At the end of 2020 I knew it was time to do something different. I was still coming down from my third album, ANARCHY, a pop punk whirlwind fueled by adrenaline and angst. I had just wrapped a virtual live show at an abandoned waterpark, a personal favorite project and my most complex and grandiose production to date.
But after a reflective New Years Eve of solo champagne and writing furiously in my journal, I realized that the pandemic had dropped me off in an entirely new place and I was questioning everything. Who am I? What do I want to say? Who do I want to be as an artist in this brand new world? And most importantly, What am I really capable of?
Then it hit me: what better way to re-discover myself than through the records that defined me in the first place! and so it was born — the uncontrollable urge to do an album of covers, my favorite songs re-imagined as an unhinged punk fantasy.
Every day in the studio, my producer Benny Reiner and I would pull up our favorite records and dive in head first. We swam through classic melodies, picked apart whole productions, studied guitar parts, respectfully added our own flare, flipped lyrics to match the stories in our heads and learned how to really embody the process.
The result? A renewed sense of resilience and Too Young to Die, 14 genre-bending cover songs and my first real journey into the depths of the ultimate fantasy — total artistic freedom. So here's how I set myself free with explanations for some of my favorite tracks off the project.
"Bring U My Love"
I listened to the original record, “To Bring You My Love" by PJ Harvey, over and over on my long drives back and forth to the waterpark while I was doing research for the show. It just fires me the fuck up — that sinister guitar riff creeping in slowly and her raw, growling vocals. I get chills down my spine every time, like I finally have permission to tap into my true power. When we decided to flip this song, I knew the vocals had to sound like I could snap at any minute, thriving in that teetering, wild state.
When that chorus hits with a feral scream, I'm finally owning the messiest, most fucked up parts of myself Led Zeppelin-esque as I let my love spill all over the mic and into the world. ("Born to be reckless, born to be free/ I swear that something must be watching over me/ Cause I'm a little messy, like sex on drugs/ Bad reputation, but I don't give no fucks.) One of my favorites, hands down.
This record was another one that ended up being extremely visceral. I love the original song, “Faded" by ZHU, because it's not necessarily a ubiquitous hit but everyone somehow knows it because of how simple and haunting it is. When I first heard it, I fell in love with that main hook melody. I knew I had to preserve that specific feeling of getting blazed out of your mind just to forget that one person you can't have, only to end up pining over them all night. For me, at the time it was my ex who I dated during quarantine. I was sick with unreciprocated lust, so it was easy to lose myself in the vocals and get takes that were oozing with real desperation.
The scene in my head for this record was at the Mustang Motel ("I can see two of you/ Two of me in the mirror on the ceiling/ Mustang motel fucking fantasy/ In the heart shaped jacuzzi"). It's a real location in downtown LA that I'm just obsessed with. It has the strongest vibe — sleazy, but charming with hearts all over the ceiling and red lighting. The whole mixtape is tied together by the motel and this theme of living your sleaziest fantasy — taking something broken and dressing it up in glitter and making it original. I recorded all the vocals with my eyes closed, picturing this fantasy and turning my desperation into something beautiful. And I love how although the vocals are soft and pretty, you can still hear that internal battle bubbling under the surface.
I'm a '90s baby, so I was lucky enough to witness Mandy Moore's iconic pop career. I idolized her — I even performed the original version of "Candy" on a little stage in an outlet mall when I was 7 years old. How sweet, right? Obviously, in my signature style, I felt compelled to fuck up that sweetness and make it the most hardcore moment on the whole tape.
The melodies from the original pop record translated easily into punk melodies because naturally they're similar — major, simple, saccharine hooks that make your blood rush faster. Instead of sugary lines that play and tease, I wanted to make them clash and create visuals with the lyrics that conjured up blood and gore — like '90s pop dropped in the middle of a sweaty, heavy metal mosh pit. ("Got you addicted and I know/ Once it's down your throat/ You won't ever taste the same again/ Hits you like a bloody nose/ Perfect as a rose/ Til I get my thorns under your skin.") I found myself in this duality, in allowing my art to exist in extremes. Like, I'm sweet as honey, but I'll fuck you up if I have to.
Danger is something I have always flirted with — spontaneity, cheap (and expensive) thrills, venturing into the unknown. I think there's something about taking risks that makes me feel the most alive, yet somehow there's always pushback. No one wants a true rule-breaker, a truly dangerous woman. Well, fuck that. I'm gonna to do what makes me feel alive. ("Fuck happy, I'm sick and sad/ What's sunshine to a girl gone bad/ Been reckless all along/ Cause the danger turns me on.")
I combined my own lyrics with lines from the original song, "Clint Eastwood" by Gorillaz, in the spirit of being sick of it — told who to be, what to say, how to act. I'm breaking out of this cage of labels and definitions, and going out into the world to create my own definition of happiness, my own space to be raucous and make real art. ("I'm in my element for the hell of it/ And if you're hatin' baby fuck your skeleton/ I'm bout to overdose on my own medicine/ You know I love the taste of feminine arrogance.") Talk about liberating.
Too Young to Die is an intense body of work. It pummels you, pedal to the metal, start to finish. I knew I wanted to relieve some of this tension at the end and pose a lighter, more reflective question. What's behind all of the aggression and angst? Do I have to leave it behind in order to grow up? I think that's what I'm asking myself a lot right now in my personal life. And although I don't have the answers just yet, I'm learning that you don't necessarily need them to be free. True freedom doesn't mean swerving down the highway at 100 mph with a white knuckle grip on the steering wheel. It means letting go and floating back down to earth with a steady effort to keep searching for beauty, even in the face of darkness and the unknown.
That's what this song is about — my own spiritual take on "New Pollution" by Beck. There's an enigmatic quality to the original record that I was drawn to, so I decided to turn it into a moment of reckoning. By the end, through wailing guitars and harmonies and even a final release in the form of a whistle note, I've accepted that the process is pure chaos and it's time to walk boldly into the future, however uncertain it may be. Now that is the ultimate fantasy.
Photo courtesy of Sizzy Rocket
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