Gia Woods and BAYLI Want You to Spoil Yourself

Gia Woods and BAYLI Want You to Spoil Yourself

by Justine Fisher

Gia Woods and BAYLI want you to stop taking everything so seriously. On their latest single “Spend It,” the underground pop powerhouses fuel your post-breakup party phase.

The “treat yourself” anthem pushes you to indulge yourself. Woods’ sultry line, “The world is ending, spend it on me,'' sums up her vision for the high-energy single. The queer Persian pop star is joined by fellow queer artist, BAYLI, to sing about everything from fashion designers to art to “turning out gay boys."

“Spend It” is the third single from Woods’ forthcoming EP, Heartbreak County Vol. 2, alongside previous singles “Hello” and “Lesbionic.” Back in October 2021, she released Heartbreak County Vol. 1 to grapple with the vices of Los Angeles. Now, the pop star follows up with the second volume to give a complete picture of the city she’s from, this time including stories of her heartbreak.

The Y2K-inspired single diverges from Woods’ signature dance-pop sound, offering a sprinkle of nostalgia in the upcoming EP. Alongside the New York-based BAYLI, who conveyed her unique city perspective on her first EP stories from new york, the single brings together two coasts to connect the experiences of New York and Los Angeles sugar babies.

Down to the cover art, which received the iconic Jeff Koons treatment, their sexy single pushes all the right buttons. The provocative photo features Woods straddling her friend’s mother, inspired by feminine icon, Ilona Staller. The Italian politician, known also by her stage name Cicciolina, worked in adult films and once offered to have sex with Saddam Hussein to bring peace to the Middle East. Given her Persian background, Woods saw this as the perfect representation of female empowerment to encapsulate the song’s prevailing message.

To break down “Spend It” and Heartbreak County, Woods and BAYLI spoke to PAPER about their friendship, working with other queer artists, using music to start new conversations, bringing back iconic 2000s moments, and so much more.

What was the inspiration behind “Spend It?”

Gia Woods: I wrote it during the pandemic. It was literally one of the first sessions I did when we were allowed to go back in the studio but wearing masks and everything. We came up with the line, “The world is ending, so spend it on me,” and it's literal. The world felt like it was fucking ending, so I was like, I'm gonna spoil the fuck outta myself and I wanna be spoiled back. That's basically the premise of the song: being spoiled, doing whatever the fuck you want, being a bad bitch because the world's ending. That’s really it. Then, we definitely needed another bad bitch on the song, so we thought of BAYLI. We sent it to her, and she literally sent her verse back within like a couple days. It was so fast.

BAYLI: It was an easy one to jump into, and I love doing anything female empowerment, so Gia is a perfect collab for me in that way. You can be so cool and controversial and provoking in how you get to your empowerment. I feel like I do that in my music. My verse is a little bit more controversial. I interpret it as a challenge. My verse is a little bit about not just hitting on any guy, but hitting on a queer guy, who maybe isn't into me, and saying, “I'm gonna steal you from whoever and spend it on me in that way.” I kind of flipped it a little bit. But, you know, just that empowerment vibe, that challenge vibe, the challenging all the stereotypes, queer stereotypes, what it is to be a femme person, all those things.

With a lot of people seeing “Spend It” as a queer anthem, how do you guys feel about the fan reaction since the release?

Gia: Everyone's been freaking out being like, “Gia, this is the best song you’ve released.” Werk, period! It's just such a fun, flirty anthem, and I feel like everyone who's been telling me they’re obsessed is like, “I've been bumping this in my car every fucking day.” It's been such good feedback, especially from the queer audience. This is perfect for them.

Do you feel like it is the best song you've released?

Gia: Honestly, yeah! I've had this song in my folder for so long now. We've had this song for a minute, and I'm still not sick of it. If anything, the second I got it mixed and mastered, I became even more obsessed. I was just like, “holy shit, this song is so fucking good.” I love the production because I feel like it's different from what I usually put out. A lot of my songs are definitely more dance-inspired, and this one's kind of giving early Y2K. It's giving Neptunes, Timbaland and a lot of the music I grew up listening to as well, like Nelly Furtado and Gwen Stefani, yadda, yadda yadda. I feel like my inner child. I feel really nostalgic with this song, which makes me even more obsessed with it because that's my favorite kind of music.

BAYLI: When I heard your voice on it, it gave heavy Britney [Spears], like Neptunes prime pop era. I wrote the lyrics pretty quick, but some of my lyrics, like singing about Avedon the photographer, I was just inspired by that time period and that kind of vibe. I was just trying to tap into that idolization and that glamour and all of that from like the early, mid-2000s, that childhood kind of being in awe, but trying to say that's me now.

With the rest of the forthcoming EP, do you feel like it also follows that Y2K vibe? What can we expect for the rest?

Gia: Not as much. It was just a little sprinkle in the project. But, the rest of the project is the fun, gritty side of Los Angeles because volume one was more so “Welcome to Heartbreak County!” That is what Los Angeles is about. Now, the second volume definitely is exploring my heartbreak within Los Angeles and the messy party phase you go through to forget you're hurting, you know what I mean? I feel like everyone goes through that and every song plays on all the different emotions I went through during my breakup. It's kind of crazy that I wrote the first volume not being about a person with heartbreak — more so the city — and then the second one, I was like, “Fuck, now I'm going through heartbreak.” I felt like I needed to write a volume two.

Can you talk a little bit more about how being from L.A. informs the album?

Gia: I feel like living and being born here was definitely an experience that most people don't understand unless you were born here. A lot of people moved to L.A. to become something of some sort. I feel like everyone has this idea that Los Angeles is this perfect place where you can just become famous, which is what we're known for, and it's actually not the case. Like 98% of people don't make it, and not many people talk about that side of heartbreak and how L.A. doesn't equal success by moving here. I feel like I grew up around that and seeing it happen for some people, and then seeing the majority who move here not make it. I was really inspired by that. Also just growing up here in general, I feel like I'm not phased by famous people or the things that most people are. I literally went to school with so many different child stars or their parents were somebody. I feel like not many people talk about what Los Angeles is like. It feels like McDonald's, you know what I mean? It looks perfect, but it's just not, so I thought it'd be really cool to kind of explore that topic because L.A. is always the hot topic. Isn't it?

BAYLI: Oh my god, hot topic. Can I just jump off that?

Gia: Yes!

BAYLI: I just love what you're saying. Gia, to me, encapsulates L.A. She’s a storyteller that's encapsulating this moment in time in L.A. I feel like hopefully, I do that for New York. It’s a really interesting collaboration where you’re essentially taking down some of the layers that people don't really get to understand and see about Hollywood and the L.A. lifestyle. That's so important and hopefully stands the test of time. Again, I try to do that with my music. Maybe not so much on this song but with my music.

Gia: What do you feel like with New York? I don't know that much about New York, so I'm curious. Is it similar in terms of everyone having this idea of New York?

BAYLI: Everyone has an idea of New York. I really tried it with my first EP, stories from new york, where there are levels. There are just levels of different stories, and it's not always the same fun stories, not always the same gritty, sad, raw stories, but I think it's interesting to be from somewhere and really paint those new pictures, like this song “Spend It.” It's a banger, but you're kind of painting a new picture of L.A., and I just feel like it's kind of iconic. I just wanted to jump in.

Do you guys feel like the song brings together Los Angeles and New York in that way?

Gia: Oh yeah! It's just different versions of being spoiled, whether you're an L.A. sugar baby, or you're a New York sugar baby.

BAYLI: This is definitely a coming together of the L.A. perspective and New York perspective, with both of us as underground pop artists. You’re singing about fashion designers and I'm singing about turning out gay boys and art and shit.

With both of you being queer artists and Gia, you being hailed as one of few lesbian pop stars, how do you both feel about that? And how do you think that comes into “Spend It?”

Gia: Off the bat, I feel so comfortable with BAYLI. I feel like we hit it off so well, and that's definitely been something that I crave is female energy but from a musical aspect, because I don't really know that many artist friends. I do, and I don't. Sometimes I feel like it's hard to connect and completely understand each other's backgrounds. A lot of the different kinds of artists come from different places of the world and it's just not the most relatable for me personally. Little me never thought I'd be doing this and be here right now. I would be so envious of myself now for being able to represent the queer community and then be working on a song with another queer artist. I'd be so proud of myself that I've found a community. There was a point where I was the most closeted girl and never saw this ever coming for my future. So, I just feel really, really blessed to be able to do what I love and work with other amazing females that are just literally being genuine and authentic to themselves and their audiences. That's the most important.

How did you guys connect and come together on this song?

Gia: We just started following each other on Instagram. I remember you had “sushi for breakfast.” It was around that time when you dropped it, and I was like, “this girl is fucking sick!” I'm obsessed. I literally was listening to that song like every day. We also had a mutual friend who also worked on the song with us, Jesse Saint John, and I think he was working with you.

BAYLI: When we worked [on “Spend It”], that was the first time Jesse and I worked, but, again, we were kind of like internet friends. That's the thing. I don't know if it's the same with you, Gia, but there are a lot of artists that I interact with, whether it's online, in person, coming back and forth from New York to L.A., but we don't always make friends with those people or connect on that deeper level. This was a really cool and rare one where it's like, we just vibe as humans.

Gia: Yeah, we really vibe! It was so crazy. We followed each other, we did this song, and then she actually came to L.A. We did a studio session for another song, and we immediately clicked that night. You went back to New York, but we stayed in touch. We literally just hung out this past weekend and had the best time. We had a really good night.

BAYLI: Saturday was like one of the funnest nights of my life.

Gia: So much fun.

Do you guys think that vibing together and being good friends lends itself to better music and makes “Spend It” what it is?

Gia: Oh my god, period. It's so awkward sometimes when you don't know someone that well, you don't connect off the bat and you have a song together and you're promoting it. You're just like, okay, this doesn't feel genuine. Whereas with this situation, I feel like we just came together and we actually have gone through similar situations with loss and different things.

BAYLI: Oh my god, labels and loss. Oh my god.

Gia: Yeah, that was also one thing. I feel like not many people can say that at the age that we're at, how we've grown, being queer and experiencing something really sad like that. We were talking about how that stuff changes you. I feel like we're at the same level mentally and spiritually. Especially spiritually. We were talking about meditation. Wait, should we say the fun fact? My old manager was your A&R, right?

BAYLI: Yes. Yes. My first A&R ever, like as a 16-year-old, literally my first A&R at American Records was...

Gia Woods: ...was my old manager, and that was so crazy because we also put it together where I realized I knew who she was before. But, you guys went by Skins, right?

BAYLI: I was in a totally different group. I was in a totally different artist mode, but yes.

Gia: Yes, it was a different era, but it was just so crazy. That long ago, we were somewhat connected but had no idea. And then, you put it together, and I was like, “This is crazy. I've heard about you before, like six years ago. This is crazy!” Oh my god, yeah. It was so full circle.

BAYLI: Full circle! And again, just adding, it can be so vulnerable to make music, even alone with your producer, engineer, with your best friend. I don't come off shy in my music and in my visuals, but I'm so shy and reserved and self-conscious, so it makes it so much better to be able to communicate with Gia, to get along, to know that we're friends. If she needs to hit me up and be like, “we're posting this,” no one's nervous to hit each other up in the studio. No one’s nervous to be like, “Can we try this?”

Gia: I really saw that, for sure, because I'm the same way. I definitely feel reserved when I'm alone and when I'm around my friends that I've grown up with or just people who know me in my everyday life. But online, I definitely channel so many different sides to me that are a part of me but, naturally, I'm also pretty reserved and shy. It was nice to work with another artist where I didn't feel like we were intimidating each other in the wrong way. We were just like, “you're a hot bitch,” and supporting each other and not making it feel like we're pinning someone against another person or just making the other person feel not as good.

BAYLI: No, that’s real.

Gia: So many artists are competitive and weird. Some of them are bitches too. There's a scene of artists that I'm like, “Why?” I don't get it. There’s no reason to be mean or standoffish. That's also part of L.A. too. I grew up seeing so many famous people that when I see someone new and their fame is just starting, I see the switch. I’m so over it.

How does Heartbreak County, Vol. 2 evolve from Heartbreak County, Vol. 1?

Gia: It just evolves in terms of emotionally diving more into me and the emotions I'm experiencing and going through, whereas the first one was more like a broad storyline of escapism and going to the dance floor and Los Angeles and all that stuff. With this one, it's kind of just raw and slutty and messy. I've never gone through that much of a hard breakup until the recent one, and it shook me in a different way. In my previous breakups, I feel like I was more reserved, and I’m just dealing with it on my own, blah, blah, blah. But this one, because of the pandemic and having to be indoors so much, it almost psychologically made me go outward and literally dance the pain away, as corny as that sounds. I feel like I went out a lot during this period of my life just to escape and get attention. The same thing with “Spend It,” I wanted that empowerment and attention and knowing I am okay no matter what, with or without this person. This project was like that for me. It's like knowing that I'm wanted, knowing that I'm hot, knowing that I don't need this person to define my worth. I got a little lost in that, which is also easy to get lost in a city like this where you’re going through a breakup and you're around such a scene. That's the thing I hate about L.A. When you're going through a breakup here, it's so hard not to bump into that person or the friend group of that person. Literally, every fucking weekend that I've gone to a party or an event, I see my ex's friends and I want to kill myself. I'm like, “Can I just have one break? One weekend without this?” It's just such a small scene here. That's also why I went through a slutty party phase, but I'm okay. I'm not drinking the pain away. That's not what I'm promoting. It's more so just re-owning my confidence and knowing I'm wanted and knowing that I'm worth it, and I don't need that self-assurance by that dumb bitch.

BAYLI, did you have a similar inspiration with your verse on "Spend It?"

BAYLI: Well, I'm not going through any crazy breakup right now, although I have. Listening to Gia’s music, I'm always inspired by that vulnerability and all those concepts that feel so relatable. Again, I always try and be empowering. I'm a little reserved in real life, but in my music, my alter ego is so controversial and provoking. I'm a water sign and my alter ego is a fire sign. In my music, I try and come off as who I wish to be when I'm at my most confident. This collab just gave me the opportunity to feel empowered and test out this type of energy and these types of lyrics. It really wasn't hard to jump into it. It was a perfect collab for me because it is all about a weird version of self-love where we’re not so cocky. We're not so selfish in real life. We're not like, “Oh my god, I'm the baddest bitch in the world!” It's amazing to get to do that and feel that, even when just making a song or listening back to this song, because I'm not always feeling that.

Gia: That's such a good point because I agree. I grew up so shy. I was telling someone recently that I would go to restaurants or different coffee shops or whatever, and I'd be so shy to order something or tell the waitress what I wanted. Those were little moments of baby Gia where I was so shy and I couldn't talk to anyone. Now that I've grown up, pursuing music and my artistry, you kind of find this level of self-confidence that you channel through your music, that you never empowered as a little girl. It's almost like the more you make that kind of music, the more you become like that person. That's something that's really special and it’s not cocky. If anything, it’s just continuing to find confidence within yourself because it's so easy to go up and down, especially in this world comparing yourself on social media 24/7. We need those reminders, and these kinds of records are the way to bounce back from a shitty day or hating on yourself. There's no such thing as always being confident, but these are the moments that you find yourself and you're like, “Wait, everything's fine. I don't need to sit here and hate on myself.” It's not that deep.

BAYLI: Hell yeah. Period.

With your visuals, like the cover and what you've released on your socials, how does the inspiration for that connect to what you guys are talking about with empowerment and confidence?

Gia: With the single art, I used my friend's mom, and she was basically my sugar mama, but it’s not literal. I thought it was kind of just fun to play off of that. I could be spoiled by anyone, whether it's your mom or your dad or your sister or your best friend. It's kind of playing on that fun, flirty thing, but not being so on the nose.

BAYLI: Can I just say too, and Gia I don't know if this is a conscious thing that you do on purpose, but I feel we're in an era of provoking, like we want to push buttons. There's a lot of artists — pop artists to underground artists — that are saying more controversial things. We have more controversial artwork and interviews these days because we're really in a transition period for culture and we're rediscovering. What does the future look like? What's cool? What ideas are going to work moving forward and progressing forward creatively? Even this idea of sugar mamas, people are just getting used to the idea of femme presenting girls being gay. So, to be a girl talking about sugar mamas would definitely ruffle some people's feathers, and I feel it's important. I really feel that's so important to bring up those new conversations. To some people, it's really cute and really hot and like they get it, and to some people, you're showing them something new, and I feel that’s so important.

Gia: I know. I sometimes forget how closed off the actual world is because I’m in my little L.A. bubble. Sometimes it's not so conscious like I just do things and then other people will be like, “Wait, whoa, that's crazy.”

BAYLI: That's iconic.

Gia: This is my life in L.A. It's so crazy! I've learned that more and more on TikTok, especially because my videos will go to the craziest, dark places on the For You page, and they'll end up on the wrong side of TikTok. They'll be like, “Why is she like this? Her personality’s weird.” I made fun of a baby photo of myself with my cousin. We looked like we were about to kiss or something, and I was like, “I was always a little flirt from a child.” I was just playing on myself, and they were like, “Why is she sexualizing babies and all this stuff?” It's me, and it's a joke, like what the fuck? That's why people sometimes are just always kind of surprised, and it is fun pushing people's brains and trying to get them to think of things in a different way and not have it be so serious. It's so crazy. Everyone takes everything so seriously. I hate it. Not everything's so literal.

BAYLI: You gotta loosen up.

Gia: Everybody needs to fucking loosen up, I swear to God. There are so many haters in the world, more so than good people, and I'm just like, “Why do you have so much energy to sit on the internet and do that all day?”

BAYLI: Yeah, no, absolutely. Artists cannot be Puritans, like nuns. Miles Davis was fucked up. When he dropped, for like 20 years, people were like, “He's too much.” But, he set the tone for the next 50 years. It's your job, it’s my job, it's our job to be able to tell those stories and break down those boundaries.

Gia: That's all I'm trying to do constantly because I don't feel like I fully had that growing up. For me, that was definitely Madonna. Even to this day, sometimes I hear things from different people saying stuff about Madonna like, “Why is she still doing this?” Why do you fucking care? Since when, if you're like 80 or 70 or 60 or 50 or whatever the fuck, do you have to act this type of way? I just feel like everyone is so boring and so “by the books” and I'm just tired of it! So any way I can change the game, I'm here.

BAYLI: Madonna got canceled in 1989 or whatever, whenever she dropped “Like A Prayer,” because she had a Black man play Jesus. If that shit was fucked up back then, today, that’s incredible! That representation is incredible. I'm not saying everything that's cancellable now is going to be okay in 20 years. I'm just saying that we need to be having those new conversations. We can't just be making sure everyone's comfortable. We need to have those uncomfortable conversations, sometimes those provoking or controversial moments, to really progress forward.

Gia: I'm still trying to figure that out even for my own country. I'm from Iran, and where I'm from, if you go there being openly gay or whatever, you're dead. We have a long way to go. I have a long way to go in that area of my life, but I'm never gonna stop. I feel like you feel the same way. I feel like we both have the same vision, not even just musically but like universally.

If you had to narrow it down, what are you looking for fans to take away from it?

Gia Woods: Definitely just spoil yourself, live your life, stop worrying about tomorrow. That's the thing that I hope that people take the most because we’re constantly getting news that is just mind-boggling, like the fucking monkeypox and like all these different things. There's always something. I just hope people listen to it and fucking have fun and enjoy themselves and not take things too seriously and just owning their confidence, like if they're having a shitty day or whatever.

BAYLI: Spend it on me, fuck yeah. It's such a nostalgic moment too, like the actual style of the song is really giving like mid-2000s, early 2000s, like the Britney, Spice Girl moments. Can we just have that moment back?

Gia Woods: That's all I listen to all the time. It makes me so happy during the time when I just didn't know what the fuck was going on in the world, and I was just like living my little life, my little gay life, and I wasn't thinking about anything else. That's the kind of music I love, like escapism, fun and not taking anything too seriously. “Spend It” definitely has that energy. Yeah, damn. Fuck, now I'm sad. I'm thinking about all the problems. That time was so much better.

BAYLI: You brought it back though!

Gia Woods: No, we're bringing it back. We need more of that, honestly. I definitely think there are artists right now that are exploring and sprinkling that in. It was such a prime time in music that we’ll never go fully back to, but hopefully, we’ll get sparks of it.

Photo courtesy of Ace Aroff