Brightest Young Things is an online magazine based in Washington, New York, and Chicago. Melanie Martinez has done two interviews with them; one in January of 2015, and another in August of 2015.
If you’re not familiar with Melanie Martinez, you’re doing it wrong; for starters, she’s got major pop chops as a singer-songwriter (with over 180,000 Facebook fans to attest), and as added bonus, her aesthetic would lead you to believe she wasn’t born of human parents, but instead sprang directly from a Harajuku Tim Burton’s skull. The wunderkind is set to play a show at Jammin’ Java in Virginia on January 27th (one week from today) and ANOTHER one at Bowery Ballroom in NYC on January 29th // if you don’t have tickets yet you’d BETTER GET THEM RIGHT NOW. And if you CAN’T make it out to one of the gigs, then 1. I’m very sorry, but 2. you can still grab a copy of her
Dollhouse EP RIGHT NOW on Atlantic Records as a consolation prize. (Also, let it be stated that I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to “Dollhouse”, one of four ultra-catchy tracks on that guy.) I had a little chit-chat to Melanie over the phone the week before last, and we talked up everything from sweet tooth vibes (Pocky and flourless chocolate cake for the win) to musical mythology, aka Björk. (See also: it was a pretty magical twenty minutes, you guys.) You can internet-eavesdrop on our conversation below, and when you’re DONE, you can follow MM on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for eternal digital friendship. HERE WE GO:
So where are you based when you’re not touring? Because I know you’re from New York originally…
I’m in New York. (I’m in the city right now, but I live in Long Island.)
(I mean, SAME DIFFERENCE!)
Yeah, same thing.
Well we’re SUPER excited that you’ll be around to perform at the end of the month. I know you’re fairly new to the whole touring experience, but how have you found it to be so far?
REALLY fun, I’m really excited that I get to start up again in a couple of weeks. I think it’s fun for me because my band is awesome; it’s literally me and two guys and my tour manager slash sound guy, so it’s just the four of us in a minivan. It’s so fun.
Well it’s good that you haven’t been disillusioned by it yet, because I know that that gets to be the case for some people eventually, and I can totally see why.
Yeah, it can definitely be stressful at times, but for the most part it’s fun.
And how have all the interviews been going? I watched one you did in Chicago recently and I couldn’t believe that girl didn’t know what Pocky was…like, it’s 2015 and I feel like people should just know what that is by now. (I’m partial to the Meiji Hello Panda snacks myself…)
I love Hello Panda! The chocolate ones are SO GOOD. I love all of that stuff.
Yeah, it seems from your Instagram that you have a pretty big sweet tooth. Have you eaten anything super amazing recently dessert-wise?
I had some flourless chocolate cake which was really good. I love flourless chocolate cake…it’s so good, it just melts in your mouth.
Right?! Whoever invented it was a genius for real.
I know! I mean, how do you even do that?! How do you make that? I need to learn, I’d make that all the time.
My birthday is actually tomorrow, so I’m hoping that someone gets me the best cake of all time for it…
Well happy almost birthday!
Thanks! (Happy almost gettin’ older, as I like to say.) Now tell me a little bit about your writing process and how you ended up with the songs that have been recorded so far; were a lot of them written fairly recently, or have you had material saved up for a while that you were just waiting to use?
Well when I wrote the EP, it was just sort of me having a lot of sessions and seeing what came out of those, and it ended up being four songs that I really love. The album is definitely more well-put-together; it’s a concept album, it’s all childhood themed…the mature subjects are hidden in the songs and are kind of covered up by this candy-like aesthetic, but it’s actually really dark and honest and mature at its core.
Yeah, I’m obsessed. (I have to watch the episode that aired last night, I’m freaking out about it!) [Laughs]
Who’s been your favorite character from this season?
I think Dandy’s my favorite…I mean, his acting is just ridiculous. (Like when he’s bathing in the blood and stuff, it’s totally nuts!) I love every scene with him just because it’s so dark but it’s also kind of comedic, like when he’s screaming at his mom…
“I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!” Yeah, totally bonkers and super fun to watch. And speaking of crazy, you’ve got SO MANY fans (which is obviously the goal of any successful musician); do you have a PO Box set up where they’re actually able to send you physical fan mail, or is that totally a thing of the past? I feel like it’s probably easier to send stuff online than via snail mail, but I would think it’d be pretty entertaining to see what kinds of things people would ship to a physical address…
Oh yeah, I totally have a PO Box.
What’s the best (or maybe weirdest thing) you’ve ever received?
Oh my god, the BEST thing I’ve ever gotten was a giant box of candy from all over the world (German candy, Japanese candy…) and I was FREAKING OUT. I was in heaven, and I still haven’t even finished it all. Best thing ever. I’ve also gotten a lot of awesome fan art, like paintings and stuff, which is really cool.
That’s amazing. My PO Box is generally full of bills and the occasional demo CD. SPEAKING of which, not to harp on that Chicago interview too hard, but there was a moment where you were asked what’s on your iPod, and you said you didn’t have an iPod…what are you listening to music with, then? Record player? Radio? (Discman?!)
My phone and my record player. (I mean, my phone is an iPhone and not an actual iPod, which is why I said that.) [Laughs]
Yeah I was doing the phone tunes thing for a while, too, but then it would drain my battery too hard if I was on the train or walking around in the city, so I ended up switching back to an old iPod instead for on-the-go.
Yeah I have Spotify on my phone, which makes it really easy.
Totally. And you said that you also have a record player; what was the last album you bought?
The last one was…I’m pretty sure it was a Gwen Stefani album. Oh no, wait, that was my last one BEFORE my last one! [Laughs] My LAST last one was a Björk album.
SOLID. CHOICE. Sometimes if I’m having a bad day I’ll just watch an old interview with Björk on YouTube, and she’s just like…the most magical human. It’s insane.
It’s so crazy, she’s like a fairy! [Laughs]
She actually showed up to a karaoke night that my friend hosts at this bar by my apartment, and it was totally unexpected, but she situated herself in the front of the stage, and people were just belting these songs out to try and impress her like she was a judge on American Idol or something. I have a video of her clapping along to TLC’s “Waterfalls”, and it was legitimately the greatest thing I have ever witnessed. Anyway, sorry…that was me freaking out about Björk // now BACK TO YOU! For the next little portion of this interview I have some questions for you based very loosely on your song titles, so bear with me. The FIRST one is for “Carousel”; how do you feel about amusement park rides? Are you into them? (I am terrified of roller coasters.)
I am OBSESSED like you would not believe. I live for that shit. [Laughs]
And have you gotten down your camera angles while you’re riding them? (You know how they take those snapshots when most people look like they’re about to barf?)
I try, but they always put the cameras at the best parts of the ride. I actually love that they capture my scared faces, though…I’ve tried doing funny things before, it’s just so hard! I was actually at Disney, and I think it was the Indiana Jones ride, but they have this giant boulder that looks like it’s going to hit you and you go under it instead; the camera gets you right when you think you’re about to be hit, and so you can’t prepare for it because you’re just freaking out. [Laughs]
God, I can’t even go on the ones that are meant for like, LITTLE little kids without looking like I’m going to puke, so props to you. Now, the next question is for “Dollhouse”; if a toy manufacturer started making Melanie Martinez Dream Houses, what would they look like inside?
Honestly, just a lot of vintage floral wallpaper, and a lot of vintage toys from the 1950s, a lot of teddy bears and stuffed animals. Then checkerboard floor in the kitchen, pink walls, a mini projector that projects on the wall instead of a TV, AstroTurf to look like grass on the living room floor…that’s how I would want my house. [Laughs]
Well that sounds pretty dreamy to me. (Mattel, if you’re reading this, you could have a real hit on your hands.) Now the last one is for “Dead To Me”; we just crossed over into a new year, so is there anything that you’re trying to cut out of your life or routine in 2015?
Well, I’m trying to eat healthier, which is hard because I eat like a five-year-old. (My menu is literally like ten or eleven things, and it’s all cheese related or chicken or bread…it’s just bad.) I really do need to start eating healthier (I don’t even eat salads, really…the only salad I eat is Caesar salad, which is not even real salad…), so I’m trying to step it up.
Next time you roll up to that PO Box you’re just going to find, like, a bushel of kale from one of your fans…
Yeah, just a ton of vegetables. [Laughs]
Exactly. Vegetables from around the world. Now, on a semi-similar New Year’s note, fill in the blank: “2015 will be the year of ______________ “
2015 will be the year…of…wow, this is hard! [Laughs] Damn! That’s like the hardest thing you’ve said this whole entire thing, it’s not even really a question! [Laughs] Ummm…2015 will be the year of GOODIES! [Laughs]
Hey, that is a solid thing for 2015 to be the year of! (But yeah, I know, it’s hard to come up with answers to things like that when you haven’t had any forewarning to kind of come up with something good.) Now, hopefully this final question won’t be as difficult as the last one, BUT, do you have any #HASHTAGSOFWISDOM to impart on our audience before we wrap this up?
#ItsReallyColdInNewYork #ImReallySleepy #ThisIsTheLongestHashtagEver #OkayBye! [Laughs]
I spoke to Melanie Martinez back in January before she played a gig at Bowery Ballroom, and seven months later, she’s officially released her rad debut full-length entitled Cry Baby. I spoke to her again just last week to talk about the record and get caught up on what she’s been doing this summer, as well as about what we can expect from her upcoming tour (she’s at Highline Ballroom in NYC on September 11th and U Hall in DC on September 13th) and whether or not she plans to stick with alter-ego Cry Baby when it comes to future Melanie Martinez musical narratives. Read up on all of that below, grab a copy of the record (out now via Atlantic Records), and be sure to follow Melanie on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news. HERE WE GO:
So you did a Tumblr Q+A a couple of days ago, how was that? I feel like they have the potential to be terrifying, because you just get a massive flood of internet kids asking you anything and everything…
It was really hard for me to find actual questions! It was mostly people being like, “I love you!” And it’s like, that’s so sweet, but I have to answer questions! [Laughs] So it was pretty hard to find really in-depth things to answer, and it was definitely flooded with things, but it was really fun. I definitely want to do that again. And I love the fact that you could answer the questions with GIFs, too.
Yeah, I saw that you responded with a lot of GIFs, good call! My personal favorite question was hands-down the one where they asked you “Are there any vegetables that you actually enjoy?” The last time we spoke you told me that your fans get really concerned about your dietary health since you love sweets so much, and that was just solid proof that they really do have this complex about you incorporating roughage into your diet!
Yeah, I just eat terribly. [Laughs] I just turned twenty, so I should start changing that, but… [Laughs]
Hey, I say eat that stuff while you can; you have plenty of time! Now, what have you been up to this summer? You’ve got the record coming out, and you’ve had some rad music video releases (all very exciting stuff), but what else has been going on the last few months?
I guess just focusing on releasing the album. I’m really excited to see what people think, and which songs are their favorites. I’ve just been so focused on making everything perfect, you know? So it’ll be really cool to just see how things go.
Absolutely, I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit counting down to release day! Incidentally, I saw that Instagram countdown video you put of the scary clown girl from The Big Comfy Couch, which is a show that I COMPLETELY forgot ever existed. I used to watch it, too, and it’s like, why? Why was that even a show that existed? It’s so terrifying.
Oh, it’s so creepy. And you don’t realize it, either! I loved it as a kid; I remember it being one of my favorite things ever, and I recently re-watched it and had to mute it, because her voice is so weird. All of it is just so creepy; I don’t know why my parents let me watch it as a kid! [Laughs]
So weird, so weird. Now, regarding the final track listing that we’ll see on the 14th when the record drops, were there any tracks you had to cut loose that you’re super bummed about?
It’s kind of hard, because I’m not really bummed that any of the songs got cut from the album, I’m bummed that I can’t make a thirty track album. I’m more upset about that. [Laughs] There were a lot of songs that got cut, but I think it just fell into place how it’s supposed to; the album tells a story from track one to thirteen, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. I can’t really imagine it any other way, and I’m happy that it is the way it is. There are some songs I’m thinking about maybe releasing before the next album, or maybe even in the next album, I’m not really sure yet.
Cool. And for the tracks that DID make the final cut, you were able to make a handful of really cool videos. The video for “Pity Party” is probably my favorite, though; was that inspired by American Horror Story Freakshow, by chance? Because there are some Dandy // Twisty vibes that I get from it for sure!
[Laughs] Not really, it was kind of just me going crazy because no one showed up to my birthday party, but I can totally see how American Horror Story would be fitting with that video. I definitely just tried to be my best crazy.
Well, you did an excellent job, then! And I read somewhere that you’re trying to do videos for all of the tracks on the record; has that been set in stone yet, or is it more of a goal in progress?
We’re trying to make it a definite thing, but it is very hard as a new artist on a label to get every single video. It’s kind of impossible, actually, so I’m just saving up so that I can pay for my music videos, because that’s really important to me right now. I want to tell the story in every way possible, and the videos are a huge part of that for me, especially since I’m just starting out directing music videos, and it’s so fun; I just don’t want to stop.
Yeah, I don’t blame you! And the album title coincidentally is the same as the infamous John Waters flick, so I’ll go ahead and ask if Cry-Baby is in fact your favorite movie of his, or if there are others that you really like?
I love Cry-Baby. That movie was always my go-to in high school when I’d have a sick day; it’s just so good! The title wasn’t even inspired by the movie, though, which is hilarious; it was more just taken from being called that as a kid and how that affected me.
Right, it is a funny coincidence, but I do feel like you’ve got some similar aesthetic vibes when it comes to the whole dark-yet-bubblegum-y thing. (And that’s obviously good!) Now, you have a bunch of live shows coming up here, and when I saw you at Bowery Ballroom you did some really fun Tom & Jerry stuff at the beginning of the gig; is that something that you do everywhere, or it depends on the setup?
I want to try to bring it everywhere, but it’s hard, because I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do for this tour. So far the inspiration is dark, creepy, haunted nursery vibes, but I’m still figuring out if I’m going to do any prop stuff.
Very cool! Now, you’re starting and ending the tour in North Carolina; was there any specific reasoning behind that decision, or it just kind of worked out that way?
It kind of just worked out that way, but North Carolina is really beautiful and the people are really cool, so I’m excited about it.
Rad. So what are you working on at the moment? Are you completely honed in on touring this album, or are you writing new material already?
Well, it’s been really hard for me to figure out what I should be doing during this weird downtime, but I’ve been trying to write, because I’m so crazy and want to start doing the next album already. But I know that I have to kind of let things go and experience things, because I don’t really have any material for the next album in my brain. I’ve kind of got this writer’s block, and I’m totally open to saying that because it’s so normal, but it is very annoying for me; I want to write so bad, but I’m kind of stuck in this bubble. I’ve written a couple of songs, but I don’t think they’re good enough for the next album. I just want it to be cohesive with the first and kind of be in the same world, but obviously with a new sound, and telling a different story.
Well, I was going to ask you about that, too; you’ve already said that Cry Baby is you, and that as you grew, she grew narratively, so is that something that you want to continue in the next record? Or do you want to try to go out in a completely different direction when it comes to the narrative?
Yeah, I kind of just want it to be Cry Baby’s world, and either I’m telling the story of my life as Cry Baby but with a different sound (instead of the kid theme it’s a bit more grown up), or I’m telling the story of her world, like her neighbors and things like that. I don’t know, I’m kind of still figuring it out. It’s hard, because I do think of myself as Cry Baby; I’m having these phases where I kind of just want to become Cry Baby and just release albums under Cry Baby, but I don’t know how that would work. That’s something that I have been thinking about, though; changing my name to Cry Baby and putting my albums out under that name. But I’m still figuring it out. We’ll see what happens.
Cool! Now, you’ve had a REALLY big year; what would you say has been the best part of it so far, apart from the impending album release? Is there anything that stands out in particular?
I don’t know, the album really is the biggest thing for me. It’s hard; sometimes I kind of forget what happens in a year, which is weird, but everything moves so fast that it just kind of happens. I’m just so 100% focused on what’s happening in the moment and trying to make everything perfect. I’ve been very, very focused on the art.