Art School Girlfriend

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Art School Girlfriend
Birth namePolly Louise Mackey
BornWrexham, Clwyd, Wales[1]
  • Singer-songwriter
  • producer
  • musician
  • Singing
  • keyboard
  • guitar
Years active2007–present
Labels Edit this at Wikidata

Polly Louise Mackey, also known by her stage name Art School Girlfriend, is a Welsh musician, producer, and singer-songwriter.


2007–2016: Early career and previous band[edit]

Shortly before turning 16, Mackey had her first public performance at her sister's birthday party. A local indie gig promoter happened to be a guest and was impressed by her performance and signed her up for a number of local gigs.[2] She got involved in the local indie scene, supporting touring bands such as The Teenagers[3] and playing at festivals such as The Great Escape and SXSW.

In early 2011, Mackey moved to London with her shoegaze band, Deaf Club. Their debut EP, Lull was released for free on Bandcamp in 2011. Clash wrote, "Deaf Club layer sound upon sound to blur their songwriting into a hallucinatory experience... They move in unexpected directions which demonstrate a real bravery."[4] Lull was followed by a sold-out double A-side cassette on Transgressive Records imprint, Kissability.[5] In 2012, the band signed to Domino Publishing,[6] toured the UK as headliners as well as in support of 2:54,[7] and received support from BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6music.[8] The Guardian wrote of their live show, "There's a confidence to their dreamscape rock that belies the fact that they've only been together for a year... Among the glut of fresh acts, they're special.."[9] In 2013 they appeared at festivals such as SXSW and Reading & Leeds and released their final EP, Take In Colour before disbanding in 2014. Their last show was at KOKO in London on the 28th of February 2014.[10]

After the disbanding of Deaf Club, in 2015 Mackey provided backing vocals on The Maccabees fourth and final studio album, Marks To Prove It, as well as appearing with them on Later... with Jools Holland.[11]

2016–2019: Measures and Into The Blue Hour[edit]

In 2016, Mackey moved to Margate and started making music as Art School Girlfriend.[12] "The Art School Girlfriends" was originally the name Mackey's ex-girlfriend thought of using for a DJ duo with her friend from art school, but then Mackey took it for her solo project as they never used it.[13]

Mackey had been making demos on her laptop when she met engineer, JHJ, in a bar in Peckham. He passed the demos onto Paul Epworth who had recently set up his own record label, Wolf Tone; Epworth invited Mackey to finish her music at his studio, The Church Studios. This music would go on to become Art School Girlfriend's debut EP, Measures, which was released on Wolf Tone in September 2017 led by debut single, Bending Back.[14] Art School Girlfriend's first live show was on 27 September 2017 at The Nines in Peckham.[15] That same year, Mackey began a sporadic radio show on Ghostpoet's online radio station, Radio Margate. In June 2018, Mackey was asked to DJ alongside Marika Hackman for Anna Calvi's return gig at London's Heaven Nightclub.

Summer festival appearances and a debut tour in October 2018 saw Mackey assemble the band of musicians that would go on to play with her until 2021: guitarist Jac Roberts (also of Deaf Club), drummer Josh Heffernan and keys player Louis Swords Milburn.[16] In 2019, the band played at POP Montreal during which Mackey's second EP, Into The Blue Hour was released, followed by appearances at SXSW and a second headline UK tour in April, which finished with a sold-out show at London's Omeara.[17] Mackey joined The Japanese House with a solo setup for a 5 week US tour shortly after.[18] Into The Blue Hour saw Mackey experiment with denser layers of electronics, with Clash describing it as, "...a more exploratory account, with the hazy electronics tied together with innate pop understanding".[19] This was followed by the double-A-side single, "Come Back To Me" and "Diving", which was released on 7inch vinyl in June 2019.

This was followed by appearances at festivals such as Latitude and Green Man Festival, as well as touring in support of Marika Hackman, Orlando Weeks and IDER across UK and Europe.

2019-2021: Is It Light Where You Are[edit]

Mackey spent the summer of 2019 working on her debut album, which was written and recorded at The Church Studios during the aftermath of a breakup. "The bulk of this record was written during the two weeks after a long-term and quite strange breakup situation,” Mackey tells Atwood Magazine. “I had left Margate, I was staying on my friend’s sofa in London, and felt very un-anchored. So I found solace and temporary-home in a small corridor-like studio, where I spent 12 hours a day. I’d get up at 7am and drive to the Hampstead ponds and get in the cold water to try and shock away my feelings, shower and go to the studio.” [20]

With a delayed release due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Art School Girlfriend's debut album, Is It Light Where You Are, was released on 10 September 2021, on Fiction Records and Wolf Tone. The headline UK tour ended with a sold-out show at Village Underground in October 2021.[21]

Mackey appears on Ghostpoet's 2020 album, I Grow Tired Yet Dare Not Fall Asleep.[22] She also scored the BFI-supported film, Shy Radicals, based on Hamja Ahsan's book of the same name, as well as appearing in the film alongside Arlo Parks.[23]

2023: Soft Landing[edit]

On 18th January 2023, Mackey released A Place To Lie, the lead single to her second album Soft Landing. The album was announced alongside second single Close To The Clouds which was premiered by Lauren Laverne on BBC Radio 6Music. Soft Landing was released on 4th August 2023 on Fiction Records. It was co-produced at The Church Studios with long-term collaborator Riley MacIntyre and features vocals from Tony Njoku. Clash describes the album as "dreamy production emphasised by techno undertones, transcendental vocals and wistful instrumentals".[24]

Mackey describes the album as a culmination of her teenage musical influences such as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Pixies and Warpaint, alongside her more recent experiences DJing at clubs and festivals.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Mackey resides in East London,[25] and has a whippet called Captain.[26] She runs a monthly radio show on Foundation FM, which focusses on ambient electronica and lo-fi dance music.[27] She lived in Margate between 2016 and 2019, where she ran the queer bookshop Spine Books.[10] Mackey identifies as gay[10] and is in a relationship with Marika Hackman.[28]


Studio albums
Studio extended plays
  • Measures (2017, Wolf Tone)
  • Into the Blue Hour (2017, Wolf Tone)
Remix albums
  • Is It Dark Where You Are (2022, Wolf Tone)
Remix extended plays
  • ASG Reworks EP (2019, Wolf Tone)
Live extended plays
  • Live St Pancras 05.10.18 (2019, Wolf Tone)
Extended plays with The Pleasure Principle
  • Polly Mackey & the Pleasure Principle (2010, New Direction)
Extended plays with Deaf Club
  • Lull EP (2011, White on White)
  • Take in Colour (2013, Kissability)


  1. ^ Wacey, Rob. "Art School Girlfriend Biography". AllMusic.
  2. ^ Mackey, Polly (13 November 2009). "Music for Pleasure: Polly Mackey and the Pleasure Principle Interview" (Interview). Interviewed by Andy Von Pip. The VPME.
  3. ^ Bowman, Jamie (5 October 2018). "Wrexham musician Art School Girlfriend reveals what it's like to work with Adele's producer". The Leader. Retrieved 8 September 2023.
  4. ^ Murray, Robin (16 September 2011). "Track Of The Day 16/9 - Deaf Club". Clash Magazine. Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  5. ^ Milton, Jamie (2 May 2012). "Deaf Club's Polly Mackey talks sold-out tapes, darkness and PJ Harvey". DIY. Retrieved 8 September 2023.
  6. ^ Heath, Larry (25 February 2013). "SXSW Free EP Download: Deaf Club". The AU Review. Retrieved 8 September 2023.
  7. ^ Crooks, Katie (12 April 2012). "Live: 2:54 @ Deaf Institute". Mancunion. Manchester Media Group. Retrieved 8 September 2023.
  8. ^ Lester, Paul (6 February 2012). "Guardian: New Band Of The Week". Guardian. Retrieved 8 September 2023.
  9. ^ Nicholson, Rebecca (11 May 2012). "The Great Escape: five highlights of day one". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  10. ^ a b c Richardson, Andy (5 April 2019). "Polly is finding her vital artistic space: Wrexham producer talks new EP Into The Blue Hour". Shropshire Star. Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  11. ^ "Art School Girlfriend on the creative community in Margate & the comfort of a label". District Magazine. 31 July 2018. Retrieved 8 September 2023.
  12. ^ Mackey, Polly (19 May 2023). "Art School Girlfriend on being her own producer and why role models are vital". Backstage (Interview). Series 3: Episode 1. Interviewed by Mike Griffiths. Wales: ITV News.
  13. ^ Mackey, Polly (24 February 2023). "From music production to five-aside football, she has it all". DIVA (Interview). March 2023. Interviewed by Georgia Dimdore-Miles. London: DIVA.
  14. ^ "Interview: Polly Mackey". ICMP. 24 June 2020. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  15. ^ "Approved: Art School Girlfriend | Complete Music Update". Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  16. ^ "Art School Girlfriend Breaks Through - DKFM Shoegaze Radio". 18 May 2019. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  17. ^ "Wrexham musician Art School Girlfriend reveals what it's like to work with Adele's producer". The Leader. 5 October 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  18. ^ Pearis, Bill (7 March 2019). "Art School Girlfriend playing SXSW, touring w/ The Japanese House (stream her EPs)". BrooklynVegan. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  19. ^ Murray, Robin (28 September 2018). "Art School Girlfriend Shares 'Into The Blue Hour' EP". Clash Magazine. Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  20. ^ Mosk, Mitch (16 September 2021). ""Dark, Light, & Bloomy": Art School Girlfriend's Debut Album 'Is It Light Where You Are' and the Breathtaking Weight of Loss". Atwood Magazine. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  21. ^ Farmer, Grahame (1 July 2022). "1-800 Girls remix Art School Girlfriend's 'Is It Light Where You Are'". Data Transmission. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  22. ^ Balram, Dhruva (30 April 2020). "Ghostpoet – 'I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep' review: the world-weariness soon becomes catching". NME. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  23. ^ "Shy Radicals". 5 September 2022. Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  24. ^ "Art School Girlfriend - Soft Landing". Clash Magazine. 4 August 2023. Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  25. ^ a b "Art School Girlfriend on emerging from the darkness to make new album Soft Landing". Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  26. ^ "art school girlfriend is margate's newest goth pop star". Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  27. ^ Dimdore-Miles, Georgia (24 February 2023). "Get to know Art School Girlfriend". Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  28. ^ Jocelyn, Hannah (7 August 2023). "Soft Landing Album Review". Pitchfork.