Interview with Charli XCX (May 17, 2013)

Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records

By Shannen Gaffney

Charli XCX‘s accessible British electro-pop sound is what makes her fan base so varied. Her new release True Romance is well written, has some awesome production, and is extremely addicting. I got a chance to speak with her via phone:

Shannen Gaffney: So your latest album True Romance got an 8.3 on Pitchfork and has been doing well at college radio. Though your music is definitely very pop, your style is unique and you have been successful in a bunch of different markets. How would you describe your music?

Charli XCX: I definitely describe it as pop music. I went out to make a pop record, not like a hipster record or anything like that. I really wanted to make the record sound super lush and like, very angelic in terms of the production. So I think I’d probably describe it as angel pop music or the way that I see the record – I often see my music in colors – when I think of this album I see the color purple, so I guess I’d kind of describe it as purple pop music, too.

SG: Who are some of your influences?

CXCX: When I was younger I was pretty inspired by Duffy and all the French kind of electro scene going on in Dublin, that’s still my first real love. That’s what made me fall in love with music I guess. And then as I got older I began to be inspired by Robert Smith and all the drama going around in the 80’s. When I was making the record I was pretty inspired by stuff like Linda Carlyle and that kind of thing. I just wanted to make emotional pop music and that’s kind of what was inspiring me.

SG: You were at SXSW this March, how was that? Who was your favorite act there?

CXCX: SXSW was crazy. I did ten shows in 5 days, so it was kind of mad, and it was cool, really really good fun. I actually got really sick and that’s what most people do at SXSW I think, that’s just how it goes? I don’t know. Um, so it was cool it was pretty good. I got to perform “I Love It” with Icona Pop so that was great, supercool. It was definitely a great experience.

SG: You wrote Icona Pop’s super catchy “I Love It” … I’m obsessed with that song! How did you decide to give it to them instead of using it as your own?

CXCX: I just felt like it wasn’t really me. I wrote in my hotel room and from the minute I wrote it I knew that if I couldn’t picture a music video, couldn’t visualize it, it wasn’t mine. That’s generally what I do when I write a song, I start picturing the music video. With “I Love It” I couldn’t get that. So I went into the studio and recorded my vocal and a week later Icona Pop came down. They loved the song and so they re-recorded my vocal and they decided that they wanted it . I was so cool with them having it because I was pretty worried it would go to shit, you know, if I didn’t use it. It’s had some great success and is kind of special in the Top 40 world right now so I’m really proud of that and happy it came out so well.

SG: I’m a huge fan of True Romance. What’s your favorite song on the album?

CXCX: It kind of changes all the time. My favorite song to play live is definitely “Grins”. I also really love the song “Black Roses” because that one feels raw to me. It was one of my favorite I wrote, and I haven’t started playing that live yet, so, that will be cool to do… I also love “Stay Away” because it was the first song – well actually, no, the first song I really wrote for the record was “Set Me Free,” when I was fifteen. I didn’t know I was writing it for an album or anything.

SG: Is that about the age you started writing music, fifteen?

CXCX: Yeah, it was around then.

SG: So your real name is Charlotte…how did you come up with Charli XCX?

CXCX: Well I’ve always been called Charli. When I was younger… and still now even, I always felt like Charlotte was a real English kind of prissy name; it was never really me. I always felt like more of a tomboy. Charlotte never really worked for me, so everyone called me Charli. And the ‘XCX’ – that came about from my MSN name when I was younger. It’s kind of cute and when I first started playing these clubs in London and like, warehouse raves, they would ask me what I wanted my name to be on the flyer and I just said, Charli XCX. That was pretty much my name at that time, so that was it really.

SG: I read that you might be working on a collaboration mixtape or EP? Is that true?

CXCX: Well you know what… for my last mixtape what I really wanted to do was an all-girl mixtape and I spoke to a lot of people about it, and one person in particular, we were talking about it and she told me that it takes a really long time to do, and I’m very impatient. So I was like I want everyone to do it in a month! She said she knows people who have been trying to do something like that for years, so I would still love to do it… but I’m really impatient and a stubborn person. It would be really cool and I love collaborating with people; I’ve been working with Marina & the Diamonds and obviously with Icona Pop. I feel like I’m now working my way through collaborating with all my favorite female artists. Which would be really cool, you know?

SG: So you’re only twenty and you’ve already supported Coldplay on tour and played shows in a bunch of different countries. Was it crazy opening for them in huge arenas?

CXCX: Yeah I mean it was pretty crazy. It was kind of weird because, like you know, they’re so huge and I’m so small. And it was weird because you find people who have all your records, and then most people have no clue who you are. It was kind of awesome but it was definitely pretty weird. But I really enjoyed it, it was definitely a learning experience, you know, playing for that many people at one time. It was really cool.

SG: If there was one album you wish you had written yourself, who’s would it be?

CXCX: That’s so difficult. When I was younger it definitely would have been Justice’s “Cross” record. That’s what comes into my mind. When I was 14/15 that was all I listened to and I was so in awe of that sound, that electro sound. At the moment I’m really into Tegan and Sara’s recent record, Heartthrob; I think it’s such a perfect pop album. It’s so beautiful, I mean really cool. I wish I’d written that record. We’re planning on maybe working together soon, so maybe something cool might happen from that.

Charli XCX is playing Union Transfer on June 1st with Marina and the Diamonds.

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