At Work: Horsegirl

Ryan Reed on January 23, 2023
At Work: Horsegirl

photo: Cheryl Dunn


It can difficult maintaining deep friendships with bandmates. After all, there are potential roadblocks around every corner— from arguments over guitar riffs to the irritation of sleeping together in a van for months on end. But the members of Chicago indie-rock trio Horsegirl—who emerged on a national level in 2021, while still in high school—don’t predict they’ll have that problem.

“It’s been weird being on tour and seeing how other bands are,” singer/guitarist Penelope Lowenstein says. “I feel like there are other bands where it’s less of a friendship thing. I can’t imagine being on tour and having to share a hotel room with people you do not adore. That would be so awful. I don’t know how bands do this if they’re not best friends.”

That close bond permeates the group’s debut LP, Versions of Modern Performance, which draws on the vintage songcraft and atmosphere of their formative influences, including Pavement, The Breeders and My Bloody Valentine. Their guitar-bass-drums format, with its natural sonic restrictions, is one of the album’s defining qualities. Songs like the sweetly fuzzy “Billy” and woozy “Beautiful Song” are carefully sculpted— partly because they don’t have extra hands available. “[Bassist/ singer] Nora [Cheng] can’t do a solo if I’m playing,” Lowenstein notes. “You have to be really thoughtful about each part.”

Speaking amid their first lengthy run of live dates—which includes, notably, an opening slot for their beloved Pavement—Horsegirl are still adjusting to touring life. “It’s kind of been the most exhausting experience any of us have gone through,” Lowenstein says. “It’s the highest highs and lowest lows.”

But they’re already brain-storming possible next moves: “We [might] go for something even more minimal,” drummer Gigi Reece adds with a laugh. “We played with the band April Magazine, and they have a standing drummer who plays a tom and a snare. Nora turned to me and was like, ‘Gigi, why do you play so many drums?’” Whatever shape that music takes, Horsegirl knows they won’t even bother if they aren’t having fun. “It’s a special dynamic where we just trust each other so much,” Lowenstein adds. “If Nora says, ‘This part is weird,’ the part is probably weird. With Horsegirl, it can only happen if we all three really love something.”