"I wanted to make it more raw, more bitchy, less subtle and more aggressive" - hmv.com talks to Charli XCX
When your first record fails to set the world alight, it’s pretty rare you get a second chance, but Charli XCX’s (or Charlotte Aitchison if you want to be formal) road back to the release of her new album Sucker (which you can preview on the right-hand side of the page) is one paved with hits.
She wrote and handed over 2013’s megahit ‘I Love It’ to Icona Pop, co-wrote and starred on Iggy Azalea’s monster single ‘Fancy’, before taking centre stage with ‘Boom Clap’, her contribution to weep-a-thon The Fault In Our Stars soundtrack. ‘Boom Clap’ went Top 10 in the UK, sold over a million copies in America and has put XCX firmly back on the map.
Her new album Sucker is a brilliant, full-on assault on your senses. It’s brash, loud and very direct, at once inspired by 90s girlbands and US pop-punk, full of charm and bite, we’d be very surprised if it doesn’t rank as one of the year’s best.
A few weeks after the album dropped, we chatted to her about making Sucker, working with the likes of Weezer mainman Rivers Cuomo and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, why this album is more aggressive and rawer and her plans for a big 2015…
You must be relieved that Sucker is finally out...
"Of course! I'm so happy it's finally out in the UK, where I'm from."
Can you trace back when you started work on the album?
"Basically straight after I put out my first album True Romance. I think Boom Clap was written pretty much straight after that."
Where did you record the album? Was it in one studio or all over the place?
"It was all over the place. I recorded most of it Sweden though. In Patrik Berger's studio and also in this haunted house in a town called Strangness just outside of Stockholm. I also rented Trevor Horne's house in Belair with some friends and worked on some things there in the spring time."
How many songs did you end up with? Did you record more than you need and scrap some or did you just record the ones you finished?
"I had a lot of songs. I'm continuously writing songs so there's always a lot to choose from, but these just felt like the right body of work."
You worked with some big-name producers like StarGate, Ariel Rechtshaid and Greg Kurstin on the album, were they people you wanted to work with or did they approach you?
"These were all people I wanted to work with and people I had worked with before and have know for a while, especially in the case of Ariel, who I made my first record with."
You collaborated with Rivers Cuomo and Rostam from Vampire Weekend, what were they like in the studio?
"Rivers was so calm and tranquil. It was super cool to work with him. I just went over to his house and we recorded in his studio in his back garden. And working with Rostam is always amazing. We work a lot together now. He really knows how to push me out of my comfort zone, and get really good results."
How did you want to move on from True Romance on this album?
"I wanted to make it more raw, more bitchy, less subtle and more aggressive. I knew from the start I wanted a lot of the songs to be really guitar driven. I was very inspired by The Ramones and Barbie at the same time."
With the exception of Rita Ora, there are no featured artists on this album, did you want to stay away from that after being a featured artist on two big hits?
"There were no featured artists up until I decided to work with Rita Ora on Doing It. She had always loved the song and we had always got on, so it just felt like the right thing to do."
The production on this album seems a lot rawer and a lot more focused on guitars, what was it that inspired that change?
"Probably just the way I was feeling. I was feeling bolder as a person, more loud and more aggressive. I had a lot of anger built up inside me and I wanted that to come out I my music. So that's the road I took. Some of it is very tongue in cheek."
What kind of album is this lyrically? What inspired you?
"The lyrics on this album are very upfront. I talk about money, masturbating and the music industry as well as boyfriends and partying. It’s all the things I have been afraid to say before. It’s very blunt lyrically, but that's the style I was going for with this particular record."
You’ve been the opening act on huge tours with Katy Perry and Paramore in the last two years, what did you learn from those experiences? Did it give you a taste for trying arenas yourself one day?
"Well, I've only just begun opening for Katy and I'm having so much fun. Opening for Paramore was really cool too. I love playing on big stages, there's so much room for me to run around."
You’ve been in America for much of 2014, do you think you’ll be touring more in the UK and Europe this year?
"I start my UK tour on March 24 in Brighton and I am so excited for it – I've never done a proper uk tour before so this is super cool for me. I will be touring Europe later in the year and yes I definitely want to tour more in the UK."
You’re on tour in the UK in the Spring, what kind of live show are you bringing out with you?
"The venues are intimate so it's goiing to be quite DIY. I want to make people sweat."
Any plans for the summer already? Are you eyeing up a run at the festivals?
"Oh yes. I'm not sure what i'm allowed to reveal just yet, but I'll be playing festivals for sure."