Poppy on “Flux”, YouTube and Survive the Music Industry
Poppy’s mask slips off. The 26-year-old speaks an octave below her signature girly robot tone and opens up about her life – the real one, not the impenetrable, weird existence she’s been streaming online since 2014.
As with everything Poppy, this deviation is likely intentional. The artist, née Moriah Rose Pereira, enters a new, less manufactured phase with the release of her new album, Flux (a student of David Bowie, Poppy is a big fan of the “eras”). After keeping the audience at bay for years, she finally welcomes them into her world.
In the clip of FluxThe title song of, a portal opens to a chewing-gum pink planet, filled with one-eyed creatures hopping around a candy-covered mountainous landscape. Poppy wants you to cross the uncharted horizon by her side. “Flux is about exploring the unknown and not being afraid of it, seeing it as a beautiful thing, ”the Los Angeles-based artist told Bustle. And if one Planet Poppy video isn’t enough, it will soon be welcoming fans to its new Club Penguin-inspired app, PoppySphere. “I really wanted to create a Poppy world where I could be with my followers and make it a fully personalized experience, where I could invent possibilities and where no one could ever say no,” she says.
PoppySphere will be Poppy’s only online home, except for its continued – albeit diminished – presence on YouTube. It’s a big change for the artist, who first rose to prominence as the “Warhol of the YouTube Age”. She launched her channel in 2014 with a video of herself eating cotton candy against a sterile white background, followed by “I’m Poppy”. – a video of Poppy saying “I’m Poppy” for 10 minutes straight, which has garnered almost 27 million views. As she continued to post fascinating videos of herself doing mundane things in her measured, alien way, fans couldn’t help but speculate: Is Poppy human? Is Poppy in the Illuminati? Is Poppy in a cult? Is Poppy herself a cult? She doesn’t care about theories. “They bring me joy,” she says. “I think it’s a study on how people consume media and art. It’s their way of filling in the blanks.
Poppy is sure to leave a lot of blanks, but in recent years fans have learned more about what goes on behind the scenes. Flux comes a few years after her high-profile split from former creative partner Titanic Sinclair, who Poppy says manipulated her and leaked personal photos after their split. She channeled that raw anger into her 2020 hardcore album, I do not agree, for which she became the first female solo artist to be nominated for a Grammy in the Best Metal Performance category. Although it still has a lot of intensity, Flux feels more indebted to 90s rock, with its fuzzy guitar sounds and pop melodies. His words are particularly intimate.
Above all, Flux is a celebration of creative independence, of tender new beginnings. It has not always been easy; his stint on the Mad Decent label, founded by Diplo, was marked by a restrictive recording contract, creative clashes with a team of mostly male executives, and the release of his own music without his consent. But despite the music industry‘s attempts to stomp her mind, Poppy does what Poppy wants – and takes her fans with them.
Below, Poppy talks about Flux, eliminating toxic people and becoming a musician.
On accepting uncertainty and the survival of the music industry
Are you on the move right now? How do you feel about the state of flux?
I don’t believe I’ve ever really been out of a state of flux. When you feel the state of flux there are a lot of unanswered questions and every step feels foreign to you, which is a beautiful thing too.
In your clip for “Her,” clones of musicians are dropped onto a stage and thrown at random. Did you feel disposable in the music industry, and if so, how did you deal with that?
Yes. The world of music always hurts my stomach. I think if you are a little naive or new to the intense experience, you could be wrong many times. I think if you look inward and are able to position yourself there is always hope to turn the tide – but that requires you to remove yourself from the situation a bit. In my career, I have often had to withdraw and [situations] I was able to get out of it and I believe that maybe some power-super-energy from the world guided me to be able to navigate it. When I look at other people, other artists who are currently trying to navigate [the industry], I feel a little sad because I can recognize that they have people using them … it’s really important to do a reassessment, to determine if people’s goals are aligned with yours, or if they have ulterior motives.
How do you take care of yourself in this dangerous industry?
I try to leave plenty of time to think if I’m happy with what I’m doing … If there’s something inside that hurts me, I don’t want it around me anymore. When I see that these signs are more noticeable – maybe they appear as a red flag or a flashing light – I have to recognize it and remove them.
You posted your first video,“Poppy eats cotton candy” in November 2014. Why did you choose YouTube as an artistic medium at the time, and would you do it again?
Especially around this time, I saw how people could post whatever they wanted and people all over the world could interact with it. The videos I started posting were just because I thought they were fun and grew afterward. It was a beautiful thing, and it really kicked off the project and my message, and I don’t take that lightly. There is no part of me that would have done it differently.
What’s your relationship with YouTube these days? Are you very online?
Currently I am using [YouTube] to post music videos and my makeup video tutorials. I like to keep it concise. I really enjoy posting there, but I also developed my own game to reach my fans. It is called PoppySphere and will be launched soon.
Certainly not! Tell me more about the game.
I really enjoyed playing Club Penguin when I was younger. [PoppySphere] is a game but it is also a chat room and you can create your own avatar. This will be the first version, and in the second there will be activities and games. I just want to communicate with my fans on PoppySphere, so I’m patiently waiting for the final version to be released because it’s the only app I ever want to use.
Find inspiration in David Bowie and his cat, Pie
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever written a song about?
You haven’t heard it yet, but I wrote a song about my cat – but I don’t think it’s weird, it’s adorable. His name is Pi. One day he will rule the world: he will be able to open the doors and pee in the toilet.
Who is your current musical idol?
It’s always been David Bowie. Each album and body of work differs greatly and each era has been approached with so much confidence.
What is the first record you bought?
I have an older sister who would take me to a lot of shows; she is passionate about concerts. I was following and we were going to buy records together. One time in particular that stood out to me was when I was shopping for records with her and came across American thighs by Veruca Salt. I chose this album based on the album cover. I was drawn to it and it became one of my favorite albums. I take the things that attract me very seriously. I love the right packaging and colors and always feel like there’s a reason I’m drawn to things.
Was there ever a time when you felt ready to give up the life of a musician?
When I was hired against my will by the first label, that’s when I wanted to quit. But you know, the things you learn.
When did you first feel like you were successful as a musician?
I’m considering “doing it” so that I can make a living from your art, so I feel like it happened a while ago.
What were you doing before you could make a living from your art?
I ate canned beans and walked dogs.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.