Gloom Girl MFG had just finished a 20-minute set at The Basement Nashville, part of a weekly “New Faces Night,” when the quartet earned a major confidence boost. As the group recalls it, venue co-owner Mike Grimes got on the microphone and told the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, you just saw the future of Nashville rock ’n’ roll.”
High praise for what could have been a sad-folk band.
That’s what drummer Connor McCourt had in mind when he met singer-guitarist Paige MacKinnon at a show late in 2021. When her band at the time fell apart, the pair started working on songs together. Meanwhile, MacKinnon was also collaborating with a guitarist she knew, Ethan Waggoner. One day McCourt joined them, and things went so well he recommended they jam with Stephen Sobolewski, a bassist McCourt had played with around town. Just like that, they had a band.
“It just felt so easy,” Waggoner says.
The sad-folk idea fell by the wayside as Gloom Girl MFG cranked up the guitars and veered into a sound rooted in punk, but more expansive. Though their songs so far are immediately recognizable as Gloom Girl MFG, no two are quite alike. “Litterbug” slinks and seethes through churning riffs over a taut, twisty bassline, while their 2022 single “Part Time Ghost” builds from slow and menacing into a riot of galloping guitars that frame rich harmony vocals. Their latest single, “My Brother’s Meds,” is a barrage of adrenalized drums and snarling guitars that surge around MacKinnon’s true-believer vocals.
“We’re very fluid as far as genre goes,” MacKinnon says. “I personally don’t want to be pigeonholed into any particular thing.”
They’d rather be known for what McCourt calls the “honesty and vulnerability” of their lyrics. “My Brother’s Meds” is a song about addiction that’s based on a true story, while “Litterbug” is a meditation on the damage that humans are inflicting on the planet. But even if Gloom Girl MFG are tackling serious subjects, they don’t want to come off as severe or dour.
“We’re not going out there and saying ‘smash the state,’” McCourt says. “We’re very loving people, and we want to bring that to the table too. The world is full of gloom—I think it’s a reason why we’re called Gloom Girl—but we want to bring love and kindness in the face of that.”
The group has been hard at work writing, with each member contributing song ideas, and releasing a steady stream of singles. And they’re already working on the next project — though the musicians are cagey about the details, they’re eager to talk about their evolution.
“Every song we write has another element to it that just feels either more mature or just more like us, and we’re getting so much better at working together,” MacKinnon says.
They’ve also been honing their live sound with shows around Nashville and, recently, further afield, in places like Oxford, Mississippi, and Chattanooga. At the moment, that means a lot of gig-swapping with bands in other cities: We play with you there, you play with us here.
“The early days are like hand-to-hand combat,” McCourt says, laughing. “The plan is basically to cover everything within 275 miles of Nashville and build from there.”
Though they came together quickly in a city with a proud history of indie-rockers thrashing it out in the shadow of the country music machine, Gloom Girl are fairly recent transplants to their new hometown. MacKinnon moved there in 2020 with her previous band. Waggoner arrived in 2021, around the same time as McCourt. Sobolewski, who moved to Nashville in 2015, has had the longest tenure there—and he says Gloom Girl MFG aren’t like other groups in town.
“This band feels like something different to me—there’s just a whole different vibe,” the bassist says. “Our crowd has naturally grown in Nashville. I’ve been in bands for a while here, and nobody’s ever asked me for my autograph. It’s like, what world am I living in?”
If that night at the Basement was any indication, the wider world is increasingly paying attention. That comes as no surprise to Gil Costello, a talent buyer at the Basement, who says the group “totally captivated everyone in the audience” at Fresh Faces Night.
“Gloom Girl MFG are one of the hardest working bands in Nashville,” Costello says. “We knew instantly that there was something special about them.”