Poppy: “What I’ve experienced in the past is a story worth telling”

As Kerrang! round up 2020's biggest names to tell us all about their year, Poppy reveals how – having bookended her year with releases – she hasn’t let a pandemic stop her from realising her creative vision…

Poppy: “What I’ve experienced in the past is a story worth telling”
Luke Morton
Jonathan Weiner

The year began so positively for Poppy. At the start of 2020 she dropped her genre-mashing album I Disagree, making her debut appearance in the Billboard charts and onto the cover of Kerrang! magazine for the very first time, wielding a bloody axe in the process. A brief tour followed before You Know What happened, sending years of planning into disarray. But as you might expect from someone so outrageously innovative and ambitious, the idea of being locked down didn’t hamper any notion of creativity. In fact, Poppy (real name Moriah Rose Pereira) used this time to work out the next chapter of her story, focusing on who she is and – more importantly – wants to be.

Following a prolonged period of introspection, Poppy unveiled a new Christmas EP (recorded in a day in July) and has written an entirely new full-length record. Here, the enigmatic genre-defying singer reflects on the past 12 months, and how they changed her forever…

Back in January you released your I Disagree record. How did it feel finally getting it out there into the world?
“I was holding onto that album for a couple of months and I was very excited to finally be releasing it. It almost seemed like it predicted 2020 in a way, with some of the subject matter that could be applied to the world-ending situation. When I was writing it, it felt like my world was ending, but sometimes I think I have to be careful about what I write, because sometimes it plays out in other ways.”

The track BLOODMONEY has just been nominated for a GRAMMY. How did that feel when the news came through?
“It was unexpected, but it was great. The GRAMMYs are the GRAMMYs, they’re one of the biggest and greatest awards that you can get in music. But there are some people that I love and respect who have never been nominated, and it’s a very small percentage of people who get to have that attached to their name for the rest of their career – ‘GRAMMY nominated’ or ‘GRAMMY award winner’, whatever that may be. I never thought it would happen, but now I can call myself a GRAMMY nominated artist, and I am very excited about it (laughs).”

When you spoke to Kerrang! earlier this year, you described your music as “post-genre”. How did it feel being put into the metal category in general?
“That’s another unexpected thing because I never outright identified as metal, but the listeners agreed that it seemed like a fitting category to put me in, so I’m very flattered. I think it’s fitting for the song and there are many elements that push the boundaries of what metal is, or what it has been known for, and there are a lot of elements that are more industrial-leaning. It’s cool that I’m also the first female solo artist that’s been nominated since the category’s inception – that’s pretty wonderful.”

With the album coming from a negative mindset, 12 months later, do you see yourself in a more positive and hopeful place?
“I still disagree with a lot of things that are happening in the world, but in myself, I feel in a much brighter headspace. I finished writing a new album, so that’s a very positive thing that happened this year, and I probably wouldn’t have had the time to do that if the world didn’t shut down, so I’m thankful for that.”

Knowing that people are really into the metal side of what you do, is that going to influence your music going forward?
“I’d say yes to that. Though the new album that I’ve made is going to be left open to interpretation by the listener, I would say that it still has the influence of heavy music.”

Following the release of the record you featured on the cover of Kerrang! magazine for the first time. Was that a big moment for you?
“Kerrang! is iconic and so many of my favourite bands have been on the cover, so that was a really big moment for me and for the message of what I create. I hope I get to do it again and hope I get to have a wide selection of Kerrang! covers hanging in my house.”

Do you have it hanging on the wall?
“I do! Both Eric [Whitney, aka Ghostemane] and I have a wall of accomplishments at the house, so we put all of our covers and magazine features in frames. It’s pretty cool.”

This summer you announced you were engaged to Eric/Ghostemane. How did that happen?
“Well, it was a surprise! It happened when we were on a road trip together and it was exciting, and that was one very positive thing that happened in 2020.”

There are already a lot of fans speculating about how crazy your wedding dress will be. Is that a weird conversation to see happening online?
“In a way, but it’s exciting as well. I now feel like it’s okay to think about that stuff because I’ve been so focused on this one path of what I’m doing career-wise, thinking, ‘Oh yeah, that’d be cool to do maybe one day…’ But now it’s actually happening I feel very excited, and thinking about making my dress wonderful.”

Despite touring not existing in the way we’d have all liked this year, you did manage to perform twice on WWE TV. How was that experience?
“I love getting the opportunity to go there, I try to go every time I’m asked. It was such a big part of my life when I was growing up, watching wrestling with my siblings, and it was something I wanted to be a part of. When I saw Pee-wee Herman on WWE I was like, ‘Oh, I wanna do that!’ and I put it out into the world, then I got to make an appearance and perform. I got to perform in the middle of my tour [in February] which was a long, eventful day because we only had one day off, so we left the tour to perform then got a red-eye back. It was one of the more exhausting days but totally worth it.”

Has this period of quiet given you time to think about where to take Poppy next, not just musically, but conceptually?
“Absolutely. There are many projects that I have my hands in right now. It definitely wasn’t downtime for me in the slightest, but it helped me get a perspective on where I wanted to go, how I wanted to get there, and the speed at which I wanted to get there. My desire to reach people has changed for the better. I’m able to look within myself and really push forward with these experiences and build a closer relationship with whoever is on the other end consuming the media that I create. What I’ve experienced in the past is a story worth telling, and I think during this time I’ve been able to come to terms with that. I didn’t think it was that important, but I feel like I’ve braved about 500 storms and the stories that go with those are quite interesting, and I’m willing to talk about them in the form of the art now.”

What have you learned about yourself this year?
“Solitude is important. Silence and being alone is important. Learning new things every day and reading lots of books – that’s important. Always push yourself to try new things. Love your family and friends. I think that’s all very valid and important and hopefully people have experienced something similar throughout all this.”

Speaking of solitude, do you consider yourself a social person? Have you been missing that human interaction?
“Definitely not. I found being locked down quite easy. The only people that I really communicated with during this time are my fiancé, my manager and my producer. I feel like that’s the core – other than family, of course. I don’t go out places, so that wasn’t difficult for me.”

Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen bands splitting up and struggling. What has kept you going throughout all of this?
“The same thing that’s always kept me going – the desire to want to do this forever. The story needs to continue to be told, through thick and thin, and in whatever form. There’s nothing that’ll stop me or it, and as long as people listen, I’ll keep making stuff. And honestly, if people didn’t listen, I’d still make stuff anyway (laughs).”

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