Think of your favourite TV moments from the past year, assuming that you watch TV and branch out a little further than River City. If you’re a fan of hit HBO show Girls then chances are seeing Lena Dunham rave in a yellow string vest, to I Love It by Icona Pop featuring Charli XCX, is up there in your top five and you’re one of the twenty-five million people who have viewed the track’s official video on YouTube.
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Not just a featured artist, but also the song’s writer, Charli XCX is the name on everyone’s lips this year. The tiny 20-year-old has been playing underground raves since she was a teenager, but that breakthrough track has seen her headline her own UK tour, work the festival circuit and release her debut album True Romance. We caught up with Charli backstage at her gig in Glasgow’s O2 ABC2 to talk music, movies and Marina Diamandis…
Your new album True Romance is out now. Are you a romantic yourself?
Yes, I am a massive romantic. Robert Smith from The Cure is my romantic hero; I think he’s like the most romantic man ever. I fell in love through the process of writing this album so I think I’m a real soppy lovebird.
The album has interesting contrasts though, as some of the songs reflect the harder times of love…
Definitely. Threads of the album come from when you’re in love and you feel amazing, like you’re floating on a cloud, but then there’s also the side of things when you can feel really alone and really desperate. It’s kind of funny how love’s so schizophrenic like that.
How has your music developed since your independent release, 14?
So much. When I was fourteen I didn’t even know who I was as a person, let alone the music that I wanted to make, and I feel like that whole time when I was experimenting with performing at the raves, was just me being a kid. Over this process I’ve really grown up, I’ve discovered who I am a bit more and also the music I want to make, so the songs are more eighties-inspired pop now.
Your video for What I Like has quite a homemade feel to it. What was the inspiration and the thought process behind that?
There wasn’t really a thought process behind that video; myself and the director found a VHS camera at my parents’ house, then we just went to a hotel in London and rented a room and we shot it with my two friends Laura and Georgia. We rang up our friend Alistair, who let us borrow his dog, Roxy, so we had to sneak her into the hotel and he came with a whole suitcase of clothes just for the dog! Chanel dresses and shit like that. It was quite spontaneous really; my friends, and I just put on some clothes and ordered Dominos pizza, and prank called people.
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You wrote and featured on the track I Love It for Icona Pop, which totally blew up after appearing in the TV show Girls. Are you a fan of the show?
I’m a massive fan, I love that show. It’s probably one of my favourite TV shows ever, I just think it’s so accurate and relatable, and all the characters are amazing. It doesn’t sugar coat anything, it’s really tough, it’s actually what life is like.
You’re going to be touring the States with Marina and the Diamonds. How did that come about?
We did the Coldplay tour together; she was opening for them as well and we got on really well, so she invited me to go on the US tour with her, which is really cool. She’s like my big sister so it’ll be really fun.
What does a Marina and Charli night out look like?
￼￼￼￼￼￼Oh it’s a mess! An absolute mess. When we get together we party pretty hard, but there’s lots of love hearts and candy and glitter involved too, so it’s quite cute. It’s like a princess party when we’re together.
You’re becoming as well known for your look as you are for your music; where does your style inspiration come from?
It’s mainly from my favourite film characters. I love Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, and I love Fairuza Balk in The Craft, and Liv Tyler in Empire Records. I feel like they’re my main three fashion inspirations and the main three segments of my personality. Clueless is super girlie, The Craft is super dark and Empire Records is the more casual side of things. I love those girls and obviously The Spice Girls; I was a big fan of theirs when I was younger and still am, I think they’re aesthetically amazing.
Is Charli XCX like your Sasha Fierce, your onstage alter ego?
No, not really. As cheesy as it sounds I am who I am and having two different personas would be too confusing for me. I feel like all of my songs are so much about my life, and my love life, and all the times that I’ve cried, so it would be weird to sing them as a different character.
Is it true that XCX stands for “X-Rated C**t X-Rated”?
No it’s not. When I was younger and I started playing the raves the promoter was asking me what I wanted to put on the flyer and I didn’t have a name, so I decided that I’d use my MSN screen name, which was Charli XCX, which stood for “kiss Charli kiss”. When I got signed the record label asked what it stood for and as a joke I said, “X-Rated C**t X-Rated,” and obviously they freaked out so I had to tell them I was only joking. It actually stands for something much cuter.
Charli XCX plays Bonnaroo and Reading & Leeds festivals this summer