charli xcx is sounding more and more like the future of pop
Charli XCX tells us all about 'Pop 2' -- a title you can thank Tommy Cash for, by the way.
The day we’re scheduled to interview and photograph Charli XCX, it’s 36 degrees outside. In fact, it’s 36 degrees everywhere. Inside, outside, in cars, beneath shade. The heat is stifling, but Charlie is practically effervescent. Not that bubbling sort of effervescence you’d associate with Hannah Montana, but the kind that hints at an inimitable ability to Have A Good Time. If she’s enjoying herself, you are too—whether you like it or not.
When we meet inside a little vintage store in Fitzroy that’s doing an admirable job of combating the heat, Charli is days away from releasing the soon-to-be-celebrated Pop 2; her third mixtape and fourth full-length release (yesterday, she announced the mixtape would be pressed on vinyl as a Valentine's gift to fans). Over Pop 2’s ten tight tracks, Charli is electrifying. She offers up the floor to some of music’s most quietly disruptive pop voices: Carly Rae Jepsen, Tommy Cash, Brooke Candy, Mykki Blanco, Tove Lo. It’s dreamy, futuristic, and intimate. Charli and co. sing about life as we know it over skittish, glitching production. Writers say this about music all the time but I really mean it: Pop 2 is a very good love letter to being young.
We sit down on the cool concrete floor after the shoot to talk superclubs, friends, and a house party at Charli’s Brooklyn Beckham might have attended. Maybe. Because Charli is Charli, the 36 degree day feels like the perfect time to try on clothes and interrogate each other.
Charli, hi! How are you?
I’m good -- hot!
It’s fucking hot.
It’s so hot.
Were you here yesterday?
Yeah, I flew in yesterday from LA and just got straight into the life, basically. Cashmere Cat did a show that me and MØ went to, and we both just randomly performed. We just jumped up on stage and sang Boys. It was his birthday as well. That was really nice, plus we had a cake. I woke up at 5AM today, feeling so crazy.
You and MØ have been friends for a while now, right?
Yeah, we’ve worked together a few times. I love her, and I really love her latest EP. I just feel like her voice is so unique and she’s such a kind person with such a cool vibe. We just did another song for the mixtape, it’s called Porsche. She just sounds so incredible on it, it’s really cool.
The collaborators you've got on Pop 2 are ridiculous. Ridiculously good, that is. Tommy Cash, for one.
He’s a sexy man isn’t he...
He actually named the mixtape. He came up with Pop 2. Honestly, I just love collaborating with people. It felt really fun and stupid to do literally as many collaborations as humanly possible. I think only two of the songs don’t have collaborations! I wanted it to be this hectic, crazy whirlwind of friends and people who inspire me. I wanted it to be one big kind of party.
It’s very a rare feat to put out an album with a list of features that’s a true indication of the people who matter in music at that moment. Not just who’s popular, or who’s charting, but who really matters. Very Kanye West of you. What guides who choose to to collaborate with? It’s people I know really, it’s friends. I don’t really like collaborating with strangers, just because I feel like the collaboration is so much more fun and genuine when it’s someone you’ve partied with, or you know, or you have some sort of friendship with. Everyone’s a friend on the mixtape.
Have you ever hit the club with Tommy Cash? You know what, I actually haven’t hit the club with Tommy Cash, I’ve only hit the studio with Tommy Cash. A.G. Cook, who produced pretty much all of the mixtape, is pretty good friends with Tommy Cash, and he introduced us. When Tommy was over in London we worked on a few things for fun and connected. And I was already a fan of his style and his dancing. I want to hit the club with him, I want him to teach me how to pop and lock and shit.
Are you more into: A) the type of superclub that’s like eight stories tall, and there’s women hanging from the ceiling on silk doing aerial acrobatics, or B) a small, sweaty, dirty basement?
Honestly, I can do both. I really love a sweaty, tiny basement, that’s my home. Well, you know, the gross, fucked-up, 4AM home. But I can bro down at a bougie bottle service club. I can do it, as long as I’m with my friends, who are going for fun and not taking it seriously. I can do it. I respect all types of partying. No partying discrimination here.
What is the best party you’ve ever personally thrown?
I actually throw a mean house party. I live in LA half the time and I have a house there that I basically like to keep as a hotel for artists and friends who are in town. We had a big party there for my birthday. It was actually supposed to be at another place that we’d rented but the police came and shut it down before we even did anything, so we moved it back to my house.
Yeah. We actually have a lot of parties at my house but this one was on a Tuesday, so we were like “It’s going to get shut down again but whatever.” Anyway, we did it and it was crazy, it was so much fun! The police did come and we had a showdown with them, we hid everyone in the basement. It was like that movie Project X. We hid everyone in the basement until the cops went away and everyone was like “Yeah!!!” and came back up to party.
Who was the craziest person there? Someone I wouldn’t expect to be there.
Well okay, I don’t know that this is true but my friend was like, “I swear I saw Brooklyn Beckham in your house.” I think his girlfriend was there so... maybe? But that just could have been my friend’s fantasy. I think the thing with LA house parties, which I feel like doesn’t happen in London, is that people just go. You know, people just show up and everyone’s like “Whose house is this?” And no-one really knows. I’ve had house parties at my house where people have come up to me and been like “Hey did you know the person who owns this house is this crazy dude who—” and I’m like “Oh yeah? Sweet, sweet.”
Incredible. So you directed Boys, are you going to direct more clips from the mixtape?
I’m not really sure. I do really love directing. I directed the video for Dirty Sexy Money with French Montana and David Guetta. I did that video with Sarah [McColgan] who also co-directed Boys with me. But for the mixtape, I don’t know, I would love to make a video for every single song but we’ll see.
They’ve done a visual album, but have they done a visual mixtape? I re-watched your i-D Meets this morning, there’s an interesting moment in there where you not how much the music industry has changed since you last put out an LP. Is the mixtape route your way adapting to that change?
Yeah, I guess so. I do feel like it’s so hard to release an album and have that be “it” anymore, you know? I’m not sure if I quite want to say the album as a whole is dead, because I don’t know if I believe that. I still love the album as an idea, but for me, I’m someone who’s in the studio a lot, so the mixtape is just a way for me to release a lot of music at once without there being pressure on it to perform on the charts, to do well in that way. This is just what I love: making stuff with friends. That’s all it is.
Text Issy Beech
Photography Isabelle Hellyer
Collage John Hurley
Makeup Nadine Muller
Charli XCX is self-styled in COCO Store