Like all great pop songwriters, Sizzy Rocket tells it like it is — mining her own intimate experiences for the truth and transforming those personal memories into universal stories. And she's really, really good at it.
With Rocket's newly released album, Anarchy, the musician's intention was to "amplify the small details and shine a light on the memories and feelings and the beauty that is likely to be overlooked." But with beauty comes pain and with pain comes growth. And that's what the project is all about: "Breaking through fear, unleashing your passion and claiming your spot on top of the world," Rocket says.
Her third album follows Thrills (2016) and Grrrl (2019), and features 10 tracks that Rocket wrote and recorded over eight days in various Los Angeles rentals. True to its name, the entire project is an in-your-face sucker punch that captures the swinging pendulum of heartbreak — that searing confidence right up against the inevitable moments of tender introspection.
Sometimes these emotions are fully separated by song, between the grizzly, distorted arrogance of "That Bitch" and soft, eerie falsetto of "Spill My Guts." In other spots, Rocket successfully captures her complex feelings inside one track, like on "Running With Scissors" when a fiery bridge about stabbing her in the heart edges up to a delicate chorus about the occasional wish to "go back" to a different time together.
While "Smells Like Sex" is a strong single — and has since amassed 1.5 million YouTube views on its music video — the slow-burning standout of Anarchy is "Rollerskating." It's a spot-on breakup bop about the challenges and insecurities of young love, but especially young, queer love. "You're the one that I'll never get over," Rocket sings on the chorus. "Cause you loved me at a time when I didn't love myself." She cuts right to the core of her faults, and in doing so, makes you feel less alone with your own.
Below, Sizzy Rocket gives PAPER a track-by-track breakdown of Anarchy. "I want you to be able to drown in this record," she says, and "indulge in the big, dangerous feelings. Because fuck it — that's who we are, who we've always been, and you can be whoever the fuck you wanna be. Even queen of the world, just for a moment."
"That Bitch" was the first song I wrote for the record. I was in the midst of a painful breakup, and felt powerless and lost. It was late at night and I was splayed out on my apartment floor thinking, "What would I need right now to get myself up off of the floor? What song would I need to hear right now?" I whipped out my midi piano and started thumbing the notes and whispering the lyrics. I felt broken, reaching shamelessly for my confidence. Sometimes that process is messy, but you have to own it. And that's what I wanted to capture — the feeling of owning yourself — even the highest highs, the psychotic lows and the outbursts.
The first verse melody was inspired by Nine Inch Nails, specifically their album With Teeth. That album helped me get through some of the roughest times of my life by showing me that it's okay to own yourself and your darkness. In fact, that's how you get moving towards the light. There are a few demo versions of this song on Dave [Weingarten's] hard drive as it took a few forms for it to fully come to life. At first the drums were pretty tame, but when we got to the loft to make the record, I tapped into this wild, creative energy and I knew that we needed to ramp it up. We added crash symbols to give it a grunge-y White Stripes vibe and I freestyled the ending à la Rage Against the Machine. That's the moment when you're supposed to lose your shit!
"Spill My Guts"
I remember this song spilling out all at once, almost in chronological order. Everybody was over at the loft for dinner. I think I made spaghetti bolognese that night. Benny Reiner (my producer) was smoking a post-dinner joint playing that eerie little riff on the guitar and it caught my ear. I looked up immediately like, "Uhhh what is THAT!?" and he said he was just making it up. It reminded me of a creepy Nancy Sinatra-esque lullaby and spoke to this sexy darkness I'm constantly reckoning with. I started voice-noting melodies and the whole thing spilled, or rather spewed, out.
The lyrics are uncomfortably confessional: "I wish I had the guts to say/ the way I feel about you..." It's like, I know I'm intense and dark and you'll probably just get freaked out and runaway, but at the same time, I can't help it. I can't keep this feeling to myself. I think there's a lot of fear buried in all of that, but I wanted to face it head-on.
When we were working on the ending I knew I wanted something that sounded intrusive — like that's the moment when all of my guts and deepest darkest secrets start spilling out uncontrollably. And once it starts, it doesn't stop. Originally that sound was going to be a chopped up synth, but when I showed Benny how I wanted it to sound with my voice, we knew that it had to be a vocal sample. So, the sound that you're hearing at the end is actually my voice, digitally chopped and warped, and if you listen closely you can hear my breath. I love those kinds of details.
"Running With Scissors"
Within an hour of getting to the downtown loft we were recording in, we had this song up and running. I had all of this vengeful, break up energy in my body and I clearly needed to get it out. When Benny and I had first talked about making the record, we knew we wanted it to straddle the line between punk, heavy, messy and glossy, shiny pop. I think this song truly embodies both of those worlds. I wanted to make a conscious effort to push myself and approach my writing process differently, and I think you can really hear that on this song. I made odd choices, like shouting the pre-chorus and then suddenly dropping into a "beautifully sang" short and sweet classic pop hook. The structure intentionally jerks you around, but is that not how it feels when someone you love fucking destroys you?
This song was the first one we wrote in the Laurel Canyon house and was truly the most complex to write. We struggled with it in the beginning, then Eric Leva (co-writer) and I stepped out onto the deck overlooking the canyon lights and talked. We really wanted to capture the desperation of social media, the part that no one really addresses or sees. What are we so desperate for? Attention? For me, if the attention I'm receiving isn't meaningful or isn't about true connection then it doesn't have any value. But I constantly feel gaslit by the machine, the algorithm. It's like we've been brainwashed to clamor for each others' attention online, reducing and meme-fying ourselves to fit in. And once that process is over it's too late... we've sacrificed our authenticity and are left more disconnected than ever.
So I wanted to make a statement and break out of the algorithm, the formula and what it wants from me. Like, oh... you want me to be crazy? You want me to do crazy shit for likes and views? You want me to abandon myself and lose my shit? I'll show you crazy... you don't even fucking know me! Being alone is something that I am constantly reckoning with and you can hear a layer of that in the lyrics: "I'm gonna chain-smoke cigarettes and call it art/ Gonna make things fall apart." When left to my own devices without my devices, who am I? Who do I become when I shut off my phone and there's no one around? Which thoughts in my head are truly mine? It can be disorienting and isolating to think outside of the matrix and it definitely makes me feel, well, like a crazy bitch. But if I have to be a lonely, crazy bitch in my quest for authenticity, then so be it. There's some power in accepting your own insanity and using it as fuel.
"Smells Like Sex"
I truly believe that I plucked this song from another dimension. It was the end of our last day at the downtown loft we recorded in and I felt that my energy was completely spent. We had just come back from dinner across the street and I wanted to wrap up the day, but Benny suggested that we try to write "one more song." I acquiesced and started thinking about what we still needed — a slutty, grimy, club BANGER! We used Rihanna's "Cockiness (I Love It)" as a reference because I love how dirty and clever it is at the same time. It's like yes, I'm going to talk about pussy and I'm going to shake my ass and it's going to be fun and also fucking SMART.
A moment that really stands out to me is when we developed the sound in the hook. I wanted something that sounded and felt like a chainsaw, something violent that you can feel in your spine, like an actual orgasm. I verbally sounded it out to Dave (my producer) and he made the sound from scratch on his analog synth. I love that sound so much. It really punches you in the gut and captures the intensity of what it feels like to want someone insatiably, but still be in control of that desire.
"Cocaine by the Pool"
The day that we wrote this song Eric (co-writer) arrived at the loft and I went downstairs to let him in. We took the elevator back up to the loft and he started telling me about a music industry party that he was going to later, one of those loud, corporate sponsored events. I said, "Ugh, why are you going!? you know everyone you don't want to see is going to be there." We looked at each other knowing that that was a lyric, and we were off!
I love this song because of its softness. I feel like I never get to show how soft I really am. I'm a soft bitch and I love the feeling of being in love more than anything, like the two of you are in your own little world where everything blurs and the details of that person become heightened. I picture us on the rooftop of some sleazy Hollywood party, everyone getting fucked up in a blissful abyss for eternity downstairs and then us, having a genuine moment away from it all. I used to be the girl downstairs doing drugs, so for me this song is a sign of growth and a moment of reflection and maturity.
I also just love how unexpected it is. You think it's going to be a party song because of the title and it's truly the opposite. The vocals we captured that day were so vulnerable and perfect, but I ended up having to re-do them because Benny's hard drive mysteriously crashed and we lost the vocal files. I was so nervous about re-recording them, but I put myself in the mindset of the lightness that comes with falling in love and the two versions ended up sounding pretty much identical.
This was the last song that we wrote for the album in the middle of a sunny day in Laurel Canyon. It was such a stream of consciousness that I don't even really remember "writing" the song. It happened very quickly, starting with the 808's and the guitar loops first. I love how those two elements create a rhythm that hypnotizes you, a feeling that really is reminiscent of "going 'round in circles," and actually rollerskating. My co-writer Eric Leva and I have known each other forever, so writing one of my most vulnerable love stories with him wasn't scary. The narrative of this song is one about my first big love with a girl. I was 18 and living in New York and drinking lots of vodka for the first time, and of course you're going to think that young love will last forever. It never does and it never can because you're making big mistakes at that age and they hurt. It's an essential part of the experience. But through writing "Rollerskating" I learned that looking back at those memories doesn't have to be painful. It's life and it's beautiful and you can celebrate it.
"Straight to Mars"
Because the record is emotionally intense all the way through, I knew that we needed at least one fun, carefree song. I love the lightness of the flow in "Straight to Mars" and how the key changes make you feel like you actually hit the blunt too hard. It's that "oh shit!" moment when your brain starts floating away from your body. I have some of my best ideas in that state and we definitely wrote this song in that state. Wes Period called me that day because we had been trying to work together for a while, and it ended up just being the perfect time and the perfect song for us. He came through and had his verse written and recorded in like 15 minutes. I love working with Wes because he brings such an infectious happiness to the studio. I can be overly serious when I'm creating and I feel like he really helped me tap into a more lighthearted punk energy!
"& It Feels Like Love"
This song is the redemption at the end of an aggressive breakup album. It's the part of the process when you realize you're over it, right before you meet someone new and you're ready to do it all over again. It's about reminding myself how fun it is to fall in love, and how it connects me with a specific vitality and edge. The original title for this song was actually "Rolling Stone Cover." The whole thing was really sparked from this lyric and the image of a classic rockstar couple on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Most of my songs are written from experience, but this one is more of a fantasy. It's a psychedelic dream about the Kurt to my Courtney, about what it would be like to find an iconic love where every moment together is pure, kaleidoscopic bliss. When the pre-chorus drops into the hook I wanted it to feel like that moment at a music festival when the sky is hot electric pink and the band you're watching is playing your favorite song and you're peaking and there's a warm breeze and you're kissing your favorite person and it's all just UNNNNNF... you can literally feel your blood rushing. That shit feels like love to me.
"Queen of the World"
My intention with this song, with this record, and in life is to amplify the small details and shine a light on the memories and the feelings and the beauty that is likely to be overlooked. On first listen this song is fucking mighty. I mean, I'm belting about royalty and world domination. But the lyrics are actually super intimate, talking about losing my virginity in the backseat of a car with the top half of my body hanging out the window. It's about the contrast between the bigness of that feeling and the microcosm of that moment, of being young and in love and on top of the world in your own little world. It's so powerful and infinitesimal and euphoric it's almost intoxicating. I'm sexually charged and fueled by those moments, and derive a certain life force from their specific and youthful ignorance.
I made so many versions of this song that at one point I lost perspective. The first version I made was in the middle of the night on my apartment floor, similar to "That Bitch." It was very soft, but I knew there was an aggression present that we would have to dig out in the production. There's another version of it where I'm overly auto-tuned, Travis Scott style, singing softly and cooly, completely unbothered. I was on tour with my friend chloe mk and I played it for her in the tour van. She's the one who convinced me to re-do the vocal, belt that shit out and infuse the song with my passion. Her perspective helped me realize that I was afraid to sound like I really cared. But once I broke through that fear and we got the production right, the intensity in my voice ended up being my favorite part about the song. It's so convincing that it gives you chills. And that's what ANARCHY is all about: Breaking through fear, unleashing your passion and claiming your spot on top of the entire world.
Photography: Terri Thomas
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