Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Lorde

10 July 2013, 10:00 | Written by Laurence Day

Pop prodigy Lorde – AKA sixteen year old Ella Yelich-O’Connor – is already a phenomenon.

She was the first native artist to have four songs in the New Zealand top twenty at one time. She’s held the top spot on two separate occasions. Her first home shows sold out in 73 seconds. She’s signed to Universal. Her songs have been featured on the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage and the New Zealand version of the X Factor.

And all on the back of one EP.

Lorde’s five track opening gambit, The Love Club, was an instant hit. Immensely de rigueur, her sounds have drawn comparisons to Lana Del Rey and Marina & The Diamonds. She’s a vocal opponent of the way the media depicts women and youth, and isn’t afraid to vocalise her opinions, often slapping down stereotypes when faced with them – inside her music and out. The noises she’s peppering the airwaves with feature sticky post-dubstep beats (James Blake is a major influence), regal, almost solemn synths, majestic hooks and the kind of pop glamour that was lost years ago after the golden age of silver screen collapsed.

‘Swingin’ Party’ is a soulful ’60s suburban hymn, showcasing Lorde’s immense vocal chops; her voice quivers and crackles, conveying intense sorrow and fear. ‘Tennis Court’ is an epitaph of youth. It’s the kind of ’80s-tinged synthpop that could soundtrack a montage of your halcyon days at school, or uni, or wherever. It’s a hysterical bout of elation – alongside being effortlessly cool, Lorde knows exactly where to stick the knife and when to twist it. ‘Royals’ is are draped in Kanye’s style of brand-checking; robustly facetious, it’s a glorious pop anthem, demonstrating what Del Rey might sound like if she popped Xanax. Instead of being introverted odes to self-loathing and the defeat of love, Lorde’s songs emanate swaggering pomp. They’re the rousing singalongs for teenage house parties; the kind of gluey earworms that get chiselled into your memory.

How did you get started making music? Can you remember the first song you wrote?

I got started making music because my record company heard me sing in my school talent show. I had never considered music as a career before then (I was 12) and wrote primarily short fiction. My manager encouraged me to try it and I haven’t really stopped. It’s kind of a fever, songwriting, it’s very hard to shake once you’ve got it. The first song I wrote was called ‘Dope Ghost’ – I just went through my computer and found it. It was about a girl in my year who took heaps of pills and was a bit of an embarrassment – kind of a diss track. It’s not as bad as I thought though!

You’ve already broken records in New Zealand, why do you think your music has been so popular there?

I think people were mostly surprised to hear pop music that wasn’t saying stupid shit – there’s a bit of a prejudice towards pop in general these days because so much of it is so mindless, but I guess you can dance to my music and not feel completely disgusted with yourself (at least I hope you can).

What’s the best thing about New Zealand music/the scene there?

To be honest there isn’t a huge scene in New Zealand… it feels a little more scattered. But I’ve felt pretty well welcomed, considering I kind of came out of nowhere (the EP is my first release).

What’s the worst?

It’s a sassy scene for sure! I think people feel like they’re being pitted against each other sometimes. There are some awesome things coming from young people in New Zealand right now though – Lontalius is a guy who I really admire, and Zen Mantra, Yvnalesca and Doprah are all doing great things.

Is it a daunting task to try and break the UK and US?

Not really. I mean, I’m not stressed out or anything. I made the EP a year ago with no intentions apart from trying to get a better grip on me as an artist. It wasn’t for commercial success or radio or whatever so all this has been very surprising. I just go with the flow on it all.

Where do you most want to tour? Why?

Los Angeles. Because palm trees, crazy people, and burgers.

Have you got any plans for new material to follow up The Love Club?

I’ve been working on my record for about three months straight now, and on and off since December. It’s 90% finished, and I’m so proud of it. I know everyone says they’re proud of their record, but I think I’ve done something special. New material feels like a maturation of the Lorde that people know – I’ve grown as a human and a songwriter in a year! The record has a mix of slower jams and more upbeat stuff, and lyrically I just try paint a bit of a portrait of who I am, what my life is and the art that I love (I draw a lot of inspiration from photography and films as well as music).

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Is there anything specific that influences your lyrics?

It’s kind of hard to say, there are so many things! I use Tumblr and that’s a really good source of inspiration for me – I’m a visual person. Beautiful words or phrases I read or hear on TV shows will inspire me to weave an entire song around them – I’ll never write a song called ‘You and I’/ ‘Tonight’/‘Letting Go’ or whatever, it’s gotta be more random than that to keep me interested.

My friends inspire me hugely too, I think young people (younger than 18) are the most creative and inspiring people on earth… we should all hold the jobs that matter, because we know what’s cool. In social situations I’m always thinking about what I’m experiencing, trying to analyse and break down. I think too much, for sure. But it culminates in writing stories within these songs that really mean something to me, and hopefully to other people.

The inspiration behind ‘Royals’ is pretty simple – I was poking fun at the disconnection between the lyrical content of pop music and the content of my friends’ lives. We go to house parties because we’re too young for the club, and we drink terrible vodka which tastes like dust because it’s cheap. All my clothes are from charity shops and I get public transport, just like every other person my age, and it occurred to me how far from the crazy luxury we were.

‘Tennis Court’ was a really stream-of-consciousness thing. I wrote the whole lyric in one sitting, quite fast. It was just me thinking about everything crazy that was going on in my life, and wondering what would happen in the future. The tennis court is a place everyone hangs out in my neighbourhood, and visually it’s really powerful and beautiful for me. Writing ‘Tennis Court’ was my way of holding onto something familiar and personal which might seem far away as I start to travel and leave this little suburb world behind. But the song was also a little bit of rumination on me and my mates, on everyone being so jaded, and not caring. Call it teen boredom. And I was kind of clinging to a time when it didn’t feel that way, a kind of nostalgia. And the tennis court embodies that for me.

What’s your favourite song of yours? Why?

There’s a track called ‘Ribs’ on the record which I wrote in February. It’s about getting old. It’s fun.

People have been saying that you’re critical of the high life. Is there any truth to that?

People can live however they want! In ‘Royals’ I was just being a bit of a smartass – criticizing how that high life is kind of all anyone talks about in pop music now. The lack of relevance is what I’m critical of. But put it on record that I’m totally cool with people who live in the Hamptons and own Ferraris and shit. I’ll probably have some money soon, and get called a hypocrite. That’ll be interesting.

You’ve expressed dislike of the way young people are perceived. What’s your opinion of the representation of youth in the media?

I just feel like the young people who are supposed to be representing young people are pretty bad. Bieber and everything, no-one my age actually cares about him. It’s such a Disney thing, a cartoon character idea of being a teenager! People are always accusing teenagers of being on drugs and fucking up their lives, which is true to some extent… But we’re allowed to do that, we’re not supposed to have our lives on track just yet. Teenagers are a lot more switched on than people think.

Do you think the way women are presented in the media needs to change?

I could fill your entire publication with this one, haha. I’ll just say that there are some strong, incredible females like Grimes and Lena Dunham and Tavi Gevinson who are such inspirations for girls and for feminism, and they’re pioneers for change in this decade for women. Holla, gurls.

Do you consider yourself a role model?

If people considered me to be a role model, I would be honoured.

How do you feel about Lana Del Rey and Marina & The Diamonds comparisons?

I’m a girl, and I make pop music, and I guess I have quite creative lyrics, so I get compared to other girls who make pop music and have quite creative lyrics. The only way to set yourself apart is to keep doing your own thing, and eventually people will realize you’re an artist, and what you do is something original, and genuine. I think both those girls have some interesting aspects to what they do, though.

How did your exams go?

Haha, I’m actually a total nerd with schoolwork. I did well. Not going to brag though.

What have you got planned for the rest of the years?

Not getting pneumonia. Finishing off my record. Sleeping for a week. Working my ass off to support the record. That’s about it.

The Love Club EP is out now.

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