It probably won’t be a surprise for you to learn that Charli XCX and Paris Hilton are friends, with Charli recently citing Paris and her 2006 single ‘Stars Are Blind‘ as an inspiration behind her new album. “I love her aesthetic. I was obsessed with The Simple Life when I was younger and now that I’ve met her I think she’s a really fucking cool, nice person. My thing with her and the Kardashians, is that I relate it to PC Music in a way; I think they’re all just having fun. Whether people are talking shit about them – ‘what do they even do?’, ‘they’re so stupid’ – it’s like, who cares? They’re obviously having a great time doing what they’re doing and living this maxi, maxi, maximalist life of fun stuff. I enjoy people who like living like they’re in a movie, or who act like film stars. That’s really fun to me.” With that in mind, we got the actual Paris Hilton to WhatsApp Charli some questions and just chew the fat for a while (you can find Charli and Paris’ Whatsapp chat in the screengrabs dropped in between our our very own interview with Miss XCX). That’s hot.
“I am on a radio promo tour,” shouts Charli XCX into her mobile phone as she hurtles along some long highway in Buttfuck Nowhere, USA. “Sound the alarm! Shut it down! It’s pretty wild.” You get the feeling it’s not, actually, all that wild, but Charli’s current M.O, via her forthcoming, hyper-real SOPHIE-produced album, is to try and inject some FUN into all facets of pop music. While her 2013 debut True Romance posited her as a sort of Tumblr goth, and 2014’s creatively-muddled-but-still-way-above-average Sucker turned up the angst, the Charli of 2017 is (mainly) all about partying. Fuelled by 2016’s PC Music-inspired Vroom Vroom EP – essentially loads of balloons being rubbed together with some huge pop hooks on top – roughly 70% of the songs on the new album mention champagne, or partying, or partying with champagne, while if the music were a fabric it would be neon pink PVC.
While most pop stars stick to an aesthetic or a sound, the fidgety Charli’s much flightier than that. In fact, she’ll readily admit she’s quick to jump into something new, become fully obsessed and then hastily move on. Spending most of her time in LA, last year saw her get into the juicing scene, a phase that was obliterated at the video shoot for recent single ‘After The Afterparty‘. “I was sober until then, basically, but there was this huge rider of amazing champagne and vodka and stuff. It was a night shoot from 7pm until 7am and my call time wasn’t until 3am so I was just sat in a trailer getting really fucked up. Then I had to shoot the video and was really drunk. It was really Anna Nicole, the whole vibe.”
Prior to the wheatgrass smoothies, was an even less believable flirtation with keeping a journal, a move so at odds with people’s perceptions of Charli XCX that she may as well have started up the Georgian nose flute. “I was in Germany at the airport and I bought this really expensive moleskin journal thing, and a really expensive pen” she explains. “Anyway, so I was on the plane writing in this diary for the whole flight. I was writing about all my feelings about being a pop star, and my tour manager was like ‘you’re not going to keep this up, it’s bullshit’. I was so offended and was like ‘this is my new thing!’. Then, literally, we got off the plane and I was like ‘I left my diary on the plane, FUCK!’.”
Perhaps this is the point with Charli; she’s not interested in being one thing and one thing only. She wants to try some things out, see what happens and if they’re not right she moves on. Even her current trashy raver vibe isn’t the full picture. Given she managed to somehow interpret that first pang of love so exquisitely on 2014’s ‘Boom Clap‘, she’s keen to make it clear her album’s not all ‘up in da club, bottle of bub’. “You know what, working with SOPHIE has allowed me to open up,” she says. “I think I’m a bit closed when it comes to that kind of stuff. I think that’s why people are like ‘she just parties and blah blah blah’, because I don’t let people see that other side of me that much. I feel like the label will try to market it and I’m like, ‘these are my actual feelings, go away, I don’t want you to do that’. There’s one new song called ‘Can You Hear Me’ which is super emotional, and there’s another one called ‘Waterfall’, which to me is very strip clubby and sexy, but also emotional as well.” Does she get emotional at parties? “I definitely got emotional at my last party,” she laughs. “There were a lot of strangers in my house, about 500 people. I was like ‘fuck!’.”
Let’s go way back to February 2016. The Vroom Vroom EP seemed to confuse some people, especially critics. In a nice way, what were you thinking with that EP?
(Laughs) ‘What were you thinking?’. That’s the music I like to listen to. I kind of realised after Sucker, like, I would never buy that album. Maybe I would have bought it when I was really into ‘God Is A DJ’-era Pink, but at that stage in my life when I was making it, I would never have bought that record. Whereas I would have bought Vroom Vroom, especially because I like to party so much. I wanted to make music I wanted to party to. When Vroom Vroom comes on in a club I go crazy, I lose my shit and I don’t care. It’s embarrassing.
What is it about PC Music and SOPHIE etc that you like so much? What do you think they’re doing with pop music?
At the beginning I was really obsessed with the sound and the way they market their artists. I always thought it was really forward-thinking, exciting and sort of dangerous I suppose. The way major labels market artists is very boring in comparison to the way [PC Music’s] Hannah Diamond is marketed, for example. Now I speak to [PC Music co-founder] AG Cook everyday and he part-time lives with me in LA, so I’m obsessed with it because he’s so funny. We talk about pop music all the time. I think people take it all really serious and they find it offensive that they’re being really fun, or think they’re being really art school and trying to humiliate everyone, but it is genuinely really joyous. I feel the same with my music, and the way I am as artist. The stuff I put on Twitter is all happy – I don’t want to make people feel bad.
You seem to move on quite quickly after each album. Do you look back at all?
Well I feel like now when I look at all of my work with a bit of distance that Sucker is the anomaly album. I think there are a lot of similarities between True Romance and the new record, and while Vroom Vroom is definitely more aggressive there are definite similarities between the stuff that’s on there and the new album. They’re all linked, but Sucker is just the weird bit.
Poor Sucker! Do you think about how your fans might react to a statement like that? Like I would have been so bummed if Alanis Morissette had turned round and said she hated Jagged Little Pill because it meant a lot to me when I was an angry, basically mute child.
Okay, right, so Rostam [Batmanglij, producer and ex Vampire Weekend man] told me off for this. He literally said those thing, although he didn’t reference Alanis Morissette (laughs). He said, you can’t say that about your album because of exactly what you’ve just said. So, yeah, I should probably stop saying that. I do like parts of that album, but I also think I have a very honest relationship with my fans. I’m not going to think they’re lame for liking it, it’s just not something I connect with anymore.
Whether someone has a dick or a vagina doesn’t really bother me, as long as they don’t act like a dick then it’s fine.
Do you think people connect to your music on an emotional level?
Yeah, definitely. I don’t connect to music that emotionally. Well, sometimes I do, but sometimes I think about it in a clinical and cynical way. I don’t think people are like that unless they’re a songwriter though. Fans message me and say that it’s helped them through a break-up, or helped them when someone’s passed away, and that’s really powerful to hear that you can help someone through that…I wish I could answer that more like Taylor Swift would, but I can’t (laughs).
Obviously you initially got bored of talking about Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It‘ [which Charli wrote] and the songwriting world that hit threw you into, but is that somewhere you’re more comfortable being now?
I love it now! I’m obsessed with it. I’m trying to do loads of songwriting. I want to cancel promo to go and write songs for people, which I think is fair because that’s part of who I am as an artist. People are always like ‘you’re this girl who’s a pop star but also a writer’ but half the time I don’t get the chance to write for other people anymore. So I feel like I’m living a lie. I might be working with Charlie Puth. I got his phone number and the first thing I text him was ‘hey Charlie Puth, imagine if we got married then we’d both be called Charlie Puth, hahaha’. He didn’t text back for a while.
You’ve written a song on the new Blondie album too. Tell me about that please.
They hit me up and obviously I was into Blondie and particularly into Debbie Harry as a woman in music. They heard some demos of mine from when I was 14 or 15 and they actually liked two songs that I’d written at that point. So I was like, ‘cool’.
You’re really good at writing songs for other artists and making them fit with their sound and persona. What do you think a song someone else had written with you in mind would sound like? What do people perceive to be your sound?
Oh my god. Okay, if someone wrote a song for me I feel like it would be awful. It would be like ‘Selfie’, that Chainsmokers song. They’d be like ‘you’d kill it!’. It would be [puts on whiny cockney accent] “alright I’m from London, are you ready? You know what I’m saying?”. Or maybe “I’m gonna smash your heart like I smash a glass, on a Friday night in the club”. That kind of vibe. I wouldn’t take it.
What do we learn about Charli XCX from the new album?
I don’t know, you should ask SOPHIE or AG about this, I don’t know. I guess you learn that I’m quite a diverse songwriter and that I don’t just shout random words all the time. You’ve made me think it is quite emotional actually. I have feelings.
Do you prefer working with men or women?
I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter. I just care about working with people I like and respect. There’s nothing I hate more than when labels are like ‘this is the latest hot producer, you should be in the room with them’. To me that’s not inspiring. I have to really be into what they do. I rarely work with new people. But whether someone has a dick or a vagina doesn’t really bother me, as long as they don’t act like a dick then it’s fine.
‘Good Girls’ plays around with gender expectations regards partying and having fun. Do you ever feel pressure to apologise for who you are and what you do?
In my head I’m like ‘my mum would really want me to apologise for this thing that I’ve done’, but then in the real world I realise I can’t. I have to stand by what I do. I rarely apologise. I did a lot when I was younger and people would question why I was doing it. Sometimes there are things you have to apologise for, like when I put the video for You (Ha Ha Ha) out and it had guns in it and it was around the time of a school shooting in America. I had to apologise for that because it was an awful, tragic event and obviously I’d cut that video months before that. When I do dumb shit, I don’t feel like I have to apologise at all. Should I? Did I answer this question wrong? Should I be more emotional? You’re trying to get me on my Taylor Swift shit.
Speaking of Taylor Swift, didn’t she once send you a big box of her own merchandise? Wouldn’t you have preferred some vouchers?
Yeah and some Don Perignon, we can’t forget that. It was very nice of her. But yes there was a box of Taylor Swift merch.
That’s sort of amazing.
It’s really fucking amazing. There was this nice holographic tour book, which is now in the guest room at my house, so whenever anyone stays they can read up on what happened on the 1989 tour. My focus was on the champagne.
This interview is taken from the Spring 2017 issue of BEAT get your copy here!