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For someone who put out a song called “Sex Rules” at the age of 17 and regularly appears on Terry Richardson’s Tumblr, you’d think Sky Ferreira would be the next in-your-face pop star, a barely-legal Lolita who kicks out a footlight or two in a mini skirt while turning heads with her insatiable vocal prowess. Basking in the glow of an ever-brightening spotlight wasn’t–and isn’t–on her agenda, and now, as she celebrates the success of October’s Ghost EP while readying for the release of a proper full-length debut in early 2013, Ferreira is spending the majority of her time on tour singing the songs she actually wants to play without anyone telling her what to do.
– Waste of Paint: King Tuff Goes Retro, Pissed Jeans Get Pissed Off, Slug Guts Spook, and Sky Ferreira Charms
“This is kind of the first time I’ve made the transition from playing fashion parties where no one is paying attention to playing shows where everyone knows the songs and it’s sold out and packed,” she says. “It’s a really different experience.” Ferreira, who considers the five songs of Ghost to be the most personal she’s put out to date, approaches her performances with a focus that reflects this disdain for superficial hype: when she takes the stage, she’s barely lit, awash in neon blues and fluorescent fuschias as she clutches at her microphone and belts the bars out. No choreography, no bullshit routines, no stunts for the photographers–Ferreira appears to care only about the chorus welling up in her throat before its out there and lapped up by the crowd before her. Before her show tonight at Mercury Lounge, we briefly caught up with Ferreira about Ghost, the tour and how she keeps it together on the road.
You’re a busy gal with a completely insane touring schedule. What’s been the most eye-opening experience on this crazy ride so far?
I’ve been really busy–I haven’t had a free day since CMJ, really. It’s been really exciting. I’ve met a lot of my fans, and I’ve been traveling a lot.
What are you listening to on the road? What’s currently on your iPod?
I’ve been listening to Tame Impala, Twin Shadow and Cass McCombs. And DIIV! I’ve been listening to them a lot lately.
What’s been really working for you during the set? What’s your favorite song to play?
I like playing “You’re Not The One” and “Sad Dream,” but I just played “Ghost” for the first time in L.A. and I really enjoyed that, but we’ll see. It depends on the night.
Now, you’re a classically trained singer and you’ve been working on your technique since you were a kid. Would you say that your classical chops have helped shape you as a performer?
Definitely. I’m very cautious about my voice. When it comes to the show, it’s not really about the show or the performance of the show–I mean, it is–but it’s about my vocal performance at the end of the day. I’m a songwriter, but I’m a vocalist.
That’s gotta be tough given what the tour requires of you. How do you keep it together?
I sleep when I get the chance [Laughs]. I try not to get too crazy on the road.
The differences between your debut [20011’s As If!] and Ghost are pretty pronounced–your killer voice remains, but Ghost feels a hell of a lot less poppy. What are the biggest differences between Sky Ferreira at 17 and the Sky we get to see today?
I would say that Ghost is actually me, and [As If!] was stuff I was trying out with people telling me I needed to do it. Ghost definitely reflects me musically and as a person than As If! does. It’s a lot more personal.
Putting yourself out there and on the line is never easy. What’s that process been like for you, having more control over your music while opening up more to your listeners?
It’s a really vulnerable thing, you know? I’m really sensitive about it. I never really “blew up” before. As If! got attention, but there was tons of people watching who were just like, “Oh.” Then, “Everything is Embarrassing” came out and suddenly people started paying attention, which was kind of weird. I was releasing the EP either way, but I never planned on that [response] happening.
Well, it’s good to be focused on the product versus the promotion behind it, for sure.
Yeah, exactly. There’s no one doing it for me. It’s always been me. Even before, when people were telling me what to do, it would still be me that’d do everything.
So, where do you go from here? What’s your next musical move?
At some point, I plan on getting better. [Laughs]
When you look back on the past year and your accomplishments to date, how have your personal expectations for your writing and your performance changed? We’re all our own worst critics to a certain degree, but how has Ghost affected your creative process?
If I feel somewhat satisfied with something, I’ll stick with it. I’m totally up for improving things and taking advice, but I hate fixing stuff–it drives me crazy, which is why I always think the demos are better.