“When I first wrote it, I thought it was too simple to even be legitimate. I thought it was half of a song,” she tells Rolling Stone. “I honestly wrote it in three minutes on the way out the door. It was a normal day, but I felt like, ‘I don’t even know if I can do this day because it’s another depression day.’ But before I went out, I sang that into the tape recorder. Something about it works because it’s exhausted. Like, ‘I’ve already felt all these intense feelings. I’m tired of it. I wish I could get all this negativity out and never have to deal with it again.’”
The downbeat, wry track is the perfect accompaniment to the second season of the Netflix show, which tells the tale of high school student Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), the son of a sex therapist (Gillian Anderson), who decides to start giving out sex advice at school — for a price. Season Two sees Otis struggling with a new relationship — and his mother’s new relationship — while his friend, Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), ends up caught in a love triangle between a bad boy and a sweet Frenchman. Otis’ friend/love interest/business partner Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) also has her share of challenges: a drug addict mom and her lingering feelings for Otis among them. The show balances on the razor’s edge of tragedy and comedy — it features both sexual assault and a comically horny production of Romeo and Juliet.
Furman was brought on to the show to create a soundtrack of teenage angst, a feeling that she has yet to shake. “I related to the feeling of having all these worries that you don’t know how to talk about,” she says. “It feels like there’s no space for you to talk about them. That’s what I write songs about a lot of the time already. A lot of the characters remind me of myself when I was a teenager. A lot of times I still feel that way today in my adult life.”
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“It’s not that much of a stretch to connect with your teenage self because teenage angst doesn’t go away,” she adds. “You still feel all those feelings. All the same stuff is happening.”
Furman’s last album, Twelve Nudes, dropped in 2019. It veered more toward the punk lane than her past album, Transangelic Exodus, which was replete with sax, keyboards and delightful bombast.
Furman’s sound is an ideal match for the world of the show: a seemingly era-less small town in England where everyone dresses like it’s the Eighties but acts like it’s 2020. “When I make music, I don’t think about what era to emulate, really,” she says. “I’m really into songs that could have been made in any decade. I like when I find some Beyoncé song that could have come out in the Fifties. That’s what I try to write.”
Still, as a fan of Eighties and Nineties teen movies, she was able to write for the candy-colored world of Sex Education handily: grungy yet glam, brash yet angsty.
As for which character strikes the biggest chord in Furman? She has to go with Eric, a gay teen with a predilection for glitter, leopard print and neon. “He has an instinct to try to please everyone, but he has an intense emotional life. He’s a lot,” she says. “He feels like he’s too much sometimes. He’s negotiating between how much he wants to please people and how much he wants to say, ‘This me. Take it or leave it.’ I think you can tell that I’m that way, too.”