ARTICLE WILLIAM DEFEBAUGH
PHOTOGRAPHY NAOMI SHON
WITH MULTIPLE HIT SINGLES FROM HER EP THE LOVE CLUB, A RECORD DEAL WITH UNIVERSAL, ENDORSEMENTS FROM ARTISTS ACROSS THE GLOBE AND A SOLD OUT FIRST SHOW IN NEW YORK CITY, SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD ELLA YELICH-O’CONNOR, THE NEW ZEALAND-BASED MUSICAL MASTERMIND BEHIND LORDE, HAS ALREADY PROVEN THAT SHE’S DESTINED TO TAKE THE WORLD BY STORM. V CAUGHT UP WITH HER FOR A QUICK CHAT ABOUT GROWING UP IN NEW ZEALAND, YEEZUS, AND THE TEENAGE EXPERIENCE
So, Ella. 2013 has been quite the year for you. How has it felt on your end?
L: It’s been awesome. But you know, at the same time, I’ve never released any music before this so I don’t know that it can go any other way. Does that make sense? I just kind of assume this happens to everyone. But it’s been really cool seeing the response in my country, and then in other places. It’s cool.
Part of what has been so interesting watching your career is the whole marketing technique around Lorde—only releasing the illustration, the limited pictures, the music being put online for free. Was that all your doing?
L: Absolutely. That’s all super important to me, and definitely something I control and cultivate. Because I feel like everyone knows everything these days, it’s good to keep some things a mystery. I also looked at other artists like the Weeknd, and I thought they were really interesting in how they released their stuff and really cultivated their image.
So where did the name Lorde come from?
L: Well basically I was looking at interesting aristocratic titles and I thought lord sounded cool, but it was super masculine, so I decided to throw an ‘e’ at the end of it. I kind of liked that mix of masculine and feminine, it felt regal to me.
And the illustration. Did you draw it?
L: No, it was done by a friend who was designing my website. He brought along a sketchbook to one of our meetings and I got him to agree to draw something for me.
It must be crazy knowing that you have followings in places you’ve never been.
L: Yeah, it’s mental. But you know it’s another one of those things. I don’t take it for granted, but I assume it’s the same for everyone. I guess with the Internet it’s a bit crazier, you have people all over who like your music. It’s a good thing though.
Did you always know you wanted to be a musician?
L: I think up to about 3 years ago I was really into writing short fiction. It was kind of like my one outlet, and then I kind of started tentatively writing songs and doing that sort of thing because I’ve always sung. Then once that started clicking I realized that I didn’t want to do anything else.
Was there a moment where you really felt like things were taking off for you?
L: Well every day I get tweeted by someone I’m a huge fan of, and I see it and I’m like, Holy shit! But I don’t know, everything still seems normal to me.
You have been tweeted @ by artists ranging from Grimes to Sky Ferriera. Who else do you admire right now musically?
L: Well I have to say, I really liked Yeezus. I think it was such an important record. Justin Vernon’s contributions--from Bon Iver--were so on point.
Let’s talk a little bit about The Love Club. What is the EP really about to you?
L: Well it was really kind of about my life at the time and my friends and everything that was going on. I don’t think there is a specific thematic point but it was a depiction of my life at the time and who I was.
Would you say that your life is much different now?
L: It’s different in that maybe the stuff that I have to stress out about now is different than the stuff I had to stress out about a year ago. I don’t want to give any examples or name any names, but definitely more crazy stuff going on now.
What is your favorite song from the EP?
L: I like "Bravado." That song means a lot to me. I’ve always been kind of a shy person and that song was kind of like my private pep talk about being in the spotlight and having to be a bit more out there.
It’s not quite as popular as "Royals" or "The Love Club," but it does seem to speak more to what you’re trying to accomplish.
You just released your first music video for "Royals." What was your inspiration?
L: I’d been looking at a lot of Gus Van Sant movies and strange photography that was kind of following teenagers in their natural habitats. Like teenagers fucking around and kind of doing nothing. And I didn’t want the music video to be like "Thrift Shop" or something where we are having this crazy party on the cheap and our lives are awesome. I wanted it to be a little bit more true to what teenagers actually feel. I think sometimes people forget when they’re not 15 or 16 but it’s such a strange time because you’re not old enough to drive or get into bars so it’s just kind of this boring, waiting period. I wanted to depict that.
You’ve sort of become known for that—capturing the teenage experience. Did you intend that?
L: Well I don’t want to say, ‘Yeah I’m doing this for the kids!’ because no one is like that. But yeah. I just want to do things that I think are accurate, and that my friends think are accurate. Because I think every single teenager that is a big deal in the music industry is so far from anything that any teenagers are like. Like, I can’t relate to Justin Bieber or anyone like that. I think it’s important for people my age to have someone a little bit more relatable.
Were you very involved in the direction of the video?
L: Oh yeah. Basically everything that goes out that has the name Lorde attached to, I am completely involved with—just because I like to micromanage everything. Things just have to be right for me. So both those videos were completely my doing.
And your most recent video was for "Tennis Court." What was the thought behind that video?
L: Well we didn’t really go into that shoot intending to release the video we ended up releasing but I thought there was something really compelling about that image and that shot. I think a lot of people are surprised by my music videos because I make pop music and they think they are going to get something that’s really easy to digest that doesn’t confuse you. But I like fucking with people.
What do you think about pop music right now, in terms of what really needs to change?
L: Well I kind of love that now what’s really important is the Internet. Radio isn’t so important anymore, it doesn’t matter what is on the airwaves, and I think that’s really cool. But overall I think it’s a bit dire at the moment.
Lastly, what can you tell me about the upcoming album?
L: Well I don’t want to give you too many details, but… in terms of the body of work, think it’s a lot more mature than what people have heard from me in the past. I think I’ve grown up a lot, and you can hear that in the writing. It will be out at the end of the September. I think it’s awesome.
Lorde’s first full-length studio album, Pure Heroine, will be out September 30th with Universal Records.