Just before the internet signed off for Christmas, a shiny new bauble of a pop song dangled itself in front of the year-end lists and dared us to see the future in its shine. Appropriately for the time of year – office-party snog central – ‘No Strings’ emerged, rolling its eyes at awkward trysts, offering pristine lyrical clichés (“The trouble with no strings is that you can only fall”) and fizzing in an infectious way that didn’t pay lip service to malingering pop trends.
Chlöe Howl has only worked in an office once, briefly, because she’s 18. For the last three years, her job has been secretly writing and recording her debut album. She swapped A-levels for an apprenticeship in pop because… well, we’ll let her explain why: “Fffffuck being in school if I don’t have to be!”
Howl followed up ‘No Strings’ with ‘Rumour’, a more sombre song about the way gossip travels and becomes unquestioned truth. She’s a straightforward storyteller, her awareness of the absurdity of these situations implied rather than spelled out. Her new songs are funnier, and stronger for it – no-nonsense, anti-bullshit yarns that match their sentiment with hooks aplenty and musical nods to the likes of Talking Heads and New Order.
“I just don’t like being bullshat,” she says, cackling at her sweary past tense. “I don’t like people who don’t say things how they are. I’m not preaching, but I want to describe what’s going on ’cos people my age are being lied to so much. They don’t need to be lied to any more.”
Sugar-coating is not, it’s fair to say, Howl’s thing. As well as saying it wouldn’t be “relatable or remotely empowering” to soft-soap her lyrics, there are several brilliant moments in our half-hour chat in a weird pub back room when she contemplates appropriate answers before leading with her mouth. She’s giddy that the guy who broke her heart is “going to have a song out there completely ripping him apart”, and even more so that ‘No Strings’ is on the soundtrack to the newly released Kick-Ass 2 movie. “It’s a cool one to be on – teenage violence, teenage sex, teenage swearing,” she shrugs. Kick-Ass 3 just found its next plot consultant.
NEED TO KNOW
Based: Taplow, Buckinghamshire
For Fans Of: The Naked And Famous, Vampire Weekend
Buy It NOW: ‘No Strings’ is officially released on Monday (August 26)
See Her Live: Chlöe plays Bestival next month
On NME.COM: An exclusive playlist from Chlöe
Believe It Or Not: Chlöe’s hip pops out. This has put paid to a potential career in ice-skating