You’ve said before that your music used to have a poppier sound. What made you decide to take your work in a new direction?
I realized at a certain point that while I did love the music I was making, it was more geared to what I thought people would like versus what I truly loved and was passionate about. I sat down and challenged myself, with the help of my publisher Benjamin Groff, to figure out what is really in my heart, what do I really wanna sound like and why am I afraid of it? It turns out I’ve always been drawn toward this theatricality and this drama that I have never truly been able to express in my music.
I decided I didn’t want to write to please anyone else anymore, I wanted to do it for myself. And that’s when I got a little spooky [laughs]. [I’m making] this theatrical, spooky Tim Burton pop. I guess I’m really drawn to this sort of larger than life, ‘fantastical, dark but still fun’ thing he does. He creates a world that takes you out of your normal world and that’s what I really love: creating a place that doesn’t look like real life because your life can be shitty and boring. But if we can create these spaces we can go to, then it’s like making a little bit of magic.
Where does your lyrical interest in magic and deception come from, and why was it important to you to include these themes in your music?
Magic is something I’ve always been obsessed with. I used to be religious and now I’m not. I grew up feeling magic was real. Miracles and things we can’t explain happened and that was something I really loved about my childhood.
As an adult, I’ve become a person who’s much more cynical and skeptical. I don’t necessarily believe in a lot of those things anymore but I miss that feeling. Much of my art becomes about wanting to believe, wanting to recreate that feeling, wishing I wasn’t so skeptical and that I wasn’t so jaded and hardened by what I’ve experienced.
I’m just fascinated by the concept of deception. I am a terrible liar and I have no desire to ever lie. The fact that people do lie is something I find fascinating because often when they do, what they are doing is creating a feeling of magic in another person. It’s fake, it’s not real, it’s going to be destroyed at some point
What are the challenges of writing a song like “Don’t Say You Do,” especially since the song is about another musician? Were you nervous to release it?
It did not make me nervous because it was a genuine thing that I was feeling. I was very frustrated when I wrote it -- not heartbroken, just frustrated -- and it perfectly encapsulated the feelings I had in that moment. I was more just excited to have a song that expressed something I wanted to express than I was worried about who it was about or how it would look.
We dated very briefly. That was the reason why it was so frustrating. It was like, "You did not need to say such extreme things in such a short period of time. It’s just not necessary."
I think writing in general is a way of getting to the truth of a situation. It’s a way of expressing the root feeling and the core of what’s happening in a way that just existing doesn’t necessarily allow you do to do. For me, finding a way to express the things that happened to me in my art is a way of getting to the heart of the issue and how I really feel about it.
Where did the concept of the video come from? How did you end up working with Derrick Barry, Nebraska Thunderfuck and Nick San Pedro?
I wanted something that represented deception and for me the idea was masks. A party, a masquerade of deception of course resulting in me getting eaten. That turned into "the Rothschild Surrealist Ball was an amazing visual, let’s channel that" and this sort of Eyes Wide Shut feel. But all of it representing the masks we wear and personas that we put on in front of other people.
I got really lucky because I shot in Vegas and I needed the most fabulous people I could find to be in it. My mom and stepdad happened to know Nebraska, and then they all came. And it just ended up being perfect. We were like, Nick is perfect for the lead, let’s make him the lead! And they were so much fun to work with. I was super happy that we got them.
When did you start acting and what other projects do you have coming up?
I’m in a movie called Under the Silver Lake. It is a small part, but I’m excited about it. It’s by David Robert Mitchell, the guy who directed It Follows, who is a fantastic director. I always wanted to act and I started acting when I was a kid, but the audition process scared the shit out of me so I stopped for 10 years, maybe longer. Finally when I was an adult I was like, okay! This is something that I wanna do and I’m just gonna own it finally, so that’s what I’ve been doing and I love it.
I took a break from acting for a while. I was more focused on songwriting, but I think I’ve found a good balance now where I’m doing both and hope to continue to be able to do both. If Donald Glover can do it, I can do it.
I’m also working on new music for another [dance-pop] project called Butter [her “pastel alter-ego”], as well as writing for Lola Blanc. I’ve expanded my creative direction at the moment and I’m pretty excited about directing, too. I just directed a music video for another artist, Anjulie. It’s a song about sexual assault and the refuge of female friendship which is a context that’s really important to me. I’m working on a short film as well and I’m excited to keep exploring on all creative fronts.