Troye Sivan Interview: "Maybe I was hurt in a past life."
4 September 2015, 11:20 | Updated: 2 November 2020, 17:37
We caught up with the Troye to chat about his new EP "Wild", online backlash and balancing YouTube with being a popstar.
For the last month, Troye Sivan has been rolling out teasers, images, lyrics and soundbites for his new EP, Wild.
A collection of six songs, the EP is a magnificent opening to a promised "full body of work", which will be coming before the end of 2015. From the hazy euphoria of title track "Wild", the brooding wistfulness of "Fools" and the menacing "Bite", the EP is crammed full of left-leaning pop that's thought provoking, dark and completely amazing.
Obviously Troye is the perfect embodiment of everything we love at PopBuzz, merging our faves of music with #teaminternet. So during a flying visit to London, we headed to Troye's record label to grill him about his new EP, that first date feeling and the problems facing a YouTuber trying to cross over to the mainstream. Here's what happened...
PopBuzz: Hello Troye, how are you?
Troye Sivan: Good thank you. How are you?
PB: Good thank you. I'm finding the weather a bit of an issue, if I'm honest. It's too hot and humid.
TS: I know! This room is so hot. However, I feel like a diva being like, "Can we get the temperature turned down?"
PB: Isn't the whole point of being with a major label so you can make demands for kittens and air conditioning?
PB: Let's talk about the Wild EP. After the announcement at VidCon people went a bit cray and they hadn't even heard the music yet.
TS: No, no one had heard anything yet. They'd heard the little chants of the children. Actually, fun fact about that: we went into the studio to write "Wild", and that day I was working with this call girl Alex Hope. Her publisher brought in her nieces, there were three of them, because they wanted a photo. They came, we took the photos and then they left. We then wrote that little part and thought, "Wait, what if we got kids to sing this part." We were thinking about going to schools or something like that, and then we remembered that these little kids had just visited us, so we called them back and they came in to record their little parts.
PB: They must have been so excited.
TS: They were! I think they're really excited to show their friends and they haven't been able to.
PB: The Wild merch that you were giving out post-announcement at VidCon. They're all gone, right?
TS: Oh yeah, they ran out in, like, 15 minutes.
PB: Because I'd really like one!
TS: Oh, we might be able to get you something else then. There's these really cool ones that I'm making.
PB: Yes please and thank you, Troye. When your first EP TRXYE went to number one on iTunes in all those countries did you have a brain meltdown?
TS: Yeah (laughs). I was in Bali when the pre-order went up on a family holiday, and it was so weird because my record label in Australia had Splendor In The Grass that weekend, which is a big festival. They were all there with no phone service all drunk and muddy. I was checking my phone and where it was charting and had no one to talk to about it. I told my parents, but I felt like it didn't feel real at all.
PB: That must be quite mad.
TS: None of us really knew how to react. It seemed so weird and I didn't have anyone work-wise to discuss it with. I texted them, and got a call from the record label that night when they had got home from Spelndor, all of them still wasted, and they were freaking out and singing to me on the phone. Then I was like, "Oh shit, this is as big as I thought it was."
PB: Did you have a big Bali celebration?
TS: This is probably TMI, but I had an ear infection and they played "Happy Little Pill" on the radio and I couldn't even hear it. My ear was so messed up. It was a crazy weird day. It was nice to be in Bali, I guess, because I was very connected but also a little bit disconnected. It all felt like a big dream.
PB: I bet it's quite nice to be out of the madness.
TS: Well that's why I love living in Perth so much. There's no entertainment industry, so there's really anything work-wise that I can do there. When I'm there it's so disconnected and so chill. All I can do is email or talk on the phone. My time is spent hanging out.
PB: I guess that's why Lorde probably went back to New Zealand to record album two.
TS: It must be so nice! Imagine being somewhere like London, New York or LA and then you get to go back to your little family and record in a house somewhere.
PB: Well I grew up in London, so I'm not very good at away.
TS: Fair enough. I was just at a really small town in Minnesota, and I was happy about it but after a day or two I was ready to go. I almost had a panic attack because I saw one sign that said the name of town followed by "population eight". As in eight people. And there was one house. This one family has their own little town.
PB: Incredible! Let's talk music. Obviously the songs are quite personal to you. Do you ever get a tinge of embarrassment singing about those sorts of things?
TS: Not really. The only time that I would ever get embarrassed is if my parents were to analyse the lyrics. But they don't really listen to the lyrics, they just know the songs. They might be personal stories, but songwriting is such a cool way to tell stories because they can be interpreted in so many ways. I just love the game of finding what emotion you want to portray or what you want to say and fitting it into this many syllables that rhymes with this; it's a big puzzle. Then other people get to de-code it and that's what music is about to me.
PB: What would happen if your parents did listen to the lyrics!?
TS: They'd probably be like, "We need to talk about this, this and this line." (Laughs).
PB: Please sum up the song "Wild" in three emojis?
TS: It would be the nighttime emoji, it'd probably be the beers cheers-ing and a blue love heart.
PB: Good choices. I think the song is quite cute, like that first flush of love.
TS: It's sort of about falling in love, but it's also a tiny bit...I don't want to say trashy because it's not trashy, but to me it's about being a bit tipsy, walking home at night from a club with someone you've maybe just met but you're like, "Oh my god! They're so hot!" It's that first thrill of flirting with someone and all of those very first emotions. Maybe it'll go on to mean something much deeper than that and maybe it won't, but it's about that first night.
PB: Would you say you like that first night bit?
TS: Oh yeah. I like meeting some one new. It's so good. There's rewards that come with pursuing things further and if you're lucky enough that you find the right person then there are things that mean so much more than that first night. But that first night for sure.
PB: You always look back on that first night and that excitement.
TS: Or you wake up in the morning and you have to wait to text them to be like, "Had fun last night *emoji*." Just all of that stuff is really fun to me.
PB: That's very sweet. One song that's less sweet is "Bite". It's quite something.
TS: "Bite" is about my first time in a gay club and just being so taken aback by the sticky floor, the shirtless men and everything else. I really wanted to capture that chaos, basically. But yeah, I don't mind any of those descriptive words that people want to use about the material. It's my life and stories, so to be able to have them be interpreted and spat back out at you is really cool.
PB: Is it important, then, for your music to be relatable?
TS: To be honest, it wasn't really a thought in the writing room. I think one really cool thing about humans in general is that I think we share a lot more than we think we do. I could be writing a song about my hamster and you could interpret it to be about the love of you life who just left you. I think it was more important to me to write autobiographically, and write about real things that are happening to me. I have faith that someone else is going through that experience. I feel like often we all think that we're the only one in the world who has ever felt a certain way, or had ever had that experience, but I think that it's not true.
PB: That's very wise, Troye. Obviously you have a big following on YouTube and social media, but do you worry that the alternative sound of your music might put off a wider audience?
TS: There is such a stigma against people that have come from online. Yeah, sure, it kinda sucks because I wonder if people won't listen to it or just brush it off. But the way that I see it is that it's my job to go into the studio and write music that people, hopefully, think has depth rather than just being a YouTube kid making music. I'd like to think that if they gave the music a chance they'd hear something that maybe they'd like and stick around.
PB: Well the EP is really good so hopefully.
TS: I think as well, online is such a new phenomenon that I don't think anyone really knows how to deal with it and the way that traditional media have dealt with it is by just being like, "What do you want to do? Do you want to do a book? Do you want to do a movie? Do you want a song? Whatever it is we can make it happen for you," just because there's a market. That's all well and cool, and everyone is getting to live their dreams which is incredible, but I think that there are a couple of people, and there are so many incredible artists online, that will put out really cool stuff and legitimately rise to the top. It'll probably take a while for people to realise that, but like anything there's bad and there's really good. For example, I've read some YouTuber books that are amazing, amazing books. I love comedians autobiographies and essays, and then I read Mamrie Hart's book, who's a YouTuber who has a show called "You Deserve A Drink", and it was seriously up there with likes of Amy Poehler and Chelsea Handler. For me, people like that will get the recognition they deserve. It's just going to take time and for more people like that break into the mainstream for the public to start giving online people more of a chance.
PB: I guess a lot of the world sort of compares online stars to reality stars. But some of my favourite music has come from reality shows. It's a legitimate way of breaking into the industry now.
TS: For me it's not about shunning or losing that YouTuber reputation. I'm completely proud of where I come from; I think it's 100% the future. Again, it's just about putting out good stuff, like it is in traditional media.
PB: How is the balance between being a popstar and being a YouTuber?
TS: I find it really hard time-wise to keep up with YouTube. But I'm just so lucky that I have an excited and engaged audience who really care about the music. There's so much content coming out this year music-wise, that I think it'll satisfy them. Every now and then if I can sit down and have a chat with them one-on-one, then I will. YouTube for me has always just been another place for me have a conversation with people who listen to my music and consume that whatever it is I'm making. So to sit down with them and catch them up on what's going on is important. But I'm also super active on Snapchat and Twitter. I think there's enough. It's just YouTube that takes a hit sometimes.
PB: Some might say that your music is quite gloomy. Are you a gloomy person?
TS: There's definitely that side to me. My parents raised me to be, I think, to be quite a friendly person. For me music has always had such a direct connection to my emotions, you know? My sister, for example, listens to music to get hyped to go out. Whereas for me it's something that I'll listen to just relax; I think of me laying on my bed listening to music that's often slower and sadder. I don't know where it comes from.
PB: You're just a sensitive soul.
TS: Maybe I was hurt in a past life (laughs).
PB: I read that you used to perform Spice Girls songs for your family. What's your favourite Spice Girls song?
TS: You know...I don't actually remember because I was, like, four. I have the VHS of their movie and I have all of these fuzzy memories. I obviously know the famous Spice Girls songs, but I haven't gone back and listened to their discography.
PB: It's not massive there are only three albums.
TS: Oh, ok. I think I should go back. I want to re-watch the movie, as well.
PB: The movie is incredible. It's become a cult classic.
TS: Well, I was in love with it when I was four, so I'm sure that I'll love it again.
PB: I think you will. Thanks Troye. Goodbye.