New Sounds

New Sounds

New Sounds

Three Female Musicians On the Verge—Sky Ferreira, Grimes, and Charli XCX—Get Top-Shelf Advice On Navigating Their Nascent Careers From Industry Icons Elton John, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, and Geri Halliwell. Read On For Their Views On Sex, Drugs, and Pop Stardom

Three Female Musicians On the Verge—Sky Ferreira, Grimes, and Charli XCX—Get Top-Shelf Advice On Navigating Their Nascent Careers From Industry Icons Elton John, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, and Geri Halliwell. Read On For Their Views On Sex, Drugs, and Pop Stardom

Photography: Sebastian Faena

Styling: Carine Roitfeld

Text: Elton John

Text: Gerri Haliwell

Text: Breyer P-Orridge


ELTON JOHN How do you feel to be on the cover of V?

SKY FERREIRA It’s really cool. They were one of the first fashion magazines to get behind me. I’ve shot with so many different photographers now, so they’ve really helped me. I’m wearing Givenchy [on the cover]. I sang at the Givenchy after-party so I think that is the reason why Carine [Roitfeld] was like, you have to wear Riccardo.

EJ Riccardo Tisci is probably the favorite of all the current designers. Then you have Hedi Slimane coming back for YSL which is so exciting and Sarah Burton for McQueen. Women’s fashion is very exciting at the moment. How do you find mixing fashion [with music]? You’re not really known as a model, but…

SF Yeah it’s quite strange how that all happened. At first I was kind of upset. I thought people wouldn’t appreciate my music because they’d think of me as a model or an It girl who’s trying to sing.

EJ I think you can be both.

SF That’s the funny part about it. Everybody asks, “Where’s the music, where’s the music?” I have the music—I’m just properly doing the music. Because of the Internet, people think you have to rush. But the most modern thing to do is to not use the Internet at this point. I see all these singers trying to get into fashion, and I’m told I shouldn’t, but I totally appreciate fashion and I love taking photos.

EJ Music and fashion have always gone hand in hand. You remind me of Sue Lyon in Lolita. You have that very sexual feel about you, which appeals to men, but at the [Elton John AIDS Foundation] Enduring Vision event in New York so many people were saying, “Who the hell is that?” They hadn’t seen you before, and you look special. Do you like that feeling?

SF Yeah, I mean it’s 2012, so I should be able to be whoever I want. The thing is, you’re supposed to look sexy so other people can benefit from it, but you’re not supposed to be sexual so that you can benefit from it.

EJ That’s crazy.

SF In some ways I’m kind of taking that over, I’m not ashamed of it. Not that I’m doing porn or anything.

EJ I find the most sexually attractive people to be the ones walking down the street where you go, “Oh my god, they look fantastic.”

SF I work a lot with Terry Richardson and his portrayal of sexuality is very raw, which I really like because it’s not all retouched and I don’t think it should be. We just shot a music video where I’m in my bra and underwear but there’s red paint all over me. It’s not the most flattering, but that’s what I like about it.

EJ I hate stylists. Not personally, but I’ve never had one in my life. I just think shopping for clothes is so much fun—there’s nothing like it.

SF You can tell when someone is pulling it off and when it’s just too overdone. I think we need to take a few steps back from that.

EJ I totally agree. Do you go and shop yourself?

SF Yes, I’ve always been a big shopper. My collection of clothes is ridiculous. I used to just wear vintage clothes all the time. I still do, but now that I can afford more clothes or get free clothes from so many different designers I definitely wear them. My favorites are Miu Miu and Givenchy. I love Christopher Kane too.

EJ I see you as an actress as well.

SF I used to act but I stopped to focus on music when I was 16. I did one independent film [Putty Hill] that came out two years later, but it did really well. I definitely want to act; I just need to choose the right thing.

EJ You obviously have this desire to create. Does that start with the music?

SF Yes. I was never a great natural musician, but I always wrote songs. My mom was just talking the other day about how I had a little tape recorder and I would just sing into it all day and I would bring it to school and just sing into it in the bathroom. I was painfully shy when I was younger.

EJ Who was your inspiration when you were growing up?

SF Fiona Apple.

EJ I love Fiona Apple.

SF The thing I love about her so much is that even though she’s so mysterious and beautiful, she’s not trying to be. She’s still herself after all these years instead of trying to be on red carpets or whatever. She just doesn’t care.

EJ That’s great to be influenced by someone who’s an intelligent writer and a performer who marches to her own beat because there are so many now. I feel their careers are only going to last as long as the next good song they get.

SF And on top of it all they also sound the same. I think the thing that bothers me the most is that no one actually sings anymore. Fair enough if you have a track you’re singing over with stuff underneath it because you don’t have enough money for a background singer. But when you do that, at least sing on pitch—it’s your job. You didn’t even write this song.

EJ You’ve come to the right person to talk to about that.

SF I was the only white girl in the gospel choir when I was six, so I would get yelled at if I didn’t sing on pitch. And then I learned how to sing opera when I was 13. I’d rather be really boring and sit there and sing perfectly. I don’t really think it’s boring because I really feel the song when I sing it. I’m not a dancer and I mean every word I’m singing.

EJ Tell me about the track which I love, one of the few I’ve heard, it’s the one with Shirley Manson that you wrote.

SF I was in a really bad situation with my record label before, with a bunch of people who didn’t understand me, and it turned out Shirley and I had both worked with Greg Kurstin, and she knew me from my MySpace demos. We connected over e-mail and she said, “I think I have the perfect song for you.” She sent it and I was like, Oh my god, it’s amazing, we have to do it. I changed some of the lyrics. It turned out great. It’s called “Red Lips” and it’s definitely going be the first single. Then it’s going to be “You’re Not the One” or “24 Hours.”

EJ But you’ve met Shirley, right? She’s one of my favorite girls too.

SF Yes. She liked the fact that I was being told how annoying I was because I had something to say. She was like, “Finally! A girl who has something to say who’s not scared to be a bitch.” I’m not a bitch, but that was just the way it was.

EJ Most people who don’t have anything to say and then become successful become so horrible. They’re not used to it.

SF I’ve been told I was the next big thing about 10 times over the years and it kind of put me in a weird position…I want to be more than just hype. I think a lot of people forget that hype dies down and people will ditch you when there’s someone new.

EJ I always believe in kismet, and the fact that you haven’t made your record yet and you are making it on your own terms is such a good way to go.

SF I used to be so upset about it, but now I’m like, finally…this is what I wanted to do to begin with.


BREYER P-ORRIDGE You’ll have to forgive me if we ask questions you’ve heard 100,000 times. Believe me, after doing interviews since ’65, we know it happens. Have you been trained vocally?

GRIMES I have not. I actually have a lot of trouble singing live because apparently I sing from my throat and not from my stomach. I used to try warming up, but I gave that up a couple months ago.

BP When we first listened to the music, the core sequences or rhythms sounded incredibly like Throbbing Gristle around D.O.A. There was a track, “AB/7A,” that has a really similar sound to it. What kind of equipment are you using?

G I use a Roland Juno G. I think I like crunchy sounds. I like as much bass as possible in the drums and multiple kicks. I definitely listen to a lot of industrial music, more modern like Nine Inch Nails–style industrial.

BP Can you actually get really raw emotion out of a digital machine?

G I think it’s about the actual sonic experience. When you have that loop going and going on the computer and you’re letting it do it for hours, you’re so into it. For me that’s a really emotional experience, just getting so bound up in the loop that’s happening. It’s like the computer is just my means of interacting with the sound.

BP It’s your doorway to that space.

G Well, I was raised with a computer. It’s been a pretty big par tof how I have always interacted with the world.

BP Can you see yourself bringing in other instruments like guitars or violins or orchestras or live percussion?

G If I had more time, that is something I’d really want to do, but right now everything is really immediate. When I’m inspired, if I need to make something, I need to make it right now.

BP It’s so modern! The contemporary young person who wants instant gratification! We grew up when there weren’t even calculators. When we were 16, there were no calculators.

G Did you use an abacus?

BP No, silly! You used your head and a piece of paper and a pencil. In a way it isn’t so different. Whatever was available, whether it was a drum or an old tape recorder or putting the microphone into the wrong socket, whatever was there we would use it to make sounds and noises.

G In some ways I’m the opposite of you. I’ve always had such a technical issue with being able to play instruments. I took violin lessons when I was about seven and the woman I took lessons from actually told my mom that I was shockingly bad and that I should just not play. [Laughs]

BP What’s your approach to lyrics?

G I have a weird relationship with lyrics because my music is pretty personal, so I kind of smudge things lyrically. For me, meaning in music is more of a sonic and nonlinguistic thing.

BP My ongoing band Psychic TV uses video-created light shows and we notice you have a high visual aspect to your live performances. Do you think of the visuals and sound as one thing?

G I try to think of it as one thing. A big thing about pop music is it’s a really visual type of music. It’s very much the face and the voice—they’re as much a part of it as the music is. For me, the live show has been a really hard thing. But it’s something that is really cool to force myself to do, and it’s really good for the audience when they are interacting and part of it.

BP Young people are using Facebook and Twitter, and although they say they’re having more contact, in a way they are becoming more and more isolated.

G It’s a huge curse on my generation. I feel like people don’t know how to talk to people. I don’t have a cell phone because my world is so digital that I need to have it not be digital 100 percent of the time. I just think it’s important to use the Internet wisely and know when to stop.

BP Do you have any questions you want to ask me?

G Oh God, yes! What do you think will happen to you when you die?

BP When we met Lady Jaye in 1993, we started to experiment more and more with what we call Pandrogeny. At one point we spent a whole year using ketamine every half hour, every day. We had a lot of out-of-body experiences, and it took us a long time to retrieve what we were learning and seeing in these other realms. Jaye had this way of expressing it, which was Existentialism is door #1, door #2 is organized religion, door #3 is what else is there? What can we individually discover about perception and possibility? Then Jaye, as you know, dropped her body in 2007. When one dies, what are we going to do to communicate if it’s possible? Through working with Tibetans, we realized that they do seem to reincarnate. So my answer to your question is, we believe we live in loops. Perhaps the whole point of life is to break those loops: habits, addictions, issues, and at some point it will be possible to leave the physical world and maintain a sense of self. Our ambition has always been to find each other in whatever realm, embrace and become one being, made of the two of us. That’s our goal and that’s the nearest picture we have so far of what might be.


GERI HALLIWELL Let’s do this interview. This is so flattering.

CHARLI XCX I’m super excited.

GH When did you first start singing? When you were five?

XCX Yeah, actually. That’s true. I’ve always been a bit of a showoff. So when I was four I went on this family cruise-ship holiday and I sang “Barbie Girl” onstage without a backing track. I just went up and did it on my own. My parents thought I was going to have a breakdown and cry, but I just did it and was like, “YEAH!”

GH Who were you listening to?

XCX When I was younger I was listening to the Spice Girls, Aqua... When I turned 14, I started listening to Kate Nash, Lily Allen, The Klaxons...I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I just wanted to replicate all these different sounds that I was hearing and I liked. Then I was making these demos, putting them on MySpace, and they got picked up by one of the guys who was running a lot of the illegal underground raves in Hackney.

GH Oh my god! That must have freaked your mother out?

XCX Well, my thing was like, Great! I’m going to go and play!

GH Did she know you were doing this?

XCX They came! The rebellion phase turned into a family thing!

GH So you had nothing to rebel against?

XCX My parents love to dress up as well. They’re like super fans of vintage—’40s and ’50s. They’d go to these raves dressed up and I’d be in this kind of stuff [gestures to her outfit] and we’d be there until like six in the morning.

GH Did that freak you out, your parents being there?

XCX Um...I guess I liked it, because they were supportive.

CH So what was it? You and a backing track?

XCX At this stage I had an iPod, and I’d press play. My songs were like raps, like “T-Rex! Dinosaur sex! Watch them roar! Watch them roar! Watch me be like a dinosaur!” I made the track myself. It was really unformed and childish, but it was fun. Management heard about me through MySpace and then they were coming down to these raves, then labels were coming down too.

CH Did you always think you were good?

XCX Yeah. I always knew I was good, but I also had this idea that this is so cool, this scene is so cool! You know that East London thing? Like, This is it! But now I have a broader vision, and I know it’s very incestuous. It’s nothing, really. It spawns great people, but it’s also a joke of itself sometimes.

CH I’ve got a really big question for you. Do you wanna make loads of money or do you wanna be cool?

XCX Before it was just about being cool. I didn’t want to make any money. I just wanted to be in the fashion scene, in the indie-trendy world. But I don’t think that’s all that important now. I’d rather be commercially successful, but on my terms, and make good pop music. Not like selling out to make rubbish.

CH I remember when I was doing lots of promos I’d meet these cool bands that were poor. I thought, That’s great, but some things are of different importance to different people. I like both.

XCX Also I think if you do get commercial success you can always go back and do those things, you know, when you have the money to do your own hip-hop opera record or whatever.

CH You’re very photogenic. I looked at your pictures today.

XCX Oh, thank you! I do like having my photo taken, and I think fashion is really important to what I do as Charli XCX.

GH And what does the “XIX” stand for?

XCX XCX. X Charli X.

GH Oh! It’s a ‘C’! It must mean something subconsciously.

XCX Kiss Charli Kiss. I thought it looked cool when I was younger.

GH Have you been on tour?

XCX My first tour was in March. We went on tour with this band called Sleigh Bells, who are this awesome indie band, and I also did some of my own shows in New York. Now I’m going away again to do this tour with Santigold and Coldplay.

GH Who organized your tour?

XCX My manager, and with Coldplay...well, I never know if this stuff’s rumors to make you feel better...


XCX ...but they said, “Chris Martin really likes your stuff,” and...


XCX Well, if it’s true, I feel great about it.

GH Have you got a boyfriend?

XCX Yes, he’s really nice. He directed my “Nuclear Seasons” video, which freaked me out in the beginning, but it was really good. He would tell me if I looked liked shit, like, “Charli, you might want to change what you’re doing, it looks bad.”

GH What ambitions do you have?

XCX I want to make sure my record is amazing. It’s nearly done now. I wrote a song that I’ve decided has to go on it. I want to make sure—without sounding wanky—it kind of helps change the current state of pop music.

GH How do you want it to change?

XCX Some people are embarrassed to say that they like pop music, but I feel like times are changing. There are some really amazing pop artists, including myself, that are pretty young and aren’t just thinking about lyrics like “I’m in a club with a boy! Yeah!”



Soak Up the Saturated Style Of the Season With Fashion's New Faces and Fall's Fresh Finds. It's All the News You Can Use, Through Any Filter You Choose. Instaglam In V78 the Youthquake Issue