"I just want to make the world happy and cute because nobody else is right now"
Having amassed millions of fans, followers and Youtube views over the last few years, Poppy is renowned for her unique, twee and stark presenting style. Also known under the name That Poppy, she has released a string of singles and dropped the album ‘Poppy.Computer’ on Diplo’s Mad Decent label last year.
As she gears up for a UK and world tour around the upcoming release of new album ‘Am I A Girl’, we talk to Poppy about her love of Madonna and Gary Numan, her collaboration with Grimes, her upcoming movie and book, and her dream collaborators and covers.
You’ve just dropped new single ‘In A Minute’. What would you say is the lyrical inspiration behind the song?
“I want to make people feel empowered – and I haven’t done my nails in a minute.”
How do you go about spreading empowerment?
“I usually write about what makes me feel good. I think it’s a universal message.”
What is the message behind Poppy?
“I want to give people who might not feel included a place to go. We’re all in this together.”
Musically, what inspires you? What have you been listening to lately?
What is it about Madonna that you like?
“She’s Madonna, she’s the queen. I love her songs, but she’s also one of the best performers of all time. She can sing and dance at the same time.”
What do you think the secret is to Madonna’s longevity?
“She isn’t boring. She seems to have paced herself in her career. She never just let everybody in on everything she’s doing. It’s really important. If you want people to follow you for a long time you have to keep them coming back and wanting more.”
Are you planning your career to have a similar trajectory?
“I can’t say too much. You’ll have to wait and see. I do appreciate the career that she has had and is still having. She’s a big inspiration to me.”
What is it about Of Montreal that attracts you?
“I’m a friend of Kevin the singer. He’s from the South as well. I really like their song structure and his chord progression structure. His music is influenced heavily by The Beatles and David Bowie. I think he’s an underrated great.”
Why did you choose to cover ‘Metal’ by Gary Numan?
“Gary Numan is just really respected in the electronic music community. I really like the industrial sound and the synth that he uses. He has a very epic sound.”
Are there any other tracks that you’d love to cover?
“I really like DeVinyls – the song ‘I Touch Myself’ is great. I also love ‘Borderline’ by Madonna. I’d say those two.”
How would you describe your approach to covering songs?
“I tend to gravitate towards songs that go well with my voice in a similar range, then structurally try to make them similar but change out the sounds.”
What are your earliest memories of wanting to get into music?
“Madonna, Elvis and Dolly Parton. Those three artists have had a huge influence on music as a whole but they’re also very distinct. They maintain that thing that I was talking about earlier where they pace themselves and didn’t overexpose themselves too early on.”
How do you go about balancing that yourself when you already have millions of fans and followers?
“Well, I’m very honoured and blessed. I think what I’m doing differently is I’m building an environment and a world as opposed to putting all of my effort into one particular song. It’s about Poppy as a whole. It’s an experience.”
What can we expect from your new album ‘Am I A Girl’?
“It has the influences that I’ve listed, plus there’s a little bit of Kate Bush and French influence. There are some collaborations that I’m very excited about too. I’m doing a song with Grimes and with Diplo as well. The songs are very, very different from each other but very excited. I wish you could hear that right now.”
When can we hear it?
“It will be released in the Fall.”
How did you come to work with Grimes?
“She followed me on Twitter, then I sent her a message and said ‘hi, I like you. We should make a song together’. Then we made a couple of songs together actually. She’s really talented.”
What kind of energy did she bring to your album? She’s also in a world of her own…
“Yeah. It’s really great that she’s one of few female producers that is actively doing it right now. It’s very respectable. She’s really good with synthesisers and we wanted to take the song in more of a heavy direction. She’s great at melodies. I write pop music a lot. It’s her element which is a lot more abstract.”
What are the tracks about?
“One song is about destroying things, and the other song is about power. That’s all I can say.”
What did Diplo bring to the table?
“Diplo brought his dance beats. I wanted to work with Diplo for a long time. I know I released my first album with him but for this one he was a big part of it. He’s a very nice guy and hard worker. The song that I have with Diplo is coming out next. It’s very futuristic sounding.”
Are you looking for a similar kind of massive, universal dancefloor appeal?
“Yeah, I love dance music. I think ‘Poppy dance music’ is my own spin. What would a futuristic Poppy dance song sound like? I think that’s what we did with this song.”
Do you think about gaining a wider audience and reaching as many people as possible?
“I would like to reach a lot more people. With the first album you had to know the Poppy story, and you had to be following it for a while for it to make sense to you. With this new album, I worked with Fernando Garibay. He’s very talented and worked on my favourite Lady Gaga record [‘Born This Way’]. I got to work with him and he really understands what I’m trying to do. He’s a genius. If you’re just learning about me for the first time, I think you’ll be able to understand this album.”
So it’s a more direct record separate to your online persona?
“I think so. That’s what I was trying to accomplish with this album. I’m already thinking about the third album now, but I’m very excited for this one to come out.”
What would you say are the main themes on the album?
“I think another element that is common on the album is questioning gender and identity. That’s the concept behind ‘Am I A Girl’.”
Smashing gender boundaries and everything being fluid?
“Yeah, why pick just one?”
What do you have planned for the production for your upcoming tour?
“Lots of lights, and also so much dancing and choreography. I’ve wanted to do that for a long time. We have some really brilliant dancers this time.”
That’s interesting, because a lot of your online videos are quite static. Will this be all about movement?
“Oh yes, lots of movement. You’ve got to pace yourself. You can’t show them everything at once.”
What do you get out of seeing your very ‘avid’ fans in front of you at shows, rather than the usual online comments?
“It’s a pretty amazing feeling to know that something I posted on the internet can impact so many people. I just want to make the world happy and cute because nobody else is right now.”
So you’re providing an escape to the horror unfolding around us right now?
“It’s kind of like an alternative family kind of situation. I’d say this is my cult.”
Do you have any other projects planned outside of music?
“There are a couple of shows that we’re working on, plus a movie and I’m writing a book.”
What will the book be about?
“It’s going to be a novel, but I don’t want to say what it’s about. It’s going to be good.”
What about the movie? Will that be about you?
“It will be about me. I’m the main character. I think ‘experimental’ is the word.”
Across writing, music and movies, is there anyone that you’d really love to collaborate with?
“I would really love to work with Max Martin. Also Walt Disney and Marilyn Manson.”
“He’s just a legend.”
He’s all about darkness whereas you seem to celebrate the light.
“Yes, I think the juxtaposition is beautiful.”
Have you ever met Marilyn Manson?
“No, but I’ve talked to him before. He said that he likes my videos and then I said that I like his art. I met him on Twitter too. I tend to meet everyone on Twitter, but poor Twitter. Twitter doesn’t seem to be doing so well right now.”
It’s a very kind of baseless and one dimensional way to communicate, whereas your videos are quite intriguing. What tends to inspire those?
“Usually me and Titanic Sinclair meet up and talk about what’s inspiring us right now and what people are saying on the internet. Maybe we’ll talk about plants one day, maybe we’ll talk about the President or Ariana Grande or cats. It ranges, really.”
Poppy tour dates and tickets
Poppy’s upcoming UK tour dates are below. Tickets are available here.
Friday October 5 – LONDON Scala
Saturday October 6 – MANCHESTER Academy