For anyone who wasn’t part of the MySpace generation, Travis Mills (previously known as T. Mills) may not be a name you instantly recognise. With four years away from the spotlight, Mills along with Nick Gross (Big Noise, Gross Labs) have joined forces to form pop-punk duo Girlfriends as they embark on their debut self-titled album.
Opener, ‘The First Time’, doesn’t take long to realise this is world’s away from the duo’s previous works; Mills known foremost for his hip-hop past and Gross who also acts as drummer for ska legends Goldfinger. Instead this is a project inspired by the bands which led them to pick up instruments from an early age and those subtle references pop up throughout, ranging from the Good Charlotte vibes in ‘Up All Night’ to the Blink-182-esque anthemic closer, ‘We’re All Fucked Up’.
In keeping with pop-punk and even considering their band name, the album is strewn full of relationship-centric hits. ‘Sugar On Her Lips’ leans very much into a mainstream sound with a chorus that resembles more of a cheesy One Direction song, but luckily isn’t something that’s ventured much further than this. Elsewhere, ‘Jessica’ and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ both focus on reminiscing on past relationships with lyrics that obviously come from a very personal place and make for extremely relatable tracks.
Lead single ‘California’ pays homage to where Mills grew up, “California looks good on you but it made a mess of me / All my friends are doing drugs to drown out their anxiety” perfectly expresses the highs and lows that the state is renowned for.
For a debut album, coming in with 14 tracks is a testament to their talent, but interestingly this record leaves no moments to stop and breathe, steering clear of any ballads. Instead they tip-toe briefly into some angst-fuelled tracks. ‘Wicked Games’ centres around a messy break up, and ‘Over My Head’ features Bert McCracken (The Used), who provides some slightly heavier vocals which allows for a short break from the energy overflowing throughout the rest of the album.
One of the standout performances on here is the undeniable talent of Gross and his exceptional drumming, so it’s surprising that ‘Where Were You’ features drum work courtesy of Travis Barker (Blink-182). Although having a world renowned drummer appear on your first record is extremely impressive, in this circumstance it almost feels unnecessary when Gross is well and truly owning that position on every other track.
Fans of old school pop-punk will rejoice with the exceptional duet of ‘2am’, featuring DeathbyRomy, whose voice compliments the track perfectly, so much so that you’ll find yourself singing along instantly. These contagiously catchy lyrics transcend throughout the entirety of the record; ‘Stay Awhile’ checks all of the pop-punk boxes and will no doubt be a hit once they’re able to play these songs live, whilst ‘Farewell’ will leave you with the words “What’s so fair about farewell?” repeating over and over in your head for hours.
As debut albums go, it’s very obvious that this has been created by two guys who know their way around the industry. Its polished finish feels like this is far from a first album, but if this is the quality of what to expect then the future for Girlfriends will be very exciting indeed.