Fill The Crown: Poppy Is Building Her Own Path
Poppy is a very 21st century figure.
Finding an audience through YouTube, she's been able to take this and use the platform as a means to uncover original components of her soul.
Blending bubblegum pop with metal, the sonic palette for new album 'I Disagree' is an outrageous fusion of dichotomous sounds and art forms, yet somehow it all makes a dramatic sort of sense.
Out now, the record will be followed by a full tour, including some European dates with Poppy set to play London's iconic Heaven venue.
Clash spoke to the American aesthete ahead of all this, to talk musical independence and solitary creativity.
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The album is a real statement – how did you feel in the days leading up to the release?
Well, the album has been done for quite a while now, so it more just being excited about it finally coming out. I’ve been wanting to perform the songs for some time, and I’ve had to wait for the time to be right. Now we’re leaving for tour next week, and I get to do all that. It’s a very exciting time.
There’s a real energy to the material on this album, were those songs built to be played live?
Yeah. I’d say that the music in the past… I didn’t really take into consideration playing live until we came to do it, but with this one we did, for sure, and it comes across in a different way.
When was the album actually finished, then?
In September of last year. We worked on it for a course of about nine months – it wasn’t really a tense affair, we made it in secret because we wanted to have it done before playing it with anyone. So that was exciting as well, and a different approach to what I’m used to. Nobody could interject with their feelings or opinions until it was completely done. I mean, people could share their opinion… but I wouldn’t listen to it at all!
Do you have to be single-minded to create art?
I think for me… I’m pretty single-minded with my art. I feel confident in it. I love it. And I don’t take outside options into consideration. But I think once there are a lot of hands on something… like, with other projects I’ve worked on in the past, it tends to get really convoluted, and it ends up very far from what it originally started as. It can start as something that’s very exciting, but then over time it fizzles out, and it becomes so far from what you thought it would be, and it loses its impact… and I feel like I wanted to protect this album.
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It’s certainly a heavy record, but it’s also very pop.
Well, I like all kinds of music… and I love pop music. And I’m not afraid to say that, or to write pop songs. I like hooks. I like catchy melodies and sounds and lyrics and I think it’s really wonderful. I think that’ll always be a part of my music because that’s what I enjoy.
‘I Disagree’ made a huge impact what was your process for writing that song?
A lot of my songs take a long time, but that one was pretty straight forward. The whole album looks at a time that was really a crossroads, and I had to make a lot of really important decisions really fast. I feel like I made the best one. ‘I Disagree’… I love singing that song at my shows and it seems like the fans really enjoy it because I feel everyone at some point in their lives feels misunderstood or restricted or disrespected or just not listened to. And I think that song speaks to those people.
Do your songs shift in the studio? Or did you enter the studio with a strong inclination of what you wanted to achieve?
We just wanted to make an album with no rules. And I think we accomplished that.
Sometimes people go into it with an overall concept, and some people just let it evolve into whatever it is, and I think as we were working we just wanted to make something that we were all proud of – me and the producers – at the end of the day. Something that in the regular format of pop music people aren’t allowed to do.
I can say in confidence that no other record label would allow that album to come out. And I feel grateful that it did.
‘Bloodmoney’ is a real fan favourite, what prompted it?
That song is one of my favourites on the album. It’s heavier, industrial, angry synth sounds, mostly on analogue synthesisers… and it’s a song about hypocritical people stopping my personal growth.
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Where does that blend of sounds come from? How did you define that aesthetic?
I don’t really think too much about it, I just really go with how I feel. And I think that music should be based off of that, it should be based on where your heart is or what your gut tells you to go. I think that’s why people are gravitating towards this album, it’s resonating with people thus far because they know that it’s me.
Is there a barrier between you and your art, or is what is on the album 100% you?
I think there’s always a barrier between anyone that’s an artist and the listener. You’re never going to be 100% up front with everyone about everything, otherwise I believe that that’s boring. It makes for a boring artist. If you’re 100% this is who I am all the time… we didn’t get to see David Bowie when he was at his house with no make up on. At least not until the very end of his life. A lot of magic in pop culture has gone because it’s this current fight to be the most relatable and I don’t gravitate towards any of those people, and that’s why I feel like a loner most of the time because I’m bored by everyone.
Who do you relate to as an artist, then?
In current pop culture? Nobody. I gravitate towards real artists that have backbone and fight for their art – Bjork, Marilyn Manson, and Bowie, and Debbie Harry, and Trent Reznor, and people that will tell other people ‘No’ and will not trip up when somebody asks them about their art, or will not trip up when somebody weighs money in their face.
They live and die by their art, and I think that’s something that’s lost in current music. That’s why it’s so boring, and that’s why we get a thousand of the same thing, and that’s why you get pop stars that suddenly re-emerge trying to make country music and it makes no sense and it’s really funny!
It’s like, OK… we’re doing this now?!
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You’re right about the label’s support of your art, have you been in positions in the past where you’ve had to fight for that freedom?
I mean, in the past of course. I started this journey in music maybe 10 years ago, and there’s been a lot of sacrifices and lessons that I’ve had to learn, and I don’t regret any of them.
I made an entire pop record when I was at Mad Decent, and they turned around and said that they don’t want to pay for it because they didn’t have enough money… which is a lie because Diplo makes a lot of money, they just don’t want to pay for things.
So when you learn lessons like that you really have to go with your gut otherwise you’ll want to kill yourself! So when you realise your gut is the mot honest thing, your brain is the thing that you have to protect and your sanity, you start to look at the world differently.
Your art and life seem extremely intertwined, what is the emotional experience of actually releasing a project like this?
It feels like a release and it feels very exciting and I know that there are other people out there that are feeling the same way I feel but are not in a position to talk about it. I don’t take that lightly.
Re-connecting with fans after this process must be such an intense thing to undertake.
Absolutely. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most. That’s another thing that fuels me, on the other side of this whole process, it’s being able to put out the music and then tour, and see the fans and the followers and the friends and the kids that come to the shows. That’s the other wonderful thing about what I do.
Why do you feel the music industry fails to serve these voices?
I think everybody is afraid of losing their job. When you’re in a position – this very cushy, cozy position at a record label – a lot of people are nervous and everyone will pat each other on the back when things go right, but they’ll hate each other and lose their jobs when things go wrong. That’s why you’ll get a lot of people that are afraid to take risks, and that’s why there’s so much boring and mediocre music out.
That’s why the power is still in the independent artists hands, because they’re the ones with the strongest voices because they can drop music whenever and say whatever they want.
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'I Disagree' is out now.
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