There are few things as "classic punk" as shaving your head and documenting the experience — with all of its ugly — for everyone to dissect. Tons have done it before her, and now Carlie Hanson is carrying on the tradition in her video for "Snot," which sees the LA musician taking a pair of clippers to her scalp until every last strand of bleach blond hair is gone. By the end, Hanson adds to the drama with a tattoo of her mom's signature, "Jean," permanently engrained on the side of her head.
Directed by Lucas Chemotti, the drastic, raw release — featuring vocals from fellow rocker Deb Never — leaves Hanson looking noticeably gender ambiguous, exactly as she now prefers. And it's part of her personal and professional growth, following an emotional breakup with her long distance ex-girlfriend. "I love the taste of your toxic love," she sings, willfully throwing herself into the bad romance. "Sing little lullaby while you twist the knife."
"Snot" follows Hanson's previous singles, "Gucci Knife" and "Off My Neck," all of which appear on her forthcoming album, Tough Boy, due out early 2022. They're giant guitar-driven songs with power-pop, radio melodies — the type of tracks deserving of guitar-smashing finales and exploding speakers that ultimately burn to the ground. She's mining her own life experiences for the most brutally honest pain and bravely launching that into the world (so a bald head is really just the start).
Below for PAPER, Carlie Hanson and Deb Never get together to talk about growing up gay, touring the world and why hyperpop is mainstream music's next big thing.
Deb Never: What do you normally write about for inspiration?
Carlie Hanson: For so long, I was [writing] five days a week; you're with different people... meeting new people and every day you have to re-explain your life story and what you want to talk about. Then dating — the whole "speed dating" shit — I was doing that. I moved to LA when I was 17 and got thrown into it right away. I thought that's what making music was supposed to be all the time.
Since I finally have a better grasp of what I want to do and what I want to say, I found my main people. You just have to find your people and it's so much easier from there because it's draining to get thrown into the speed dating life. I find that you don't actually make good music through that, and it's not as creative and fun.
Deb: How can you be vulnerable enough to sing about something when you first meet?
Carlie: It's so hard, especially because I have such bad anxiety and don't really want to tell these people about this thing that I actually want to talk about because I don't know them and I don't know how they'll react. I think it's all about luck and connection with the people you have in the room, for sure.
Deb: That's how I feel with this song coming together. I was excited that we got along so immediately. When I heard the song, I was like, "Oh, this is sick." And instantly I vibed with you, so I just felt so comfortable.
Carlie: It was so easy and I'm glad you were so comfortable. What did you think when you first heard the song?
Deb: When I first heard it, immediately it was like nostalgia, but still fresh. Right? I would never make it on my own, but it was fun making that with you.
Carlie: It's so fun to jump in on someone else's world for a second. I originally heard about you because I really like Dominic Fike. I saw that you were opening for him a while ago and I was like, "Who the fuck is this?" I immediately loved it. The thing is, I'm so particular about voices; your voice is so fucking sick. But yeah, that's how I first [found out about you]. Did you know who I was before?
Deb: I loved your vibe more than anything. I could tell you had such a big range and I love your songwriting. There are a bunch of songs you showed me that I was just like, "Yo, this is funky."
Carlie: I forget what I played. [After this album is out], I'm working on a project that's a lot more not-so-pop top line. It's very experimental, I guess. I think you'd really like it, I need to play you all that shit. I hate questions like this, but who are you inspired by right now?
Deb: Dude, these questions get me every time and to this day, I do not have an answer. Lately, it's really weird because a lot of the music I enjoy listening to [are] songs that I would not make because it's almost like — I'm making this song, why would I listen to that? I'm making it anyway.
Carlie: Totally feel you, like recently I've really gotten into Elliott Smith and Joy Division. I guess there's maybe some inspiration, but I'm not trying to go and write Elliott Smith-type music. Subconsciously, though, I feel we always take pieces, whether short notice or not. I really never really cared about hyperpop until recently. I really like this kid glaive; he's really good and I feel like hyperpop is about to come to the mainstream a bit more. You should check his stuff out; it's hyperpop, but not as crazy as 100 gecs/ PC music. It's that, but it's more digestible for me.
Deb: I've been listening to so much drill or, actually, now that you mentioned Elliott Smith, he's someone I'm super inspired by. Or, even though I don't make music like them, it's kind of a throwback, this band called Air. I have this whole playlist I made on Spotify of just piano music that I like listening to.
Carlie: I love that. Are you working on something else already? Are you just chilling?
Deb: Definitely already starting to work on something else. There's a single of mine coming out in November and I'm just starting to get ready to work on an album.
Carlie: Yeah, EPs feel less intense. I'm putting out an album now, a collection of songs, but it fits within this world of the same story. It was like a lot of pressure. I was like, "Just fucking scrap all of these and start over." You just have to go with the flow and let it go.
Deb: Are you playing any shows? Or is there anywhere that you're wanting to play?
Carlie: I played LA a few times recently and I'm doing my hometown [Wisconsin] show in November. I've never played in my hometown before. I think it's like 400 people capacity, I feel like we can sell this shit out. It's gonna be a full-circle moment. I was just working at McDonald's down the street and now I'm on the stage.
I toured a lot in Europe when I opened for Yungblud. No hate to US crowds, but European events went a little bit harder. I like Newcastle a lot and I think we played in Hamburg, Germany. That one's a pretty memorable crowd; they just go really hard over there. I don't know if it has something to do with the drinking age being lower. It's just a different world over there, I love it. What about your thoughts?
Deb: My first show ever overseas was in the UK, in London, this past September. I agree with you, I could immediately tell the energy's on 10. Everyone just goes fucking crazy; culturally, they are rowdier.
Carlie: A lot of them weren't even on their phones as much; they're really present.
Deb: So you said you're from Wisconsin, where in Wisconsin?
Carli: It's the middle of nowhere — a college town, called Lacrosse, like the sport. Not a lot going on, just bars in a college town. In high school I really despised it and didn't want to be there anymore. Now I feel the exact opposite; I miss it every day.
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Deb: I grew up living in Spokane, which is also a small town in Washington. Do you ever feel like [playing your hometown] is kind of like a "fuck you" to everybody?
Carlie: Totally. I wasn't harshly bullied in any way. I had my three really close friends, but we were definitely not popular. I went to a very preppy school — a lot of rich kids with families who owned the businesses — and I didn't grow up that way. I was definitely growing up middle class, if not lower. Everybody liked playing sports and everybody was really smart.
I felt like the odd one out a lot of the time and didn't enjoy what other people enjoyed. Obviously, I was gay, but I wasn't out and I didn't really know how to say it. It was weird, but I didn't completely hate my life at all. I had my friends with me, we smoked all the time, got fucked up on the weekends and loved music. I didn't like who I was at that school and that definitely plays into my writing — especially in my past music when I first started writing because I was fresh out of high school, so all I wanted to talk about was all those hoes.
Deb: I feel you with that feeling of not fitting in. The same way here, where it's like, obviously, you're gay, but I did not know how to not navigate that. I always knew who I was, but it was almost like a lost sense of identity because of this polarizing environment where no one could relate to it at the same time. I wasn't ever bullied, but it was this weird feeling of, "I don't belong here."
Carlie: You just feel alienated.
Deb: Making music allows you to be in your own world and create a world for yourself.
Carlie: That's how I feel like all of us creatives survive. If I was working a normal job, I don't know where I'd be mentally. It's such a blessing... and a curse. We have it good because we just have to be creative for our job, but it sucks sometimes when we're uninspired and don't know what to do. We resort to like, "Maybe I should take these shrooms," for a second, but then maybe that doesn't even help. It's so weird because it's not normal, but it's so fun.
Deb: What is missing in music right now?
Carlie: There are so many artists and it's all so oversaturated. We have so much, but I think what's missing is authenticity. I can tell when someone is trying to follow a trend and I'm just–
Deb: Bro, I'm so mad you said that because that literally popped into my head as you started talking.
Carlie: I can easily tell who is really being themselves and who is just copying one thing or who is following a trend because it's what's cool right now.
Deb: I wonder if that type of barrier is going to be broken because of how smart kids are getting or how accessible everything is. Social media helps to see if artists are really the way they are. I feel like people are better at reading other people, even just through a screen now. Before, even 10 years ago, something could be fed to people and we accepted it. There's a revolution in music.
Carlie: I am eager to see how social media plays out.
Deb: There are so many facets to being an artist, instead of just playing shows. What's most exciting?
Carlie: There are a lot of things that are exciting. Young people are really taking the [bull by the horns]. The Kid LAROI is how old? Like 18. I think that it's really cool that young people are out here. They're talented, they can fucking produce and do all of these things, and that's being noticed. I really think hyperpop is going to blow up.
Deb: I think the most exciting thing right now is women in music. Because there are untapped lanes for females, like you, that have been done by guys, but not by girls. That shit is tough because female rappers right now are the best. Girls are killing it.
Carlie: It's so cool that that's something our generation has been a part of really pushing in people's faces.
Deb: Who else would you like to collab with?
Carlie: I'm gonna hone in on my R&B one day and work with Kehlani. I'd love to be a part of that one day because I know I have it in me. Who would you want to collab with?
Deb: I would love to collab with people you'd never expect [the pairing] to be awesome. I would love to see what it would be like riding with — almost like an old head — a legend like Stevie Nicks.
Carlie: Oh wait, I wanted to ask you something. Where does your name come from? Deb Never.
Deb: It's such a dumb story. So basically I didn't want to get Instagram for a long time. I finally ended up getting one and put it as "Deb Never," so that whenever I liked someone's photo it said, "Deb Never liked your photo." Just being a fucking troll. No one knows my full name. It just became me. I always thought it was super anticlimactic.
Carlie: Carlie Hanson is my name. There is a producer, though, named Charlie Handsome. There have been moments where I've gone into sessions and someone literally thought they were working with this producer, but their manager just got the name wrong.
Deb: You're gonna have to Battle Royale him; I know you're gonna have to do a fight to the death with him. Anyway, thank you for having me on the song.
Carlie: I'm so excited.
Deb: You kill this shit.
Lead photo courtesy of Lucas Chemotti
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