Poppy was driving when her manager texted her the news: She had been nominated for a 2021 Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Her first thought? "Don't crash," she recalls a little over a week later on a sunny December day in Los Angeles.
The nod — for "BLOODMONEY," a gnarly, industrial-strength stomper off Poppy's 2020 album, I Disagree — makes her the first female solo artist to ever be nominated in the category. It's the latest milestone in what has been an extremely eventful year for the singer and internet provocateur, who has amassed over half a billion views on YouTube and a devoted legion of fans she's affectionately dubbed "Poppy Seeds." Her big year kicked off with the January release of I Disagree, a head-spinning mashup of crunching post-nu-metal and tooth-aching bubblegum pop. She promptly hit the road in support, only to have the headlining tour cut short as COVID-19 gripped the world. Then in July, she got engaged to her boyfriend (and fellow Revolver cover star) Eric Ghoste, a.k.a. Ghostemane. Four months later came the Best Metal Performance nomination, timed coincidentally just as she was releasing a decidedly un-metal holiday EP, A Very Poppy Christmas, just the latest example of her shape-shifting, unpindownable vision. She's also been directing music video for herself and Ghostemane, including the latter's Silent Hill-esque clip for "Hydrochloride," released in November.
Tomorrow, Poppy and Ghoste will move from the City of Angels to their new home in New England, but today, she's talking to Rizz, the singer of L.A.-based/Australia-bred "death-pop" duo VOWWS, who were opening for Poppy on the I Disagree trek before COVID crashed the party.
"On the tour, the last song that I played [was] called 'Don't Go Outside,' before the encore," Poppy recalls. "Before I would perform that song, just about every night, I would say that the song was dedicated to coronavirus. And I think actually, I summoned something in the universe."
"Holy shit," Rizz interjects in her beguiling Aussie accent.
"And we're all suffering because of it."
"The power of Poppy," Rizz muses.
RIZZ First things first, congratulations on your fucking Grammy nomination.
POPPY Thank you. Crazy.
RIZZ ... for Best Metal Performance for "BLOODMONEY," and first solo female ever to be nominated since [the category's] inception. Is that correct?
POPPY That's what I'm told. That is wild to me, but very exciting. To be nominated is so cool, because it's one of those things that you think about — or at least I would think about from time to time — and then push out of my head, like, "No, that'll never happen. That's not what it's about anyways. It's about just making art. But it would be cool if that did happen. But then I don't really care." And then it happens, and you're like, "OK, I guess it's pretty cool."
RIZZ And you're like, "Yeah, this rules." ... How does it feel to make history, though, dude? This isn't just, "Oh, I got a Grammy nom." It's, "Forever, you're going to be the first female …" You should get your business card and get "Grammy-nominated artist ... forever."
POPPY I think metal as a category ... It's such a genre that's dominated by men across the board, and it's a very known thing that it's dominated by men. And I think it's time for a bit of a mix-up, and if I can help push that forward, I'm up for the challenge.
RIZZ You absolutely have and it's really empowering. And "BLOODMONEY" is from your last album, I Disagree, which, in my opinion, it's your best work to date. It's raw, it's dangerous, it's confident, it doesn't hold back ... What's "BLOODMONEY" about?
POPPY It's about two things, mainly. But they do intersect, and it was written during a very frustrating period with my old team of management and record label.
RIZZ We'll just call them ding-dongs.
POPPY Ding-dongs. Very much frustrated with the ding-dongs, and I also was very frustrated with how much they were contradicting themselves all of the time, being hypocritical. And some of them would use religion as a way to go home to the family and pretend that everything's OK. Meanwhile in their job, they're sucking the artist dry, and the artist is unable to survive, and they're OK with it. How do they sleep at night?
RIZZ Totally. It's hypocritical.
POPPY That was it. That was "BLOODMONEY," how it came out.
RIZZ So you were going through a difficult time in your life, some gnarly shit when you were making that album. How did you go about making such a killer, successful album while going through such difficult shit?
POPPY Music has always been, for me, just a way to put down what's spinning around in my head, and to make it a little bit clearer for me to be able to sleep at night. Once I get all these things on paper or in the form of a song, things start to make more sense. And during the period of writing the album, it was a very serious crossroads in my career and in my personal life, my personal relationships. And everything all at once started to unravel, and when I started to identify the slow unravel, it started to actually speed up and become even more apparent. And it was this blinking red light of "Danger, danger, get out now." Figure out how to get out of this, because this is not 1) how it's supposed to be, and 2) how you should be living. And I was really stressed out, and I actually lost a bunch of weight because I was so scared and nervous and wasn't taking care of myself. And I needed to just remove myself from that situation. And then change teams and met some new friends that crossed my path and just kind of gave me the space to make decisions on my own and for myself, and I felt like I could take a deep breath at that point.
RIZZ I love that at the same time that "BLOODMONEY" — which is such a dark and unsettling track — gets nominated for a Grammy, you also have a sweet and sentimental Christmas EP out, which just further illustrates that as much as people try to put you in a box, they just fucking can't.
POPPY I love that.
RIZZ Right? Does it bother you when dorky purists war amongst themselves about what genre you fit into, or whether you're metal or pop? Or do you just fucking ignore that shit?
POPPY I ignore it, but when it catches my eye from time to time ... We're artists. We put things out online, we say we don't read comments, and we don't for the most part. But certain things you'll see, and when I do see those certain ones, certain comments or whatever, I'm like, "Ah, yes, I love it." I love that what I'm doing is causing you to feel whatever emotion in such an extreme fashion, whether it's good or bad. If you hate me, I love it just as much as the people that love me. It's just a different part of my being, my soul. But if I can cause you to feel such an extreme emotion, I'm OK with it.
RIZZ You're doing something right. My favorite artists, some people hate and others love. And everyone's not going to love you — that's just the way the world goes. But you just can't be put in a box, and you're always going to change it up. And I think people should just get used to that, especially since it's fucking 2020. The internet changed everything, and people have access to all kinds of culture now, and they can do whatever they want, so ...
POPPY Yeah, and you have the ability to identify with or go after whatever it is you want, and access to anything. Why would you pick just one? Why would you pick just one lane? Why would you commit to a genre, a category for the rest of your life?
RIZZ Oh my God. Fucking amen. Those people that are purists and they're like ... Anyway, whatever. I'm not going to shit-talk. That'll be when the mic goes off.
POPPY Is it shit-talking, or is it honesty?
RIZZ Well, if you name names, it's shit-talking. I like to name names, so ...
POPPY [Laughs] Oh boy.
RIZZ I'm naming names! No. So going back to fucking February 2020, we were about to do the tour ... And then COVID shat on everyone's life ... What did you do in those first few weeks, going from literally, all day, every day, to suddenly nothing?
POPPY My truthful answer is that I cried for the first three weeks, and then I also would drink wine every night to go to sleep.
RIZZ Awww, I think it's cute. You cried and drank wine? That's so cute. I didn't. I cried and ate Postmates.
POPPY Uggg. What was the most insane thing that you've gotten delivered just during this period of time?
RIZZ I mean, it's not really insane, just super lazy. I just wanted candy and cigarettes and shit from 7-Eleven, so I just got $30 worth of candy and cigarettes and water.
POPPY Oh, I like that.
RIZZ Did you learn any strange new skills?
POPPY I learned how to ride a motorcycle and make kombucha.
RIZZ Whoa. How do you make kombucha, just real quick, for all of us?
POPPY It's just a pretty slow process. It's really easy. You just got to let it sit in complete stillness for a couple of weeks.
RIZZ Oh, that sounds familiar.
RIZZ Sounds like our lives. Just being like the kombucha. [Both laugh hysterically] Just ferment and get fucking bubbly and gross.
POPPY Yeah, exactly. Just sit in stillness.
RIZZ Just fucking sitting still. It's meditative, man. Be like kombucha. But I imagine you've also been working on new music, as well, during this apocalypse?
POPPY Oh yeah. I finished an album, and I have a lot of music that has been occupying my time. That actually is how I've been staying sane entirely, and also reading books, because I just can't do anything else. Also, oh, I've been weightlifting.
RIZZ That's amazing. Are you getting cut?
POPPY I'm trying to get cut.
RIZZ Fuck yeah.
POPPY I just want to be able to pick up Eric and throw him.
RIZZ [Laughs] I'm sure he'd love that.
POPPY For fun, out of love, of course.
RIZZ For fun, for fun! You've also been directing music videos. You did two videos for your own material, I believe, and you did two for Ghostemane, as well? "Lazaretto" and "Hydrochloride"?
POPPY Yeah, those two, we shot in Prague during all of this. And going to Prague in the middle of a pandemic was quite a unique experience.
POPPY It was empty ... No one was around. I took a lot of photos because I was like, "Next time I visit here, it will not be like this in the slightest."
RIZZ Were you nervous stepping into the director's role, or did it come naturally?
POPPY I'd say it came naturally. I've been on so many sets thus far in my life, so I felt that it was what to do. And it was just unique in the sense that it was for somebody else's project. But I look forward to working more on that side of the camera.
RIZZ Have you ever considered, or have you ever done, acting or theater, anything like that?
POPPY When I was really young, I did theater, just locally. But I danced for 11 years, all different kinds of dance. Yeah, that was my thing.
RIZZ That's great, I love it. Because you're a natural mover. I remember onstage at night, you were just really in tune with the music and with the band and every-thing. I remember actually saying to you on tour that you remind me of a young Winona Ryder.
POPPY Oh, I love her.
RIZZ And I think that there should be an Edward Scissorhands sequel starring you and Eric.
POPPY Put it out there. Put it out there into the universe.
RIZZ Directed by who?
POPPY Um, directed by me.
RIZZ Yes. I was going to say Pauly Shore.
POPPY Oh, Pauly Shore. Or directed by Michel Gondry.
RIZZ Or Meat Loaf. No, I think your answers are better. … How was it working with Eric?
POPPY He let me do my thing. He definitely trusted the vision, and giving him all of the inspiration and examples that we were going for, he definitely let me just run with it. He's so funny. On set, it was just really funny because I was in very straight business mode. But he was being a goof, so it was good.
RIZZ That's awesome. And for all the nihilists out there who don't believe in anything, how does it feel to be in love and to find a partner?
POPPY That is quite a magical thing, honestly.
RIZZ You seem really happy.
POPPY I'm pretty happy, you could say that. It's great, honestly. I'm trying to play coy right now, but I'm definitely cheesing.
RIZZ You're going ... [squealing] on the inside.
POPPY No, it's awesome. We love each other, and it's rare to find somebody that can meet you on that level and understands your work and traveling when you can travel and the flow of the work, and the ups and downs, and the deep, dark pits of hell, and then the highest highs. It's hard to find somebody that isn't familiar with that kind of a job, and explain to them, "I hate myself today. It's the darkest day ever. Why did I even wake up out of bed? Everything sucks." And then two hours later, you're like, "This is the best day ever!"
RIZZ So somebody that understands the highs and lows in this sort of industry — they're just more extreme, it's more extreme. You're being pushed and pulled. Even when you're in charge of everything, you've got commitments, you've got to go places, you've got to wear different hats all the time. But it sounds like you guys are holding hands through all of it and are there for each other.
POPPY Yeah, and it's important to prioritize time with each other, as well, away from working and away from everything, and just to be friends. It's very important.
RIZZ It is. Just be friends because you're friends, and you choose each other just because you like each other, no other reason. Would you guys collab on music together? Is that something you've talked about?
POPPY We've made a lot of stuff together. We haven't released anything yet, obviously, but I would like to. There's a lot of things that we have in the works. We've pretty much collaborated in many different ways except for musically on our main projects. Directing videos, and he worked on a noise track on my noise album for my graphic novel and all of that.
RIZZ Poppy's Inferno?
POPPY Yeah ... And he also produced a couple of the songs for the Christmas EP.
RIZZ What are some things that you've got coming up that you're excited about, personally or professionally? Obviously, the Grammy nom is a really fucking nice way to tie up this year and sort of float into the next year. Are you guns-blazing?
POPPY I'm excited to release the new music that I've been working on. It's more personal to the story of what I was living for a period of a year and a half, two years. Written, a lot of it, in real time …
RIZZ Sounds like it's really cathartic for you and whatever you're going through — it's like you've tapped into something, from the last album on.
POPPY Absolutely … It was the first time I got to be truthful with myself and write it from my personal experiences, and now just pushing that forward.
RIZZ That's pretty exciting. I think you're going to keep people guessing, and always changing it up and just doing whatever you feel like, which is super empowering for your fans, too. Because they've sort of been with you through this whole journey.
POPPY I hope that it's empowering for other artists, too, to not feel like they need to force themselves into a box, and know that if you wake up one day and you're like, "Oh, I want to try this out," you can see it through and release it, and it doesn't need to be jammed inside of a box or killed because you have some preconceived thing of trying to fit a certain mold that you might have made for yourself. Just keep breaking the mold every time, and you're the one that gets to choose whether you are in the box or not.
RIZZ Totally. I guess it comes down to confidence, too. Confidence and listening to your intuition. And you sound really confident. I think it's translating because you're making good decisions, and guess what? The last album? That came from your heart, has been your most successful. So you're doing something right.
POPPY [in a Southern accent] Thanks, ma'am. Yeah, I just keep on going.
RIZZ [in a Southern accent] Keep on trucking.
POPPY Every day, keep on trucking. Make something new every day.
RIZZ What's the biggest lesson you've learned over the last couple of years? Because that was a turbulent time. Or the best piece of advice you've been given.
POPPY The biggest lesson I've learned is that you just got to chip away at it. It takes time to get to wherever you want to go, and if it doesn't take time, you might need to start being concerned. ... Sometimes, things are easy when it comes to the creative process. But if any goal is right there in front of you, it might not be a good goal. Or you need to dream bigger.
RIZZ Yeah, or that it's too good to be true if it's just so easily given to you.
POPPY And also, being patient but actively working every day is important. That's what I try to remind myself.
RIZZ That is very sound advice.
POPPY It'll come to you if you're working at it every day.
RIZZ Absolutely, right? It's long game. So you sort of do your thing regardless of the end result, and sort of be proud of the things you're doing and own it.
POPPY Anybody that hits big the first go-round is somebody that needs to be scared, I think.
RIZZ Dude, like Britney Spears?
POPPY Britney. Free Britney.
RIZZ That's someone that had huge success very, very quickly. And I've heard that sometimes, people say that when that happens, you can sort of get stuck in that age and be infantilized. [In contrast] it's like you've just sort of broken out into mainstream, but you've been doing this a while. It's not your first rodeo.
POPPY Yeah, just make stuff every day. And also, be open to experiment and new experiences. And be ready to learn. And never walk into a room thinking you know everything.
RIZZ Amazing. That's very true. Ego, right?
POPPY Ego, yeah. You could have the most talent in the world and be a shitty person, and nobody will want to touch you with a 9,000-foot stick.
RIZZ [Laughs] That's fucking true, man. I'm sure you've been here before, as well, where there's "amazing opportunities," quote-unquote, to do stuff with really sort of famous people, but they're just jerks. And you're like, "Mmm, I might just skip this."
POPPY I'm very sensitive, too, to the vibe in a room, or in a scenario, in an equation, whatever you may call it. And if I feel uncomfortable by somebody else's energy, I will remove myself promptly from the situation.
RIZZ That's really good advice, I think, because you're listening to your intuition. It's often smarter than your brain, right? Because you know how your brain can sort of project all different sorts of fears or expectations, but your intuition will just be like, "Go. You need to go."
POPPY Yeah. You have to listen to that. Sometimes that's all you have. You've got to listen to yourself.