charli xcx tells us how she really feels about those meet and greets with chaotic gays
Ft. dead mother's ashes and douches.
Photography Henry Redcliffe
What will deter the gays and girls from queueing for hours outside a venue to see Charli XCX? The answer might be nothing. On a chilly and dark afternoon in Glasgow, at least two dozen people are waiting in line, eager to get close to their idol. Dressing appropriately for the freezing weather? Fuck it. Fans are wearing everything from full PVC to Clueless (or is it “Fancy”?) cosplay.
Backstage, with hair slicked back and popping pink eyeshadow, the star herself is getting ready for the show. It’s the first night of her UK tour after a packed out run Stateside, and she’s eager to get on stage. It’s all systems go at the moment, both for Charli and her fans. In the past week, she’s wrapped one tour, kick started this one and revealed a new Netflix original series that captures the ascent of the girl band she helped form, Nasty Cherry.
She’s also, as you’ve probably noticed by now, become the gay internet’s best friend; a strange source of meme-ish excellence. First there were the fans who rocked up to her meet and asked her to say ‘Gay rights!’ while brandishing a bottle of poppers. Then there was the Chicago couple who chose her to witness their engagement. She also correctly foreshadowed Kylie Jenner’s pop career (“Riiise and shiiiine!”). But then it got weird. Like, dead mother’s ashes and douches weird.
So how’s Charli handling it so far? Well, we met in between the ashes and douche moment, so we can’t speak for her condition for the latter encounter. However, she seems to be taking it all in her stride. Before she went on stage, we spoke about Netflix binges, being back on tour for what feels like forever, and how #MomsAshesGate actually went down.
You wrapped the US tour earlier in the week. What have you been doing since?
I’ve just been hanging with my mum and we started watching Succession. Do you watch it?
No, but it seems like everyone else does.
I just started watching it on Friday! It’s good.
Are you in?
I’m in. Six episodes.
Do you binge watch most things like that?
Yeah! With Game of Thrones, I was a big binge watcher -- and a re-watcher. I love watching Harry Potter every two years or so. I go through them all. It kind of makes me upset when people dip in and out of the series. We started Homeland too, but I didn’t realise it was ten seasons. But we did watch one season in three days. Hm, what else? Oh, I binged Breaking Bad! And I’ll binge watch my Netflix show too, obviously!
Oh yeah! Are you excited about that?
I’m nervous! It’s my first foray into this and honestly, none of us knew what we were doing. Legit. I started this project in the midst of being in between things. Me and my best friend Emmy came up with the concept together. None of us had any background in TV or talking to networks or selling a show. We were just kind of like, ‘Fuck, we’re doing it!’
And it’s done!
Exactly. There were definitely people who helped us along the way but the core team was us. I’m really proud of it. I know that, and I love the band. It shows what it is like to be in music now, and I think nobody’s documented the realities of that in 2019. You have the fantasy stories and documentaries that capture the past. There is no way to break a successful band now, so why not use everyone’s favourite streaming platform to, you know? Educate!
So the gays have been putting you through it on this tour.
What have they been doing? [She takes a brief pause] Oh my god, wait! Have you seen the picture of me online holding someone’s dead mum? Is it about that?! How mad.
What was that conversation like?
This is the thing. The conversation was so quick and normal. It just flowed. First, he was like: ‘Hey! Release "Taxi", I’m so excited for the show – by the way, my mum passed away’. I said ‘I’m really sorry’, so he said ‘Don’t worry about it, can you just take a picture of you holding her ashes?’.
It was almost like they were in a poppers bottle. I was like [Charli makes the sound of someone who’s been thrown a baseball with no warning]... and then it happened, and now it’s online. My face is sort of like…. Well, you can see it in my eyes, I’m afraid.
It’s got the same energy as the poppers ‘Gay Rights!’ video. It’s almost like they’re holding you hostage.
No! I sign a lot of poppers, people ask me to say 'gay rights' a lot -- but like, great! Gay rights! That’s a great thing to say. But yeah, holding the ashes was… new, and hopefully a one time thing. I love Twitter culture though. People were like ‘Your mum looks so hot!’. I love the fans, so they can get away with quite a lot.
The tour has been sort of non-stop hasn’t it? Do you like it that way?
Yeah, I do. I like the go-go-go-ness of it, because when I stop, I have a breakdown. That’s when all the real thoughts come in. The ‘What am I doing?’ and ‘What will I be doing in 10 year’s time?’ thoughts. The real shit happens and then I cry. So I like it when it’s busy because it’s exciting. I have a lot more creative ideas when I feel I don’t have time to get into them. I can touch on a million things and get inspired.
Have you been recording?
I’ve done a little bit of recording but not that much. I wanted to do more but my show is really hard. It’s very physical, and I don't sleep that well so I’m tired and run down all the time. But I’m thinking about it! There are a lot of other things I’m doing that still feel really creative.
I suppose this is the first traditional tour you’ve done in…
Besides the Taylor stadium tour that you were doing alongside the sporadic Pop 2 shows. This is the first proper on-the-road, headline experience you’ve had in a while.
Since 2014/15, maybe? You know, I didn’t think I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I also didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I am right now. I just really like it because I feel like it’s the first time where I’ve been on tour and felt in love with the music and in love with performing. I can see the crowd don’t just love one song -- they love every song! It’s all about the experience of being there. The experience of being in a weird cult together. I’ve done really great shows before, but it’s never felt quite like this. It’s important to me.
Charli XCX is currently on her UK tour but it’s all sold out so tough luck. She’ll hit mainland Europe on November 4th and you can get the last few tickets here .