Siiickbrain Won't Hold It In
Story by Anna Zanes / Photography by Sarah Pardini / Styling by Lyn Alyson / Makeup by Brit Phatal
Caroline Miner, better known by the moniker Siiickbrain, stands out amidst the sea of emerging Gen Z talent as a powerful polymath force. Covered in tattoos from her buzzed head to her toes, the artist is stunning in a shocking way that borders on serpentine, although it's not only her looks that have garnered widespread attention. Siiickbrain has made a name for herself across a multitude of creative endeavors over the last few years, from writing to modeling to makeup artistry — not to mention musical pursuits that have put her on tracks alongside the likes of Hawthorne Heights and Skrillex, either of which could arguably be considered the penultimate goal for anyone with ink on their body.
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Though Siiickbrain says she doesn’t subscribe to the idea that all “good” art requires pain, she’s pushed through a lot of it, emerging on the other side with a sense of drive, passion and plenty to scream about, and it’s proving to be a powerful tool for her. From a secluded childhood in North Carolina, where she suffered for years under the thumb of crippling anxiety and agoraphobia, soothed only by doing her own makeup to the sounds of pop-punk drifting through the walls of her brother’s room — Siiickbrain’s rising stardom and the career that is catapulting it swiftly upward have served as her therapy and her treatment plan, and from her journey we likely all have quite a bit to learn.
Below, Siiickbrain chats with PAPER about leaving home, Lil Uzi Vert and building a Siiickbrain brand that feels authentically Caroline.
Did you have creative outlets growing up in North Carolina? What were you exposed to that inspired you or moved you to get where you are now?
I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere and didn't have any neighbors, so I spent a lot of time outdoors and riding horses. But as I got older, I got more exposed to music through my siblings and my parents, all different types. That's why my sound is so all over the place — I absorbed all that weird, collective sound. But I wasn't really doing anything super creative until I was a teenager, and I began to struggle with agoraphobia and couldn't leave my house. I started locking myself in my room and doing hours and hours of makeup while I listened to music, and that’s all I did from my teen years until I left home.
Did you feel like music and makeup alleviated some of the anxiety?
Yeah. Honestly, it's all I had. It's all that I could do. I lost all of my friends because of the agoraphobia because no one really understood it. Not only that, I got diagnosed with BPD, OCD, disordered eating, all this stuff. I was like, "Well, I don't know what to do, so I'm just not going to talk about it to anyone.”
How did you find makeup? How did that become a hobby — or rather a tool — for you?
I honestly don't know. I was having a lot of mental struggles and I couldn't eat. I was down to 70 pounds and I was trying to look okay, and through that process I started to get experimental, listening to music as I went.
What kind of music were you listening to at the time?
It's actually really funny. Growing up, my sister introduced me to Radiohead, The Cure, Elliott Smith, The Shins. My brother introduced me to Yellowcard, Hawthorne Heights. My mom played piano my entire childhood until I was a teenager; then she started playing cello. By the time I started going through all of this, my sister went to college. So all of that music playing around the house that was even a little uplifting was gone, and I was listening to my brother’s emo music through the wall and my mother’s really deep cello music. A very sad vibe.
Well, my next question was, "What was your relationship with all of this pop-punk and emo music?" But you just answered it. You have worked with a lot of people in that space since then.
Yeah. The main one was Hawthorne Heights. I basically discovered that I could scream because I was listening to "Ohio Is for Lovers" in the car with my ex-boyfriend. I started screaming along because I thought it was funny, and he was like, "Wait, why can you actually do that?" At that specific moment in time, I was way too scared to actually pursue it. But, yes! Hawthorne Heights has been a band that I've listened to since I was a kid. Honestly, it's weird how all my collaborations accidentally came to be. Nothing was set up — I'm still independent! I had only been doing music for a few months in 2021 when Sonny [Skrillex] hit me up and was like, "Oh, my God, I love what you're doing." Then I came to the studio and we recorded “Too Bizarre.”
Do you still do makeup?
When I finally could leave the house, I moved to New York, went to makeup school and worked as a makeup artist for a while, but I fell into modeling and then after that into music. With makeup artistry, I don't really do it on anyone but myself now. When I do, it's a very cathartic thing. It’s always gonna be something that I love, but it's never gonna be a career like it was. Unless I start a makeup company down the line. Always a possibility.
Do you feel like with music you have a balance between catharsis and career?
Yeah, I feel like I definitely do. For me, starting to make music was a very emotional thing. I had always envisioned myself doing it. I always dreamed of it but didn't want to say it out loud. It was embarrassing and seemed so out of reach and scary. But at the very beginning of 2020, my best friend and romantic partner overdosed out of the blue and died. That was a moment where I realized, "Oh my God, life is so short. What am I doing?" I needed a distraction at that time anyway because it was a lot. So I went to the studio, started recording and never left.
Do you think that all “good” art requires pain?
No, but I think that all good art requires truth and emotion. And I'm not shooting down people who make "get lit" music — for example, with Uzi you can hear that he was in the studio having fun and having a good time, enjoying what he does. But with some people, you can tell when it's more for fame than for art, especially in the industry right now.
When you perform as Siiickbrain, are you stepping into a stage persona? Is Siiickbrain the most authentic version of Caroline? Or is it a mix?
I used to say, whenever I was approached with this question, "I’m a nerd when I’m Caroline at home and with my friends, whatever." Then I take on a stage persona. But honestly, as I've grown up, developed and gained more insight and really figured out who I am as a person and artist — it's all interchangeable. I don't feel like there's a gap at all today.
What's the importance of being vulnerable about everything you've gone through as an artist with a platform?
I know this sounds so silly and everyone's heard this a million times, but honestly, the youth is the future. They need to be exposed to honest, true art right now. It's really been sad to see how much manufactured art exists that they think is the real thing and that they're relating to. But people need to know that you can do this — as one person who went through this and had these life experiences and couldn't move literally, I came to this place, could do all of this and got to do whatever I wanted with my life. Instead of searching for fame, create real art — because that's when you feel fulfilled. That's when you feel like you have a purpose, rather than chasing something that's fake.
What was your first tattoo?
It was the one on the back of my neck. It's a little horseshoe. I got it when I was 18. I basically went in secret to go get this tattoo. My parents didn't even find out until I was like three tattoos deep. But I had planned on getting a tattoo as soon as I possibly could, I always wanted to — although I never really thought that I would like ended up looking like this.
What are you working on now? What's next?
Right now, I’m expanding the brand as Siiickbrain and exploring all visual mediums. Getting into the film industry, writing, putting more things out besides music. And as a brand, as a whole, there may or may not be a clothing line coming. But I’m also trying to remember to take time for myself. To be an individual, a human and experience more life.
Photography: Sarah Pardini
Styling: Lyn Alyson
Makeup: Brit Phatal
PA: Claudia Murphy
Editor-in-chief: Justin Moran
Editorial producer: Alyson Cox