Charli XCX is in a hell of a hurry. The British pop singer's first proper full-length, True Romance, came out in April, and before she'd even finished touring to support it, along came "SuperLove," the first single from her next LP, which she says is "90 percent done." The 21-year-old has also been hard at work on her parallel career as a songwriter for others — she co-wrote Icona Pop's global hit "I Love It," in case you didn't know — and recently she's been collaborating with reigning superstar producers Stargate (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Ne-Yo, dozens more) on an outside project as well as a forthcoming songwriting collaboration "with one of my heroes," both of which she declined to reveal.
"I took five years to make True Romance — some of the songs have been in my life since I was 15 — so I wanted to do my second record really fast," she said last week backstage at SPIN's Year in Music concert (she flew in especially for her performance, which we'll be posting songs from in the next few days). "It's very shouty and raw, and that's why I'm doing it quickly. For me, those sort of songs feel like a moment — they don't feel they've been thought through, they feel like someone's just gone and been like 'RAAAAA!' [she pumps her fists], and it's come out amazing. So that's kind of the way I'm doing it.
"I feel like everyone's expecting me to make a 'synth-pop' record," she continues, grimacing. "I hate that term so much, I can't think of anything worse. The music I'm making now is so much more live — it's inspired by the Ramones, the Hives, Weezer…."
So is it a rock album?
"It's not a rock record; it's still a pop record. But those are the influences, as well as a lot of yé-yé pop from the '60s — Brigitte Bardot, France Gall, Sylvie Vartan — as well as new-wave bands like Bow Wow Wow and the Waitresses."
While the last album was made with several producers over the course of several years, for this one she primarily worked with Patrik Berger (Robyn, Lana del Rey), who co-wrote and produced "I Love It" as well as True Romance's "You're the One."
"As I said, I wanted to make this record fast: not thought-about, everything really spontaneous. And that's how me and Patrik work best together: we just go to his place and we'll write till like 5 a.m. and get up and 10 and do it again. We don't think -- it's like the first thing that comes out of my mouth is the cut on the record. I always think that if it's there in the first half hour it's probably really good, and if it's not you should move on."
Charli has credited producer/songwriter Ariel Rechtshaid with jump-starting her career – his work on True Romance, as well as with Vampire Weekend, Haim, Sky Ferreira and others garnered him a Producer of the Year Grammy nomination last week — and while he may not contribute to the new album, she hopes their schedules will align again soon.
"Me and Ariel might work together next year," she said. "I love him, he's been such an important part of my music and I'm so happy he got the Grammy nomination, he so deserves it. Maybe when I'm in L.A. we'll do it."
And while she rolls her eyes at the notion of being part of any intelligent-pop movement, she does acknowledge a number of kindred spirits out there.
"Sky Ferreira, Grimes, Lorde — I guess the people I always get put in a group with. I've always really loved pop music and I've always believed that the people I've been around are making amazing music. But I really feel like pop music is just getting better and better. I really believe in it, and I think all of these records that are coming out are really making an impact — maybe not necessarily on the charts, but I feel like I can see our fingerprints all over [the music of] bigger artists. And I think that's really cool."
Check out the video for more from Charli on her influences, her work as a songwriter for other artists, and year-end favorites — and watch for performance clips from SPIN's Year in Music concert in the coming days.