Lili Trifilio of Beach Bunny Credit: Owen Lehman

Chicago native Lili Trifilio knows that heartbreak and growing up are inevitably painful, but as far as she’s concerned, they’re pains you can dance your way through. As front woman of indie-pop band Beach Bunny, she turns them into upbeat, danceable tracks you can sway along to. “I hope that when people listen to Beach Bunny and they’re going through a hard time, maybe a heartbreak, that they can relate to the lyrics and find some peace in them,” she says.

Beach Bunny now frequently plays as a four-piece, but it grew out of a solo project of the same name that Trifilio started in her DePaul dorm room in December 2015. While suffering through the difficult end of a relationship, she channeled her emotions into the EP Animalism. The first song, “6 Weeks,” gives you a good idea of its tone: “Let’s begin at the end when you tore me apart,” she sings. “You didn’t try to make me cry, but I bawled when you said good-bye.”

Trifilio had previously played in a duo called Fingers x Crossed, and after she released Animalism, she got a lot of support from fellow students at her shows around campus—many of whom knew her from the duo. She began booking solo acoustic shows off-campus too, and she wrote more songs. Her backing musicians came aboard in 2017, when Trifilio decided she wanted to enter a Battle of the Bands contest in Elgin. Drummer Jon Alvarado, bassist Aidan Cada, and guitarist Matt Henkels helped establish their surf-pop sound.

Since then, Beach Bunny have released three EPs and made their way through the Chicago DIY scene, sharing bills with bigger bands such as the Walters and Varsity. Their latest EP, August’s Prom Queen, moves away from heartbreak and focuses on the anxieties of growing older and feeling pressure to adhere to societal standards. “Cookie cutter, marriage license, bachelor’s degree / Pressure pulsing, got to stick to routine normalcy,” Trifilio sings on “Adulting.” She’s now a senior journalism major at DePaul, but she’s very vocal about not wanting to bail out on her dream of a career in music.

“It breaks my heart when people settle because they feel like they have to,” she says. “I hope that when people hear me at gigs or even when I post online, that they feel motivated to pursue their own ambitions.”

Beach Bunny on their first tour—they went to the west coast this summer.Credit: Lili Trifilio

After their release of Prom Queen, Beach Bunny headed west on their first tour, accompanied by Field Medic and Remo Drive. “I got to meet so many fans from across the country and work with incredible artists that inspire me to work even harder,” Trifilio says. In September, Beach Bunny played Riot Fest, and right now they’re preparing for a Sunday show at Thalia Hall—the biggest club they’ve played so far—and an east-coast tour.

Beach Bunny sing about the fear of the future and of stultifying routine, but Trifilio herself wants to enjoy the here and now—especially since her music is getting some traction. “There are a lot of good, big things in the works right now,” she says. “I’m just trying to stay present and grow as an artist along the way.”