Charlotte Aitchison, better known the world over as Charli XCX, doesnt seem to be hiding much. In fact, Im not sure she knows how. Sure, she tends to change the subject a lot. About a month ahead of the release of her long-in-the-works debut full-length, True Romance, we spoke on the nature of true romance, a slight political kerfuffle with one of her videos, and who she hopes to inspire. An excitable 20-year-old about to accomplish one of her lifes goals (putting out that album) deserves some kind of license to meander across topics. She reached us by phone from her London home:
Theres a big white cat in the You (Ha Ha Ha) video. Ive seen the cat in some other photos you post. Who is this cat?
Actually, I had to hire this cat. My friend Georgia, who is in the video, I wanted her cat in the video, but it turned out to be really shy. I had to call up this rent-a-cat place and say, I need a cat for this video. And this crazy cat was brought down, and it was like the most insane cat ever. Its got odd eyes. Its got one blue eye and one brown eye. Originally, it was going to be doing loads of shit, walking around, hanging out. But its only in there for two seconds because it was a disgruntled-ass cat. It was like jumping on everyone. It only walks upstairs. It doesnt walk downstairs. But its really cute. Like the grumpy cat.
Are you a cat person or a dog person?
I really like both. I really want to get a French Bulldog. Really, really cute. I do love cats. They are really mystical, and I love their eyes. Cat eyes are the best thing in the world. In a dreamland, Id be able to have millions of both cats and dogs all running around my flat, and theyd get on really well, and I would like to paint some of them pink.
Also in that You video there were all these guns.
Some people kind of lost it over that because of the timing of its release. How did you feel about that?
I know. And that was really unfortunate, the timing. But I had to make a decision and I really felt I made the right one because I shot the video in like October. We had been sitting on it for awhile. I was excited about it. It was in no way meant to be a comment or anything like that. Actually, the video was about paying a homage to grindhouse and all of those amazing original films where women are super kick-ass and powerful and badass, like in The Pom Pom Girls where all these cheerleaders were super kick-ass and played all these tricks on all these boys. That was kind of the idea behind the video.
Im also obsessed with Rose McGowan and how in the actual film Grindhouse she shoots from her legs with that machine gun. The idea was these sexy, strong girls with these badass guns. But instead of shooting bullets they are actually firing out lipstick, which is kind of like the lips of love. I went with it. As far as I can tell, not as many people picked up on the connection as they did just comment on the video in general. At least as far as I read.
So youre still reading your own press then?
Is that really uncool? I feel like thats a really uncool thing to do. But I do sometimes. I spend most of my life on the computer. Its like trying to not open a box that says open me on it. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I really regret reading it. But sometimes Im like, Hey that was kind of nice. I probably wont read press when the album comes out, though, just because its like my baby. And if people say horrible things about my baby, I will want to punch them.
Beyond firearms, theres a sense of danger in general to a lot of what you put out, like the videos for Youre the One or Nuclear Seasons. Do you feel more like youre dangerous or the environment youre in is dangerous?
I feel like Im always just doing my thing. As an artist, I always do what I want. Im a very stubborn person. I have to get my way. I have to do what I want to do. I guess I always do that. So, in that sense, maybe. Like my label probably thinks Im a fucking nightmare. Ive pushed the record back loads because Ive wanted to work on it and get it how I want it. I always write my own treatments for my videos, and its my boyfriend who directs them — because I always get my way. So, I guess maybe in that sense Im dangerous. Im not trying to be dangerous, but I guess Im just doing what I want to do.
Is there any danger in moving forward, perhaps with your label?
Im a reasonable person. Im not a bitch. Im not a goober. If someone was telling me, This is a terrible idea, I would take that to heart. I dont really have too many conflicts. There hasnt been that much drama.
Your new album is called True Romance. Theres a lot of pain and peril throughout. Is that what True Romance is?
Youre totally right. I think true romance is torture, actually. Even when you find it and its amazing and beautiful and orgasmic its kind of like this crazy ecstasy of wonder. I feel like sometimes youre in love and you just want to cry and you want the world to end — theres nothing worse that could happen to you. I think true romance is ups and downs, and I think thats what my record has.
There are moments on the record about being in this amazing, true, perfect love, and there are moments that are about being obsessed with someone and [how] they dont love you back. I guess the record is really about all the different aspects of love, and I was able to finish it because I did find my true romance. That sounds really cheesy, but its true. I dont really care.
Ive seen you use that word orgasmic before in relation to romance. Are you saying theres a feeling that you can achieve there without sex?
I think so. I think orgasmic is walking on cloud nine and nothing else matters, and youre just in this superI dont know, where everything is perfect. Where the sky is crystal blue and youre not worried about anything.
Still, you also manage a lot of sexuality throughout this album and your image. What does True Romance have to do with this deeply human impulse?
I really think when I write songs I want them to be this kind of sensual experience. I hate records that sound flat, and I really want my sounds to be very rich and deep and emotional, and Im really happy that it does. And in a dream world I like to create even a light show to go along with the music and make the whole thing an immersive, full-body sensual experience. I would love that to be the case. Im not a real sexpot or anything like that; thats not what I mean.
When you were 14, you were on a label called Orgy music and tried to push an X-rated bent to your image. Where did that come from at such a young age?
Actually, [here’s where] XCX originally came from: I started playing these raves, and the promoter asked me what I wanted on the flier, and I just told him Charli XCX because it was what I used to sign off of like MSN Messenger. Then a few years later I panicked because I thought it was so uncool. So I went to my record label and said it stood for X-Rated Cunt X-Rated. I can just imagine that they were thinking, Oh my god, who is this girl? What is she doing? But it still just stands for Kiss Charli Kiss. And I still am really uncool, but that might be why Im kind of cool.
A host of these songs were written years ago. How do you think theyll resonate now?
I just feel like, for example, Stay Away, I mean its one of my most favorite songs that Ive written actually. And when I wrote that song I felt like it was the beginning of my musical journey. I felt like Id really found myself. I thought, this is really exciting and really weird, how much this sounds like whats been going on in my brain for the past three years, but Ive never been able to pin it down. I think thats why those older songs are on the record. And they still connect with me because that was a really important moment in my life. It was when I stopped feeling lost and had made sounds.
I think they will always be very important songs to me. They’re on the record because I think this record is kind of me growing up. All the songs are written not in one specific time period of my life. Its kind of like a coming-of-age record for me. Its all of these different thoughts and feelings and moments compiled into this one album, and its just this emotional outreach of who is now a 20-year-old.
What are you hoping to inspire in the youth who discovers your music?
I just want people to listen to my record and either smile if they want to or cry if they want to. Thats what I would love to happen to people. And if you were to come and see me live, I would just want them to be completely free and open and lose their minds and go crazy. Thats what I would like to see happen.