Poppy Earned a Metal Grammy Nod, Then Decided To Explore a New Genre

Frank Ockenfels*


After establishing herself as a purveyor of bright and bouncy pop songs on her 2017 debut album, Poppy has consistently reinvented herself, embracing everything from electronica to metal — even earning a Grammy Award nomination for the latter — and all the while expanding her fan base.

Poppy pivots again on Flux, her fourth album (out Sept. 24 on Sumerian Records), on which she teamed with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Paramore, M83, St. Vincent) for an alt-rock romp. “It’s about being in flux, of feeling in between or ever-changing,” says Poppy, 26.

The bridge of the title track is particularly important to her, as she screams over crunching guitars, “I won’t fear what I don’t know ... You gotta flux and flow, flow, flow.” It’s a motto Poppy lives by, and one that she reminded herself of often through the pandemic. Another result of her time spent at home? “I just fell more in love with things that I’ve always loved.”

While recording Flux, Poppy felt most drawn to female alt-rockers from the 1990s like Jack Off Jill, citing the band’s Clear Hearts Grey Flowers album as a favorite. Another go-to was Veruca Salt, which Poppy recalls discovering after picking up a copy of American Thighs at Newbury Comics. (She was so young at the time, still living in Boston, her sister had to drive her.) “I only bought it because of the artwork,” she says now, “but it became one of my favorite albums.” She more recently discovered Buffalo Daughter, an act she found “by doing some musical research online. I love everything about them sonically.”


“Listening back, a lot of the underlying currents on the album remind me of the feeling of walls shrinking,” says Poppy, noting that she has suffered from the fearful sensation since childhood. Some of those same feelings ended up influencing the project’s overall tone. “Listening to the album isn’t stressful, but certain lines remind me of feeling suffocated,” she continues. “[As] I read more about it, things in my past started to pop up in my head as triggers.”


Like so many others during the pandemic, Poppy ended up with “a forest growing in my home,” she says of her many houseplants, from herbs and vegetables to her favorite, the Pachira Aquatica, a tropical tree that grows in swamps and is currently 8 feet tall. Not only did the plants help turn her attention away from music at times, she says, but “honestly, they lighten up the room,” which is pink. “The pink and the green look so nice together.”


A huge fan of the Tom Hanks-directed film — a 1996 musical comedy about a 1960s pop band — Poppy has long loved its title track recorded by the fictional, Beatles-inspired band The Wonders. “I wanted to write a song inspired by that,” says Poppy, noting how catchy it is. Now, on Flux, she finally has, as the album’s latest single, “So Mean,” is perhaps the most pop-leaning track on the set.

This story originally appeared in the Aug. 28, 2021, issue of Billboard.