Sounds of Summer: Halsey

Sounds of Summer: Halsey

It's Summer, And V Have Your Guide To the Girls Who Should Be Invading Your Speakers All Season. So Go Ahead—Roll Down Your Windows and Turn Up the Volume!

It's Summer, And V Have Your Guide To the Girls Who Should Be Invading Your Speakers All Season. So Go Ahead—Roll Down Your Windows and Turn Up the Volume!

Photography: Spencer Kohn

Text: Erica Russell

If you think pop music is best served with a side of dystopia, then Halsey is the pop rocker for you. With her futuristic blue hair and Mad Max: Fury Road-meets-'90s style, the New Jersey-born, New York-bred singer-songwriter creates the kind of atmosphere-heavy, synthed up indie pop that you might spin an end of the world warehouse party. It’s no wonder that her debut album, set to drop next week, is called Badlands. In celebration of everyone's favorite season, V caught up with Halsey to chat about her forthcoming debut record, growing up in Northern Jersey, and all things—you guessed it—summer.

Your debut album drops this month. Can you talk a little about the spirit of Badlands?

HALSEY The record is a concept record. It’s a pop record, but I call it pop lightly because I tend to get renamed a lot—alternative artist, urban artist… It’s kind of bizarre. I guess I’m a songwriter who sings music with a pop sensibility. You know, you come to a point after your EP drops where you can go in either one direction or the other. I could have written a traditional pop album but I chose not to; I wanted to explore things a little more. Badlands is about this post-apocalyptic, futuristic society, and it’s supposed to be sort of metaphorical for a mental state. It’s this idea of a booming metropolis surrounded by a desert wasteland that keeps people in. They can’t escape, which I think is quite representative of what it’s been like inside my head for the past year or so. Sonically, it’s pretty industrial. It’s about using outside noises and converting them into song. Also, it’s about using sound to create space in a way, which is necessary when you’re trying to create an alternate universe.

What was the motivation behind the title of the record?

H I actually named the record before I wrote the record, which is a really strange thing to do. I just became obsessed with this idea of a place where no one goes to, where the people who live there are proud to live there. It’s a place where a mother with a child would pass by, and the child would ask, “What’s that place?” The mother would say, “Those are the badlands, we don’t go there.” It’s this idea of a removed society, literally being the “bad lands.”

Is there a particular track on the album that has an unusual story behind it?

H Probably the song “Control.” I was in Wales on a writing trip and I was in middle of nowhere, staying at this bed and breakfast castle with nothing around it for like, nine miles. The guy I was writing with would have to drive nine miles to come get me each morning. Anyway, I checked in at like midnight and when woke up next morning, I went down to the breakfast buffet. It was this gorgeous English breakfast spread, with butlers and silver platters, and suddenly it dawned on me that I was the only person staying. That experience for two days was completely alienating. I was in a foreign country for the first time in my life. I was alone in a creepy castle in the middle of foggy Wales. I got so freaked out because I was so far away from home, trying to write this record. As soon as I left, I wrote “Control.” I tend to write a lot about relationships, but this song is about my relationship with myself. It’s important to me because it’s a therapeutic song, an honest song, and was a scary song to write.

What do you think is the best part about touring?

H I think it would have to be being around people that really care about me and that I really care about. You wake up surrounded by 12 of your closest friends every day. That’s really cool. Also, you’re in a new city every day with new experiences. It’s hard touring, too, cause you’re inside a venue playing and doing press all day so you need to make your way outside and appreciate the scene you’re in. You have to be present and embrace the moment and appreciate where you are. And obviously I love being with fans. We’re all here for the same thing. It’s collective, this music we’ve created together.

I hear you grew up in New Jersey?

H I’ve lived all over Jersey, in Union County, Warren County, Morris County...I think it was interesting, but for me, it wasn’t even about New Jersey, because I was always running off to New York. I would run away and change my clothes on the train. I spent the night of my senior prom babysitting a kid on LSD at Sullivan Hall in SoHo. I was 17 years old. I tell everyone that I grew up in a Friday Night Lights town up in North Jersey. [Laughs] Everyone [there] was like, “Oh, the football game, the prom!” And I’d be like, “Oh, I’m so hungover and I have exams tomorrow. I’m catching up on homework, sorry!” There’d be a girl in gym class crying because her boyfriend was Facebook-messaging another girl and I’d be like, “Oh that’s cool, I just found out my boyfriend’s doing heroin.” I’m not discrediting the experience of those kids, but I just went through that stage of life way, way earlier because I was an independent person, adventuring to New York and going through shit. I had to fucking hold my own. My parents were super young when they had me so they were super busy a lot, paying the bills and working all the time. They were so great though. I don’t think I’d be in the same position as I am today if I didn’t have the freedom I did as a teenager.

What are your summer wardrobe essentials for touring and staying stylish?

H I just cut off all my hair which feels so, so good. A short haircut is one of my new favorite things about summer for sure. I’ve also been into visors and baseball caps, really tight shorts or skintight pants and tank tops. I also love bodysuits. They breathe well. A bodysuit is so comfortable and is also an instant outfit. I love platform sandals. I love a good pair of sneakers, and definitely a nice pair of shades. I could wear a white t-shirt and jeans and then put on a cool pair of sunglasses and instantly look like I have my shit together.

What music makes you want to roll the windows down and take a long, sunny, summer drive?

H I love Catfish and the Bottlemen. Lately they’ve been my summer soundtrack. They’re tremendously talented, I love them. I’m also listening to the new Years & Years record. Also, I’m listening to a whole lot of pop, and anything by The Weeknd or by Drake—anything to vibe out to. I guess I love pop music more than I thought I did.

What makes Badlands perfect listening for summer?

H A lot of it is about being in the car and traveling or taking a journey. Songs like “Drive” and “Roman Holiday” are good for summer. A lot of songs are about coming of age, and summer always makes me think about change and new things coming. Badlands is definitely a coming of age album, which is perfect.

Finish this sentence: “Summer is…”

H Summer is time for evolution.

Halsey's album Badlands is out August 28 via Astralwerks.

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