As she prepared to lower herself into the kiddy pool full of cornstarch, red food coloring and glitter, Lindsey French was only a little concerned.
“I was like ‘You guys, what’s going to happen if I submerge my ears in this? Is this going to be bad?’” French tells SPIN. “I did it anyway. You gotta do what you gotta do to get the shot.”
That sticky mess was a baptism for French, who dipped her whole head in the awkward concoction as she filmed the music video for her song “Gemmy Juice.” Up until that moment, she’d spent the past decade releasing moody, mechanical dance-pop under the name Negative Gemini, culling a signature sound that’s tinged with everything from vaporwave to shoegaze and Y2K rave. But in late 2021, she announced a whimsical name change, transforming into a decidedly cuter diminutive, Neggy Gemmy.
While it’s not an entire rebrand, it does signal a shift in the artist’s output. It’s an evolution personified in the release of CBD Reiki Moonbeam, a 15-track collection of songs that shimmer in the starlight like waxed plastic (out now via 100% Electronica). The album is infused with all the cartoonish glamor and gutter-glitz shininess of Los Angeles — the city French now calls home — and it’s a change of tone to match her new moniker.
“It’s just a continuation, but it is very much a new chapter — a new phase,” she says.
According to French, the need to reinvent herself as Neggy Gemmy came as a response to a total loss of self. After moving to L.A. about four years ago alongside her husband (and 100% Electronica co-founder) George Clanton, every song she made just felt “off” for the first two years.
“I think I kind of forgot how to make music for a while,” she says. “I was going through a period in my life of extreme loss, just personal grief completely unrelated to lockdown. It kind of destroyed me. I just lost touch with everything.”
While French won’t go into the specifics of her struggle (“I don’t want it to define me”), she does say that she had to hit “rock bottom” before beginning to emerge into the light. In her darkest hours, she found inspiration in the form of a few 22-year-old albums — specifically the radiant joy and turn-of-the-millennium retro-futurism of the era.
“Discovery by Daft Punk — I got really heavy into that,” she says. “A lot of the Chemical Brothers, and what’s the Basement Jaxx album that is so dope? And then Kylie Minogue’s Fever — there’s some extreme bangers on that album. That was the perfect little time capsule of the millennium. It was… God, so inspiring.”
Reinvigorated by the effervescent sounds of her childhood, French took those influences and fed them through the everyday scenes around her on the Los Angeles streets — the good, the bad, and everything in between.
“‘California’ was the first [song] to come together,” she says. “That’s why I put it first on the album. I feel the album has a little bit of a story, and that’s the beginning of the story — coming to California, running away from something and just starting something new.”
Jumping off with the track’s polished pop-haze, the album flows through a series of visceral scenes that push ever deeper into a Malibu daydream. It’s cheeky yet earnest, bouncing through the fashionable freakout that is “Black Ferrari,” walking a funk-driven runway on “Daydream,” exploding with paparazzi flashes on the interlude “Take A Picture,” and roaring into the night on the childlike swagger of “Beep Beep.”
Sonically, it reeks of the 2001 synth sounds that brought Neggy Gemmy out of her darkness, incorporating bits of Eurodance and hyperpop kitsch with sophisticated super-model attitude and the hard-hitting percussion of era-defining Big Beat and French Touch basslines. But while it spans a wide range of electronic sounds, it’s all tied together with some extra pop sheen — which likely comes from the fact that French allowed herself to collaborate with outside mixers and engineers for the first time in her career.
“Relinquishing control is hard for me, but I think it resulted in something really great,” she says. “It gives the songs an extra little something.
The shinier sound mirrors French’s own explorations into the world of fashion. She and her husband fell into a newfound addiction to style — perhaps because of their move, or maybe in spite of it.
“You get your first piece and go out on to the street, and suddenly everyone’s paying you a compliment about your stripy sweater,” she says. “It’s like a drug frenzy. You can’t get enough and you need more. I got really into this brand from Stockholm called Eytys and just went on a craze. Knwls is another one of my favorite designers because they’re just so feminine and ethereal.”
All these looks hardly go to waste as French fleshes out the Neggy Gemmy universe. While she made space for mixing and mastering help, she took full reigns on the visual component of the CBD Reiki Moonbeam universe. In addition to both her onstage and online presence, that meant directing her own music videos for the first time — which leads back to that moment when she found herself staring into a kiddy pool full of beautiful sparkly red goop.
“I also program my own light show,” she says. “I use this old, little, janky computer to program every millisecond of this show that I trigger with a midi-Pad. It syncs up to each song, and it’s all pre-planned. It’s a really minimal setup, but I feel like the overall effect is pretty cool because it’s very tailored to what’s going on with the video and the song. I just want to make the audience feel like they’re immersed in the Neggy Gemmy world, the Neggy Gemmy universe.”