Poppy is nothing if not an enigma. The artist born Moriah Rose Pereira has built a career on confusing critics and fans alike by making 180 turns just when people start to think that they’re beginning to figure her out. And let’s be perfectly honest — that’s a thrilling trait for a singer, songwriter, model, actress, YouTuber, and religious leader (we’ll get to that last title in a minute).
That said, her timeline hasn’t been without its controversies. She’s been accused of ripping off the career of fellow YouTuber Mars Argo; in fact, Argo sued Poppy and issued a restraining order to her ex and former creative partner Titanic Sinclair. Sinclair helped launch Poppy, and Argo alleges that he essentially created a knock-off Mars Argo. Watch the YouTube videos with their robotic oddities, and there are undeniable similarities.
Sinclair must have known what he was doing. Poppy we can be less sure about, and we were warned before interviewing her that she wouldn’t be answering questions about him. Poppy was back in the news in 2018 when she had a bit of a social media spat with Grimes. The Canadian artist and producer collaborated with Poppy on the song “Play Destroy” but wasn’t particularly happy with the way the whole experience went down — Poppy released the tune anyway and bad feelings were made public.
So right up to now, it’s been difficult to know what to make of Poppy. The image, still fueled by YouTube vids, is clearly designed to disarm. It’s all wonderfully, disturbingly odd. The fact that it proved to be not entirely original was upsetting, but now Poppy appears to be distancing herself from the Titanic Sinclair period and doing something else entirely. Something more… metallic.
Recent music videos, specifically “X” from the Am I a Girl album, have seen Poppy drenched in blood, fronting a Slipknot-esque, mask-wearing metal band, and laying down some crunchy grooves. “Bloodmoney” from the new album has an industrial vibe. It’s a relief to report that she’s still an enigma, she’s still doing what she wants, and, while her influences can be pointed to without much effort, she’s still interesting.
As we go to press, her latest album I Disagree has just been released on metal label Sumerian Records. She says that the work has seen her necessarily evolve.
“I got to have a say in the entire process, and I got to make exactly the album that I set out to make,” Poppy says. “I have some of the most personal lyrics on there that I’ve ever had on any of my work. A lot of angst — that’s the word I’d use.”
It’s interesting that she stresses she’s had more of a say in the creative process this time around, alluding to the fact that, on previous albums, she was afforded less control.
“I did collaborate with other people on this album, but more of a say in the sense that I’ve got to make the final reflections of the songs,” she says. “On previous labels, I had to entertain some of their ideas. This time, they heard it as a whole and they loved it, so I’m excited to give it to the world.”
Those metal and industrial elements are at the forefront, unsurprising considering her home at Sumerian, though she stops short of referring to herself as a “metal” artist.
“I’m calling it post-genre,” she says. “I leave it open to the listener to interpret and see what they say.”
The compelling visuals have remained consistent. Throughout all of the stylistic shifts and legal bullshit, Poppy has been an artist that you just can’t stop watching. She doesn’t know the secret to getting those YouTube hits, but she does concede that her videos have more of a cinematic approach than the typical YouTube video upload.
“It’s been about six years from the beginning, from when I first became visible in some capacity on the internet,” she says. “I think it’s my job to evolve and change, and that’s where I’m at right now. At the beginning, the art that I was making, I might not have been the most certain of it. The thing that’s changed is my certainty in myself and what I create.”
Another major influence on the artist has been her location; Poppy relocated from Nashville to Los Angeles about six years ago, just before she started to get noticed.
“Your influences change and evolve, and your surroundings definitely play a part in what you create,” she says. “I guess I feel like I’m in the center of something that’s happening. I don’t know exactly what it is but things are easy to access. If I want to go and record, I can step outside and do that… I would move to Tokyo if I could, but I like L.A. at the current time.”
Yeah, we can imagine that she’d fit in just fine in Tokyo. For now, the City of Angels certainly agrees with her. Poppy has legions of devoted fans that will step up and defend her in a second when things seem to be heating up on social media. That’s where that “religious leader” title comes from.
“My fans call me their cult leader so I decided to take the position,” she says. “I just allow them to worship.”
San Francisco-based fans will be “allowed” to worship Poppy this week, when she gets to town. Shows in this city, she says, are always wonderful and she’s delighted to start the I Disagree tour off here. She’ll be performing the new album in its entirety, and a whole lot more tunes besides. And after that?
“More touring everywhere, and a movie, and I’d like to get a dog.”
Poppy with Vowwsat 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at Slim’s.