13 MUST-SEE MUSICAL ACTS AT SXSW: SKY FERREIRA, BAAUER, KENDRICK LAMAR, MORE
by Marlow Stern
The 20-year-old pop chanteuse has striking features—she’s of Native American, Brazilian, and Portuguese descent—which ultimately led to modeling gigs for the likes of Calvin Klein and Adidas. And while she grew up as a family friend of Michael Jackson’s, Ferreira’s musical oeuvre more closely resembles the New Wave pop of Blondie and Madonna. After signing with the label Parlophone in 2009, her debut studio album, I’m Not Alright, will finally see the light of day this spring. She’s released a series of EPs so far, including last year’s Ghost, which features the excellent pop anthem “Everything Is Embarrassing.”
For the latest episode of Record Shopping, FACT TV hit London's Rough Trade East with Sky Ferreira.
Born in Los Angeles, Ferreira has emerged as one of pop music's most interesting new talents, last year's Ghost EP containing the sleeper hit 'Everything is Embarrassing'. In between browsing the racks at Rough Trade, we talked about working with Ariel Rechtshaid and Dev Hynes, Nevermind, Bryan Ferry and more.
Interviewed by Clare Considine, filmed by Pawel Ptak and Anoushka Seigler
Read an excerpt from Clash's exclusive interview...
Clash spoke to Californian singer Sky Ferreira for its current issue – available here – about her delayed emergence as a pop force, and how her star is likely to ascend to new heights with the overdue release of her debut album, ‘I’m Not Alright’.
Candid about her previous (relative) missteps on the road to musical recognition, including an aborted contract with Parlophone, Ferreira has seen her career take rewarding but distracting tangents.
She’s dabbled in modeling and acting – with no little success – but now it’s clear that music is her focus, as this excerpt from our exclusive interview outlines.
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As the in-house chemistry at Parlophone disintegrated the teenage dream stalled, and by the time she was 17, Sky had two shelved records, “pretty much no self esteem whatsoever”, and an otherwise atypical teenage identity crisis magnified by the pressures of fame, failure and a pointed sense of isolation.
She describes drifting aimlessly until she made a break from her hometown of Los Angeles to New York City, where she slept on friends’ sofas and in “roach-infested” rooms she found on Craigslist.
This is where she re-figured herself and got down to writing the ‘As If!’ and ‘Ghost’ EPs with friends-turned-collaborators Devonte Hynes, Ariel Rechtshaid and Jon Brion: up all night in conversation rather than under instruction.
Looking back, she insists that it renewed a steely sense of conviction that she’s always had.
“I always knew I wanted to write pop music, but I’ve come to realise that the process of getting there is as much a part of the dream as having my own album in my hands, y’know? I fell hard but when people say things like ‘You only get one chance’, that’s not true.”
Her hopes are pinned on that second chance as, now at 20, she’s recorded the debut she feels she could only have written after such a prolonged, determined effort.
The mention of it however still turns her skin to rice paper: “I feel like I'm transitioning into an adult with so many eyes on me. It makes me uncomfortable, but I do my best to write about that discomfort, so I can simplify it in a way.
“Pop comes in waves. The past five have been about Rihanna, Lady Gaga… [but] the new wave will take over, and I’d like to think [I’m part of it].”
Sky Ferreira sits down for an interview with Daft Punk, before unveiling a new album Random Access Memories, their first in eight years, on May 21.
SKY FERREIRA: What’s the meaning of your album’s title, Random Access Memories?
DAFT PUNK: The title plays with concepts of computer memory and human memories, establishing a loose parallel between the human brain and the hard drive—both are somehow randomly fragmented devices. We have always been fascinated by the relationship and connections between man and machine.
What is the essence of the album?
This album is about technology going towards humanity, in a world where humanity is going towards technology. We tried to capture robotic emotions with music, replacing this time our electronic machines by real human beings.
What was the most difficult aspect of realizing the album?
Making this album was difficult and challenging in an exciting way, but that is the nature of these empirical musical experimentations. We tried to do some things we had never done in a studio. We wanted to learn techniques we did not know. We did not want to take the easy route. But somehow, the difficult parts of the entire creative process are what made the journey really worth it.
It’s been almost 10 years since your last album. How do you think music has changed?
Everything now changes at a frantic speed. Our previous album seems to have been released a lifetime ago. We just created a timeless bubble around us for the last five years in order to create the music we wanted to listen to.
You’re fascinated with the past. If you could travel to any moment in time, when and where would it be?
It’s a tough question to answer. Maybe witnessing the completion of the Great Pyramids, then traveling to see the remaining Six Wonders of the World, which are now long gone.
You have said in many interviews that dance music as a whole is suffering right now. Why?
Dance music is almost exclusively made today with laptop computers, on the same software, with the same virtual instruments, and a lot of the same drum sounds. Computers, as music instruments, are making it difficult for musicians to have their distinctive sonic personality, and a lot of dance records are starting to sound the same, in a very formatted way.
What was your creative brief to [Saint Laurent designer] Hedi Slimane for this album?
Hedi is a longtime friend of ours. We share a lot of the same tastes in art and music. There was no specific brief for this album; we just played him the music. We generally prefer the music to do the talking.
This album has been in the works for a long time. What is one of your best memories from putting it together?
Being in the studio with Nile Rodgers, one of our childhood heroes, was definitely one of the highlights. He just brought his guitar to Electric Lady Studios in New York and started to play. It is the exact same guitar he’s been playing on all these records and songs we love, like “Le Freak,” “Good Times,” “I’m Coming Out,” “He’s The Greatest Dancer,” “Upside Down,” “Let’s Dance,” and “Like a Virgin.” It was an amazing moment.
All of your albums before this one were more or less homemade. Why did you decide to begin recording in a studio?
After having made three albums, we were looking for a fourth album we had not yet done. We’ve been making music as Daft Punk for 20 years, and we are always trying to feel like beginners. Going in a studio for the first time felt exciting because it was something new. With Random Access Memories, we ultimately decided we wanted to do a record we could not have done at home.
Where do you see yourselves in another 20 years?
That is classified information.