Charli XCX is changing what it means to be a pop star in 2014. With an affinity for Spice Girls-inspired platforms and an attitude that’s more punk rock than pop princess, her rise to the top has been original and worthy of some serious praise. She’s got two studio albums, an EP and a handful of mixtapes under her belt, and co-wrote Icona Pop’s major hit single “I Love It.” In the last year she toured with Ellie Goulding, Marina and the Diamonds, Paramore, and took the time to headline her own North American tour. She’s been jetsetting through Brazil these past few weeks and dropped a song with Australian rapper, Iggy Azalea letting everyone know she’s got a fancy side to balance out her edge. One thing’s for sure, the girl works hard.
We caught up with her to talk about her upcoming album, her favorite clothing line Lazy Oaf, and why it’s so important for young female pop stars to be in control of their image–especially if it’s a sexy one.
So tell me about headlining your recent North American tour?
It was really good! I was really surprised with how many shows sold out, it's cool. We did two shows in Chicago, one after another and it totally sold out – they were really good shows. We were on a tour bus so it all felt really real and really brilliant. I decorated the tour bus, we got loads of Christmas decorations so the bus looked like weird Disneyland.
What’s the hardest thing about being on a bus tour?
It gets hard to write music on a bus but I don’t really care because it’s cool and it’s fun, we’re just watching movies all the time. I don’t mind it all, I’m not really girly or anything so I really like it.
What’s the last movie you watched?
We watched 28 Days Later, that was good. We tried to watch this movie called Twixt with Elle Fanning, and Francis Ford Coppola directed, it was like, really weird. It was not a good film at all.
You’re working on your new album right now, can you tell me about the process? I know you said it can be hard writing on the road, but how is it going so far?
I was writing a lot before I came out on tour when I was in Stockholm – it’s going really well. I definitely feel like this is the most important music I have ever created in my life. It’s a lot more live, more guitars and inspired by ‘80s bands like Bow Wow Wow and Love. I saw the last record as the color purple and I see this second record as being the color red. I felt like all the passion, femininity, being in control of your body, and being super sexy came out in this album.
It sounds like you’re tackling some issues that are really major right now for young female pop singers, what do those things mean to you? What relevance does that have to you and the stage that you’re at in your career?
I feel like there are so many stereotypes with women in pop music, if you take your clothes off or appear to be sexy people think you’re selling sex and you’re not in control of your image. If you do something sexy people assume there is some guy, or some man behind the record label making you do that, which I firmly can say is not the case. If you don’t chose to do something sexy, that doesn’t shows skin or have short hair, people throw comments out like, “Oh you’re a lesbian.” I don’t feel like those are beneficial comments for the world we live in today. I feel like not caring what people think and embracing who you are is important–if you want to be sexy and embrace who you are there is nothing wrong with that. If you think being sexy and shaving your head and being punk is sexy, great, it’s about being in control.
What kind of control do you have over your creative process? Can you walk us through a studio session? How do you work?
To be honest, I don’t have a method – no method is the best method. My only rule is I have to work fast, I hate taking a long time with things. It’s all fast and quick and spontaneous. The first thing that comes to my head is the best thing, I always say the best songs are written in half an hour, not a day. I just like firing songs out, thats the best way. If I play a song for someone’s opinion and they say it’s bad then I’d just rework it. It’s very instantaneous and shout-y choruses, everything has to be done fast.
Is that a departure from the music you have been making?
In some ways yes, it took me about five years to put together my first record. I just like banging out the songs, this record is about not balancing yourself.
Talk to me about how you project yourself into your visuals? How important are visuals and aesthetics to you.
I’d say I’m more inspired visually than by music. I tend to watch things rather than listen to other songs, I want to create my own world for my friends to access. I make all my videos with my boyfriend so its 100% my brain and heart going into it. After doing “Super Love” I knew I wanted to film the video in Japan. I always feel like the way I know I’m connected to a song is if I see the music video in my head. Once I finish recording, I know what the music video will be like. Having that connection is very important to me.
Do you have favorite designers, magazines, books – anything you’re really committed to?
I really like Lazy Oaf. I also love Givenchy, I love tuxedos and suits, that kind of style.
What is the one song you think you have listened to more than any other song on earth?
The Cure, “Just Like Heaven.”
Lets say you can only eat one meal: appetizer, entree, dessert, beverage: what’s your meal?
Guacamole and chips, avocado rolls (another avocado based meal), pixie sticks or something for dessert, and my drink would just be water with lots of lime.
Did you have a new years resolution for 2014?
If I did, I probably already broke it – I’m not good at that kind of stuff.
Do you have a favorite Quentin Tarantino character of all time or film?
Alabama Whitman, she’s the best!
Have you ever had your fortune told?
I want to! I want to go to someone really good, but I’m also kind of scared. What if they say I’m going to die on a certain day? Then I have to live my whole life waiting for that day. I like surprises.
If you could be a kitchen appliance what would you be?
When is the last time you mailed a letter through the post?
Probably when I was 13 and it was to my best friend. We would write letters to each other and would pretend we were part of this secret cheerleading crime fighting society – with outfits and that kind of thing, so we would go to school and not talk about it and keep it a secret.
Are you still friends?
You’re stranded on a desert island, you can only bring one female and one male pop star, dead or alive, who would it be?
Robert Smith because I think he’d be good to hang out with and would serenade me under the stars and that would be really fun. Female would be Lizzie McGuire, her pop star self, but maybe she could come as a cartoon as well as her real time self.
What is the most exciting thing happening in music in general right now?
I feel like it’s such a good time to be working in music because everyone has so much control, even compared to five years ago. I think that’s pretty cool, I don’t know about music trends really but I do like Flatbush Zombies. I like their music right now.
What does the future hold, what can we expect from the future of Charli?
I have no idea, my head is so focused right now and I don’t want to break my flow. This was such a rush to make, my head is so in the place. For next year, I have no idea.