Music Features

Exclusive Interview: Poppy Is in Creative Control on ​​"I Disagree​​"

The enigmatic singer spoke to Popdust about the creative process behind the "post-genre" sound of her latest record, I Disagree.

Poppy - I Disagree (Official Music Video)

"I'm Poppy."

Despite introducing herself countless times in one of her first viral videos, the Internet spent 5 years trying to figure out who Poppy really was. The enigmatic singer, performance artist, graphic novelist, and church leader (born Moriah Pereira) has wielded ambiguity in savvy and eerie ways throughout her artistic career, creating a pastel-hued cult of mystery surrounding her multimedia Poppy project since 2015. Returning with a new "post-genre" sound that melds together shades of industrial rock, nu-metal, and ethereal hyper-pop, Poppy put out her third studio album, I Disagree, back in January. She's never been beholden to a singular sound or character, and her latest project showcases this ability to evolve as she expands her Poppy-verse to new dimensions in one of her most emboldened metamorphoses yet.

Take the music video for the album's title track, "I Disagree," which stars Poppy wreaking havoc at a roundtable of record label execs as she sings about apocalyptic ends and new beginnings. "We'll be safe and sound / when it all burns down," she chimes in a crystalline chorus amid a swarm of doomy guitar riffs before the shot closes on her overlooking a mass of flaming bodies. Despite the seemingly macabre visuals, this song—like many of the others on the album—is as much about asserting oneself against oppressive forces as it is about regrowth in the face of chaos. Out of the ashes is born a new version of Poppy, adding another layer to her evolving mythology.

On I Disagree, Poppy navigates between ethereal vocal passages before launching into thunderous, nu-metal breakdowns. This jolt in momentum can be dizzying at times but on the whole a lot of fun to listen to and definitely a refreshing break from the poptimism direction many singers are heading towards. Her alt and nu-metal influences are detectable enough: Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, and Nine Inch Nails, and even metalcore bands like Norma Jean come to mind. Poppy has been vocal about these influences in interviews, but she also prefers to refer to her latest record as "post-genre" rather than boxing it in as a "metal record." Her ability to navigate between different sounds and styles is an impressive showcase of range, which shouldn't be surprising coming from an artist who has in the past explored everything from synth-pop (on 2017's Poppy.Computer) to heady dark-pop on 2018's followup, Am I A Girl?

But one of the most compelling aspects of Poppy's career is that she'll never lift the veil too high. In an age when almost no personal detail of a celebrity is withheld from audiences, it can be refreshing to see a star who embraces these elements of spectacle, persona, and mystique. Like Marilyn Manson and David Bowie, Poppy is a master of world-building and theatrics. Though Poppy was once notorious for staying in character during interviews, she's since opened up to show her most human side yet.

Enter Poppy's uncanny valley corner of Youtube. Poppy's videos quickly made her an Internet sensation, garnering millions of views on videos like the "I'm Poppy" clip (which now has over 23 million views). She would go on to steadily release a slew of mesmerizing, often A.I.-esque videos that left people equal parts intrigued and freaked out. Is she a computer? A cult leader? The Warhol of Youtube? A surrealist performance artist pulling off an elaborate stunt to critique the pop machine? Well, as she already told us: She's Poppy.

Poppy began to shed her robo-humanoidism aesthetic on "X", the closer to her 2018 album, Am I A Girl? (the sonic embodiment of her former sugary-pop sound meeting a nu-metal sensibility). She also fleshed out these darker, moodier tendencies of Nine Inch Nails-esque rock on her 2019 EP, Choke, which was released on Diplo's Mad Decent label.

The Poppy mythology grew more entangled when she made a public statement parting ways with former collaborator Titanic Sinclair (real name: Corey Mixter), whom she was involved with in the Mars Argo lawsuit. The lawsuit is perhaps alluded to on the track "Anything Like Me," where Poppy sings fairly straight-forward lyrics such as, "I'm everything she never was / Now everyone's out for my blood" etcetera. Although Sinclair did contribute to the album and is credited on a few songs, Poppy's decision to sever ties reflects a new chapter in her artistic career, as she invariably moves towards more autonomy and control over her own sound and direction. She's also no longer working with some of the major labels that she's worked with in the past. Instead she put out I Disagree through the metal label Sumerian Records and is set to tour in support of Deftones in the summer of 2020.

I spoke to Poppy in February over the phone before she headed to perform her Boston show on the I Disagree tour. Read our conversation below.

POPDUST: So I know you're on tour right now. How has it been playing the new songs from I Disagree live?

POPPY: Great! I'm having a lot of fun, and I've been waiting to be able to do this because I have had a lot of the songs for a while, so it's great to finally be able to play it.

I saw that you've been playing a cover of the T.A.T.U song "All The Things She Said," which is incredible. What drew you to that song?

Thank you. That song has been a favorite of mine and I feel like it fit amongst the other songs very well.

In your own words, how would you describe the new sound on the album?

Well, I just call it post-genre, that's what I've been using. It's not any specific genre, as you can tell from the record, so I'd say that's the best descriptor.

When you started out creating I Disagree, did your vision for the album retain its shape throughout the process or did it go through a few different evolutions as you went along?

I just went into the process with an open mind, and I wanted to make an album with no rules, and I think we did that, and that's I Disagree. No rules.

In interviews you've mentioned that this album has a lot of different sonic influences, from Marilyn Manson to Trent Reznor to Madonna. What kinds of bands did you like to listen to growing up?

Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan, No Doubt, Blondie: I was very drawn to all of them.

I wanted to ask you about the song "BLOODMONEY" and the themes you explore on that surrounding religion. Throughout your career as Poppy, I've noticed that, while your sound grows with each album, these themes surrounding religion and/or devotion continue to crop up. Are you attracted to the aesthetic or visual elements surrounding religion?

I think some religion is fascinating, but [I] also think that people can follow blindly without asking questions. I think any religion needs to be questioned at times, and I think it's fascinating to analyze, but I don't subscribe to any one in particular.

Can you expand on what you were hoping to explore on "Bloodmoney"?

It's about hypocritical people that are a different way behind the curtain [and] which things are a lot darker behind the scenes and behind the curtain, so that's what I'm expressing.

Speaking of addressing people, the video for "I Disagree" seems to have a pretty clear message towards the established music industry. What kinds of changes would you like to see within the music industry?

That's definitely a complex question, but I don't think there's a ton that can be done in the immediate future because certain people are in positions of power that won't let ideas come through. But I think whenever you mix art and business, there's going to be compromise, and I just feel fortunate that I'm in this position where I don't need to compromise.

While making I Disagree, did you feel like you were in a position where you had more control over what you were creating?

Yeah, absolutely. It was shown to industry people after it was completed, so at that point I didn't take into account anyone's opinion because it was already done. So I did have complete control over it.

"Nothing I Need" appears to preach a kind of minimalism within a pretty sonically maximalist album. Is that something you intended?

It serves more as an interlude on the album. I wouldn't say it was intentional that it was minimal, but it allows the listener a second to breathe, because it is a lot of information as an album as a whole. The message is just being okay with being okay, and it doesn't mean settling by any means; it just means you're accepting things for what they are and things that're okay with it. You're okay with starting over, and maybe things you thought you always wanted are actually things you don't need.

With this new chapter, do you ever feel like you are leaving behind your previous Poppy persona or perhaps evolving into a completely different person?

Evolution. I wouldn't say I'm leaving anything behind, because I think if I was to stay consistently the same it would be really boring, and I get bored really easily.

In terms of what's next on the horizon, I saw that you have another graphic novel coming out. Can you tell me a bit about that and how you got into that medium?

Yeah, I have been always drawn to it, and it just felt like the right time when we launched Genesis I, my graphic novel that came out before my first release. And yeah, I'm really excited for Poppy's Inferno because it comes out in July, and it'll have an album that you can play along while you read it.


Casii Stephan Keeps Hope Alive on “Trapeze Artist”

"No one person can change the world," she says.

Casii Stephan

Logan Miller

Soul pop-rock singer-songwriter Casii Stephan felt "like a trapeze artist, swinging back and forth," while writing her new song.

With her lush voice, Stephan brings "Trapeze Artist" to life, allowing the song to grow from a gentle ballad to an anthem about finding one's place in the world. She was scrolling through her social feed, reading about everything from romance to racism, when she realized, "It's a growth process to know how to process all of this information and what to do with it and know what I can reasonably do in the community I'm in. No one person can change the world."

Follow Casii Stephan Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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Leonard Cohen

Listening to Leonard Cohen's posthumous album, Thanks for the Dance, feels like driving to the edge of the earth.

Maybe to Montauk, or maybe to the end of the mind, reaching Wallace Stevens' palm tree with its fiery bird signifying the very edge of life, the point where this world meets the others.

Cohen made the songs on Thanks for the Dance (which was compiled and released by his son) while on the edge between death and life. It's as poetic and mystical as you would expect from the late bard, whose songbook includes "Hallelujah" and "Bird on the Wire," among others. In some ways, it's ugly—his voice is so low, almost painfully hoarse—but Cohen was never one to shy away from the ugly or the lost. Instead, he made his life out of sitting in the heart of those emotions, the things that most of us block out and fear.

Cohen was famously discontented. He was a perpetual seeker, relentlessly interrogating God and the world around him. What he found at the end of his searching was darkness, but Cohen was always the kind of artist who knew how to find the cracks in that darkness, the strains of light in the unanswerable questions.

As it turned out, there was an ending point to Cohen's seeking. On "Thanks for the Dance," we hear him finally releasing, throwing his hands up to the night. "So turn up the music, pour out the wine. Stop at the surface, a surface is fine," he says. "We don't need to go any deeper." It's a place of acceptance—acceptance that he would never reach the enlightenment or spiritual heights or even the happiness that eluded him.

Jewish Journal

In its darkness, the album is painful and gloriously beautiful at the same time. The magnificent "It's Torn" is simultaneously subdued and euphoric. "The lie in what's holy, the light in what's not," Cohen whispers; it could be an additional lyric to "Hallelujah." "The Goal" ascends even higher; Cohen's stony, subterranean mumblings are shrouded in Flamenco guitar, which flickers through like light through a stained glass window. The lyrics are cathartically hopeless, and listening to that song feels like throwing your arms up and dancing as the world explodes. Or maybe it sounds like singing at the end of your life, which, of course, Cohen was.

On "Puppet," his eyes look outwards, over the wars he witnessed during his life and the wars he saw coming in the distance. "Puppet me / puppet you," he sings. "Puppet German, puppet Jew." A choir enters. "Puppet presidents command / puppet troops to burn the land." At the edge of his life, Cohen saw the insubstantiality of the shadows on the walls. Because he had to write, he gave us something rare: a window into the world beyond those shadows. He spun the unseeable into something we can see, if only in the dark.

Listening to Thanks for the Dance feels like reading a holy, secret text; it's almost too strong to take in all at once, but that was Cohen's way. If there was one thing he did not do, even in death, it was suppress the unquenchable creative force within him, the light that kept burning in spite of everything.


Exclusive: Denitia Finds Clarity on the Edges of the City

"I want to feel like how we think we felt when we were younger. That's the kind of energy I want to bring to the now, the present."

Denitia, Kelly De Geer

The sound of Denitia's Touch of the Sky is how walking by the ocean feels.

Listening through, you get a sense of vastness, a kind of vertigo at the sight of the unending horizon, and an appreciation for a network of things much vaster than yourself. Though the waves of sound can grow ragged and powerful, there's a sense of underlying peace, a transcendence to be found in the cyclicality of the ebb and flow.

It makes sense that the album was born in the Rockaways, the New York peninsula that most city-dwellers only know as the end of the A line. Denitia moved there to escape the city's congestion; from there, something opened up and she began to reflect on the structures that underlie our visible reality.

What arose from those meditative sessions by the beach is Touch of the Sky, a masterful album that fuses glossy electronica with glitchy guitar and smooth vocal lines. It's composed of rich images and sounds—tides of psychedelic synths tangle with muted house rhythms; guitar lines dance like fractals of sunlight over a roof in the early morning. It's fractured and cohesive, awake yet relaxed, the product of an artist fully coming into her own and communing with some sublime creative force.

We spoke with Denitia about finding peace in the city, finding nostalgia for the present, and what it means to dream.

You produce all of your own work. How did you get started with producing, and how does it influence your work?

I basically played everything, wrote everything, and arranged it all, which is something I've been wanting to do for a while. I've known for a while that I could do it. I had this vision for my sound, and there was always something I felt was missing, and I think I needed to make my own work and start fresh. I really just needed to make this record for myself and express myself with every layer.

I got into production five years ago or something, when I moved into this artist house in Brooklyn and there were a lot of people living there at the time. We had this studio, and a lot of amazing artists lived there. That's when I really started to get into self-production and recording.

You mentioned this record felt different from your past ones, in that you were able to talk about things you haven't before. How was it a fresh start for you, either musically or in another way?

I started out playing guitar and writing songs, and then I got super into electro-pop and electronic music, and I put the guitar down for a while. It's cool because I've gone full circle and picked the guitar back up on this record. I was able to hear guitar textures in the way I'd always wanted to hear them.

Your sound is so vivid and full of imagery. I've read a bit about you doing production out on the Rockaways and I was wondering how that influenced the record, and what other places or images went into inspiring the record?

That's also one of the reasons why I've been thinking of this music as cinematic. I worked in the Rockaways in this bedroom studio, and my room was next to this huge deck and big windows, so every day I'd open my eyes and see this wide open, gorgeous sky. And I'd look around the corner at the ocean, and the ocean just represents infinite possibilities to me.

So much of our bodies are water, so much of this planet is water, and I felt this traction with infinity and the depth of that body of water, so much that it made me feel like anything is possible and it made me feel free. Visually, the ocean and the wide open sky over the ocean has everything to do with the sound of this music. It's in me now.

I moved back to Brooklyn a couple of months ago, but I can still feel how integral that experience was to unlocking who I am. Moving out there at that time in my life when I felt like things were tumultuous and crazy and jumbled helped me return to myself and my purpose, which I feel is making beautiful music that moves people and allows them to feel.

That's definitely a tension I think a lot of people—New Yorkers or anyone—can relate to: wanting to be in the rush of the city and wanting to find space to reflect. How are you finding the move back?

I love New York City. I'll always love this place. From the first time I came here when I was twelve years old, I just felt like I belonged here. I feel like I can be myself here, and I feel free. Something about the kinetic energy just feels inspiring.

But you can go to the extreme, you know, so since moving back to Brooklyn—it's important for me to take walks and have quiet time and not to over-commit like a crazy person to different things. There's a lot of stuff I say no to. I say no to chaos, I say no to nonsense. I just like to keep my life chill and focused. I just want to be connected to my purpose, spend time with my girlfriend and my purpose and, like, call my mom.

A few years ago I stopped drinking, which put me in this whole space in my mind. I get up really early in the morning now, and that's where I find my quiet, meditative time. It's really about balance and quality of life. I think that can be achieved in the city, still, if you really work on it.

So what's coming next, and what do you have on the radar?

I'm gonna dig deeper. This music is very visual to me, so I'm gonna dig deeper into making more filmic visuals to accompany the music and really put on my art director hat.

I'm never stopping making music. I'm a creative person, that's when I'm at my best, so I'm just gonna keep working on music and fleshing out the album in a visual way.

Kelly De Geer

All the songs are so unique, and I was wondering if there are any stories about any of them you'd be interested in sharing.

For the song "23," the first song on the album, I was getting up every day at like 6AM… I had an endorsement for this livestream app, and I'd get up and livestream me making tracks, and one day I grabbed some drums that I had been working with and started building this track. The words "23" came to me, and I was like "What about 23? I want to feel like we were 23, I want to be as free as we seemed."

I started thinking about being a young person fresh out of college. I was living in Nashville, I had this apartment that was on the tenth floor… As we get older, I think there's this romanticizing of the past, like oh my god what if we could just be 21 again or 23 again. So I started to unpack that illusion of nostalgia.

When I was 23, I was f*cked up. I was worried about what I was gonna do with my life; I was in crazy relationships that were non-reciprocal. I was anxious about everything. That song plays with that idea, well I want to be as free as we seemed we were. I want to feel like how we think we felt when we were younger. That's the kind of energy I want to bring to the now, the present.

I think often there is this idealization of youth or just other places or other ages, so it's cool to think how can we use that in the moment.

You released a video alongside your album. What was the inspiration for that?

I met Hugo Ferrocko, the director, when I opened for a premier of a movie he worked on. We hit it off, and when we got together, he was like, I love your music, let's make something… We had this idea to make something that was documentary, part music video—something that starts to unpack some of the themes of this record, which are love and the power of love, identity, consciousness, awakening—and surround it with the beauty of the Rockaways.

Hugo came to me with that treatment after we had that conversation, and I was just blown away. He's a visionary filmmaker. I'm really glad to have had the chance to work with him; he's gonna have an incredible future making things.

Denitia - Touch of the Sky (Short Film)

You mentioned themes of consciousness and awakening, which are kind of loaded terms, and I'm wondering how you feel like those play out on the album?

I hope this always happens to me in life, but when I pulled out of Brooklyn and went to the Rockaways and when I was writing the album, I felt like I was going through this other level of awareness. Inevitably there was a slowing down, and that led to a lot of reflection and looking around and asking, What is my place in this world, and how do I fit here, and what are we doing?

It was less of a conscious thing; I was just musing and looking around in the world.

On the track "Touch of the Sky," I was thinking about how in black neighborhoods, there are cops everywhere, and it's infuriating. I was hearing so much about black people dying wrongfully at the cops' hands, and I was thinking about how sometimes we wait until people die to lift them up and to lift up their spirits, to focus on them and give them their flowers, so to speak.

That song was written in stream-of-consciousness, when I was thinking, I want to be lifted up now. I want us to have an anthem about being lifted up now, and getting this touch of the sky now. Let's fly now, while we're still alive. Let's raise each other up now.

I'd never really written about anything like that before, and, even so, it's pretty abstract, but I feel like it's another step in my reaching this awareness in thinking about the world around me.

I think consciousness plays out in a lot of different ways in the record. I talk a lot in the record about dreams being essential. In the end of "Touch of the Sky," there's this poem that goes, half my life's been spent dreaming. That's about the power of dreams in marginalized communities and among people who are struggling. Dreams are essential for us. Of course I'm going to be dreaming. My reality is not what it should be, so the dreaming is essential to push me forward into the life that I want.

Follow Denitia on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and her website.


Jah9 Has a Spiritual Reckoning on "Ma’at (Each Man)"

"What we pay, will be weighed, when we meet our judgment day."


Wade Rhoden

Ever since her emergence from the cocoon of Jamaica's "reggae revival" movement, Jah9's polished jazz vibe has captivated listeners.

Described as "black magic," Jah9's spellbinding vibrato conjures up balanced textures steering the way toward spiritual evolution. Her latest single, "Ma'at (Each Man)," the second single from her forthcoming third album that drops early 2020, carries her potent feminine energy with its blend of reggae, soul, and spiritual consciousness.

Jah9 - Ma'at (Each Man) | Official Music

Jah9 explains, "I speak about the karmic cycle and its real implications for the individual relative to their actions on 'Ma'at (Each Man).' No actions go unnoticed, and I am ever reminded that 'what we pay, will be weighed, when we meet our judgment day' in the lyrics. For [me], it represents a coming-of-age, an initiation into the real meaning of social and personal responsibility, an understanding that fosters self-discipline and strength of will: the key tools for rising above karmic forces."

Follow Jah9 Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud | YouTube