Poppy doesn’t recycle ideas.
By merely scratching the surface of this internet-born personality’s immense body of work - the singer’s countless sketches on YouTube, a feature tv series, three studio albums, a comic book, and two new albums on the way - you see this character’s on a mind-boggling, powerful path.
Sure - the facts are that Poppy is the brainchild of content director Titanic Sinclair and played by Moriah Rose Pereira.
But, consider that Poppy isn’t played like an actor would play a character: Poppy exists as a vehicle for artistic ideas that core artistic collaborator Titanic Sinclair and Moriah feel are bigger and more important than their own mundane concerns. Consider the colossal following online has mutated so that Poppy has an actual religion, and has a new church (digitally) built in honour. The conceptual framework is so solid, and so believed in by those who birthed it (we feel this after talking to her more so) that Poppy seems concrete. Imperishable. Poppy has agency, has power, and is making changes in people’s lives even with a life story that may not correlate to the birth of the physical person in Poppy’s skin.
Therefore, the questions raised in this interview eschew digging into life pre-Poppy, pre 2014, which is when it all started, when her YouTube channel was cleared of less tightly art-directed material, and became the platform for what exists now. We look primarily at the direction Poppy is headed in as an artist, how the story might evolve. And there’s a lot happening: We hear about the creation of two upcoming albums; where mannequin nemesis Charlotte is heading; the new live show with a band; the forthcoming graphic novel telling the story of the Poppy genesis – and much more.
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Speaking from Los Angeles, with the occasional sound of a small dog bark echoing in the background, here's Poppy:
Hi Poppy. How are you? Looking forward to putting out your first comic book (Genesis 1 pre-sale here) I gather?
Poppy: Yes! I'm so excited about it.
I hear it’s telling the genesis of Poppy. Do you not feel like that’s been told yet?
P: No not yet. The music alluded to it but this is a more elaborate story.
I read that you’ve worked with Japanese artist Masa Minoura on it. Visually speaking, is it quite influenced by Japan?
P: I'm really big fan of Japan and he's a really good friend so that’s one element of it. The other artist we have, Ian [McGinty], I'm a big fan of his as well.
What other elements are there?
Predicting the future, then?
P: Correct… The other element we’re rolling out with it is - as advertised on the back of the novel - an ambient music album that you can play as you read along. I haven’t said that to any one yet.
What does it sound like? Anything like your atmospheric YouTube videos that I’ve read are partially inspired by David Lynch?
P: It's similar in a away. It's an evolved version of that. Because previously we released the ambient album [3:36] Music To Sleep To and that seemed to be well received by the fans. I think it's a perfect compliment to the visual work we're creating. It's total immersion.
Given your recent release of partly nu metal single ‘X’, and the fact two of only six people you follow on Twitter include Marilyn Manson and X Japan, I wondered if you’ve started working with them on new stuff and if it’s indicative of a shift towards a heavier sound?
P: I hope to work with them - I follow people that I’m most inspired by on Twitter. The heavy music is what I’m most excited about right now. The new album I’m working on that [coming out after the ambient album] allows for a whole new expression. I’ve always gravitated towards artists using technology for invention and reinvention, using everything as a tool to create and I think the process has been a lot like that. I think a lot of people will understand when they listen to it
You're trying to reinvent metal or rock?
P: I wouldn't say reinvent - we've been calling it post-genre.
Taking something familiar and attaching something new?
P: Yes. We've just been writing a bunch of hooks and making them make sense sonically.
What are some of the techniques you've been using?
P: A lot of analog synthesisers. I know they used them in the past, but that's something you don't find in pop music now and we're using them in new ways [...] - the new technology it lets us make them sound new. For example, on ‘X’ you can hear the Beach Boys in the 60s influence but also nu-metal sound so it's different times.
Is Diplo going to release it? Is he collaborating on it? [Diplo released two Poppy albums Am I A Girl and I’m Poppy]
P: No. This is an I’m Poppy records release and with the new album will be lot of collaborations. The foundation of who I collaborate with that has been pretty consistent: Innovation.
One of the more unusual characters I’ve seen in your life is your mannequin Charlotte. I've seen the YouTube original series I’m Poppy and she's presented as immensely jealous of Poppy. Does that narrative continue?
P: Yeah. In a way. But Charlotte is also branching out to be an artist in her own right as well.
It seems now people are content to have pop stars that aren't real - or are they real? Is that something you're interested in playing with? They are real if you project a personality on to it?
P: Well, I think everybody has a personality on the internet, and I think Charlotte has a lane that she has to create for herself. Fans also want to see that.
Will Charlotte's music be on the same record or be a separate release?
P: Separate. She's one of the many plastic artists in L.A.
OK. I am aware you're willing to take a position that isn't always trying to be people pleasing - a position willing to create uncomfortable situations - because of hearing Titanic Sinclair's song 'Trust Fund' [the song bemoans those in Hollywood buying their route to fame and acclaim].
What's it like going to events such as New York Fashion Week and being stood next to someone like Taylor Swift who you've openly hinted creates music that's less than people deserve?
P: Well, I think life is very uncomfortable and I think going into spaces where people of Taylor Swift's calibre exist can inspire art. I have respect for Taylor and I think she's very talented. But I feel there's always something to be learned from those situations, and it's always very fun to watch how people react. It's good people watching.
Going back to before you had ‘X’ out and you were only known for lighter sounds, did you have dialogue with people from more alternative music backgrounds that still liked it because it’s subversive and doesn’t sound like it was written just to make money?
(As well as the good-natured ribbing towards Hollywood with Charlotte, Poppy’s original series film I'm Poppy is perhaps the biggest satirical swipe at the pop-by-numbers machine in a prophetic Black Mirror-esque eerie style of production. And 'Time Is Up' looks at the lack of agency of the pop star in the age of armageddon.)
P: It makes sense. I find the fans of my music to be intelligent. I feel the community we're creating online - especially with poppy.church; the website that I started that has turned into an actual religion - we are attracting a kind of person who doesn't fit into the current mould. A person who doesn't find that current pop music resonates with them.
I joined your church. I set up a digital bedroom yesterday.
How did it start?
P: Well, a lot of people were saying that I was in a cult. I’m not in a cult. So now I have created a church.
What are the founding principles?
P: We believe in creative thinking, critical thinking, positivity, happiness, and making the world cute!
When you’re at your happiest do you think that’s when a lot of people try to derail you?
P: I think a lot of people struggle with being positive and people try and blow out the light shining brightly because it's easier to be angry. I think that's a lot of people derail and I don’t blame them because the world is a crazy place. And we all wake up everyday trying to make sense of it and it can be really overwhelming. But I want to be the light and the escape, and I think my fans understand that.
A lot of people in Poppy.church are quite young, do you feel like a guiding light to a lot of these young people - a positive influence?
P: I hope to be. I don’t want to say look at me everything I’m doing is correct. But I believe in leading by example.
Are you blurring the lines between spiritual religious leader and pop star? Are there any others doing that?
P: Not that I know of.
Do you feel that's where you’re at emotionally, then?
P: I think to a certain extent many pop artists live that way already but this is slightly different.
Has this cult happened by public demand or something you've built slowly?
P: I think 50/50. I think the fans want somebody to fill that role. I also think that I'm cut out for it.
You mentioned critical thinking - are there any theories that you particularly resonate with?
P: 1984. I think people should start there if they want to understand a bit more.
I think you've cited Brave New World in one of your songs. I suppose Aldous Huxley’s a big influence on your work, too?
P: Yes. A large influence.
Do you think the internet is a forum of freedom or a form of control?
P: Orwell and Huxley were extremely prophetic and I think the current climate of the internet is no different of any other form of media. And I think it's just the new one. A lot of people have the opportunity to use it for good or for bad. I try to use my corner of the internet happy and cute and as much as I can push the message of positivity.
I read 2014 was when you cleared out YouTube and started Poppy the way it is now. Was there a particular artistic that influenced you around that time that sparked it the way it is?
P: I think 2014 is actually the birth. I received a transmission from God and I realised who I was and I realised that if I’m not the one saying these things somebody else is going to say them and they're not going to be as good.
P: That I needed to be on this path. Titanic Sinclair happened to come into my life and we happened to be on a similar wavelength.
What does this path look like? Can you visualise it?
P: It looks like a very twisty and turny road with lots of hills and a couple of valleys that I feel I've gone through. And there's a lot more mountain tops and a lot more turns [to come]. But, it's a really long road.
What kind of god?
P: I don’t know if it’s an alien, a spirit, or a being of some sort.
So you’re not talking about a Christian god?
P: God is just the word people use to make sense of the higher power.
Do you think you’re prophetic in your art like Andy Warhol? Do you think in years to come people will look at certain aspects of Poppy and think: oh, Poppy thought that?
P: I hope I’m lucky enough that people can look back at the art I’ve created. But I believe genres are disappearing and as genres and labels disappear, the art can transcend and be free.
Do you mean record labels?
P: No. labels people use to describe themselves. People feel safest they're labelled but I believe It's more freeing and it's more freeing when you don't have a label. I'm inspired by the mind.
What access point would you suggest to others to go deeper into their mind. Art? Psychedelics? God?
P: All of the above. But reading a lot.
What are your plans for the tour? Any particular costumes planned?
P: Yes there are a lot of looks that I've put together with my stylist Samantha Burkhart and the stage design this time is pretty big.
Bigger than ever?
When will be the first show? What can fans expect to see?
P: The first show starts on 31 January in Washington DC and I think the show is entertaining even without the music.
Anything, in particular, we can know about now?
P: Well, I'll be performing with a band this time. That's exciting - I don't think people have seen me do that before other than the show I did on Halloween in Los Angeles.
Does that allow space for the analog synthesisers?
P: Yes. It sounds very huge.
Was that always a nag in the back of your mind. I enjoyed the show but what if we did this?
P: Well this show feels more human. And it's always evolving. The more shows that you play the more you learn about the live experience of it. This felt like a natural next step for Poppy.
Thanks for your time Poppy, look forward to the shows. Will you be coming to the UK, too?
P: I was there recently but yes in summer some time.