Q&A: Electro-Pop’s New Kid Charli XCX
By Staff on June 8, 2012
British electro-pop performer Charli XCX is all set to release her debut EP on June 12. In support, the singer is touring with Santigold and will join Coldplay on tour later this summer. The new artist has also released a new video for "Nuclear Seasons" directed by Ryan Andrews. So just who is this singer making new waves in the ranks of the much-loved Grimes, Lykke Li, and Marina and the Diamonds? We spoke with her to get to know a little more about UK native.
Your teen years were fairly split between the London party scene and a quiet home life. How did you balance the two?
The school I went to was pretty intense, we had saturday school and stuff - so basically after I'd finished on Saturday, I'd go home, get changed and then go straight up to London to play my shows at the raves. I never really thought about balancing stuff - I just kind of did it. I was never one of those people who was like 'ahhhh I hate school, get me out of here' - I actually kind of really liked it, and liked learning - so I never really thought about it, because I wanted to do both I guess.
How did the London party scene influence the music you play today?
Well, when I was younger I went through this phase of wanting to be a rapper - but I was never very good - and I'm still not. I was obsessed with Uffie and Eminem and the bit when Blondie rapped in Rapture. So when I started at these parties, I started doing this nursery rhyme rap thing where i wrote songs about dinosaurs and being 5 and dressing up as a little kid and screaming and stuff. It worked kind of well for me so I kept doing that. I guess it's kind of developed into my music now - i don't rap like a bratty 5 year old anymore but I guess i kind of do this layed back spoken word thing which was kind of influenced by that scene... I dunno... I think mainly the London party scene influenced the way that I perform live. It was all very dramatic and crazy - like people climbing on stage and shooting water guns and crawling around and shit like that. I think my stage performance is still pretty energetic, and I think I discovered that on that party scene coz I was seeing all these crazy bands do it and I was like, wow I want to be like that!
You started performing music at the young age of 14. How did people react to you at first?
Some people were really surprised and some people were just like, whatever. I guess that was the nature of that scene - it didn't really matter how old you were or anything like that as long as you were doing your own thing and doing something cool. My friends from home were more surprised, as was I, because that whole world was just really alien to us and where we grew up. Everyone thought it was cool I think. Some people thought it was weird. But I don't know, nowadays I guess it's not that strange starting from a young age... I mean Willow Smith was 9 or something wasn't she?
You're still very young. How do you hold your ground when meeting with music executives and others who have had more experience?
I think that youth works to my advantage most of the time. I think people are more interested on what you have to say as you have a fresher take on things. Also I don't have an in depth knowledge of the technical side of music or computers or anything like that, so I have a very backwards and weird way of working compared to most technical people nowadays. I think it's nice to start writing a song at a piano, or creating artwork on microsoft paint, just because I can't really do it another way.
How do you combine your love of art with your music?
Art is hugely influential on my music. I'm massively inspired by the artists Pierre Et Gilles at the moment. I want my album to sound like one of their photographs. When I write a song I'll look at their work and it will inspire lyrics and what I want things to sound like - like glittery synths and warming basslines. I'm also really into tumblr (who isn't?!) and I like making little gifs and artwork and drawing ponies and stuff. I just like the whole aesthetic of that world and think it reflects in the way I dress and how some of my music sounds. Until recently I was studying fine art at art school too, so I was mixing both environments anyways, which was really cool.
What is your take on pop music today?
I feel like it's changing a lot right now. I just think something really interesting is going to happen over the next few months. I'm not quite sure what but I think a lot of people can feel something bubbling. I think pop music is become more beautiful and real and not as shiny and plastic, although I do sometimes like shiny an plastic. I think people are less ashamed to say they love pop music at the moment -which is really cool. And there are lots of interesting artists who are pushing genre boundaries and making pop more diverse. I'd like to think I was part of that group.
How are you feeling about your upcoming tours with Santigold and Coldplay?
Fucking nervous and really excited! I really enjoy touring with other girls, especially strong kick ass girls so I can't wait to see Santigold live. I think you can learn a lot from people when you tour with them which is cool. And Coldplay - well it's Coldplay. They are one of the biggest bands in the world. Who wouldn't be crazy excited about supporting them. Also, they're two acts which I haven't seen live and would love to - so I'll probably be in the front row for most of the gigs - spazzing out for Santigold and crying for Coldplay.
How are you feeling about the release of your debut EP?
I can't wait for everyone to hear the song in full. It's probably one of my most favorite songs I've ever written. I'm really proud of it. I can't wait for people to hear the next piece of the puzzle and see the video to go with it. I think more people will be like - ok we understand where she's coming from - let's go party with her. That's what I want.
What was your favorite part of writing and recording the EP? Any particular memories that stand out?
I guess it was writing You're The One. I was in Sweden and it was the first time I'd ever been there and Patrick Berger who I was working with just sent me this track across and was like, here see if you like this and I did so I wrote the song in my hotel room in an hour and took it to the studio the next day, put the vocal down and then it was kind of done. And i loved it. And I was like YES. This is a single let's put it out! And now I am. So I guess that was a nice process.
Who have you learned the most from so far, in terms of music?
I don't know. I think there are things I've learnt from everyone I've met really. I learnt a lot from Alexis Krauss when I was supporting Sleigh Bells. She's such an amazing performer and it was so great to see her live and watch her. I really admire girls who are out there and rock and roll and that's what she is. And she's so fucking nice. I think that's what i've learnt lots from everyone I've worked with - they've all been nice. I don't want to be seen as a 'cool kid' person who people find intimidating, I'm not down with that coz that's not me. I'd rather just hang out with everyone, be welcoming and party with people who come to my shows, rather than be all exclusive and them be all scared by me. I like chatting with people and being a geek. Yeah, welcoming and geeky - I guess that's what I am. Ha!
Charli XCX Tour Dates:
6 - Dallas, TX - House of Blues &
7 - Houston, TX - House of Blues &
9 - Manchester City UK - City of Manchester Stadium %
28 - Winchester, Hampshire, UK - Blissfields Festival
7 - Chicago, IL - United Center %
8 - Chicago, IL - United Center %
10 - St. Paul, MN - Xcel Energy Center %
11 - St. Paul, MN - Xcel Energy Center %
& w/ Santigold
% w/ Coldplay