"I’m hardwired to write pop music, and I struggled with it for a really long time because growing up, I hated pop music."

Music

5.17.2017

Bloodboy Talks Meta Songwriting And Punk Versus Pop

Every now and again, a song finds its way into your life and seems to refuse to leave. Not in a bad way. “Important to the World” by Bloodboy is one such song—it strikes a chord with anyone (I mean, isn’t this everyone) who’s looking for validation from the people and social ecosystem around them. It’s a frank and bold statement about self awareness that resonates heavily, whether you want it to or not.

The Punk Pop artist is writing all of her own music and working with producer Justin Raisen, who’s also rubbed elbows with the likes of Sky Ferreira, Kim Gordon, Charli XCX, etc. Both in person and in her work, she’s a breath of fresh air with a truly distinctive style and point of view. We sat down with one of our new faves to talk Cali, ditching the job she hated, and what’s coming up.

You live in California?

Yeah, I live in Eagle Rock. It’s East LA, further East than Echo Park.

Born and raised?

No, I’m from South Orange County, about an hour and a half south of where I live now in LA.

When’d you move there?

I want to say four years ago. Yeah, starting to lose track. I was living in West Hollywood first, for the first year and a half, and then moved east. WeHo just wasn’t the place for me. It’s fun to go out there, but in terms of music and stuff going on that I’m interested in, it’s mostly east. I used to go to shows every night, and Echo Park, Silver Lake, have the most small, but curatorially-aligned with the kind of music I like, so the Echo and the Satellite and downtown too, the Regent, there are just so many more venues over there.

I assume you moved there to do  music, or did that come after?

I did move there for music, but initially I actually worked at an ad agency called 72 and Sunny, and I was in business affairs. I was so fucking miserable but in the back of my mind the whole time I was like I have to save money so that I can pursue music. So I worked there for a year, finally quit, and focused on music after that.

What was the transition like for that? It’s kind of somewhat normal how people have a job after college that they fucking hate, and eventually switch over.

It was weird, because I went from working 60 hours a week to having 0 agenda at all, and I like a fairly regimented schedule, I’m kind of neurotic in that way. I don’t like to be like willy-nilly, like, “What do I do today!?” So for like six months, solidly, would just be in my room writing, and I used to get terrible anxiety that if I didn’t produce enough, things weren’t going to happen. If I wasn’t writing music, out doing normal people things and living a life, that I was wasting my time. So it was really psychologically detrimental, that period of time. Even though I wrote, I guess some decent music in that time, it was still really exploratory in terms of my sound and what I wanted it to be. If you’re sitting in a room by yourself, where are you going to get your inspiration? It took me a while to figure that out. After a six month period, I ended up running out of money and moved back in with my dad. I set up a studio in my dad’s garage and would just go there every morning, first thing in the morning, and finally my brother was like, “You need to pump the breaks a little bit and get out. You never see your friends.” It was depressing as shit. Like I said, the anxiety that I had, because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to sound like. I didn’t know anybody in the music industry. I had 0 contacts aside from one friend, who’s actually doing really well now. Other than that, I was like, “How the fuck do I do this? Did I make a huge mistake?” So, I was floundering a little bit, but finally, I found a band on Craigslist, haha. Aforementioned friend, Henry, he and I had been working together for a little bit, but he wanted to be in the electronic realm and I wanted not to be in that world at all, so we had a hard time trying to fuse our respective styles. And I was really frustrated, he was doing much cooler stuff, so I was like, “Fuck it, I’m going to find a band,” so I went on Craigslist and there was this ad saying band seeking female lead singer, influences are blah blah blah, so I reached out and they were like yeah, come audition. Then they were like, “Alright you’re in, bring rent for next time.” So for how short that it was, it was amazing, in terms of learning how to work with a band, having a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist to complete something and I had only ever written alone before.

So you went from being so isolated to learning how to have people to collaborate with.

Exactly, and it was so amazing for me. It taught me how to—I mean there’s no formula—but I had never thought before that I needed to think what the guitar or bass was doing. Even though we broke up after a couple of months, I don’t think I’d have this project without that band because after that I was like okay, I can write more alternative music, because I innately write pretty pop. I’m hardwired to write pop music, and I struggled with it for a really long time because growing up, I hated pop music. I would never listen to Britney Spears, I was such a snob. I was listening to punk music at like age 11 and I only ever wanted to do that, and I couldn’t. And people have brought to my attention that a lot of punk music is very pop. It’s very repetitive, really simple, really catchy, and once I started stripping away the distortion, the energy, the speed, I was like okay this isn’t so different from the music I naturally write. I just had to reimagine the way that I write it. You can take a song like “Call Me Maybe” for example, and put some distorted guitars, and you can make it punk as fuck.

Would you say that your type of sound is settled now, or is it constantly evolving?

Now, no, I don’t think so. Because six months ago I thought, “Okay, this is my lane, this is what I’m doing,” and I had kind of my own formula for the way that I was writing, then I realized that all of my songs started sounding the same, and so I’ve since kind of flipped the way that I’m writing now, and it’s changed the sound; it has evolved a lot, even since I released a record in October. I don’t know if that’s confusing for people, if it’s going to be good or bad, I don’t know, but I think for me I get really bored when artists consistently release music that sounds the same. I mean it’s not so far from the stuff that I was doing before. For me, mainly, my mood and influences comes from what I’m listening to.

Yeah, when it comes to inspiration, what subject matter do you find yourself drawn to. For example, when an artist releases a record, it’s so interesting to look back a year later and ask, “What were you going for?” So, what in general do you find yourself writing about?

I mean, for a long time I was writing a lot about my boredomit was very meta. I was writing a lot about how I don’t know what to write about, which nobody wants to listen to. But yeah, I do find patterns arising from things that I write about. If you even listen to the Kendrick album, there are so many common threads, which I think is amazing and makes it more conceptual. So I wrote a lot of songs about a relationship last year, as everyone does, but this relationship was a little bit different, because it was someone who was on my team, my manager. My mom too, I have a song about my mom and it’s a really sad song, yet every time she hears it in person she screams, ‘That’s me! That’s me!” I think that the most important thing for me, if I’m writing about someone that I’m close to, that it’s truthful. It’s not like I’m skewing anything for artistic reasons, then it’s not on my conscience that I’m embellishing or making this situation more interesting or whatever. So going back to my managerial romance thing, I was so transparent about my feelings and the complications amongst our relationship, and I just think probably too much so, but it’s all true in the end of the day.

It’s kind of a huge thing that not everyone thinks about, there’s this layer of vulnerability because you’re sharing these really personal things with hundreds of thousands of people streaming it. Are you ever afraid to share stuff with the public?

I used to write so obscurely, that there was no fucking way you could figure out what I was talking about, and then I had this conversation with someone I really respect, and she was like, “Nobody knows what you’re saying, how is your audience possibly going to connect with a song that’s so lyrically obscure that no one knows what it’s about.” And I was like it’s scary to write about something so personal, and she was like, “Get the fuck out.” So that really put it in perspective to me, because she was write. If I wanted anyone to connect to my music, I had to be vulnerable. And now… I’m an oversharer.

I think we see it most often now in hip hop, they’re so honest, I think pop music a lot of times there’s still a lot that’s either fictional or not about anything at all, other than maybe Adele or Katy Perry.

Well I think there’s also the assumption that that person didn’t necessarily write the song, so you’re looking at them thinking ‘This isn’t really your experience,’ which adds another layer, because I know that you write your own stuff and are involved in the entire process, so it stays personal.

Yeah, that’s a really good point, and I’m guilty of that too, whether or not I know if that person wrote it or not. Even if it was initially a personal experience, it becomes such a big thing with so many people working on it, that how could it have possibly stayed the same, but I don’t know.

There’s a lot of times where you assume that a female pop star didn’t do her thing, but I don’t know, there are all these weird assumptions, but I do think it’s really gender biased within the music industry, especially with female producers.

I was going to say, the most for sure, with female producers—I’ve seen that a lot. The first thing, not so much now, but when I first started producing music, the first thing I’d be asked was ‘Who produced this?’ And it wasn’t in a way that was meant to be malicious, but it was just an assumption that I didn’t produce it. I can only image that it’s mainly because I’m a girl, and there aren’t a lot of female producers. I don’t even fault people for it necessarily, because if you look at the number of female producers versus male producers, there’s a huge disparity. But I do think that it’s largely because it’s not really an environment where they’re being encouraged to produce their own music. Especially with female pop artists, I think it’s never even a question that we need to get Dr. Luke or Max Martin or just someone else that’s producing that’s not you. I think there’s a lot of, for one, it’s hard, it’s really hard to learn how to produce music, and it’s really technical. And I think that men, still to this day, have this perception that it’s a “guy thing” and that’s not true, but you know. I’ve been in a room with a million dudes that were geeking out over books, and it’s really cute, and I’m getting to that point where I’m getting excited about gear too, but it’s definitely a boy’s club. I think it’s definitely changing with female producer artists like Grimes, who has been really adamant about not having other producers help her, and she I think is doing the most out of all other female producers in terms of inspiring other young, aspiring female producers. I really commend her for that.

Yeah, totally. Are you in the studio now?

Yeah, I am, I’m working with a few different people production wise. I’m still not at the point where I can produce a record start to finish, I can get like 75—80 percent, then I like to have outside people come in, not for writing or creative, the parts are all in place, it’s really about the technical side. I’d say more than production, mixing is what I’m lacking the most in. You can write every part of the song, the drums, the keys, the bass, whatever, compose all of that, get it down to a demo, but the mixing is a whole other aspect. It’s much more tedious, it’s not as fun for me at least, but there’s still a lot of creativity at play. A good mixer can do wonders for a song—a good mix can be the difference between a song that does okay and a song that’s massive. I hadn’t realized that at all prior to getting into this.

Last question—when you’re putting out an album, or anything creative really, what’s the way that you define success with it? I feel like now, artists aren’t that focused on sales, so what creatively feels like, “Oh, I did that right”?

I don’t know, I have never really thought about it before. I think because it’s all still so new to me, that any time someone’s receptive, I’m like, “Yeah, awesome!” It’s still somewhat of a baby, but I’ve had a guy that flew out from Toronto to a show in LA, so I couldn’t believe that a guy cared enough to fly out from fucking Canada to see me. My mom and him are now friends on Facebook… So that kind of thing, any time anyone has expressed an emotional investment in it, I’m like that’s fucking crazy. It’s the only thing that, I think as a new artist, it’s all I have.

Featured image courtesy of Bloodboy

Stay tuned to Milk for more from west coast darlings. 

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