Within the past 12 months Ella Yelich-O’Connor has watched her debut single reach No. 1, her debut album go platinum in the States and her native of New Zealand. She has sang a Nirvana song with surviving members of the band and watched Bruce Springsteen cover her biggest hit. But despite this mercurial rise in popularity, the 17-year-old who calls herself Lorde promises she hasn’t caved into the indulgences she criticized in “Royals,” the song that first put her on the map at this time last year. At least not all of them.
What’s the most hypocritical thing you’ve done with your fame? The first line you sing in “Royals” is “I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh,” but surely you have by now.
Well I have, because my mom got engaged to my dad, so I’ve seen one of those now! That’s a real thing! She had never had a diamond ring before, so that line was for real! But to be honest, I try to live as normally and simply as I can, because it’s still kind of weird to me all the extravagance you see in this business. I don’t really buy anything. I still think $100 is a lot of money, because it is a lot of money! It seems kind of crazy to just change your standards and your minimums and maximums just because you have more of stuff. I don’t know. I try not to think about money and stuff like that. I mean, I bought myself a bid, which was pretty great.
You bought a what?
Oh, sorry, with your accent I thought you said “a bid.” Do you ever have time to sleep in this new bed?
Yeah, I do. I’ve probably slept in it like 100 times.
So you haven’t trashed a hotel room yet? No Grey Goose or trippin’ in the bathroom?
Not only do I not trash hotel rooms, but I actually try to clean them before I leave. Because I’m like, “Nobody should have to clean up my mess!” so I try to do it a little bit.
Out of all of the experiences you’ve been a part of in the past year, what stands out the most?
People always ask me that, and I often struggle to find something because when you are in these crazy situations every day, you just have to find a way to make them normal, because if you don’t, you’re just going to go insane. But to me awards shows are always crazy, like just being at the VMAs the other night. That to me was very much like “What am I doing here? How come I am allowed access to this room?”
Well, let’s talk about some of what I see as things that could be perceived as highlights. Performing with the surviving members of Nirvana must have been up there.
Oh yeah, for sure! That all happened really fast. I mean, so fast that I didn’t even have time to be like, “What am I doing here with St. Vincent, Joan Jett and Kim Gordon?” It was so amazing, but I’m so thankful that I did it and I was so lucky that they thought of me. Obviously, Kurt was a big influence on everyone who is modern in music. It was so important, but I didn’t even realize that until it was over.
How about Springsteen covering you?
That was like the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me! [Laughs.] Now you’re bringing up all of these things and I’m realizing that these were really big deals. I maybe cried and got super emotional. I was like, “It’s all coming full-circle!”
There’s a line in your more recent single, “Tennis Court” where you say “Everything’s cool when we’re all in line for the throne, but I know it’s not forever.” Are you talking about fleeting fame there?
That line was more in reference to knowing that what I had with my friends and that what we had in our hometown that felt like this kind of sanctuary to us wasn’t going to last. But it totally applies to fame as well. The thing that I try to remember about all of this is — I don’t quite know how to say this — it’s really clear when you’ve gone from being someone that people just like a normal amount to being someone that people really really really really really like, and make an effort to like, you can see the difference, and you can tell, and it smells funny. I have a pretty good gauge on what is real and if people are treating me in a real way. And you know, one day I’m going to make a really bad record and no one’s going to like it! [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] I can’t tell if that’s a threat or a promise, but tell me what people can expect for a followup to “Pure Heroine.” You’ve said that it’s going to be pretty different, but how is that coming along and what can people expect?
To be honest, it’s very new. It’s so new that I can hardly put it into words. Like I really haven’t been in the studio, working on it or anything. I’ve been sort of busy touring and doing the “Hunger Games” soundtrack and everything. So that’s kind of on the back burner right now. But as a creative, I’m going to get bored if I do the same thing twice, so it’s like me feeling scared while I’m doing it, but in a good way not knowing if it’s going to fly. That’s when I have the most fun, creatively.
This weekend Lorde plays the Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philly on Friday and is off to Boston on Saturday to play a headlining slot at the Boston Calling festival.
“Boston Calling is one I’m actually really excited for,” she says, “because all of the other artists are so cool. I think Volcano Choir is playing, Childish Gambino is playing, Sky Ferreira is playing!”
All of those acts are on the same day as Lorde’s performance. Unfortunately she won’t be around the next night to witness The Replacements’ first Boston performance since 1991, five years before Lorde was born, by the way.
“I love The Replacements,” she says.
She coversthe band’s 1985 song, “Swingin’ Party” live and it was on her debut EP, “The Love Club EP.”
“It felt so distinctly teenage, in a voice that sounds like something that I would write or wish in my wildest dreams to write.”