Interview: Chatting with Charli XCX backstage at Slim's
Charli XCX at Slim’s. Photo by Jason DeBord.
It’s only been six months since English pop singer-songwriter Charli XCX released her first album, yet she’s already debuted a new song and video, and will soon complete her second record. It’s been a busy few years for 21-year-old Charlotte Aitchison. She’s been writing songs since she was 14, but since 2012 she’s penned one of the year’s biggest songs (“I Love It” for Swedish duo Icona Pop), opened for Coldplay, recorded her major label debut (April’s True Romance), and now has a new single with hit potential in “SuperLove,” which she told The Bay Bridged will be on her follow-up album that should be released next spring.
Nursing a cold, Aitchison, spoke to TBB prior to her show at Slim’s Friday night – part of a gauntlet that included a 14-hour drive from Washington, a DJ set at DNA Lounge and a redeye flight to New York.
The Bay Bridged: How did “I Love It” end up being an Icona Pop song?
Aitchison: I wrote that song in, like, half an hour. I knew from the minute I wrote it that I wasn’t really feeling it for my record. It wasn’t the album I was making.
TBB: Are you friends with those girls?
Aitchison: Yeah. I knew them before because I had done some recording in Sweden. They came to the studio, heard it and really liked it. They were cool, so I was really happy for them. They came down to the studio and sung the vocals and tweaked some production stuff.
TBB: How many of the songs on True Romance have been around since you first started writing music?
Aitchison: Only one, actually, when I was 15: This song called “Set Me Free.” I wrote that one after I’d watched the “Twilight” movie for the first time….It’s about me imaging life as a vampire, which is kind of lame, but the song was quite good. Everything else is from sessions when I was 16, 17, 18; even 19. That first record really is me growing up.
TBB: You recently recorded the video for “SuperLove” in Japan, and here’s a question from a fan on Twitter, Tim, who wanted to know if you had any unique stories to share about the filming.
Aitchison: The video shoot got shut down by the Japanese police. That was kind of scary. We were shooting with a…real biker gang, which is illegal in certain areas of Japan, especially in Tokyo. We were just outside of Tokyo because we wanted it to be cool (with authorities), but it’s illegal to ride with more than three people, and there were, like, 25 of them.
TBB: How did you find them?
Aitchison: We got in touch with this guy out there who had made a documentary about biker gangs, and we’d been speaking to him for two or three months.
TBB: You knew that it was something you wanted to incorporate into the video?
Aitchison: Yeah, definitely. And even on the day of the shoot, the (documentary film maker) said this might not happen (because) they do what they want. If … they’re not feeling it, they just won’t show up….Luckily they did show up. Twenty-five bikes roaring across this bridge. Their leader was missing a finger and he was this ex-gangster. But then the police came and shut the video shoot down, and the bikers had to scatter. It was pretty intense for me. It was the first time I’d rode a motorbike.
TBB: “SuperLove” is going to be on your next album. What else can you tell me about it?
Aitchison: I see my first record as the color “purple” and I see the next record as the color “red.” All the songs are about sex, femininity, power and anger. All of the words are really, like, blunt, dumb, shouty and riot grrrl-esque.
TBB: So, “direct?”
Aitchison: Very direct. Lots of lame vocals, very, like, “girl power.” It’s still pop, but it definitely has a very punk, angry edge. It’s inspired by movies like, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. It’s inspired visually and sonically by ‘60s French yé-yé pop.
TBB: Your friend Marina Diamandis (of Marina and the Diamonds) told me she has a condition that correlates color to objects. Did she influence that sort of perspective in you?
Aitchison: No, we haven’t spoken about that. I’ve always seen my songs in color and…more than color, for me, when I record a song, I see a music video. That’s how I know whether I’m connected to the song. With “I Love It,” I never saw a music video. So I knew it wasn’t right for me.
TBB: In what other locales, besides Japan, do you want to film?
Aitchison: I’m not sure I’d like to make a video there, but I’d really love to go to Jamaica. Also, I’d love to shoot a video on the black beaches in Iceland.
TBB: You wrote a song for Britney Spears. Who else do you dream of writing songs for?
Aitchison: I’d like to work with Gwen Stefani or No Doubt. That would be really cool for me. Aside from that I don’t really know. I’m excited to work with any artist because I feel it’s cool to put your spin on someone else’s work; to inspire them and have them inspire you. Getting asked to write for Britney Spears was kind of a dream. When I was younger I was so in awe of her. I remember seeing the “Hit Me Baby One More Time” video and being, like, freaking out. “Oh my God, mom! MOM!”…Even if nothing happens, I’m honored just to be asked.
Roman Gokhman has been covering the music scene in the Bay Area since 2006; first with the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times and the San Jose Mercury News, and since 2011, as a staff feature writer with The Bay Bridged. Follow him at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter and RomiTheWriter.Tumblr.com, where he posts Q&A outtakes from most of his artist interviews.