Avril Lavigne On The 20 Years Behind Her Instant Pop-Punk Classic, ‘Love Sux’

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Twenty years ago, 16-year-old Avril Lavigne started working on songs for her first album, Let Go. With massive early hits like “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi,” Avril quickly became a force to be reckoned with in mainstream pop, bringing a pop-punk sound and skater influences into the spotlight with her — and becoming one of the first women to have worldwide success in the very male-dominated space. To this day, Let Go remains one of the best-selling albums by a Canadian artist, and has been certified seven times platinum (!). Following up her debut with 2004’s Under My Skin and 2007’s The Best Damn Thing — which spawned her first No. 1 hit, “Girlfriend” — by 21, Lavigne was a household name.

Though the impact of rock diminished considerably in the 2010s, Avril continued to release albums with Goodbye Lullaby in 2011, her self-titled, Avril Lavigne, in 2013, and the more emotional Head Above Water in 2019, which addressed the singer’s battle with Lyme disease. But over the course of the last few years, the ennui of the pandemic and a de facto “pop-punk revival” set the stage for Avril to come back in a big way. Signing with Travis Barker’s DTA Records, Avril burst back onto the scene at the end of last year with the classic alternative anthem “Bite Me,” a song more reminiscent of her debut album than anything in recent memory. In the video introducing the song, Avril and Travis lead a pack of axe-wielding men in tutus to help her take revenge on an unsavory ex. Whether you’ve recently been dumped or are just full of pent-up aggression due to the impact of the pandemic, this song sounds like the kiss-off we all needed.

Announcing her seventh album, Love Sux, at the top of 2022, Avril shared another early single, the Blackbear collaboration “Love It When You Hate Me,” and a tracklist that included other collaborators like Machine Gun Kelly and Mark Hoppus, along with a couple appearances from Barker himself. Even though she’s been in the game for two decades, Avril is still pushing herself to try new things, and when it feels right, go back to the old ones. Love Sux feels apiece with her sound on Let Go, even though it’s more polished and perhaps a bit more brash. It’s quite possibly the best album Avril has ever made, and she feels it too, along with a gratitude that even twenty years in, this is still what she gets to call her job. We talked about all of this and more in a recent phone interview prior to her album release, check out a condensed, edited version of our conversation below.

This is your seventh album, but it feels like a shift back toward the beginning of your career. How does it stand apart from your more recent work?

You know, I wrote my first album when I was 16, and I’d just left high school. I was writing from my perspective as a teenager, and now, 20 years later, I’m writing songs with more experience. I’ve lived a little, and gone through a lot, so I have a different perspective. I would just say that this album does reflect where I’m at. Basically, the album’s called Love Sux, and I went into it feeling exhausted and kind of jaded about love. I was over it, and wanted a little bit of a break and to focus on myself. That was the headspace I was in when I was writing, and “Love Sux” was one of the first songs I wrote for it… but that didn’t last very long.

Making this record was so much fun, I’m in a really great place, I’m in a happy place in my life. The album, even though it’s called Love Sux is tapping into relationships, and how crazy they are, and the ups and downs of love — all of the wild emotions and roller coaster rides that love can put us through. It’s done in almost a humorous way, the songwriting has a sense of humor to it. It’s light and funny, and even though the songs are talking about heavy stuff it’s done in a lighthearted way. It’s like a tongue-in-cheek way of venting.

People are definitely relating to the tongue-in-cheek frustration! There’s also so much excitement around this record, and pop-punk in general. As an early pioneer in that space at its peak, how do you feel about the sudden resurgence of everyone being into it?

For me and my music, I’ve always had a connection to pop-rock, pop-punk, rock and roll, and emo music. I’ve always had that element in my albums, and it’s always been with me — at all of my shows, all of my concerts. Music is cyclical, things are trendy, or played on the radio and then not — like it’s so wild that rock and roll would not get played on the radio? — but when I saw pop-punk finally being accepted, and being more mainstream again, I was like ‘F*ck yes b*tches, let’s go.’ Like with the Machine Gun Kelly and Travis’ album that Kells (MGK) is putting out (their joint album, Mainstream Sellout, is coming out in March), and I’m so stoked to see my friends doing so well in music, and the new generation discovering rock music. If you look at the success of the When We Were Young festival, it shows the appetite for this type of music is the strongest it’s ever been. I love that people identify with my music, and I love that it’s come back around. This is the music that I grew up listening to, and that helped shape me as an artist, so I’m really stoked to be a part of it.

What surprised you most about working with Travis Barker?

It’s just been really great to see him evolve. He’s so much more than a drummer. He has a great sense of production. He knows a lot about songwriting. He’s a businessman. He’s a studio wizard. Like, there’s so much more to him than being a drummer. He spends every waking moment — like, he’s always working, he’s always in the studio. He loves music, he’s so passionate about it, and really shows. I’m really enjoying working with him, because he’s also an artist, so he understands. He’s been around for a long time and doing his thing for a long time, and so have I, and so we can really relate to each other.

How did you select some of the guests and collaborators for this album?

It was pretty organic. Travis and I started talking. I linked up with Mod Sun, Mod introduced me to John Feldmann. We wrote tons of songs, I wrote songs with Travis, and then Kells (MGK) hit up Mod and he came into the studio with us. And then Mark came in the studio and we hit up Blackbear. It’s kind of just like everybody knows everybody. And it was just like, the guys wanted to be a part of the album. What’s cool is these are people that I’m a really big fan of — it’s like as close as I can get to feeling like I’m in a band. I’m loving it. This album just happened, and I was like ‘let’s rock out b*tches, no holding back.’ I was like ‘I want to make a pop-punk record, let’s f*cking go.’ I didn’t have a label at the time, I didn’t have managers. I’m like twenty years into my career and it’s like, I’m just doing this sh*t for me now, and I want to make the music I want to make. This is where my heart is, and what I’m feeling. I think it’s like my favorite record.

I’ve listened to all your records and it’s my favorite one. Can you talk a little bit about the timeline for when you were making it?

Right when the pandemic happened Travis and I started chatting. I started working on the record like November 2020, so I was working on it basically all of last year. I’d actually done the record, and I was like ‘oh sh*t, now I’ve got to get everything together on the business end. In the studio, I wore a mask the whole time and was being very careful. I had a Zoom session with Mark, and then Bear recorded in his studio and sent over his parts. It was crazy, even though we worked on Zoom with Mark Hoppus, I was like ‘damn, this guy is so talented.’ He was like recording himself, engineering himself, and writing. He was so fast with lyrics and melodies. Obviously, I love their songs, and knew that he was a good songwriter and singer, but to get to see him work in real time, I was really blown away by his talent. I listened to their music when I was younger, so it’s kind of come full circle.

Can you talk about the impact of “Sk8er Boi” on your career? I know there’s a film in the works, and that song’s staying power is pretty incredible, like realizing it’s 20 years old and still has the impact it does.

I love how much people still really bring that song up. I love how warmly everybody still feels toward it. It’s a really special thing, and unique, to have a song that really stands out. I have a lot of big songs, but that one, everyone seems to resonate with. It’s taken on… it’s insane to see a whole new generation discovering music of mine twenty years later. It’s pretty unbelievable. But the song is going to take a new life of its own as I turn it into a film, I’m in the process of doing that now. I have a writer and a director at the moment, and I’m producing it and assembling a team right now.

Since Let Go came out in 2022, the album and “Sk8er Boi” are turning 20 this year. How are you feeling about that anniversary?

It feels crazy. 20 years! It does and it doesn’t feel like it… it kinda flew by, right? I’m really excited to be celebrating it this year. I’m getting a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame around the anniversary. I’m planning on doing some fun shows that are just songs from that album. There’s a re-release of the album happening with some demos on it. It’s so crazy that it’s been 20 years.

Going back to Love Sux, what’s your favorite deep cut from the album fans should look out for?

My favorite is “Love Sux!” Because it was the headspace I was in, and I think a lot of the songs are in that vein basically. It reminds me of “Girlfriend” a little bit, the songwriting style, and “Girlfriend” is one of my favorites. It’s very much a nursery rhyme chorus.

Anything else you want to add that I didn’t ask you about?

I’m just really grateful toward my fanbase. They’re just so loving and supportive and passionate, 20 years in. They’re so amazing, so present and there. I feel like owe it all to them, and I’m still here today because of them. I’m really grateful to be here, 20 years later, still making music. I’m really having so much fun. Something I’ve learned about myself is music is very natural for me. I started writing poems when I was little, and songs when I was like 13, 14, and I’ve been onstage since I was 5. And this far into my life, I’m here because I want to be here, and I’m having fun. And it’s nice to be at that point, too. I’m just really thankful and grateful to be here.

Avril Lavigne is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.