From teenage raves to Spice Girls obsessions, Charli XCX gives us the lowdown on her upcoming album. By Stacey Anderson. Photographed by David Titlow
The British nu-rave upstart Charli XCX is mere months away from releasing her debut album, a still-untitled disc that she estimates took six
years to write and record, and she is clearly raring to go. “It’s pop music on my terms,” the 20-year-old from Hertfordshire, England, says excitedly
about the dark synth and gothic soundscapes that anchor the record. She’s already on a roll stateside with the release of the first single
“You (Ha Ha Ha),” an eccentric electropop kiss-off with a curiously warped tempo (much more Lykke Li than Lady Gaga), plus her recent mixtape
Super Ultra and her guest vocals on the ubiquitous Icona Pop club hit “I Love It” (which she wrote). She dialed in to Aritzia from across the
pond to give us an update on the album, divulge the science of sampling, and geek out on the Spice Girls.
You’re getting ready to release your debut album. How’s the process going?
I’ve made a record I’m so proud of and I’m really ready to release it. It’s been really good. It’s kind of like a coming-of-age record for me. There are songs on there I wrote when I was 14, then songs on there I wrote when I was 20, so it’s a real span. They all panned out as being really great songs. It’s what I’ve always wanted to make; it sounds really melancholic and meaningful.
Is your newest single “You (Ha Ha Ha)” a pretty good indication of the rest of the album?
I think “You (Ha Ha Ha)” is on the poppier scale of the record. But it also references some of the mixtapes I’ve done before. I tried to make this record a really deep, full-sounding record. I didn’t want to make it sound mechanical, like a lot of other pop records that are out at the moment. It sounds really luscious…. There are definitely some more poppier moments on there, but then there are also real emotional, dark, black-magic moments as well.
You sampled some interesting artists, like Art of Noise, on your mixtape. What makes a song sample-worthy to you? Are you incorporating
any specific samples into your album?
I’m not incorporating any samples into the record aside from the Gold Panda one [on “You (Ha Ha Ha)”], but at the moment I am making some very interesting skits and stuff, which put the fire in the original tracks. I still want to make references to mixtape culture. In terms of what makes a sample usable, I don’t know. I mess with it, sometimes I don’t even realize why I click with it, but I just do.
I hear you’re a big Spice Girls fan.
Yeah, I’m a massive fan. When I was younger, I wanted to be in the Spice Girls. Actually, this year for Christmas, my boyfriend bought me these Spice Girls dolls. If I could have a dream wardrobe from any film it’d be from Spice World. One of my favourite music videos is “Say You’ll Be There.” I just love their whole aesthetic and their whole “girl power” attitude, which is definitely becoming a lot more relevant again now.
Is it true that you came up as a teenager in the London rave scene?
My first shows that I ever played were in the rave scene. I was putting my songs online and [an organizer of] a rave contacted me and asked me to play. This was when I was 14 or 15…. It was funny; when I was younger, I was so in awe of that scene. I was like, Wow, this is amazing! This is the future for me. I don’t really want to be anywhere apart from this. Then I was in that scene, and even though it is really amazing—and it’s interesting and all the people are really fascinating and weird people—I finally realized that they’re narcissistic, and it started to remind me of Party Monster. I kind of got a different perspective [now]. Even though I still do it—I party sometimes. I think a lot of people find the scene kind of a party in itself. It was really fun; I got to play amazing shows when I was really young. It gave me so many ideas.
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Hair and Makeup: SONIA BHOGAL