Premiere: Kelsy Karter’s Life on Mars
The rock-n-roll stunt queen drops “Liquor Store on Mars.”
Prior to this year, the buzz around Kelsy Karter was steady—predictably so, given the New Zealand native’s sweet yet slightly barbed vocals and Bratz-Doll-incarnate looks. Then, in January, Karter went from on-the-rise to infamous with an ingenious social media stunt: Appealing all at once to trending face-tat culture, One Direction fandom, and classic morbid curiosity, Karter posted an Instagram of her new, purportedly real tattoo—one depicting Harry Styles’s still-inflamed likeness smack dab in the middle of Karter’s right cheek.
Underlined with the caption “mama, look what i made me do,” the post had the short-term effect of jet-packing Karter’s mentions into the stratosphere. But a few days later, the singer released her piece de resistance: the music video for the song “Harry.” In the video, Karter reveals how, during a dark time, she and her beloved bandmates decided to write a song about a source of pure, unadulterated joy (i.e. Harry Styles). Later they concocted the faux tattoo scheme, as a kind of callback to the rock-n-roll stunt kings and queens of yore (think Ozzy Osbourne’s pigeon sacrifice or The White Stripes’ incest plot).
As the dust of Harry-gate settled, Karter had retained a new army of fans; while they may have come for the social-media schadenfreude, many rightly stayed for the artist’s less divisive qualities: sugar, spice and undeniable talent. Here, we catch up with Karter about her new single, “Liquor Store on Mars,” a bluesy ode to misfit hedonism, plus her Angelina Jolie fandom, and why she publicizes her phone number.
V Besides being a genius marketing strategy, were there certain truths within the “Harry” tattoo project? Are you really a big fan of his?
Kelsy Karter Apart from the tattoo itself, it was all pretty authentic. About 70 percent of [my friends] thought the tattoo was real—which kind of tells you my reputation among people that have known me throughout my life. I am a big fan of Harry and his solo projects. I want to be the female face of rock-n-roll and when someone so famous and influential (like Harry) does a rock album, the kids get introduced to sounds they may have not otherwise been open to hear.
Also, 2018 was a very hard year for me. I went through dealing with a death, a heartbreak, family problems and depression so everything I was writing was sad. The day we wrote “Harry,” I said, “I just wanna have fun today, please.” So that’s why we wrote that song. Then it became the catalyst for my sound.
V Besides Harry Styles, who are some of your musical idols/inspirations?
KK I dig Harry and want to work with him, but I wouldn’t call him one of my idols.I consider Mick Jagger, The Beatles, James Brown, Queen and Bowie to be my inspirations. Also, my dad is one of my musical inspirations—he is the one that put me in music classes as a kid and taught me all about the greats.
V You are a fan of Angelina Jolie. (So are we!) Tell us about that.
KK She’s unapologetically herself, and always has been. I like to think I’m the same way, even though at times, that may be completely fucked up. I’ve found myself asking for forgiveness rather than permission most of my life and I think I have that in common with Angie. But I like to think even though people see as a bit of a dangerous girl, I’m also best mates with my parents and have no problem yelling at people who litter. (DON’T LITTER!)
V Do you have any actual tattoos? What are they?
KK I hope my dad doesn’t read this—he hates my ink! But yes I do, I have quite a few. My faves are a small rocket ship on my right arm, and my cupids heart, with initials in it, on my left arm.
V You seem close with your band, judging by your IG dedicated to them! Tell us about that.
KK My band[mates] are my best friends and I’m incredibly honored to share this journey with them. I [consider myself] just a frontman [for] their talent, which is out of this world. I love them so, so, so much. Like, A LOT. Maybe [that should be] my next tattoo idea?… Hmm…
V What’s the rationale behind posting your phone number on SoundCloud, YouTube etc.?
KK Any musician that tells you they didn’t start out as a fan of someone before they pursued their own career is lying. If I got a text from Mick Jagger or Freddie Mercury or Julian Casablancas, right now, on this regular afternoon, I would lose my shit. Connecting with my fans is so very important to me. We are in this together. And I couldn’t do this if I didn’t have them.
V Tell us about “Liquor Store on Mars.” What is it about? Is it based on a certain personal experience of yours?
KK In April 2018, my ex and I broke up. Everywhere I went, I was reminded of him. “There’s a chair, HE sits on chairs.” Was also dealing with a death and some personal stuff. It was a really dark time. All I wanted to do was f**k off to somewhere else. And Mars seems like a pretty place.