Since Sky Ferreira started putting out demos, partying in nightclubs and posing for fashion editorials before she was even old enough to avoid curfew tickets in her hometown of L.A., she's been pegged as somewhat of a Lolita, a persona that's kept her from being seen the way she wants to be seen: as herself.
After dropping a Terry Richardson-directed video for her single "Red Lips," it looks like Sky is finally confident in the image she's putting out there for her fans and, inadvertently, for the firing squad that is Internet users.
Complex got on the phone with the Sky, who's in L.A. putting the finishing touches on her long-delayed debut album, I'm Not Alright, due in the fall, to talk about the reaction to her collaboration with Terry Richardson and to clarify the wild child rumors that have plagued her music career.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
When I first watched the “Red Lips” video, it seemed like a departure from the videos you’ve done in the past. It’s a little more in your face. It’s a little edgier and darker.
Yeah. I don’t want to say the songs clash, but the song is a lot more in your face. And the video, I think, connects with the song, even though people don’t think there’s a concept and it’s just like a never-ending Terry Richardson photo shoot. [Laughs.]
We were planning on doing a music video but then we couldn’t get the right concept for it, so he was like “I have a tarantula at my studio, Just try and do something with it.” And I was like “Yeah sure I’ll try.”
Did you have any apprehension using this tarantula?
The thing was so last minute that I wasn’t even prepared for it. I used to be scared of ants when I was a little kid. [Laughs.] So the thought of tarantulas was insane. I remember lying on the ground waiting for this thing to crawl all over me. I just blanked out while it was on me.
So you just kinda went for it?
Yeah. I thought maybe it’d help me get over my fear of spiders, which did not happen, by the way. I see a small spider in the recording studio and I’m like, “Kill it!” [Laughs.]
In your mind, how did the video connect with the themes of the song?
The song is basically about a very specific person or a type. I wouldn’t say girl, but a very specific type of person. I’m trying to find a nicer way to describe it. [Laughs.] I mean, the song says it all. It was kind of like the tarantula represented this grossness. This person always made me feel uncomfortable all the time and I kind of just saw their downfall and them finally lose their shit and go crazy. That’s kind of what the Wild At Heart red lipstick scene was.
And the reason I wore the bra and underwear wasn’t to look sexy or anything. It was kind of to make everything a lot more dramatic because the video was so simple. It was just this thing about this crazy virgin, like she’s in white and she’s so pure and great, who then ends up being the crazy one. There was kind of this weird message behind it.
I know that you worked with Shirley Manson on writing this song. How did you guys start working together?
Shirley was actually a fan of mine when I had MySpace. I didn’t do electronic music at first. I mean I had one demo called—I’m not even gonna say because I don’t want people to look it up. It’s truly embarrassing. [Laughs.] Then I had this one called “Femme Fatale,” which was with Greg Kurstin. I wouldn’t say it’s like The Runaways, but I was very inspired by The Runaways at that age, like I wanted to be like Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. I remember I used to stalk Kim Fowley everywhere and put him on the phone about doing stuff before. That was weird, but that was what I wanted to be.
Shirley used to talk about me to Greg Kurstin and she saw what happened to me with the whole record label experience, like getting shelved and how I was kind of promoted to be something I wasn’t ever supposed to be promoted as. People thought I was gonna be like Britney Spears.
After that, she reached out to me and was like, “I think I have this great song idea for you.” I changed the lyrics a little bit because I’m not from the UK so I can’t say “taking a piss” or something. [Laughs.] It would sound ridiculous if I said something like that.
Would you say it was on hold because you were struggling to promote yourself the way you wanted to?
Yeah, I definitely had that problem. There was something that wasn’t connecting and sometimes I still feel like I’m constantly trying to prove to people that I have integrity and I am an artist and I am not like a puppet. The thing is, people actually want me to be one. I don’t want to put that message out into the world. I feel like there’s enough of that out there and that was kind of a big issue.
People thought I was gonna be like Britney Spears.
I remember people kept telling me I was difficult, like not the people I worked with, but record label people. They thought I was crazy and difficult when I wasn’t. I just didn’t want to completely sell-out. I wasn’t willing to do everything they wanted me to do because that wasn’t me and I didn’t want to lie and fake something for the rest of my life. Once you do that, there’s no turning back.
I’m always willing to try stuff, so I tried doing “Obsession." I love Ryan Tedder as a person and he’s great for what he does, but that was not me at all. I guess I just don’t wanna do something that everyone else is doing.
I’m not saying that I’m the most original, creative person on the planet. Everyone is saying ["Red Lips"] sounds like a Garbage song and I did it with Garbage, so of course it’s gonna sound like a Garbage song. [Laughs.] And that’s what turned me off a bit with the electronic music. I mean, on my album, there’s still electronic songs. I didn’t change direction 'cause I was kinda always into that music to begin with. My music was always more organic from when it started. That’s what I wrote best.
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