"The 'Beautycore movement' - [is] kind of bringing more women into that metal genre."
Say the word 'Beautycore' and you probably would conjure up a centre or focal point of Ru Paul's Drag Race, place it into a metal context and you come up with arguably one of the most exciting metal bands to emerge from the United States since Lamb of God broke out. Their name? GFM, or as you might like to call them Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh.
They are not your average American teenage girls and certainly are not leftovers from the Camp Rock saga; we'll go with School of Rock as these girls 'pledge allegiance, to the band'. Having already played in Germany, GFM are gearing up in 2020 for a new EP and other ventures (COVID-19 permitting), but don't let their sweet, cute looks fool you... these girls bite, their music bites, they're ready to slaughter the world as they put pedal to the metal and let Beautycore smash the floor.
CJ, Maggie and Lulu were happy to speak to GMA about their humble origins, the challenges of being a teenage metal band and above all, why they are arguably a beacon of light for females to engage with metal music.
Could you explain what your genre 'Teenage Beautycore Metal' means?
"Beautycore Metal is something that we created on our own, we are all teenage girls and so growing up playing in the metal community, a lot of guys in metal bands didn't think that we were actually metal until they came down and checked us at a show and were like 'oh they can actually play'. We took into account all of the genres that we play in and some people got made with me calling us Metalcore, we didn't know what kind of metal genre to class ourselves as, so we started making jokes that we were 'Beautycore'; kind of poking fun at the feminine side of it, this resulted in some bands we played with saying it was cool and that we should really play it up.
So we started doing that, people really connected with it over social media and this lead to people saying they support the 'Beautycore movement' - kind of bringing more women into that metal genre."
And what do your parents think of your music? Are they music-orientated as well?
"They're very supportive, they're the ones who put us there and are basically our cheerleaders. They're very into the business kind of the world, so they're helpful in incorporating our business and we are super grateful for everything they do.
Our parents actually don't play music, which is why we thank god for our talent because they just grew up listening to music and the reason why we started was because our dad wanted us to cover some songs from his favourite bands... so we started to do covers; 80's 'dad rock', Skillet, etc., we did it just to be a kind of family band and then we started writing our own stuff; our parents are very fond of us and how far we've come."
What is the meaning behind your band name GFM - in full 'Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh'?
"It was actually our mum's idea, which was a little weird because we were trying to throw out names about what we could call our band. What we had come up with, although I cannot exactly remember what it was, was something like 'Firepower', but our mum was like 'hey why don't we call you Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh' - these were the three original gifts that Jesus was given at birth and she resonated in that we were three gifts given to her from God.
So we accepted it and made it our own, but we tend to go with the acronym GFM as it's easier having on our cheerleader uniforms, it's a really cool thing to have."
Maggie, at what point during your childhood did you figure that you wanted to become a bassist, keyboardist and vocalist?
"So at the age of 5 our parents said that we needed to take music lessons and then if we hit it after 2 years we could play, so they organised piano lessons and I stuck with it and so I was about 8, by that time CJ was playing guitar and Lulu was playing drums, so we kind of had enough people to start a band - we didn't really know what you could do with a keyboard player, a guitar player and a drummer. So our dad was like 'oh hey Maggie, you play piano so why not try play the bass as well?', so I started playing when I was around 8 / 9."
Being at such a young age, do you feel overwhelmed in any way? Given you've worked alongside the likes of Joey Sturgess?
"Yeah it's a really surreal thing because we grew up with the bands that he worked with - such as Of Mice & Men, Asking Alexandria, etc., we love that music and for him to work with us is such a surreal thing. When it came to having dinner with him it was like chilling with a friend, it was really cool to go from growing up listening to music that he produced to being there and listening to him in person."
When you played in Germany for the first time, you must have had a mixture of emotions? Not just for the gig, but being away from home?
"Our first time overseas was very nerve-wrecking and we didn't know what the reaction from the German audience would be like; because we're such a young band. But people were so sweet, they were sweet again the last time we visited... Jasmine, Julian, Simon, etc., they were always there to pick us up and took us everywhere because we didn't have a car. It was such a big fun time, we loved the feedback we received over there."
Outside of the band what hobbies / interests do you have?
"We all pretty much have the same interests, it's pretty much like we're different versions of the same person haha, when someone wants to do something everyone is pretty much down to do it. We're very adventurous and like to try new things, so now we're into video games, anime, different movies, we like to read, draw, a lot of your typical teenager kind-of-stuff. We like to go out and find new things to do, go to the arcades or find a couple of different spots.
We also like baking and cooking; we have a sweet tooth, it's cool that it's all the same because it's the three of us.
Maybe we should bake our own GFM cookies."
Seeing that more and more females are getting into metal music, this must be pleasing for you?
"Yeah it's such a cool thing because after our shows, we have little girls coming up to us and saying things like 'I didn't know I could listen to this type of music, I really like this' and so they come to realise that they can listen to things like this. It's great to see that we're bridging the gap in a lot of areas; we have families approach us and say that their children are getting into our music."
For metalheads visiting Jacksonville, Florida, what sights / attractions could you recommend?
"There's definitely a lot of great venues, so many to choose from. There's a few settlements nearby which have old original buildings still there."
Given you're reaching various places across the United States, have you had people get in touch outside of the USA?
"We definitely have a lot of fans all over the world which is crazy, we get messages all the time, things like 'Oh I'm listening from Australia', 'I'm listening from South America', 'Europe', Moldova to Sweden'. In Sweden have someone run a Facebook fan page, he actually came into America to come to a show that we were at last year.
We played in Germany for the first time a couple of years ago and that was crazy, because we didn't expect anyone to KNOW US and we got there, saw people with our shirts on and knew the songs - we are really worldwide and didn't even know it"
What was the outcome of your January tour?
"That was a really crazy tour because it was the first time that we've ever done a big tour, last year we only flew out to California and so this year we wanted to make our way there. We were kind of nervous about this tour as we've never done a tour like this before, but as soon as we started playing we got more comfortable on stage and so forth. We meet a lot of people we knew already, so we were able to draw out people who may not like heavy music but now they do."
What is your stage attire like and you have any props to use?
"So we actually perform in cheerleader outfits and it's something that our mum came up with, because when we started the band we were all at high school; I'm (CJ) still at high school, but we wanted to bring a fun aspect to metal and not be so serious, you know to have fun? You can enjoy life and enjoy yourself, we're kind of the cheer leaders for Team GSM which is our fan base, but aside from the outfits we have some statement pieces on stage - my drum kit is sponsored and has pink and black all over it."
All musicians have their own personalities, so CJ summarize Maggie, Maggie summarize CJ and both can you summarize Lulu?
"I [CJ] would say Maggie is very... kind of the head of the band, very hands-on with her time and she'll like grab you when you're going on stage, very leader-born."
"CJ is very energetic and a happy-go-lucky kind of person, so on stage you'll see the bond she has and in the music videos how strong she is, even in the behind-the-scenes stuff on tour... but in everyday life she's a very bubbly person, she will always try to make people laugh but not in a serious kind of conversation."
"Lulu is another energetic person, she's a hard-worker and makes sure she applies herself in every area."
Have there been any low points with the band among the high points?
"Life is like a roller-coaster and so we try to celebrate and highlight the high points, no matter how small the high points are. Meaning if there are low points, we can look back and see that we are still celebrating from all the high points that are happening, you need to focus on the high points instead of the low points."
What plans do you have for the rest of the year?
"Just to take over, because honestly, GFM, we want to really make this year our year and we're going to take GFM far, not rule anything out because at the end of the year, we want to be like 'yup we are so proud of everything that we done this year'. So our plan is to do everything we can, as best as we can and as much as we can do it, without obviously draining ourselves because we want to take time out for ourselves to make sure we don't burn out."