Our Conversation With Poppy: Musician, Religious Leader, And WWE NXT’s Next Breakout Star

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Earlier this month, WWE surprised a very specific and niche (but wonderful) corner of the Internet and youth culture when they announced one of the theme songs for the then-upcoming NXT TakeOver: Phoenix event would be ‘X’ by Poppy. Those of us in the know responded with giant exclamation points above our head. Those who didn’t asked, “what the hell is a Poppy?”

Poppy’s side of the announcement created further questions:

That’s what makes us such fans of the artist: all those further questions. For anyone in the know, Poppy is an ongoing art project that satirizes youth culture and multimedia online obsession by, uh, being an instantly likable and completely bizarre pop personality who makes legitimately great modern pop music. It’s a creative Ouroboros of sincerity that comes around and eats itself, but somehow maintains its integrity.

With ‘X,’ Poppy leaned into a heavier sound that made her WWE pay-per-view friendly. Somehow. What passing fans may not realize is that the Poppy empire leaking into sports-entertainment was almost an inevitability; she’s everywhere. She just released an album and is already prepping to release the next one. She’s an international face of Sanrio. She runs a church. She’s telling her origin story in a graphic novel. She’s got a movie playing Sundance. There’s just … so much going on.

We had a moment to talk to Poppy in real life, and here’s what we learned. Also, we may now be formally indoctrinated.

With Spandex: Your tour is starting, what, two days from now? [Ed. note: January 31, to be exact.]

Poppy: Yes, I’m in rehearsals right now in New York so if the phone drops out it’s because I’m in a big dark building.

For people who are just sort of discovering you — since I know you are out there in so many different ways now, graphic novel, music, videos, even connecting with pro wrestling — what can people who only sort of know you from your online presence expect from you in a concert? I’m actually bringing a guest [to the Detroit show on February 7] and they were like, “I have no idea what a Poppy concert would look like.”

They can expect total immersion. The full Poppy experience right before their eyes.

[Ed. note: I have “Salvation” tickets for that Detroit concert, so I asked her what that meant. “Well, first you’re going to walk into this booth, and you’re gonna confess your sins. Then I’m going to save you.” Sure!]

How do you feel micromanaging so many aspects to Poppy? I mean, you’ve got pop literature. You’ve got your music. You’ve got video. How do you keep it all together?

Well, I just think that it can be really easy to be boring, and I don’t want to be boring so I try to do as many things as I can at once.

What do you think is the most boring thing that a person can do?

Probably sing songs that they didn’t write.

That is pretty boring.

Yeah, very predictable.

You recently said in an interview that you believe pop music is “dead.” Musically you’re most known for making pop music, so how do you reconcile making music in a genre that you feel is dead?

[Ed. note: The quote, from her Breath Heavy interview: “I think pop music is dead right now, actually. It’s the most boring that it’s ever been. No one is taking chances. Everybody is saying the exact same thing that we already know, and I just pray that one day we can all be enlightened by some singer that will come along and give us some insight on the world. I feel like right now everybody that’s out is saying the exact same noise.”]

I just make music that makes me feel good and makes my friends excited, so everything outside of that I try not to pay attention to. I do believe Pop music is dead though. I do find it very interesting that that quote got a lot of retweets on pop culture Twitter accounts. I think it’s funny.

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I know one of the things that I’ve seen you mention before is when you’re interviewed, people always try to dig in deep and uncover more about you as a person. They want to know histories and stories. I know that you value taking art at face value, is that correct?

I think I would say that, yes. I think that the art that I create is what I want people to experience and when they think of Poppy I want them to think of happy and cute, and I want them to really dive into the experience that is Poppy in the world that I’ve created because it’s not one dimensional. It’s multi-dimensional. I think as an artist the more that you expand, people want to understand your thought process and why you’re doing certain things, but I think I’d like to tell that story later on.

Do you like understanding the motivations of artists that you like, what they were thinking when they created something or do you believe in more of sort of a “death of the author” situation where the music means something to you because it simply means something to you?

A little bit of both. I think the artist that I’m most drawn to I like to digest their whole catalog of music and videos and films and books. I try to put myself in their position mentally to see what they could have been thinking, but I don’t try to find out where their family is or what their upbringing was to find out more. That’s boring. I want to know what their art is and what experiences that stems from.

When did you realize that you had a true understanding of the art that you wanted to make?

When I met [collaborator] Titanic Sinclair. I think we are on a very similar path and similar wavelength and when we met everything kind of started to make sense and a lot of our influences were the same and we had a lot of inspiration come from the same places I’d say.

Poppy

So what are we gonna learn about you in your graphic novel? I love that you have a graphic novel.

Oh, thank you. Well, you’re gonna learn the Genesis with Poppy and a little information about what happens behind the scenes that you might not know about yet. I think it’s very important that it’s told. This, of course, is just Genesis 1. There will be more.

Is the next one Genesis 2, or are you moving on to Exodus?

I’m not sure yet.

So tell me about your film that’s premiering at Sundance.

Oh, the Jester’s Tale?

Yeah. You get to play a rat queen you said? What is a rat queen?

Without giving away too much I got to be recorded in a really big studio with hundreds of cameras recording every move that I make and every sound that I make. I got to tell the story of the rat queen. She’s very upset because of how she’s treated and how rats are experimented on and how they’re not really thought to be very intelligent creatures, but they actually are. They’re very smart and my character has a lot to say about it.

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As a guy who mostly writes about pro wrestling, I guess the most crucial thing I want to ask you about that is, I’ve read that you and WWE got together because you like wrestling and Triple H retweeted you, but what was the actual connection that was made? Did you reach out to them? Did they reach out to you? What happened there? ‘Cause it’s such an unusual but a wonderful fit.

I know, I’m so glad that it happened. I think it was meant to be. Well, what happened was WWE heard my song ‘X’ and they asked if they could use it, and I was extremely surprised because I’ve been a fan of WWE for a long time and I said, “Of course, you can use it.” Then I showed them that I have Triple H stickers on my guitar. Triple H retweeted that and everybody seemed to be really excited about it and now I hope that I get invited to perform some of my new songs.

I was wondering why you weren’t on the actual show. Were you ever invited or was that ever a discussion or were you busy? I know you were in Paris recently, right?

I was invited and I was really upset that I couldn’t make it. I didn’t make it back in time.

Oh, no.

Yeah. I was flying back to be there specifically for the event and then I got sick. It was really sad. But now I think that I need to be a performer now. Maybe that was meant to happen and I need to make an appearance.

That would be the greatest thing in the world. I think maybe … my theory when ‘X’ got used for Takeover was that Triple H’s daughters were really into Poppy.

Aww, that’s awesome. I know I was supposed to … I really wish I could have been there, but next time.

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Another wrestling question for you. I read in another interview that your favorite wrestler is Ken Shamrock?

Yeah!

Please tell me more about that. I want to know how Poppy feels about Ken Shamrock, in detail.

Well, first I was really drawn to his outfits, but he’s actually very talented and he’s gone on to actually have a career, and I don’t really know how active he is in current time. But I am a fan. I used to own a Ken Shamrock doll actually. It was a gift. I only had Ken Shamrock, nobody else.

You didn’t have anyone for him to fight?

No, just that and then my friend had the WWE wrestling ring, but I only had Ken Shamrock.

Oh, okay. Did Shamrock ever make like visits over to compete in that ring?

No, he was more of a loner.

To answer your question, though, actually, on the first of February in Atlanta Ken Shamrock is wrestling on Super Bowl weekend.

[distressed] I’m gonna be on tour.

What made you put Triple H stickers and Sanrio stickers on the same guitar?

Wrestling and Sanrio actually go hand in hand.

[delighted] Please explain.

Well, it’s a very good representation of who Poppy is I think. That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

I love that because it’s almost my brand. I’ve got a Tuxedo Sam stuffed animal sitting about a foot to my right, and I write about wrestling for a living so …

Oh, my goodness. Yeah, and then there are also a couple other stickers. I think there’s Pokemon on there and Poppy stickers, of course. And some candy. A guitar is a work of art.

I saw you tweet about “vertical planking” during TakeOver.

Yes, vertical planking. I think Aleister [Black] probably hurt his neck a little bit. They probably hurt him a little. I was told that I should investigate into Velveteen Dream a little bit more.

You two are essentially the same person. The videos are basically Poppy videos already.

That’s what I’ve been told. Yeah, so I really hope that I can attend an event and hang out with him.

There’s nothing I want to do more than introduce you to the Velveteen Dream now. Basically Velveteen Dream is Poppy if Poppy was an enormous black man with a black background instead of white who can control colors by snapping and raising his arms.

Oh, that sounds like we should be friends.

He’s wonderful. He’s sort of the musician Prince if he was a pro wrestler, so he’s kind of pansexual and he’s very like … He plays a lot of mind games but he’s also incredibly popular, which is great, and he’s only 23 years old. Total prodigy.

Maybe we can facilitate a Poppy video.

Poppy’s ‘Am I A Girl?’ tour begins tomorrow night in New York City and criss-crosses throughout North American for the rest of February. If she’s stopping anywhere near you, consider dropping in, sharing Ken Shamrock stories, and finding yourself a little salvation. And make sure to join us here over the next couple of months as we try to figure out how to get Velveteen Dream and Poppy in the same room ahead of WrestleMania.

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