LOS ANGELES – It took just 2:17 for Angel City FC’s first-ever home match at Banc of California Stadium to turn into an all-out party. Vanessa Gilles was on the other end of a cross from Jun Endo and buried a header, prompting a bevy of pink smoke from the supporters section. The sold-out crowd of 22,000 came for a show and got one, with ACFC ultimately winning 2-1 over NC Courage.
The game was a culmination of efforts to bring professional women’s soccer back to L.A. Many of the club’s high-profile owners were on the field during pregame, as the ownership group includes everyone from Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, and Jennifer Garner to Billie Jean King, Mia Hamm, and Candace Parker. And the team seems committed to backing the players, with teammates earning one percent of all ticket sales as well as the club securing an eight-figure kit sponsorship deal from DoorDash.
ACFC even has its own anthem from Grammy winner and Alabama Shakes lead vocalist Brittany Howard, who teamed up with Inglewood native (and multi-hyphenate) Tia P on “Running With The Angels.” It’s a song Howard hopes Angel City supporters make their own, as she and Tia P used HBCU marching bands as inspiration for the horns-driven, uplifting track. Last Friday’s match was the first time the pair had been able to perform it live, with the song blaring over the PA after Angel City secured the win.
The song was created as part of the First Strides campaign from Johnnie Walker (who is a primary sponsor of ACFC), and Howard hopes it will continue to push the conversation forward for women’s equality and progress — in sports and elsewhere. UPROXX Sports had the chance to chat with Howard and Tia P about the making of the song, what it means to create a team anthem, and more.
Martin Rickman: My first question for you is, how did this all come together? How did you two get connected to create this song?
Brittany Howard: Honestly, it started with my relationship with Johnnie Walker. I love working with Johnnie Walker because they put everything that they’ve earned and put it back into the community. They want to see other people prosper. They want to see other people make strides. So I’m like, “Yeah, let’s do this.” Immediately I knew I wanted the song to be energetic. I knew I wanted to incorporate a marching band. Tia went to an HBCU.
Tia P: Howard!
BH: I loved it. I was in the marching band. I love the HBCUs, I love their energy. I knew I wanted that to be in the song, and then of course all the inspiration came from all the women before us, and making strides, making it better for each other, and then finally getting here with so many doors slammed in our face such as equal pay. I could go on and on. And this is a continuation of generations and generations and generations of hard-working women. They’re trying to make things better for each other. So of course, we are excited to be on the ground floor and we want to promote that with this anthem, to do so. And I met Tia … actually it’s crazy, the universe brought us back together. I was judging a Tiny Desk concert and I saw Tia on there. I was like, “Okay, okay!” You know what I mean? I was going crazy for Tia on there, and time kind of passed, and then next thing we know …
TP: We’re at my studio together.
BH: I heard Tia rapping and I said, “That is exactly the energy that needs to be on this track.”
TP: And we didn’t know until maybe about a week prior. I was like … because I’m a hip-hop baby. A lot of people don’t understand hip-hop. For me, hip-hop is bigger than just a genre. It’s about taking a story and moving that wherever it’s needed or wherever it’s necessary. So I was talking to my manager a week prior to having this opportunity and I wanted to branch out, do I do country or something? And then we get this call. It was just like it was just too perfect.
What was that moment like? Getting that email, that call?
TP: It was just like, “Word?” It took a minute to kind of settle in but once it did, once the, “Oh, wow,” factor kind of chills, it was like, “Okay.” Then you start to get real invigorated and excited, so after Brittany had laid her part, she did all the instrumentation, wrote the horns part, and had the chorus. She sent it to me and I think I did it in three, four hours.
BH: That was it. I couldn’t believe it. And it wasn’t just the rhymes, it was the ad libs. And the unison tracks. It was like, “Whoa, who is this?”
TP: It was easy. She laid the groundwork and that’s kind of just how this whole thing is. We’re standing on the shoulders of giants that have come before us and she laid the groundwork for the song. I just came and gave it whatever I felt I could give, and it just worked out painlessly. Our performance tonight was … It was our first time performing it together.
BH: Yeah. Very exciting.
TP: It just felt good because we still have stuff in our hearts that this is for. You know what I mean? It goes beyond the music. We’re using our gifts in music to broadcast a wider message of unity and women empowerment. This is here, we’re not going anywhere. Like we said earlier in another interview, if you don’t give us a seat at the table, we’ll build the whole damn house.
BH: Exactly. And that’s what this is, and that’s why we’re so honored and excited to be on the ground floor of this movement. And I’m excited for everyone in LA.
What is that feeling like, to create a team anthem?
BH: I think there’s a base level of it. If you’re going to write an anthem for a team that has any longevity, I feel like you really got to write something that pumps yourself up. Every time you hear it, your ear pumps. That’s it.
TP: Hell yeah. That’s the thing. If you don’t feel it, how is that going to translate to other people? You know what I’m saying? And the way that this is the first time we really got to see an array of people react to it. The team first reacted to it when we did it about a month ago. Just to see that it’s the same for the people. It’s just as exciting as we hoped, as we were just laying it down. It’s just, it makes it feel like we did our job. And not only for us as artists, but for the team, everybody in the sport, and the message that rides with it.
BH: And this is created with so much joy and so much excitement. Not a single part of it was hard. Now I’m so happy it’s out there now. People can just enjoy it. I’m so excited to see what me and Tia have done here, to see it grow, and to see it become something entirely new.
You mentioned the marching band aspect of it, to have that drumming at a game, that visceral feeling you get with that.
TP: Here’s the thing. At the core, we’re both musicians. I play drums. It’s just that musicianship, I feel like it’s at the fore of what we do. Whether we say it or not, it’s going to have that live element like I know you [Brittany] have your live band when you perform, I have my live band. It’s just an entirely different experience. It just elevates it that much more. And that being the original dream and then seeing it come to fruition…
BH: It’s amazing.
TP: It’s a high. It’s a real high.
BH: And the marching band was my first love. I was in marching band, I was a marching drummer, and like Tia said, this is my dream. I can’t believe I wrote for a marching band, and it’s sick!
What do you hope to do to build off of this? Not just for Angel City but for a lot of the elements that you both just said are so critical to utilizing this platform, realizing this dream, and then continuing to push efforts forward?
TP: If you’re not looking toward the future what are you looking at? I feel like we definitely wanted it to be a statement for now, but not just a statement for now, but a statement for whatever else will come our way, any other type of adversity, this is something that will uplift these people. Because it’s so easy to get downtrodden, to get in the sunken place, but you really sometimes need music It’s such a powerful tool. It really gets people in a different headspace. If we can be that voice of change or reason, or just pushing, just go, just do it. Don’t even stop to think about it. Just go for the emotion, and if you can see yourself in that aspect, then we’ve done our jobs as artists.
BH: Exactly. And I’m also wanting to see more brands giving back to the people. I really appreciate someone getting their flowers and then wanting to pass them out to other people. It just really means so much. I know that America wasn’t really based on that principle so much, but I’m glad that we can see a giant brand like Johnnie Walker changing things, and I hope I see other brands following suit.