I’m actually a super non-confrontational person, and I hate having to assert myself. I find it difficult and really awkward. But the way I see it is, it’s 15 or 20 seconds of discomfort, and then a product that you are truly happy with. Which is a lot better than being like, “Dammit, why did I not speak up?” I just tell myself that the reward will be good, considering it’s usually just a small amount of stress.
I think the natural thing for someone in your manager’s position would be, like, “I’m an adult and you’re a teenager, so I should tell you what to do.”
I’ve had probably 200 adults in my career say, “We know best,” pretty much, and it’s been bullshit. Right down to when I started my social networks and I would get an email from one of the record companies saying, “Just realized that you’re not social-networking to your fullest potential. Here’s how! Use lots of hashtags! Only focus on the music, like ‘I’ve cooked something up in the studio, you guys, can’t wait for you to hear it!’ Do ‘follow sprees’ and constantly reply to fans!” I was like, “You’ve just got to trust me. Everyone will hate me in two months if I do that.”
I was just thinking, your fans are too smart for that.
Exactly. But now it’s gotten to a good place. Stuff like advertising on social networks, I try not to make that about constantly having to promote something that I’ve done.
Does being singled out as the kind of outsider repping the “weird girls” ever feel like a double-edged sword? Because then you become responsible for representing the “real” teens… Sorry, that was just me talking to myself, ugh.
[Laughs] No, it’s OK! I have definitely felt that sort of pressure, and it’s strange, because while I dress and talk somewhat differently from other people whose songs are in the Top 40, I feel like more people dress like me than the media makes you believe. You know what I mean? I’m not an anomaly, so it feels weird that I get treated like one and have that pressure of “You represent all teenagers in the Western world. No stress!” The easiest way of dealing with that is just to try not to think about what your art might mean for others. I know that sounds bad, but honestly, if you want it to be meaningful to other people, you need to just totally not even think about that part and make something that will mean something to you. Then other people will be able to live inside it too and understand it. But if you’re making something like “this is for this demographic” in the hope of “they will get this from it,” it’s not a healthy way of creating.
Right. You can’t plan ahead to mean a specific thing to any specific group—that comes after the fact, if at all.
Definitely. It’s a weird one. I read a piece the other day that said “Why Lorde is this generation’s Nirvana,” and I was like, PLEASE DON’T! Don’t do that to me! They meant it as a compliment, obviously, but what’s the point in even making the parallel?
That’s a lot of pressure! I also think it’s limiting to define an audience ahead of time. This is something I’ve brought on myself, by being like, “There are no REAL teen publications! That’s what I’ll do!” But then it’s like, well, if I want Rookie to be successful and popular, then people will invalidate the realness by saying it’s popular and mainstream—
Oh, fuck that. No. That’s—don’t even. I’ve had that as well, and it’s so much worse in pop music, because there’s such a stigma to [the genre]—as soon as you make pop music, what you do isn’t art and it’s not real and it’s a product of old people or whatever. It doesn’t mean anything. Don’t worry about those people.
OK! Thank you!
I myself am a former indie snob who had to have a moment of realizing that I love pop music. Did you have such a moment, or are there particular artists who sealed the deal for you?
I definitely had that moment. I remember being in year eight, the year before high school, and absolutely loving “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha, and then six months later I got really into Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear and Yeasayer. I still love those bands, but I definitely went through a “you have to forget about the Ke$ha part of your life” thing. And then I realized that pop is really cool. In year 10, I have a really good friend called Zack, and we basically spent the first year of our friendship listening to old Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado and picking apart their melodic brilliance and everything that made us feel something and what it all meant. We would cover them on weird instruments, which was our way of accepting that type of music, but now I look back on that time and I’m like, that was actually a really good way of bringing together the alternative music that I liked and just the good, honest, fun pop stuff.