That movie has informed a lot of how I see growing up and looking back and trying to make the awful parts of being a teenager feel beautiful. On that note, you have a very unique way of looking at the suburb where you live, which I think you’ve called “the Bubble.” When did you realize the suburbs could be a source of inspiration?
Well…this sounds so lame, but I grew up reading your blog, man! [Laughs]
Oh no! “Ugh, that’s so LAME, shut up!”
[Laughs] But no, I am into that whole Virgin Suicides vibe of making even the bad parts bearable. I hate high school so much, but there’s something kind of cool about walking around on the coldest day listening to “Lindisfarne” by James Blake or something and feeling like something has happened, even though it’s the worst thing ever. The album The Suburbs by Arcade Fire was influential to me in that as way well. I just think that record is really beautiful and nostalgic and so well-written. It’s a super-direct way of talking about what it’s like to grow up [in the suburbs], and I think that’s quite lovely.
You’re asking about stuff I’m not used to talking about in interviews, so I don’t have a stock way of driving the question.
OK, then: “Do you feel 17?”
AGHHHH! What do you even say to that, honestly?
It’s kind of a trap, because if you say yes you’re shitting on their question by making it seem obvious, but if you say no you seem like you think you’re older and better.
I always get these weird people being like, “Oh, she’s growing up way too fast, she looks 30.” Oh, god.
People always say that. I remember—not to be all Mother Hen—
No, go for it!
I remember when people started paying attention to what I was doing, and it was like, “She should be getting knocked up like all the other kids her age!” It’s like, you complain when you think teenagers are stupid, and then when they try to do something, you’re all, “Oh, they’re growing up too fast, they don’t know what’s good for them.”
It seems like a double standard to me. And there’s another part of it which I find really strange, which is that so many interviewers, even ones that I consider really intelligent and good writers, will do the, like, “Oh, you’re not taking your clothes off like Miley Cyrus and all these girls” thing, which to me is just the weirdest thing to say to someone. But then people will say, “She’s always talking about being bored, that’s petulant,” which I feel like is kind of taking the piss out of teenage emotions—just, like, making light of how teenagers feel. When people react that way about things that every teenager experiences, how can you expect to make anything good?
Zooey Deschanel has talked about how writing catty stuff about an artist or an actress or whoever isn’t just hurtful to them, it’s also toxic in this other way where it makes other people scared of sharing their own work, because they feel like, Well, I don’t want to be scrutinized like that, so I won’t put myself out there.
I definitely had those feelings when I put the record out and realized that a lot of people thought teen angst or whatever was funny. I’m sure everyone can laugh at their teenage years in retrospect, but it just felt like a really strange way of responding to what I was doing, to take a piss out of that part of it. I was like, “Oh, I don’t want to give you anything now! Gimme that back.” [Laughs]
People talk constantly about bullying and teen suicide and how people of our generation are apathetic; why would you make light of something that a lot of us relate to and that helps us feel understood? I’m curious, did you have to do any media training before all this started?
I have never done media training. I feel like I probably should have, because then I could’ve better identified some of that baiting in the beginning. Now I’m really good at it. But I think people don’t realize how weird it is to go from being a teenager or being just a human being who has opinions and freely discusses them with other people, to having everything you say scrutinized and taken out of context. In the space of three months, going from never having done an interview to being in Rolling Stone, being in Interview, and not really realizing how that whole thing works. That stuff was so weird. But now I’ve kind of got a handle on it. Now when people are like, “Tell me what you think of Miley!” I’ll say, “What do you think of Miley?” and they like flounder and say, “Well, I think she’s really talented…” and I’m like, there you go.
I remember at the time, at the beginning of your public career, people would be like, “She said this about Selena and this person and this person,” and I just felt like, she’s not dissing anyone—she’s just having a real-life Tumblr discussion and figuring things out. I mean, I talk about pop culture that way too.
Yeah, totally. You know, it’s easier to never talk about anyone else’s work, because they might take it the wrong way.