Wednesday, August 14, 2013 Role Model: Daze-Inducing Lorde
You might not be familiar with Lorde’s name, but you’d almost certainly recognize her voice from “Royals” the hypnotic, anti-bubblegum pop anthem that has been spinning on radio stations and reverberating out of car speakers for months. The first time we heard it, we recognized it instantly as a Nasty Gal anthem. The girl behind it is singer-songwriter Ella Yelich-O’Conner; an Auckland, New Zealand native who’s only 16. Ahead of her sold-out show at The Echoplex last Thursday night, Nasty Gal spoke to the lion-maned, platform-booted Lorde about Los Angeles, lyricism, and the loneliness of teenage life.
You signed your first music industry deal when you were 12. Could you even conceive yourself as an artist at that age?
I didn’t really have any idea of my sound back then, but my take on the situation was just: ‘Why not?’ I love singing and they wanted to put me on a development deal, which means they would pay for me to get singing lessons and to write with people. And I was like, ‘I’m 12 years old, I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, or even what I’m going to like in a few years, so I might as well do something that I’m enjoying right now.’
I started working with this guy named Joel Little, with whom I wrote the whole EP and the album, and we clicked straightaway. From that point onwards, I quickly got an idea of how I wanted to sound.
How would you describe that sound?
It’s definitely pop music, but it’s a little bit more fresh—lyrically and musically. I’m a big minimalist. I like songs that just have a few elements. And I think it’s pretty unusual in pop music to have lyrical content that isn’t all, you know, [waves hands in the air], ‘Take me hiiiiigher’. [Laughs]
What was the last thing that sparked a song idea for you?
The film Drive has this awesome soundtrack, and this great, sleazy, L.A, vibe- we wrote this song that was inspired by the Kavinsky track ‘Nightcall’ that’s on there. Then I came to L.A., and I have to say that it’s quite different to the film! There are a lot of vacant lots and shops that are shut up and it’s just got this really strange energy. The city seems like it’s fifty years old, but you can feel the showbiz aspect of it.
What are some of the most surreal moments you’ve experienced in your career so far?
Just tonight: We were putting in the guestlist for the show and Chloë Moretz is on it, Diplo is on it. It’s a bit messed up, really! Or every so often, someone I’m a really big fan of will tweet me and that’s always a ‘What the hell?’ moment. Recently I got a tweet from this Vice columnist, Cat Marnell. She’s awesome and she tweeted to say she was a big fan. I was like, ‘Get out! It’s Cat Marnell!’
You’ve spoken out against the messages that some female pop singers convey in their lyrics…
Yeah, I find it worrisome that they can have so much influence, particularly over young girls who take those lyrics as a given. I’ll never write a song that’s like, ‘I’m nothing without you.’ It’s very important for me, as a female with a bit of say, not to project that vibe.
What kind of messages do you want to send with your music?
I’m in a weird place. I don’t want to preach to people my age because no one likes that. I don’t like that! But I guess there’s no one at the moment—apart from Tavi, who’s rad, but she’s not in the entertainment industry—saying realistic stuff. Like: This is how it actually is to be my age.
How is it to be your age?
It’s pretty boring! If I wasn’t doing music, I’d be bored out of my skull. [As teenagers], we can’t do anything; we can’t drive, and I live in Auckland! I can’t just move to New York or something. I’m from a small suburb of a city that you’re never going to see on a TV show and I kinda want to speak for other people like me.
Tell us a bit about your forthcoming album, Pure Heroine.
A lot of it is quite contemplative – me asking myself what’s going to happen next year? What’s happening right now? Why am I doing this? There’s a bit of thinking about places from my childhood, too—‘Tennis Court’ is one of those tracks. There’s also a lot about loneliness, and feeling alone… Like when you have friends, but you’re not sure if they’re really your friends or if you even like them—all those little moments of realization. It’s probably pretty teen angsty!
Lorde’s debut album, Pure Heroine, is out on September 30th.
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