Summer is no time for a vacation when you’re Charli XCX. From now through late November, the U.K. singer is holding down one of the most coveted spots in pop as one of two opening acts on Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour, alongside her friend Camila Cabello. “We’re such an interesting lineup of girls in control of their own shit,” Charli says. “It feels good.”
Pop fans first met Charli as the rebellious charmer singing on and co-writing supercatchy hits like Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and her own “Boom Clap.” Lately, Charli has turned up the attitude and reinvented her sound, filling two 2017 mixtapes with trippy, hypersaturated club music in collaboration with the electronic clique PC Music, among other guests drawn from pop’s international underground. “I like artists who are extreme – people who are extravagant with everything they put out,” she says. “I don’t have interest in people who aren’t willing to break barriers. I find it boring.”
The only song she’s playing from those tapes on this tour is “Unlock It,” from December’s Pop 2, which Swift recently placed on a Spotify playlist. Otherwise, Charli’s saving her most forward-thinking music for more suitable environments: “Pop 2 is supposed to be played in a club, an intense, sweaty rave scenario.”
In the meantime, she’s planning to release more bold new music over the course of the summer, starting with the pop-trap groove “5 in the Morning” – and she doesn’t much care if any of it gets airplay. “The coolest thing about pop music now is that no one really cares about radio,” Charli says. “You can have an amazing career having no radio songs. That’s exciting!”
How has the Reputation tour been going?
The tour has been really good! It is definitely the longest tour I’ve been on. It’s crazy playing stadiums. I feel really good! It’s me, Camila and Taylor…they’re so nice. My dream is to rent a studio and do a bit of writing. Me and Camila have talked about that, and we’ve got time. We’ll make it happen.
Did you know Taylor and Camila really well before the tour began?
Me and Taylor, we’ve casually known each other for a while, but then she asked me to come out for her 1989 tour in Toronto to perform “Boom Clap.” That’s when I started to get to know her a little bit better and hang out a bit more. And Camila, we’ve written together a lot for her project and other people’s projects. We went through a phase in the middle of last year where we worked together a lot [with the same producers]. I really love her and her energy and her whole vibe. She’s so sweet and cool. It feels good because we all actually know each other.
Have you all gotten time to spend hanging out while on the road?
On the first day, yes. But since then it’s been really busy. I’ve been flying back and forth from LA shooting numerous videos. Camila and I hang out under the stage every night on tour while we wait to go on for “Shake It Off,” where we all perform together and do a dance routine that I really suck at. We have that time together, which is really funny and weird. But we’re in a cave underneath the stage.
You spent 2017 releasing two incredibly fun, weird, experimental mixtape projects. How do you separate a mixtape from an album for yourself?
When I was doing Number 1 Angel, I was differentiating between the two a lot. But now, I kind of don’t? I think I will make [another] album, but what even is an album anymore? My intent at the moment is that I just want to be releasing as much music as possible, whether that’s collaborations or my own songs. I think that just because it’s called a mixtape doesn’t mean it’s less valid. Over the past year and a half, I’ve realized how much I love being in the studio and how much I love collaborating and how much of a good curator I am. I just want to do that, whether that’s in mixtape form or album form or whatever.
Your fondness for that process really does come across in the mixtapes. What’s drawn you to work with the people who have appeared on those projects?
They don’t have to be the biggest people. I just want to work with people who have such a clear, crisp identity. That’s someone like CupcakKe, Sophie, AG Cook, Brooke Candy. They’re people who are very defiant with their vision. I think that’s one way I choose my collaborators, but also they’re friends. People like Alma, Tove Lo, Mø – they are people I’ve known for a really long time, people who I party with in real life, people I genuinely I want to be around. I hate a forced collaboration. It’s not fun for anyone. It’s not even fun for the label because no one will promote it. I just want it to be as real as possible.
What can we expect from the rest of your new music?
I’m doing a lot with AG still. We rented a studio out in LA and were there writing for a really long time. We’ve got a huge range of stuff. We’ve been working with a lot of really exciting people, from Tommy Genesis to Bibi Bourelly. The plan is to put it out whenever we feel like, really.