Lorde: The Blackbird Spyplane Interview
GORPING OUT in ANTARCTICA, making NEW MUSIC & more — a BBSP NORTHERN-HEMISPHERIC EXCLUSIVE
Wild & unexpected things are always happening to us here at Blackbird Spyplane, to the point that we just treat them as normal — it’s “simply how life goes” in the Mach 3+ fast lane…
For instance? Back in August, we were KICKING BACK at H.Q., enjoying some unbeatable leisure time after a long day of hard recon. Out of nowhere, the SpyPhone buzzed with an encrypted text from someone I hadn’t spoken to in ages, but whose SLOW-BURNING SLEEPER GEM “Hard Feelings” I’ve kept in heavy rotation for years … that’s right…
Ella Yelich-O’Connor, a.k.a. Lorde:
Incredible: Turns out Ella had caught wind of Blackbird Spyplane, the no. 1 source across all media for “unbeatable recon” on dope under-the-radar joints — and, unsurprisingly, SHE F**KED WITH OUR VISION … BUT she didn’t initially realize yr boy was behind it… !?
I confirmed that I was indeed responsible for this rare & beautiful newsletter, along with eagle-eyed BBSP copilot Erin. And because the search for intel never stops I asked Ella what the f**k was popping in New Zealand & whether she was DOWN 2 tell us about a rare & cherished possession from The Lorde Vault…
Of course she was ON BOARD. So a few weeks back I called her in Auckland to chop it up about a trip she took to Antarctica (!), the EXTREME GORP she rocked there, and the new zine she’s publishing about it. We also talked about collecting loved ones’ hair and teeth and working on new music, ‘cause the ppl need 2 know !!
Blackbird Spyplane: Ella, first off, let’s GIVE THE D*MN FANS A TREAT— what are you telling ppl who wanna know when they’re going to hear new music from you?
Lorde: “I’m telling people that something is taking shape. More than ‘taking shape’ — something is — there’s a thing. But, you know, I really take my time, and I like to know the whole universe, the whole cinematic universe for what I’m making, so I’m in that process right now. I don’t know how much more I want to say. It’s such a kooky year in terms of knowing anything about timing, but I guess with me, as an artist generally, no one ever knows when anything’s coming anyway…”
Blackbird Spyplane: What’s it like in New Zealand right now? Word on the street is that u guys kind of ended Covid there…
Lorde: “Yeah, at this point the risk of transmission is very low, so no one’s wearing masks and people are going to stadiums to watch sports. It’s about to be summertime, so the vibes are good here. I was in New York last July, and the contrast is pretty dramatic.”
Blackbird Spyplane: So, u texted over 2 batches of cherished possessions … what’s batch #1?
Lorde: “Mementos from this trip I took to Antarctica. I went in February 2019 — what happened is, back when I was 16 I met the CEO of Antarctica New Zealand, and I’d see him around, and he’d always say, You have to come down. I’ve been obsessed with Antarctica since I was a kid, and I wanted to close that loop, but it was a time when everyone was trying to get me to do things, so I didn’t commit to it. Then by 2018 I was like, I just have to go there now — it was a time where a lot of people were thinking hard about the changes happening to our climate, and how their personal systems fit within that, so I decided it was time. I have a good Spidey sense for when something’s going to be a portal that I know I should go through…”
Blackbird Spyplane: These are patches u copped there?
Lorde: “Yeah, and I have a third one I need to dig up that was given to me by one of my pilots heading down, in exchange for singing a bit of ‘Royals’ for them all through the headphone mic. It’s weird, but there’s a gift shop in Antarctica where u can buy a patch — it’s cool to have things from a place I can never go again.”
Blackbird Spyplane: What was involved in getting there?
Lorde: “From Christchurch, it’s a 7-hour flight on an army plane. It’s weirdly not that far. I stayed there for just under a week, and I took a friend who’s a photographer, Harriet Were — we’re putting out a zine about it with her photos, and I wrote a big essay.
“We had to get so many shots first, a full array of medical exams — they don’t want anything to happen to you down there, because the resources are limited, so you have to be in peak physical condition. And I obviously got kitted out in the full GORP, as you would say. The gear was insane. You have all these layers and the outermost layer is called ECW gear, for extreme cold weather — this huge outer jacket, these crazy boots, waterproof pants — and when you fly down you have to wear your entire kit including the ECW, because if you crashed you’d have no chance of surviving in the water without it. So you’re on the plane in this huge bulky survival gear.”
“Once you’re there, you want to be just warm enough that you’re not cold but you never want to get hot enough that you sweat, because that’s body-temperature lowering.”
Blackbird Spyplane: What’s the base like?
Lorde: “We had the luxury treatment — a room to ourselves with a bathroom. Everyone there was like, ‘You’re in the penthouse.’ The U.S. base was really close to the New Zealand base, so they all work together and spend a lot of time together, but that base felt like a Russian oil town, or like a mining community, with these barracks and a little chapel and 1000 people in the high of summer. Whereas the New Zealand base peaks out at like 100 in the summer, and there might be as few as 10 people there in the winter, so it’s cozy and it feels like a research lab — it’s all connected, so once you’re inside the base you’re moving through these tunnel-like hallways and you can take your gear off.”
Blackbird Spyplane: These Kinco HeatKeep gloves are pretty hard…
Lorde: “I used these for sawing ice bricks. We did a night outdoors, learning how to light a fire and provide for yourself, and all this stuff might be common knowledge to people who grew up around snow, but I didn’t, so it was surreal to me. We drove out onto the Ross Ice Shelf, which is this enormous ice shelf the size of France, and it’s completely flat, it looks like a desert, and we had these very old canvas tents. So you pitch your tent and I got handed this big ice saw, and what you do is saw straight down, saw out these bricks, pop them out with a shovel, and you build a wall of ice bricks to shelter you from the wind, and you also build a little chair situation for yourself with the bricks, and you build a fire and cook these dehydrated meals.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Oh damn, this wasn’t Arctic cosplay !!
Lorde: “It was cosplay, relatively speaking, but yeah, we were out there the whole night, and it never gets dark — you just go to bed. And I learned that if you have to pee when you’re camping in Antarctica you have to put so many things on and then put a little funnel, like a She-wee, into a bottle, because you can’t leave it in the field, because it would be toxic. So you get out of the tent, put everything on — I’d give up that part if I could.”
Blackbird Spyplane: U call the experience ‘a portal’ — where did it take you?
Lorde: “I don’t know if I can tell you what it was a portal to yet. That will reveal itself. But I’d liken it to ppl that go on silent-meditation retreats, where you have this practice and want to apply it in the most pure and focused setting you can achieve. This was a way of doing that for me: I’ve been extremely preoccupied by the climate and environment, so to go someplace where all you’re thinking about all day is the climate and environment was clarifying, and also kind of mystifying at the same time.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Shifting gears, batch #2 of the pictures u texted was a variety of teeth and hair that you’ve saved…
Lorde: “Yeah this is a pivot, but I’ve been collecting my friend Tim’s hair since we were kids. It became a tradition, like, he once grew a ponytail and then cut it off and gave it to me as a gift. I’m holding it as we speak. And he’s given me a bunch more since then. I haven’t figured out what do do with it all yet but I think it needs to all go somewhere special.
“I think it’s cool that something like a bite-mark or hair can be a reminder of those who are not with us, or those whose memories we want to preserve. So I also held on to one of my dog’s baby teeth, and some of his hair that I snipped off when he died. His name was Pearl and he died when he was not quite 2, so it was a short time and it’s been a hard year for me dealing with that. But I’m so grateful to have had that time with him, and it’s kind of macabre, but I keep the tooth in this special place, under glass.”
Blackbird Spyplane: It’s interesting how hair and teeth r these fetish objects we fixate on intensely when they’re attached to bodies — and the moment they fall off of bodies we think they’re repulsive…
Lorde: “That point where they become gross for other people never kicked in for me. The Māori word for something being sacred is tapu, and to them the head is very tapu. That resonates with me — I think of the hair and the teeth as these sacred offerings we shed.
“So I’m super interested in things like Victorian mourning jewelry woven from the dead’s hair, or brooches that people wear that incorporate hair, or how sweethearts used to trade locks of hair when they were separated. I want to get some kind of garment or accessory made out of Tim’s hair, but I mentioned it to Jack Antonoff and he was like, ‘Uh, be careful, you don’t wanna scare some nice girl who makes clothes.’
“Also in the year since Pearl died, I’ve found all these things he bit, like these gold-ball Sophie Buhai earrings — one is perfectly spherical and the other is riddled with bite marks, and they’re so special to me.”
Blackbird Spyplane: He left you with the canine bust-down Buhai !
Lorde: “Yeah, and I also have a pair of sandals from the Row that Pearl bit at the heels — I love that they’re this collab between my chaotic dog and the Olsen twins.”
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