Is Charli XCX A Pop Star?

Charli XCX. - Courtesy of the artist

Charli XCX. – Courtesy of the artist

 

Though British singer Charli XCX was discovered at raves when she was in her mid-teens singing , most music followers first learned about her around 2011 or 2012 when she was older but still not in her 20s. Not just a tangle of big black hair and Tumblr-ready, ’90s-indebted style, she already had a tender voice and a mature pop songwriting sensibility. She may have been an emissary of the U.K.’s electronic underground, but mainstream fame seemed like a definite possibility. As more of her own material dripped out, she also benefitted from the slow-growth massiveness of a song she wrote and is featured on. In 2013 she released her debut album True Romance, a strong but underrated project that didn’t quite gain her the audience some had hoped or expected for her.

Thankfully, Charli XCX’s opportunities have not shriveled up. She sings the chorus on “Fancy” by Iggy Azaela, which is showing signs of being 2014’s song of the summer. Her own cut “Boom Clap” is a single from the soundtrack to this year’s big teen romance weeper The Fault in Our Stars and even got a video treatment featuring clips from the movie and Charli vamping around Amsterdam.

Still, it’s unclear how interested Charli XCX is in mega-stardom and what compromises she’s willing to make to get there. To discuss Charli’s journey so far and her place in the pop landscape, Ducker spoke with , a former staff member of Stereogum and Complex.

 

 

When did you first become aware of Charli XCX?

Maybe the end of 2011? I saw a song of hers, I can’t remember which, on a blog. I like pop music, so I was interested in her because she was kind of perverting it, but I wasn’t that blown away. Then she put out “Nuclear Seasons” and I was totally blown away by it. I still think it’s her best song.

What do you mean by “perverting it”?

“Perverting it” probably isn’t what I mean, but taking it somewhere a little bit darker, like Siouxsie Sioux and Katy Perry have a baby vibes.

What’s interesting is that Charli XCX — at least in the version of her starting around 2011 — seems to always have had an interest in pop music, even if at first we weren’t seeing her in the usual pop contexts.

I totally agree with you. What she is doing is in line with this pervasive trend in “indie” (for lack of a better distinction) where a genre outside the realm of rock becomes reformatted and “made weird” until the weirdness becomes acceptable. It happened with R&B, it’s happened with pop music via Charli and Grimes and Sky Ferreira. I think all of them are admittedly invested in pop music, but their instincts skew a little bit left of the center.

How exactly is Charli making pop weird? And what’s the evidence that her form of “weirdness” is now acceptable?

There has been a slow march toward weirdness across the board in pop over the past few years, particularly in terms of costuming. But even when Lady Gaga was wearing a meat dress, her music was hardly boundary-pushing, at least sonically speaking. Charli’s aesthetics lean more toward both goth and rave club cultures. Her hair and moon boots are the perfect look for old NYC establishment Limelight — which is, sadly, now a mall — and their goth night Batcave. “Nuclear Seasons” is like if was writing for Dead Can Dance. Her rave credentials are all over her bio — and the boots belong there, too — but there aren’t many pop stars going so far as to . She is genuinely alternative, but what makes that acceptable in 2014 is easy access to alternative culture. You don’t have to hunt anymore. Everything is laid out on Tumblr for you and anywhere else you might look for influence is mining from Tumblr, too.

Pop ambition or appreciation isn’t new in “indie” artists (though Charli signed to Atlantic in the U.K. in her mid-teens, and her first U.S. label IAMSOUND licensed her tracks from them), still, it’s surprising when the pop artists who lean to the weirder side actually find mainstream acceptance.

I don’t want to pretend to be an expert on how the music scene in the UK works, but I know she was performing at raves when she was very young and I think her way of writing is more acceptable there and is considerably more mainstream than it is here. The ways she’s become more mainstream are interesting, though. And it’s not necessarily a meteoric rise. She wrote a huge song, she is on the hook of a different huge song and she has a song on a soundtrack that favors indie artists.

That’s kind of my question: How big is she in the mainstream, really? To people who have been following her career, it’s kind of surprising that she’s on this year’s potential song of the summer and that she has a single on The Fault of Our Stars soundtrack, but how much name recognition does she actually have in mass culture?

I am curious about that, too. I would imagine she’s still in the “Who The Hell Is Charli XCX?” club a la and “.” I haven’t seen The Fault in Our Stars because I try to stay away from things that want to emotionally manipulate me, but depending on the placement “Boom Clap” has in the movie, that’s what I think could send her over the edge. I wonder how faceless she is or is not because of “Fancy.”

On a street level, do you hear about or from teenagers who are obsessed with Charli XCX, or at least are into her? Have you gone to any recent performances of hers?

The last time I saw her perform was at an industry event, so I don’t think that counts. And I don’t spend that much time around teenagers. I do know that there is an army of teen girls on Twitter who are obsessed with Charli, and all together, but I can’t tell if that’s an indie thing or not. Kitty makes me lean toward indie, Sky makes me lean towards not.

Let’s go macro and talk about why it looks like Charli XCX could make it super big. As we’ve said, there are plenty of young artists who are interested in pop but have not-so-mainstream sensibilities. Why has Charli broken through to the extent that she already has?

Well, “Fancy” is constructed perfectly — Iggy’s lyrics are easy, it sounds like a song, the hook makes people feel good when they sing it and because there is so much push behind Iggy right now, it gets Charli placement on things . Having written “I Love It” also gives her “street” cred.

Were you surprised True Romance didn’t bring her more mainstream success?

I was.

Why do you think it didn’t connect on the level that it could have?

I guess it just wasn’t the right time. She was sandwiched in between a massive Taylor Swift album, the reinvention of Miley Cyrus (though both Charli and Miley have this “Tumblr” aesthetic [please forgive me for saying that], Hannah Montana fans were definitely ready to grow up with her), as well as a new Katy Perry album. All the while, the songs that were getting the most burn over that summer had a totally different sound. ,” so it’s hard to be an esoteric pop star and breakout when women with huge fan bases are bringing something new and everyone wants to hear Marvin Gaye-cribbed tunes that are wedding-primed.

Now it takes a lot longer for new artists to solidify a hit, and we have the summer to see what happens with “Boom Clap.” It could potentially re-write the success of True Romance.

It’s an interesting situation where “Boom Clap” wouldn’t have gotten the positioning it has if True Romance weren’t so good and she might not have given it to the soundtrack had True Romance been more of a success.

I agree. And if True Romance had completely crossed her over, she might not have been asked to be on that soundtrack, period; although, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if that was the case. Movie soundtracks are not the events that they used to be, so is littered with pop artists who have some mainstream notoriety, but still haven’t achieved a higher level of success, save Ed Sheeran, I suppose.

You talked about how crowded last summer was, but Lorde still broke through. Similar hair, too. What’s different about her storyline/trajectory/relationship to her fans?

One day we’ll learn that the vocal melody on “” was actually an Illuminati-constructed earworm that brainwashed even rap radio into playing it, despite how incongruous it is to certain rap aspiration tropes. Jokes aside, the alternative that Charli offers is production-based, whereas Lorde rebukes pop as a whole. She sings about not wanting to be told to put her hands in the air on “Team,” but Charli is still ready to be a part of the party. It’s not just Lorde’s songwriting that is catchy, it also appeals to people who have animosity toward pop materialism, be it for things or for partying.

 

 

Have you noticed that the two big songs that Charli XCX is featured on, and is probably best known for, are her pushing this “young, wild and free” idea, while all of her own songs are usually really romantic and lovesick?

Maybe it’s just sonically, but even when Charli is lovesick, she bleeds youth and freedom to me. Even when she’s singing romantic overtures, she seems so cool while she’s doing it. You don’t look to Charli for that heartbreak empowerment right after you’re dumped. She helps you once you’ve gotten your bearings. And with “Fancy,” I think she’s, at least somewhat, graduated to being able to flex like that.

I imagine that the perception of Charli XCX to those who first heard of her through Iggy Azalea is akin to hearing Ke$ha for the first time on ” before “” was released a half year later. I’m not familiar with Ke$ha’s musical background, aside from her having a songwriting deal. I don’t know what would have happened if Ke$ha’s first single had been pine-y, but we all know the “young, wild and free” schtick worked for her. Charli gets to keep doing things her way post-“Fancy” because even her lovesick anthems are free-spirited.

So you don’t think the romanticism is what’s holding her back, when the biggest songs by Katy Perry, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Kesha are about living in the moment and kind of obliterating yourself in the pursuit of fun?

The bigger song on Bangerz is a huge romance bummer.

Pop is a B-U-M-M-E-R!

 

 

Q&A: Billie Joe Armstrong on Green Day’s Album Trilogy

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs during his final performance in ‘American Idiot’ in New York.
Eugene Gologursky/WireImage

By Rolling Stone
July 20, 2012

“We are going into the unknown – I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Green Day singer-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong admitted during a break in a mixing session, at a studio in Tarzana, California, for his band’s forthcoming daredevil release: three separate albums, Uno!, Dos! and Tré!, to be issued by Warner Bros. two months apart this fall and winter.

“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking,” Armstrong went on. “But it’s more exciting,” he quickly noted with a grin, “than anything else.”

That day, Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool were working on songs from Uno! – coming out on September 25th – with longtime co-producer Rob Cavallo. Everyone, including Cavallo, sat down for separate interviews for an exclusive story in the new issue of Rolling Stone, on newsstands Friday, about the three records’ strange birth and Green Day’s commercial gamble. But Armstrong, the group’s main songwriter, spoke for more than an hour, going into detail about the music, specific songs and the charge he still gets from risk.

“When I signed that major-label contract when I was 20 years old,” he noted at one point, “I did it because I wanted to play music for the rest of my life. That’s every 20-year-old’s dream – to do whatever the hell you want.

“This,” Armstrong said of Uno!, Dos! and Tré!, “is just a crazy idea that happens to be working really well.”

What did you think Green Day needed to do next, after American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown? You couldn’t do a third punk opera in a row.
People ask me all the time. Even my son asked me, “Dad, would you ever go back to playing songs like from [1994’s] Dookie and [1992’s] Kerplunk?” I love those records. I love the punk stuff I grew up on. But there are so many bands who make the mistake – “We’re going back, old-school.” Well, that’s all you’re doing. You already did it. So we’re changing the guitar sound. We’re not going with the big Marshall-amp thing. We wanted something punchier, more power pop – somewhere between AC/DC and the early Beatles.

There is a different density, from the operas, in the new mixes I’ve heard. There are not a lot of parts in there, but what goes on in the songs has dimension and thrust.
The last two records were studio albums. This one – we started rehearsing every day, constructing these songs together. It felt like we were all in a room jamming – everyone in the mix, throwing out ideas. If you listen to it, it feels grand. But it also feels like a garage band.

When did you realize you had three albums’ worth of solid new songs instead of just one?
The songs just kept coming, kept coming. I’d go, “Maybe a double album? No, that’s too much nowadays.” Then more songs kept coming. And one day, I sprung it on the others: “Instead of Van Halen I, II and III, what if it’s Green Day I, II and III and we all have our faces on each cover?”

Like the KISS solo albuns.
I’ve already heard that one. [Laughs] The last record got so serious. We wanted to make things more fun.

One song on Dos!, “Fuck Time,” is something you mentioned to me back when the theatrical version of American Idiot was getting started on Broadway.
A guy in the cast, Theo Stockman, started calling himself the King of Fuck. Then it got into a thing where everytime they got ready for a show, the cast members got in a circle, put their hands in the middle and went, “One, two, three, it’s fuck time!” I just wrote the song. We did it as Foxboro Hot Tubs at a club in New York, Don Hill’s, because we knew some of the cast members would be there. We ended up playing it ten times in a row.

We thought it would stay a Foxboro Hot Tubs song. But the more we played it, we thought, “This is pretty good. Why should we give it to our alterego?”

There is a song on Uno! – “Kill the DJ” – that is the closest thing you’ve done to a straight-up dance song, with power-drill guitars. It’s a mix of thump and noise that recalls the Clash’s work with early hip-hop beats on [1980’s] Sandinista!
Mike asked me to write a song with a four-on-the-floor rhythm. I’d never done it before. It’s kind of like Sandinista!, Ian Dury’s “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” and the Tom Tom Club song, “Genius of Love.” We were trying to figure out how to make dance music without turning into a dance band.

Who’s the DJ you want to kill?
It’s about static and noise.

People on TV and radio, talking endlessly about themselves?
Yeah – and all of the things inbetween. Like this government cannot, will not, agree with itself. They refuse to make it work. Right, left – it doesn’t matter. It blows your mind and pisses you off. It’s a song about being drunk, going through this chaos, feeling fucked up and all you want to do is get more drunk: “I don’t even want to know about it anymore.”

“99 Revolutions” on Tré! has a lot of Occupy-protest references. Did you go to the Occupy protests in your town, Oakland?
Um, yes and no.

Which is it?
We wanted to be part of it in some way. I thought it was about working people and where we come from. But Oakland got really complicated when the anarchists started coming in. I’m not into that – smashing the windows in a small business.

Are you a 99 or 1 percenter?
I feel like a 99, but technically I’m a 1. You know, it was an easy song to write. I know that’s where I come from – the 99 – even though I can afford for my kids to go to a good college. It’s interesting: Cops are 99 percenters. Firemen are 99 percenters. That’s where the anarchists are confused. This is much broader than you think it is.

Do these three new albums count as one under your record contract – or three?
One. Believe me, we asked. [Laughs] There was no getting around that. That was fine. The record company have been great about it, just stoked. People get so caught up in not trying to do something new and creative: “Let’s just put out an EP.” We said, “Let’s do the exact opposite, something dangerous and fun.”

Rolling Stone

Q & A: Dikers on Music, Their new album, The music industry, And having fun.

L to R: Sergio Izquierdo, Ubaldo Puente and Iker Piedrafita

Interview – April 2012

Dikers’ roots lie in Iker Piedrafita’s years of writing songs and playing the guitar at a very young age. Born into a musical family – his father is a guitarist and a member of the rock band Barricada – it was apparent that he had musical talent and ability. He sang, wrote songs, played guitar and later studied piano. By the time Piedrafita formed Dikers, he was already writing music. Iker has recorded, mixed and produced Dikers’records since the band’s third album Dale Gas (Speed-up, released in 2002) in his own studio known as El Sotano (The Basement). He also mastered Dikers’ latest record Casi nunca llueve (Almost never rains), released March 6. Nowadays besides being the band’s frontman, he is on his way to establishing himself also a well-respected music producer and singer-songwriter and composer. Dikers have vowed audiences with their dedicated work ethic including six albums, four singles, live shows in their homeland, a concert in London, the band 2010 German tour, performances at festivals, and intense music tours throughout Spain — add to all this a collection of solid, feel good tunes that defy categorization. Dikers played and introduced the new lineup at the 2011 live Getafe Festival, making their first appearance after the band’s hiatus.

What inspired your passion for music and who has been there supporting you from the beginning?
Well, among our influences are Green Day, Foo Fighters, Daughtry, Nickelback and many others… but we listen to all kinds of music. Iker likes very much the soundtracks, Ubaldo is very open to genres from flamenco to thrash metal, and Sergio likes many Indie groups such as Supersubmarina or Iván Ferreiro.

People who have supported the group from the beginning? Juncal and Alfredo (Iker’s parents) and Kutxi Romero (Marea band).

How would you describe Dikers’ music?
Although we maintain a punk-rock line from the beginning, we are quite open to playing different genres – in the last album you have a rap, a waltz, two festive songs, two ballads… We like to have fun playing, and enjoy the variety but keeping Dikers’ own punk-rock touch.

How close do your songs ever get to your own true feelings and experiences?
You talk about what happens to you, but also about what you see, about what a friend, a neighbor or the baker tells you. When it’s time to write the song, what you feel always pulls you more but many times you feel inspired by what you have seen or have been told, and you give your own version of the story.

Your new album was released recently. Tell us about the record and the creative process.
Well, as we have said before, this is Dikers’ most varied album, and certainly a new twist to the sound, of which we are extremely proud, as we believe to be closer to the sound of international groups, and the recording was done in Iker’s studio and with a much smaller budget. The creative process is almost entirely the work of Iker. He writes all the music and 70 percent of the lyrics. He also recorded, mixed and mastered the album in his studio, and he also produced it – Iker cooks it and eats it. The songs that Iker has no time to write, he shares them with other well known artists that have collaborated with Dikers before, like Kutxi Romero (he’s been collaborating since Dikers’ second album) and he also wrote lyrics for this record; and other artists like KB, Fredi (Iker’s cousin) and Sergio (Dikers’ drummer) have collaborated in this record. This is a very pampered album, one that was obviously very well-cared for in every phase of its creation – compositions, recording and production. And we are very proud of the results.

What do you think of the music industry today, and how do you see their future?
Uff, it is very complicated because of the piracy crisis which caused a decline in sales of recorded music. Also, the economic crisis is being noticed in less concert attendance and recruitment of bands. This is possibly the toughest time that the music industry have experienced, like all other industries or companies they are holding on the best they can, and if and when the current situation changes, they will have to reinvent themselves, because the formats of music reproduction and acquisition have changed substantially. As we always like to bring it up, the piracy war should also be directed to the phone companies which are the ones that benefit more from this situation, and that not all the anger should be directed to the music industry or the artists.

Where do you see Dikers in five years?
No idea. We know that for now we have live shows in August, after that, if we are still alive, we’ll see. In any case we hope to continue playing and recording more albums, of course.

Do you think singer/songwriters are the best interpreters of their own work or do you believe some cover versions can be better than the original?
I think that the one who can best defend a song is the one who wrote it, as long as (s)he has a minimum of technical and interpretive qualities. Anyway, there are no dogmas, sometimes I like a cover more than the original, but it’s not usually the case.

Who would you like to collaborate with and why?
Well, we’ve been very lucky to be able to collaborate with great artists like Kutxi, Gorka (Berri Txarrak) Brigi (Koma), Afredo (Barricada), Pirate (the gas) in six albums and for many years. If asked, we would like to collaborate with Dave Ghrol (Foo fighters) or BillyJoe (Green Day). Why? because apart from their musical talent, we like the honesty and integrity of their careers, at least from the outside we see it that way.

As you pursue your career in the music industry, what steps do you plan on taking to reach your goal?
Look, we do not live thinking about reaching goals or a given number on the sales list, we do what we know, and what we do is done with honesty and love, from gig to gig, album to album, whatever have to come, will come. Living the present moment and enjoying the band and the tours. Steps? We will continue practicing and performing with the same desire and hope – and above all, to keep having fun doing it.

Have you found that as you go on with your career in music there’re aspects that have taken you completely by surprise? If so, what are they?
We’ve not been caught by surprise, the three of us have been playing in other groups and we are aware. Eventually, the industry is that, an industry, and they sell records like others sell fridges, and they are neither better nor worse than any other company or industry, and they’re all managed the same. We have had the luck to be with Warner [Music] but with a specific person: Miguel, and ultimately, it does not matter if you are with this or any other label, but who works with you in that label.

What is the greatest thing about working in the music industry? And what would you change if you had the opportunity?
The best thing is playing live, all you do (recording, testing, promotion etc …) is aimed at those two hours you’ll be on stage, and that gives meaning to all the work. What would we change? Uff, too many brokers and little transparency. Sometimes dealing with the sponsors is unkind, having to fight for the agreed conditions and all that, but I do not think it can be changed.

Iker, your father is a well-known musician in Spain. Did you ask your father for advice when you were starting out? If so, what did you ask? And what would be your answer now?
Alfredo has always advised the band when we asked him. It is a joy to have the opinion of someone who has 30 years of experience making music, and for more complex matters he’s the first to be contacted. As advice from father to son, always wear clean underwear, he says.

[laughs] Excellent advice! But if worse come to worst there’s an alternative: turn the inside out and go!

How many years have taken you to get to where you are today, and what was that time in your life like?
The three of us have been playing in local bands since our adolescence, so we have been playing for about 20 years. Iker studied piano but has played the guitar since he was 14. You look back and you smile, I don’t know… you have hopes, and above all, it’s a lot of fun – you have a group, you travel a bit, meet people, it’s real fun.

From your experience so far, what have you found to be most challenging, and how are you dealing with it?
The hardest thing is all that is foreign to music like contracts, accounts, banking, merchandising, office, everything that has to do with money, that part is always a pain. We manage that the best we can, dividing the work and responsibilities, each has a piece of it, but what a drag!!!

Which has been your proudest moment in your music career so far?
We wouldn’t know one – six-albums, lots of concerts, festivals, toured Germany, played in London, there have been lots of especial moments and we work to live many others.

You have loyal fans. What should your fans expect from you?
At a concert they will see a total dedication from our part, three guys defending their songs, sweating shirts and having fun. I do not think anyone can say who should go, if you dig what we do, come see us live and share with us that musical link, we will do all we can to give the best. If you don’t like what we do, nothing happens, sure there are other groups we and you like and we can talk about them. We hate music sectarianism, being that because you like a band you can’t like another, or you have to even get along poorly with someone. It’s absurd.

Before we end this interview, I’d like you to say something you haven’t said through my questions.

Thank you, Ainhoa, ​and we hope to see you at one of our upcoming concerts. You’re invited. A kiss.

Thanks for your time, and best of luck to you all.

Photo – L to R: Fernando Coronado (former drummer) and members of the Barricada band: Boni, Alfredo Piedrafita (Iker’s father) and El Drogas, with Iker Piedrafita holding a guitar. 1985

[Beirut] Worldly Influences On a Young Artist – By The New York Times


Picture: Zach Condon of Beirut. Roger Kisby/Getty Images

Playlist | Beirut
Worldly Influences On a Young Artist
Published: July 22, 2011

Zach Condon is growing up. Or trying to, anyway. At 25, Mr. Condon, better known as the songwriter behind the indie folk band Beirut, is already a music veteran, having arrived as a multi-instrumentalist teenager versed in global sounds: Balkan beats, French chanson, Mexican funeral. For Beirut’s third full-length album, “The Rip Tide,” out Aug. 30 from Pompeii Records/Revolver, he wanted to hone his influences.

“I’m trying to be less of a dilettante with instruments,” he said. “For years I was picking up new instruments once a month, and for this I was trying to focus a little more, stick with piano, ukulele and trumpet.” But with clarity comes pressure. Playing a Roman amphitheater this month in France, “I was shaking for the first couple songs,” he said. “That seems to be happening on this tour for some reason. I guess I’m getting older and I’m getting a little more self-conscious. Or maybe it’s because I’m less drunk. As a 19-year-old you just want to swig whiskey and drink beer and go onstage and have a ball. And I started to realize that I sounded like an idiot between songs.”

Via e-mail and telephone from Madrid, between stops on a European tour, Mr. Condon drank a single beer and talked about what inspires him now, from the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño to an Xbox skateboarding game. “It’s hypnotizing,” he said. “There’s actually some kind of rhythm to it.” These are excerpts from his conversation with Melena Ryzik.

Q. Your new single is called “East Harlem,” and in your e-mail you said you like Bolaño because he has “the same idle and poetic amusement with city and street names” as you do. Are you reading him now?

A. I’m reading “2666,” which is a monster of a book, that’ll last me all this tour. “The Savage Detectives” really got to me, these children acting as bohemians and this ennui. I read a review of Bolaño, and they were asking him: Why do you have these long passages of street names and city names and he said they were poetry. I wish I’d thought of that. It’s not like I’m trying to be exotic or always evoke a strong reaction with the names. As a kid I used to paint city names on my wall, just from a map. I thought that was brilliant. The funny thing about the way I write songs is, I’m very much a child of the modern era. I write songs on Pro Tools. I write songs by multitracking. And when you open Pro Tools, they ask you to name the file, and the easiest way for me to remember it is to name it after a city.

Q. Do you steal — or, let’s say, get inspired — by any writers for lyrics or music?

A. I remember I was struggling a lot to write lyrics, and my older brother, who I trust in anything about literature, was egging me on to read E. E. Cummings. There’s something about his rhythm that’s very singable.

Q. Did your older brother, Ryan, influence your musical taste growing up? You said you recently picked up the Magnetic Fields’s “Desert Island,” which you first listened to at 15. Was that his idea?

A. Me and my brother were very close growing up. It was the kind of situation where if I brought home a Green Day CD, he would throw it out and put a Boards of Canada CD in and say, ‘This is your homework for the night.’ That one [Magnetic Fields] was a discovery of my own, which I was pretty proud of.

Q. What made you return to it?

A. I’ve been revisiting a lot of my old stuff. There’s a song on the new album [“East Harlem”] that I wrote the melody for when I was 17. I had a bit of an identity crisis after our last year of touring. I recorded so many songs as a kid, and I used to lose them and forget about them, toss them everywhere, and my younger brother, Ross, was really into archiving them. When I was back home, there was a stack in his room, and I was just poring through it, and of course when you get in that state of mind you go through what you were listening to. I guess I was looking for a time when music was a little more innocent, and the pressure wasn’t there.

Q. What was the emotion you wanted to telegraph then?

A. I’ve always been searching for some sort of epic melancholy, I guess. It sounds silly saying it out loud, but it’s the truth. I can remember the first melody that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It was this haunting Italian aria. My mom put it on. It had a haunting melodic twist at the top of the singer’s range, and I remember thinking, I wish this just repeated and didn’t go anywhere else.

Q. You’re a fan of Lykke Li, the Swedish singer, especially her song and video for “Sadness is a Blessing.” You called her a renaissance woman. Why?

A. I’m jealous of her clarity of vision. I’ve just been scratching about in the dark for some sort of image to project, and she’s nailed hers. But also she’s just not shy of performing and being swept up in it all.

Q. Is that why you like Chico Buarque, the dapper Brazilian artist? You said his song “Roda Viva” is one of your all-time favorites, and compared him to Sinatra.

A. Back in the day the press was basically trying to pit him against Caetano Veloso. They were pals, they had nothing to do with it. But what they came to represent was something different: Caetano looking outward for influences, to rock ’n’ roll and America, hippy stuff, and Chico, at the same time, digging deeper and deeper into his classic samba roots, dressing up every night, old school. I can appreciate that. I’ve been a total slob, but I’m trying to adapt some of that attitude myself.

Q. Is your band dressing better?

A. I’m trying to force them all to wear suit jackets. I’m sick of seeing 30-year-old men in New York look like toddlers, wearing sweatpants and flip-flops.

A version of this article appeared in print on July 24, 2011, on page AR15 of the New York edition with the headline: Worldly Influences On a Young Artist.