photographer / Jason Rodgers
stylist / Michael Fisher
story /Erica Russell
hair + makeup / Pascale Poma
When Charli XCX answers her phone, it is mere hours before going on stage at Wembley to open for mega-pop-rock juggernauts Paramore. Conversational and calm, it’s hard to imagine that the 21 year old is about to perform before a sold-out crowd of over 12,000 in her home country. But then the humanizing excitement bubbles over in her voice. “I’m so excited! It’s sort of a historical venue, I suppose, isn’t it? I’m kinda freaking out, but it’ll go great, I’m sure,” she laughs.
No stranger to “girl power,” Charli is thrilled to open for Paramore, fronted by fiery Hayley Williams. “I love Hayley. I think she’s a great performer. I love going on tour with like, really kick-ass girls. In fact, I just put together a new all-girl band… so it’s really getting serious!”
Don’t get it twisted, though; the pop star’s new femme-fatale band-mates are less about serving as eye candy and more about serving up some empowerment. “I’ve always wanted an all-girl band, and I looked around for the perfect girls. I just want people to see that girls can actually play and be really good [in music].
“I’m really trying to relay that message on my new record,” Charli admits. “I feel like my purpose is to show that girls are massively important. Sometimes we get forgotten about and pushed behind the scenes. People think we’re just a bunch of puppets. I wanted to have a girl band so that I can prove that girls are fucking awesome!”
Of Charli’s female inspirations, Annabella Lwin of post-punk staples Bow Wow Wow has served a huge role in the electro-pop Brit’s latest musical incarnation. “I really love ‘I Want Candy.’ It’s got, like, that upbeat drum beat and that really great rhythm. Annabella is so fantastic,” the raven-haired singer gushes. “She’s so sexy and just owns it. My new album is going to be like that. It’s a very feminine album; it’s very sexy. And I feel like that’s what my new song is about, too.”
Charli is referring to, of course, her kinetic new single, “SuperLove,” an energetic pop banger with zippy synths, a vibrant guitar riff, and infectious, dizzying rhythms that project the butterflies-in-your-tummy elation of crushing hard on a dream-boy. Barely a month after releasing the music video in September, the Ryan Andrews-directed clip has amassed almost half a million views on YouTube.
“We filmed it in Tokyo in this cool underground robot bar. We originally had wanted [the video] to have more of a David Lynch atmospheric world, but I felt it didn’t fit right with the vibe of the song. My friend Georgia had come back from Japan and told me about this amazing futuristic robot bar with colorful lights, and I was like, ‘Whoah!’ We’d been hoping to do a video in Japan for ages. When we shot, I didn’t have time to sleep for days. We got off the plane at 4 a.m. and started shooting at 6 a.m. It was crazy. But it was the best video I’ve ever done.”
In the video, Charli wanders the streets of Tokyo before descending down the stairs of the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku and into a kaleidoscopic neo-future-world of flashing rainbow lights, laser beams, and giant dancing robots. In the end of the clip, she rides off with a Japanese bosozoku biker gang.
“Ryan is really into the movie ‘Akira,’” she explains. “We tried really hard to find a biker gang, and we weren’t sure if they were going to show up. So we’re on the set of the shoot, waiting, and suddenly we hear a massive engine roar! Over twenty bikers ride up. They were all really nice and really cool. I signed their bikes and helmets, which was really funny!”
Charli XCX isn’t ready to ride off into the sunset just yet though. If anything, she’s just revving up her engine. With her critically acclaimed official debut album only released this past year, she’s already laying down the foundations for her decidedly “more pop” sophomore record. “I mean, I haven’t written loads. It’s not even halfway done, but I am in the planning process. I just rented out the recording studio for the songs. I’ve been listening to a lot of Brigitte Bardot and different pop bands and bratty girls… I’m hearing lots of shout-y, brassy melodies. It’s very riot, which is where I’m at right now.
“My last album ‘True Romance,’ was purple in color. I see this second record as very red in color. I’m getting inspired by lipstick stains and red Chanel blazers and vintage Jean Paul Gaultier. I feel like this is the most pop I have ever gone. But who knows? Anything can happen.”