In the ever-evolving and newly rediscovered landscape of pop-punk music, few artists manage to capture the essence of unbotheredness and unconcerned quite like UPSAHL. With a successful touring career under her belt, an exciting new project titled The PHX Tapes, and a rich musical background, UPSAHL continues to captivate audiences with her talent and authentic approach to artistry. The PHX Tapes, a nod to ‘90s cassette tapes, was announced earlier this year, with singles “Condoms” and “Good Girl Era”, each of their own unique sound and striking counterpart music video. Hailing from the vibrant musical hub of Phoenix, Arizona, UPSAHL has carved a unique niche for herself, defying genre boundaries and delivering songs that resonate with unfiltered emotion.
UPSAHL’s down-to-earth nature is palpable, immediately impressing me the moment I saw her at Sony HQ Toronto—she hugged me straight away and thanked me for coming to chat with her, even though it was undoubtedly the highlight of my week. What began as a friendly chat about the weather and ongoing Toronto traffic turned into a more intimate discussion about her journey as an artist, how The PHX Tapes came to be, and what she’s most looking forward to on tour this summer.
Tell me, how did you first get into music?
I grew up in a really musical family. My dad was in punk bands throughout my childhood, I was always watching him play shows and I remember thinking that he was such a rockstar and wanting to be like him. I feel really lucky that I grew up with a supportive, musical family. We always had instruments around growing up. I started playing the guitar and piano when I was 5, and I went to this performing arts school [for] most of my life where I got classically trained. Becoming a musician wasn’t really a decision for me—it was always the biggest part of my identity.
How do you think being from Phoenix informed and shaped your musical style?
It shaped me so much! The punk scene is really f–king cool and my dad was a big part of that so I learned a lot. Also, the art school I went to was downtown and close to all of the local venues, so we’d leave school early to go soundcheck that night for whatever gig we had. We were in high school, so a lot of the musicians we were hanging around were older and I got to look up to them and see how they shaped their career and learn from them. The local radio stations and music scene in general in Phoenix are also super supportive and uplifting of new artists. They helped me a lot and I’m super grateful for that!
Do you have musical or fashion idols?
My fashion and musical icon has always been Gwen Stefani. Her in the ‘90s is such a vibe—I grew up watching and listening to her and I credit a lot to her! All the outfits—everything! I’ve been doing this tracksuit thing lately that I definitely took from her. She’s everything!
How did you decide to do a mix-tape-inspired release? It’s super retro and unique!
I had just gotten home from the tour at the end of last year, and I locked myself in the studio up until this tour. I was literally writing all day every day. For the first time in a while, I’ve been so inspired and not worried about fitting into a certain genre which has been really freeing. The reason we’re doing the mixtape is because we have so many songs that I wanted to put out. I called my team and was like ‘How can we get as many songs out as possible?’ As we discussed it, the image that kept coming into my mind was a cassette tape with 2 sides. It was a bit before my time, but I’m a ‘90s kid and it’s such a ‘90s thing. I wanted to dedicate it to Phoenix because that’s where I’m from. Honestly, the whole idea that we ended up packaging together started with the need to put out a lot of music at once.
What’s your process for narrowing down which songs are going to be included in a project?
Normally it’s figuring out which songs can fit onto a cohesive project together and how they tell a story together. This project is very different and exciting for me because I’m doing the complete opposite. I just put out two of the songs called “Good Girl Era” and “Condoms” and I’m about to finish recording the next single which could not be more different from those two. I’m trying to experiment and go from one extreme to another, it’s really fun.
You have really a strong aesthetic that pairs with your music. How involved are you in the process of creating visuals for your songs?
When I’m in the studio making the songs I always have a bit of a visual idea. Especially if I’m making a song I love, I start to brainstorm music video ideas right off the bat. “Good Girl Era” feels punk and comic book-y to me, so I wanted to experiment with a video like that. I also wanted to tell this story of having two different versions of me, and that would’ve been difficult for me to act out so it was great to be able to explain the vision to someone else and have them animate it. With “Condoms”, I had this nostalgic feeling of being in high school and driving around going to gas stations and convenience stores so I wanted the video to represent that. Basically, the visuals come with an initial gut feeling.
You’re performing your first headline tour! How has it been going so far? Any highlights?
I’ve done a lot of opening tours, but getting to do a headline tour where people know the words to your songs is the best feeling in the world. I always tell my family and friends that when I’m on tour, I’m the best version of myself. I never want it to end! It also comes with so much anxiety though. We only have four more shows left of this leg and I’m like ‘I need to take this all in!’ A huge moment for me was our Boston show. It was our biggest show and the crowd was so loud I could barely even hear myself. It was a great vibe. Moments like that when everyone is raging together, making friends with the person next other, that’s everything to me.
I’ve seen videos from your tour, it looks wild! You’re in the crowd, pouring drinks, all of that. What do you hope your fans take away from your show?
Hopefully just badass energy! The reason I go to shows is to escape whatever else is going on in life, and the point of my show for me is to escape for an hour and a half and not give an f– about what I look like. I just run around and have a blast. I hope that that sort of unbothered present energy rubs off on everyone else in the room!
You also have an intense touring schedule coming up this summer. You’re opening for Tove Lo, going to Europe, and playing at festivals—what are you most excited about?
We’re doing some fun festivals that I’m really excited about. But what I’m most excited about is the Tove tour. She’s iconic, I love her so much and I’ve been to her shows as a fan too. We started writing a bit together last year, and she wrote a song that was on my last EP so getting to work with her as a writer has made me more of a fan. Just the fact I get to watch Tove Lo for free for a week and a half is f–cking incredible. I’m so grateful and her fans are amazing!
You’ve written a lot of music both for yourself and for other artists. What do you feel comes more naturally to you, performing or songwriting?
I go back and forth with which one I like more. Whenever I burn out in the studio, I get to go on the road but I’ve never found that I’ve burnt out on the road, so performing probably comes more naturally to me. But performing fuels the songwriting and vice versa so you need both. But I would be on the road 24/7 if I could.
How do you prepare for such an intense touring schedule?
I always try to prepare, but I never actually feel prepared. One thing that has changed the game for me is not drinking. I love to drink normally—tequila shots are my thing—but on the road, I find that just completely being sober is the best feeling in the world. Besides the health part of it, I find that I’m so much more present on stage and get to enjoy every second. That has been the one change I’ve made with my touring career.
You’re a Sagittarius and you titled your last EP after that. What about being a Sag resonates with your personality?
The fieriness of it. I relate to that very hard. In making my EP Sagittarius, I realized that each of the songs represented a different character trait or something about me. I was trying to think about how I could sum up myself in one word and it just came to me! I’ve lived in LA for 5 years so I’ve totally caught the astrology bug, I ask people about it all the time. The unbotheredness, the passion, the socialness of the sign. I resonate with it all. Being a Sagittarius to me means owning the good and bad things about yourself.
Later that evening, I went to her show and was blown away by the connection she has with her fans. The whole crowd was rushing to the front of the room, screaming the lyrics to each other and dancing their hearts out. She’s the kind of performer that truly puts on a show, and makes each audience member feel like they’re the most important person in the room. As I walked out, I heard a few fans talking about how much they loved the performance and one of them used the word ‘electric’ when describing the show. That word feels extremely fitting for both her chops as a songwriter and performer, as well as the excitement surrounding the release of more songs off The PHX Tapes.
Like what you saw? Here’s more:
Blocking Out The Noise: How Dermot Kennedy and Koz Stay Grounded
genre-bending virtuoso d4vd is building worlds to outlive us all
Lewis Capaldi: Finding Identity in the Spotlight and Taking the Piss Along the Way