including Aby Wolf, Lady Midnight, Caroline Smith, Mina Moore, Sarah White, and Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh; nationally, they cited Erykah Badu, M.I.A., Missy Elliot, Janet Jackson, Janelle Monae, SZA. “Beyoncé was dope,” concurred just about everyone after seeing her perform.
One more artist special to Eris is Aaliyah, the R&B star who passed away in 2001, leaving a huge legacy behind. Eris’s new single is named after her, and it’s just one cut off a new album slotted for July 19. “I wanted [the song] to be a celebration of everything I love,” Eris said. “I talk about my crew; I talk about Aaliyah, who I love; I talk about things that’ll make me feel good forever.”
GRRRL PRTY are breaking it off at a high point, still riding the success of last year’s GRRRL PRTY x Bionik EP. “It was realizing what we did and realizing artistic growth,” said Eris. “We didn’t want to fade out […] We always will be there to support each other no matter what.”
“We started GRRRL PRTY together,” said Lizzo, who stole a moment to Skype in for the announcement from L.A. “The music side of the collective and the performing side of the collective is just not going to happen anymore, but we all are still friends, and if we need each other, we all still have each other’s phone numbers.”
The crew had plenty of highlights to share, remembering their Icehouse shows and the time they played Paisley Park back in September 2015. While a projector screened Finding Nemo behind them, they played for over an hour. “That was the only reason I got to shake his hand,” Eris said, not having to explain who “he” was. According to Blowtorch, Prince asked them to come back the night of Madonna’s visit, but the crew wasn’t able to perform.
When they can play, though, they say it’s like magic. “It’s my favorite way to be onstage,” said Lizzo. She continued, “[Performing as] Lizzo, it’s a very personal journey. But GRRRL PRTY was my escape from that, and there were no rules with it. You could just be free.”
Even more than the performances and the tremendous shows, though, they’re grateful for the relationships that GRRRL PRTY afforded them. “I didn’t know any of you all before I joined GRRRL PRTY,” said Blowtorch.” That’s her crew highlight: “Becoming family with all these ladies.”
GRRRL PRTY celebrate women and womanhood, so I asked the crew about their own femininity. “I love being a woman,” Eris said. “I love the element of surprise. When I was growing up, I was always surrounded by boys. I was, like, the oldest cousin of 30, and I was the only girl for a while. I feel like my whole life has been leading up to this moment of being in a crew, like, we can do anything guys can do and better […] Lately, I’ve been realizing how much power we have.”
Manchita shared about the path to accepting her whole self. “I’m only recently — in the last ten years — really been embracing my womanhood,” she said. “For a long time, I had internalized sexism. Where I was like, women are inferior. Or weaker. We are the victims. That’s the sort of thing that comes with early trauma or sexual violence. You get this idea in your head of what you’re not capable of, and how in danger you are. And I grew up trying to be as masculine as possible, and that’s why I never sang […] And now I’m starting to sing.
“I feel like GRRRL PRTY gave me that first phase of feminism,” she continued, “where you’re just like, ‘I’m f—ing here! Listen to me!’ and you’re stomping your feet yelling ‘F— you!’ and there’s this anger. And now I’m not as angry anymore. I’m not a man-hater. Because it’s all fear-based. And once I realized that I didn’t have to be scared and that I had my own powers and I didn’t have to hate my femininity and it wasn’t weaker — it’s just different and it needs to be healed — I’m learning to love it.”
Sitting at Manchita’s table, Eris announced, “Rock the Garden will be GRRRL PRTY’s last show.” She said, “It’s one of the greatest shows that we’ve been asked to play, and it was really serendipitous because The Current was the first to support us. We feel like that’s the best way to bag it up.”
“We do want to end on a high note,” Manchita said, and Lizzo agreed: “When we play Rock the Garden, I’m going to be like, ‘Oh my God,’ because [performing] is what I love the most about GRRRL PRTY. When you’re on that stage, everything else melts away.”
“We did this phase in our life that we needed and artistically yearned for,” Eris said, “and we’re so proud of it.”
On June 18, fans will have one last chance to see GRRRL PRTY perform music live. “We are so excited now for Rock the Garden,” Eris said, “because we know what it is. And it’s going to be amazing.”