Music

American Dream: An Interview With Sky Ferreira

The pop-musical rule-breaker talks about music, fame, Ryan Gosling, and the pleasures and perils of being a girl.

What artists would people be surprised to find that you like?

I kind of love everything. I love Laurie Anderson, but I also love Britney Spears, but I love Sonic Youth too, and April March, and the Shangri-Las…all that music. I love Brian Eno. The dance music I really appreciate is disco, but it’s more like Chic, like Nile Rodgers. I love bassline. I love live music. That’s what I’m trying to achieve on my new album—to make it something that can be played live. I mean, there’ll still be some dance music, but the majority of it I’m doing with Jon Brion, who did all the Aimee Mann records, the first Fiona Apple records, the Magnolia soundtrack. Working with him is almost therapeutic, because he’s not trying to make a hit—he wants to try something new, which is really exciting, because a lot of producers are just trying to make money.

The other day I put a demo up on Soundcloud, and someone said, “Oh, she’s working with Jon Brion? Well, if she wants to be Fiona Apple maybe she should get raped.”

That is a fucked-up thing to say.

I know. That isn’t who she is.

And then people looked at her “Criminal” video like she had no clue what she was doing because she was so wounded, but maybe it was her way of trying to take back her sexuality.

Yeah, her way of reacting to it. Sorry to get all heavy or whatever, but I was so painfully shy when I was younger, until I was about 13 or 14. And something happened. I got sexually abused, twice, by two different people, when I was a teenager, from 12 to 16. And I went to the cops, but not right away, because I was scared to, like I didn’t know how to tell my mom. The first time, I didn’t tell anyone for a very long time. And [the police asked me] why I didn’t come to them earlier. And they told me that because I was quiet I kind of caused it. “You’re prone to it, you’re an easy target because you’re quiet.” So one day I made myself really loud and obnoxious, and stayed that way for like three years. I went to court with the guy, and they didn’t do anything to him. He had to move 15 blocks away from me. He was never allowed to be closer than 15 blocks away from me. I was like, That doesn’t mean anything, he’s gonna do it to someone else.

Oh my god. I’m so sorry.

It’s fine. I’ve come together with it. It didn’t define me. I kind of had this year to think about it while I was writing this record, just thinking about how people are treated. People expect things to just define you. Like, “She was raped, that means she’s a victim forever.” Or “She should be ashamed.” Obviously it’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s not something I’m gonna hide for the rest of my life. That’s the problem: a lot of people don’t say anything until they’re way older.

The fact that going to the cops “too late” could mean anything is bizarre to me, because there’s no “right” way to deal with it.

Exactly. They were like, “Have you had sex before?” That doesn’t matter. The whole thing was insane. None of it makes sense. Luckily [the second] time I knew what to do. They found the guy because I scratched him across the face with my key. I was sleeping, and he broke into the house. I had my key on my bed. I remember this night so clearly. It was only 11 o’clock at night, and my mom was out. I was sleeping, and I thought I was dreaming—I felt something for two seconds and then I was like, Wait. He was rubbing my leg or whatever. So then I keyed him across the face.

He tried to say I assaulted him, but it was self-defense. He got arrested, but that’s it. This guy has kids. It’s so disturbing. And they don’t do anything about it. I guess you can go on a website and see if anyone who lives by you has a [criminal sexual assault] record, but what does that mean? They said, “He didn’t penetrate you. He didn’t have sex with you, so it wasn’t sexual.” It’s like, he was touching me in my sleep. He broke into my house and touched me in my sleep. A stranger.

The fact that the legal system can deal with it so irresponsibly…

Or they wait three months to do anything about it. You go to the police and they’ll arrest him for like a week and he’ll go out on bail or whatever. But it takes months to go to court. The whole thing is so sick and disgusting. And a lot of people are scared to say anything for those reasons, but also they don’t want to be known as a slut or ashamed of it—that’s traumatizing, too.

Did you have that on your mind with the new record?

A little bit, yeah. On some of it. I’ve never said anything ’cause I don’t want it to define me, but I feel like it’s appropriate to say something on this site. Because people feel like it defines you, and it doesn’t. It’s really unfortunate and disgusting and traumatizing, but it doesn’t make you who you are. That’s kind of what some of the songs are about.

That’s the thing with Fiona Apple: people assume that’s what her life is about, and it’s not. That [comment] made me so angry for her and angry that someone could say something so disgusting and insensitive. They didn’t know that that happened to me, obviously, but I would still be really angry if it didn’t happen to me. They can’t just give her the fact that she made great songs that were powerful, it has to be something else.

Yeah, they can’t just give credit to a young woman for being a genius. Nicki Minaj said something like “All these producers come to you and want to play daddy and pretend that they’re making you.”

They forget that they wouldn’t have the songs if it wasn’t for you, either. Like with Lana Del Rey. [People are] like, “Everyone’s made her.” But it’s her decision at the end of the day, what she’s doing. No one’s forcing any of these girls to do anything. And everyone talked about Lana’s [SNL] performance and how bad she was, like it was proof that she was man-made, but then why was it so bad? I’m not saying it was bad—it wasn’t great—but if [she were man-made], wouldn’t it have been the most amazing performance, or with lip-syncing and fireworks or whatever? It was the most honest SNL performance in a long time!

A lot of pop music is repetitive, and I just think there needs to be new things out. Some of my stuff is really referential, but I don’t want it to be nostalgic. There are references and I’m inspired by a lot of things, but I live in 2012. I always find fake nostalgia really weird.

I feel that way about fashion.

Me too. I know everything kind of repeats itself in a cycle, but some things I think I’ve just seen too many times. We’re both really young, and if we’ve already seen it a ton of times, I can’t imagine how many times everyone else has.

That’s why I like Rodarte, ’cause their version of ’70s nostalgia is like, they’ll embody their friends’ basements from when they were growing up instead of re-creating vintage clothes exactly.

Yeah, I love their clothes. I can’t afford any of it though.

Who else do you like?

Givenchy’s probably my favorite. [Riccardo Tisci’s] stuff is sexy but not too sexy; but it’s not too elegant, either. It’s a bit dark, which I like. And he makes giant T-shirts with panthers and crazy prints, but not too insanely bold, either. It’s not wearing me. That’s what I like about his clothes. Because often when I wear a lot of high-end clothes I feel like they’re wearing me, I’m not wearing them. Some of it’s too elegant for me. I’m feminine in a lot of ways, but I can’t ever wear a full-length dress or a gown. That’s how I feel about a lot of high fashion, so I like to mix and match it. I’m not a model, so I can’t wear it the same way anyways. You know who wears clothes really well? Elle Fanning.

I love her so much.

She’s so young, but it looks age appropriate. It doesn’t look like she’s dressing too old—it looks like she chose it. She probably did! She actually has taste. The worst thing is when I see a celebrity wearing clothes and know it was a stylist being like, “Honey, you should wear this, it’s fierce.” I think Elle’s aware.

I like reading interviews with her where she talks about how she looks at Style.com and fashion blogs, because to me the people who end up with the best taste are the ones who absorb everything and are curious, because then they come back with what they know they like. Way better to be obsessed and geek out than pretending to be cool for not knowing who someone is or whatever.

I totally know all the models’ names and everything, and I’m not ashamed of it. And I love watching shows. I enjoy fashion in general. Not necessarily because I can wear all of it, but because I like it. That’s how I am with pop culture. Tumblr is a blessing and a curse, ’cause there’s some weird, foul shit on there, and you can lose so much time! I can procrastinate forever. They have every still and quote from every movie possible. I can sit on there for hours. It’s just an archive of never-ending visuals.

I feel like being a nerd in that way pays off though. Not nerd like, “I like Star Wars!” But if being cool means being uninterested, then being a nerd is being obsessed with and appreciative of everything.

That’s how I was with music when I was younger. Not just with indie music blogs—I would read a lot of Italian disco blogs all the time, and I had all this weird music I probably wouldn’t listen to now, but I have no shame in liking all that stuff. And I don’t think people should [feel ashamed], or that it has to be ironic. I genuinely just, like, love everything.

Amy Poehler said she doesn’t believe in ironic TV watching, like you’re obviously drawn to that show for some reason.

Exactly. I watch, even though it’s disgusting and it’s sad, Toddlers & Tiaras. If it’s on, I don’t see how any human being can not watch it. I saw this lady [on there] crying because she was a good Christian, but she had entered her stepdaughter in a beauty pageant and the stepdaughter only got second place. She was like, “I guess God didn’t want her to have it.” I was like, Oh my god, this is so crazy, these people are nuts. The Kardashians are a whole other thing where I lose my mind. And Heidi Montag should’ve had her own show. And I love Rebecca Black too.

The intro to Rebecca Black’s song is actually so good to me.

People were acting like it was so weird that there was this fake record label where they paid a thousand dollars to make a video. But you go to a mall and people are asking if you want to join a fake modeling agency. Like, it wasn’t that weird. And they delivered!

What are some other things you’re obsessed with right now?

I’m obsessed with Courtney Stodden, because it’s the most bizarre thing I have seen in a long time. She blows my mind. Barbara Walters should interview her for “the 10 most interesting people of 2011” or whatever, ’cause it is so bizarre and weird. There’s something really honest, I don’t think she…well, yes, it is an act, but there’s only so much she can act.

I’ve also been watching a lot of Weird Science for the past month.

Really?

Yeah. I saw the TV show in the early 2000s like on UPN or one of those channels during the day, when I was home from school sick. That and The Secret World of Alex Mack. How does [Alex Mack] do that? I never understood how…I think I missed the first episode where she started turning into liquid for no reason. I remember watching 10 Things I Hate About You and I could only think of [Larisa Oleynik] as Alex Mack, and I was like, “Why isn’t she turning into liquid and wearing a backwards cap?” I was so confused by it. I also watched 50/50 the other day with what’s his name, Justin…

Joseph!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt! It’s like this generation’s alternative Beaches, with dudes. Like Seth Rogen is Bette Midler in that movie. I love Seth Rogen. I’m also a big Freaks and Geeks fan. And Daria—I have it on DVD, and I just rewatched the whole entire series in like two weeks straight. It’s still so funny and so relevant. I wish there was a show like that now. It really speaks to girls at that age. The writing is so good in that show, it’s amazing. You should just go on Amazon and buy it and watch it for a week. It’s so perfect, the humor. It has some Mean Girls but it’s also really weird, like Gregg Araki, too. So strange, that show.

Anything else you’d like to say to the TEENAGE GIRLS OF THE INTERNET?

Eh…Kanye shrug. Oh, I loved that Feminist Ryan Gosling blog. It’s the funniest thing ever. Now I actually think he’s a feminist.

I didn’t really get his appeal until I saw that and I was like, “How charming!”

Me neither. I remember seeing him in Remember the Titans and being like, “Oh, maybe.” ♦

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44 Comments

  • Naomi February 29th, 2012 3:06 PM

    I LOVE YOU SKY!
    k, im gona read the interview now

  • FashionHauties February 29th, 2012 3:07 PM

    great interview! I haven’t listened to much of her music before- she’s really good! :)
    fashionhauties.blogspot.com

  • Susann February 29th, 2012 3:12 PM

    She has such a great personality! An intersting interview for sure!

    http://fashioninpepperland.blogspot.com

  • Libby February 29th, 2012 3:12 PM

    I’d never heard of Sky Ferreira before {okay, I saw her name in TeenVogue and did that hideous thing I do, “you’re in teen vogue? how awful you must be…”} which I now regret because she sounds pretty wonderful. Like a properly nice person with thoughts and stuff.
    And now I’ll be studying to dance music instead of sad acoustic music, so that’s good.

    • Tyknos93 February 29th, 2012 9:10 PM

      Oh God Libby me too. *Shame face* I’ve never seen an actual lengthy interview with her either, but she’s always on Tumblr. She seems like a great girl though! And her tastes are not unlike mine. DARIA ???<3

  • Narita February 29th, 2012 3:25 PM

    Ooooh Tavi thanks for this. sky is great. your interview skilzzz are too. loved her cover of animal, i know the original song but i never paid attention to the lyrics.. when I heard sky’s cover I did and found out they’re pretty familiar to things i feel sometimes.

  • rosiesayrelax February 29th, 2012 3:35 PM

    Wow, i’d never heard of Sky Ferreira until now, but her version of Animal is beautiful

    http://rosiesayrelax.blogspot.com/

  • cro_easy February 29th, 2012 3:39 PM

    tavi, I love you for this interview!!!!!
    Sky Ferreira is so pretty, talented and different . I love her since that day I heard 17. That song was made for me I think.
    I remember when sky had almost 1.000 fans on facebook. That time she answered every comment and post on her side,.. shes so normal .
    thanks a lot, you made my day!
    <3

  • ellaronnie February 29th, 2012 3:42 PM

    This site is a great source for new music. Just sayin’. Well done!

    http://imaginenonsense.blogspot.com/

  • KayKay February 29th, 2012 3:55 PM

    Ahhh, I absolutely love her! After reading this I just love her even more! Confident, smart and honest, like the interview says, real. And of course she has an amazing voice! <3

  • llamagesicht February 29th, 2012 3:58 PM

    I liked this, but what about not caring to be informed about the world of fashion but not thinking you’re “cool” for it? I don’t think you have to absorb lots of fashion to have good taste.

  • MissKnowItAll February 29th, 2012 4:33 PM

    Love how Rookiemag shows all these totally kick ass girls.

  • starsinyourheart February 29th, 2012 4:38 PM

    i LOVE sky, and I love her take on the Lolita thing… like i always felt so pressured to be fifteen and sexy and make the most of being young and seductive, but it’s actually just exploitative. i wasn’t sexy at fifteen, i was just fifteen. it’s not the teenage dream that katy perry is selling aha.

  • SpencerBowie February 29th, 2012 5:03 PM

    I LOVE SKY!!!

    Her song “Obsession” was the 1st thing I thought of as a theme song 4 this month! IT’S PERFECT!!!

    <3

  • Cosmo Beatrix February 29th, 2012 5:20 PM

    What so is gosling NOT a feminist !?
    All this RG sarcasm has confused me so much .. Lol

    • Naomi February 29th, 2012 6:29 PM

      I think he definitely has feminist ‘tendencies’, his opinion on the age rating for Blue Valentine is proof of that, he just isn’t ‘out’ yet :)

  • youngfridays February 29th, 2012 5:25 PM

    I’ve heard of Sky before, but never really heard of her music or anything.. she’s great! I love how she comes across in this interview as well, like a super nice person :) x

    faithmrljak.blogspot.com

  • esmay February 29th, 2012 5:44 PM

    Such an excellent interview, you get a really nice insight into her personality. Interviews of celebrities always seem so manufactured and the answers always sound like they have been pre-approved by a publicist or something, but this was so good.

  • marimba_girl February 29th, 2012 6:13 PM

    Fab interview! I had never heard of her before but I love her cover of Miike Snow( I <<<<<<<3 Miike Snow!!!). I am glad that she is aware of the problems that women artists face and is actively trying to break the mold.

  • missblack February 29th, 2012 6:15 PM

    oh my God so happy about this!! I’ve always kinda thought Sky Ferreira was awesome but I didn’t really know anything about her so now that I know that she is the shit and so cool I feel free to be obsessed with her. And, like, she wears the best clothes.

    Little&Trivial

  • grungelove February 29th, 2012 6:27 PM

    OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG my favorite person ever had an interview with my other favorite person ever!

    I JUST DIED!

    coolest thing ever<3

  • Mustachefan February 29th, 2012 6:45 PM

    Woah, this was really wonderful. Never fully appreciated Sky before but she is so real here and thoughtful too.

  • MissKnowItAll February 29th, 2012 7:04 PM

    Joseph Gordon Levitt aka the sexiest guy on earth;)
    One thing I don’t understand is when people say that a girl should dress age appropriate. It seems hypocritical when a girl wears a short skirt and people are like “she’s a hoe” but then she wears something else and people are all like “that ages her in a bad way”. If you want to wear something, you shouldn’t have to explain yourself.
    PS- I’m sorry to hear about the sexual abuse. I had a very close friend who was sexually abused by her father for 4 years. When she finally reported it, people judged her for being quiet.

  • Jenn February 29th, 2012 7:51 PM

    Love Sky -so confused about who Courtney Stodden is though? I read on her website that she’s 17 but her twitter’s making me think she’s a porn star? (this is seriously not meant to be mean but I just don’t know who she is at all?)

  • queserasera February 29th, 2012 8:00 PM

    sky is pretty cool!

    http://mercurialmanic.blogspot.com/

  • MichyMich February 29th, 2012 8:02 PM

    Thanks for featuring Sky Ferreira! I LOVE Sky Ferreira ever since she was featured in Nylon mag 2 or 3 years ago and now, I love her even more!

    Sky, I applaud you for your honesty and I’m glad that you said that our society is too judgmental of our actions. People shouldn’t put a label on us just because of who we are or what we do. I’m glad you said it, girl. I even admire you for saying that you are not conforming to the music industry since it sickens me that so many pop stars conform to what their record label wants them to be.

    I can’t wait to hear some more of Sky’s songs! I have downloaded “17″, “Obsession”, “Sex Rules” and “One”. They’re SO AMAZING and Sky is a REAL artist!

  • sethy February 29th, 2012 8:03 PM

    She. Is. Awesome.
    GREAT COVER OF ANIMAL!

    And my last name is Ferreira too!! :D YAY

  • MissKnowItAll February 29th, 2012 8:28 PM

    Well she married this 45 year old actor.

  • Kathryn February 29th, 2012 9:22 PM

    I love this interview! I also like the mention of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I love him!!

  • lulannie February 29th, 2012 10:24 PM

    I remember the times when Sky was in Waffles & Falafels, and I thought everytime she said anything she was the nicest, most genuine girl out of the bunch, such personality, and this definitely proves that she has remained that way !

  • annagracie February 29th, 2012 10:43 PM

    Oh my gosh, Sky, be my best friend. Seriously! Also, your tumblr is great.

    ~~~ http://flotteure.tumblr.com/

  • ivoire March 1st, 2012 12:32 AM

    oh sky i love you evermore!

  • teen goth March 1st, 2012 5:43 AM

    I’ve never really given Sky much of a thought but now I can see her appeal. She seems like a great, intelligent person to interview and I love that she stands up for Lana Del Rey!!

  • preachypreach March 1st, 2012 7:27 AM

    sky rules.

  • bellaugly March 1st, 2012 11:24 AM

    You spelled Gregg Araki wrong. I didn’t know who this girl was before this interview, but she sounds smart as shit.

    • Anaheed March 1st, 2012 12:06 PM

      Good looking out, thanks!

  • sttefaaa March 1st, 2012 12:17 PM

    OMG! You actually interviewed SKY! I love her!
    http://stefanystrange.blogspot.com/

  • Jesss March 1st, 2012 12:42 PM

    sky, I love even more if than I did before

  • cleobea March 1st, 2012 8:48 PM

    why didn;t you talk about her song Obsession? I mean, it was the theme

  • ghostworld March 4th, 2012 9:26 PM

    SKY!!! oh. my. god. this. is. incredible. im. dying. okay. i. should. probably. stop. writing. with. fullstops. im. so. weird.

  • comma March 8th, 2012 1:56 PM

    Sky is the thinking girls Cory Kennedy

  • grassskirt111 March 25th, 2012 9:25 PM

    it needs to be cleared up that the concept behind “lolita’s” objectification is that she is right in between childhood and puberty/adolescence, NOT a teen. dolores haze is 12 years old when humbert humbert falls in love with her, and the reason he finds her so sexual is because she has not yet gone through puberty, but is on the cusp. also, she has a sexuality about her that is advanced beyond her years and that has something to do with it.
    horny sweaty teenagers with acne are what humbert humbert despises.
    read the book!

  • anindieeducation June 8th, 2012 5:54 AM

    I love Sky, and I think that this interview was a really good representation that undermined the whole Lolita persona that I find (especially in the past) she was represented as, particularly in UK magazines. She seems like a really interesting and intelligent girl and i literally cannot wait for her album!!!

  • thelilacparadox May 30th, 2013 10:25 AM

    OMG SKYYYYY… I’m so glad I found this interview! It came out way before I actually got into her, which was around December 2012. There are no interviews out there with her that are as fantastic as this one.