“I’ve never been so happy in my whole life,” she admits. “There have been times where I feel like I don’t have any purpose, especially with having a past of modelling. It’s just not fulfilling to me. I like to write, I like to create art, and modelling is essentially creating art, but it’s just not…It doesn’t do it for me anymore. It used to, for a minute.”
So the story goes, Smith was working as a makeup artist on the set of a shoot when she was tapped on the shoulder to step up for a model that didn’t show up. Fast forwarding from that day, she ended up on a plane to Paris to star in a company’s look book just before she got signed to an agency, and the rest would have been history if not for the fact that there was always a shadow of a doubt within her mind that Smith’s purpose wasn’t actually the bankable career that she had fallen into. Growing up, she had an inkling that she may like to pursue music someday, but played her cards close to her chest.
“It all literally started with writing,” she explains. “I never told anyone. I didn’t tell many people because I thought it seemed so far-fetched to be a musician. I was like, ‘It’s embarrassing to say that because that could never actually happen.’” As a model, she acknowledged that her work wasn’t “doing the things that it needed to be doing” for her brain. She continues: “I had said before I want something fulfilling. I want to live life with purpose and I love writing. I just loved it so much. I went from writing a novel to writing poetry to then the next thing was, ‘I’m going to try and write music because I’ve always wanted to do it.’ And at the beginning of last year, I lost someone who was close to me and I was like, ‘Holy shit, life is literally so fragile.’ So, if I want to try and do something, I might as well just try it. Literally, what do I have to lose?”
As Siiickbrain, Smith is reconciling with the experiences that she’s had in order to reclaim both her narrative and her power. She does the latter literally with single ‘Power’, which features Russian punk act Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokno. Tolokno was brought up to Smith multiple times before she ended up posting her Maggie Lindemann collaboration ‘GASLIGHT!’ to her Instagram story. From there, the collaboration was as natural as it could have gotten these days, complete to boot with a high-quality clip inspired by one of Smith’s favourite movies, Fight Club, and directed by Andrew Sandler.
“He’s done a bunch of stuff for blink-182 and Kels [Machine Gun Kelly] and Yungblud. He’s so good, and he’s one of my good friends and yeah, it was just sick working with him because I’ve worked with him multiple times – we also shot another music video of mine towards the beginning of COVID, and we did it on VHS in the middle of the desert. It was really fun. So, I love working with Andrew and he’s such a genius. We had fight coaches there…I wanted to have a moment with a dude where I’m taking control. And so I was just like, ‘Let’s just tie him up and tease him.’ That’s more traumatising than even beating him up, I feel.”
As the clip for ‘Power’ exemplifies, there’s a darkness that underpins Smith’s music and her visuals. Having said that, that grit, the violence, the guttural vocals – all of those things didn’t come out of nowhere, with Smith’s roots firmly planted in a passion for alternative. Aside from musically, Smith has equally been influenced by the candour of alt artists in capturing the truth of the human experience, rather than building up melodies around a glorification of partying. Citing every kid on the block from Yellowcard to Joy Division to Linkin Park to Evanescence, she confirms: “I think the lyricism in alternative music just seemed so honest to me as opposed to…I think hip hop is great and fun and fun to turn up to but sometimes it’s just like, ‘What does this mean?’” She proffers that perspective to her collaborators, exemplified on ‘Too Bizarre’, her recent alliance with Swae Lee and From First To Last alumnus Skrillex.
Part of why Smith comes at music from that angle is her history with anxiety and depression, throughout which she took solace in the work of others reassuring her that she wasn’t alone. As we all know, mental health is an ongoing battle for most people, with Smith acknowledging that it’s not something that she has or ever will fully overcome. Instead, she’s using her music to make life more bearable for her and for others, the principle upon which our entire alternative scene was founded and the most noble pursuit that we could think of.
“The most important thing to me with music and with writing is honesty,” she concludes. “And I feel there’s so many artists who just say what they think is cool. And for me it’s like, ‘Listen, if one person has gone through something, then you’re not the only person that’s gone through it.’ So, if you sing about it or sing about a feeling like feminism and taking back your power, it resonates with so many people…I’m talking about my personal experiences, every song that I’ve done, it’s so personal to me. That’s what I’d like for people to know, to inspire them to be themselves always and to always be honest.”