Though she’s not a sanguinarian, Cali newcomer Bloodboy (Lexie Papilion) has a bloodthirsty conviction for reforming pop music. Her debut single, “Human Female,” dropped a little over a week ago, and has since garnered more than 32k Soundcloud listens, purveying an electro-pop, post-punk sound, produced by Justin L. Raisen (Charli XCX, Sky Ferreira, Ariel Pink). “Hide until you feel the way that you felt when you could taste the night and someone else’s lines,” she sings, as Raisen’s big-bodied sound dramatically surges beneath.
The “Human Female” music video, directed by Millicent Hailes, features Papilion in a sterile, monochromatic environment, donning a lineup of amazing southwestern-inspired looks, tinged with a mod, medical finish. Nonchalantly chain-smoking cigarettes, slicing a stark white birthday cake at her own party and lounging, while painted insects crawl across her face—it’s a strong debut from the up-and-coming artist, and one that gives weight to both style and substance.
Watch the BULLETT premiere of Bloodboy’s “Human Female,” below, and keep reading for an exclusive interview with one of the year’s most promising breakout acts.
You come from a conservative background. How has this affected the music you make today?
I was referring mainly to the town I grew up in, which is very religious and politically conservative. Most of my friends went to church every Sunday and bible study during the week. San Clemente masquerades itself as this ‘sleepy beach town,’ but in reality, it’s a town with a lot of money and it’s much less relaxed than it would seem. I don’t think that it’s affected the music I make, but it definitely affected my perception of whether or not it was a feasible career option in the beginning. I’m fortunate to have a very supportive family, so however ingrained in me San Clemente’s ideals were, my family was always very encouraging. They’re still not sold on me calling myself ‘Bloodboy,’ though.
I read that Bloodboy was created during a brainstorming session from an old music project. While you may have initially been drawn to it simply because of its polarizing appeal, how does the name encompass what you’re doing with this music project?
I’ve thought a lot about why I was drawn to the name Bloodboy on an emotional level, which I’ve concluded stems from wanting to be a doctor as a kid and never feeling an aversion to blood, as well as having spent most of my life behaving in a way that society has historically defined as ‘masculine.’ But to tie it into the actual project itself, my bassist and close friend once told me he defines the music as ‘subversive pop,’ which I’d like to think is an accurate tag. There are a lot of sonic elements that automatically stick me under the pop umbrella, but it’s a little rougher around the edges. I want the music to be melodic and catchy and fun to listen to, but I also want it to be human. I’m drawn to distortion and minimally affected vocals and the type of lyrics that are going to stop and make someone think, ‘Did she actually say that?’ We live in a world with so many goddamn constructs, so I suppose I just wanted to abandon a lot of them with this project. In a crazy way, the name actually gave me the confidence to do that.
Photography: Neil Favila
Is Bloodboy different from Lexie Papilion?
I don’t think so. I’ve always been opposed to the idea of creating an ‘artistic identity’ because being a transparent person is something I take very seriously. I think that suppressing certain elements of ourselves as humans can be completely detrimental to our psychology. I want people to listen to the music and have a clear understanding of the person behind the music, not be left wondering whether or not the experiences I write about are pandering to the idea of some alter ego because it’s more ‘mysterious’ that way. I also think that creating an identity is a way for artists to keep their audiences at an arm’s length and that’s the last thing that I want to do.
What was the process like developing your sound?
The process was fucking terrible. For so long, there was a huge disconnect between the type of music that I loved listening to and wanted to create, and the type of music that I was actually writing. In my mind I was pigeon-holed into a certain style of music because of my voice. Growing up people were always telling me that my voice was ‘pretty’ and I equated that with being vanilla. I remember being so frustrated because I wanted a voice that was more fucked-up sounding, and it ultimately drove me to quit singing and pursue songwriting exclusively for the first year after I moved to LA. At the encouragement of some of the producers I was writing with, I started doing more singing again and eventually decided to give it shot. I spent the next couple of years writing and discarding, and when I finally took the pressure off myself to be writing in any particular fashion, I had a bit of a breakthrough. I began to feel like I could identify a real ‘voice’ that reflected some of my influences, while still remaining true to my innate style of writing.
How do you approach songwriting?
I’m addicted to novelty, so I find that I have to be out in the world engaging with new people, going to new places, deliberately putting myself in odd situations in order to find inspiration. Psychedelics are also an important part of the creative process for me. I don’t do it all the time anymore, but the way that my mind functions the day after taking acid with my best friend is probably my favorite creative mindset to be in. It’s like hitting a reset button and provides me with perspective on my life that it’s very likely I wouldn’t be able to tap into otherwise.
Photography: Neil Favila
What’s the story behind “Human Female?”
It came during a strange period in my life. I was having a really difficult time finding meaning in anything and I was isolating myself from my friends and family, constantly thinking about whether or not I was making the right decision by pursuing music. By that point, I’d spent almost a year writing, waiting for that lightbulb moment and I was starting to consider trying to find a ‘normal’ job. However, the idea of taking a conventional route gave me terrible anxiety. The song elaborates on the idea that taking a conventional route versus an unconventional route is a very conscious, very difficult decision for people who are inclined to desire the latter. The woman in the song feels she has reached a point in her life where she has to make that decision, but she has completely lost sight of herself. She romanticizes her life as a younger, less inhibited person and it becomes an obsession. She can’t identify anything about herself beyond her most basic label as a ‘human female.’
How do you feel the “Human Female” video complements the track?
When I took the initial treatment I wrote to [Millicent Hailes], she essentially said, ‘No fucking way can we pull this off unless we have a bajillion dollars.’ I was disappointed at first because I thought it was a cool concept, but she came back with this treatment and I thought it was brilliant. She wanted the opening scenes to have very clinical feel in order to convey the woman’s inability to find passion or meaning in anything, and having the bugs and random objects reinforced the mindlessness she was experiencing. I’m laying down with bugs crawling on my face as if I don’t even notice. What I really love, however, is that the video has a ‘happy ending’ that the song doesn’t have. The song doesn’t disclose whether the woman ever finds peace within herself, but I think that the video alludes to her finding it when the red shots come in. There’s a noticeable shift in my demeanor, almost as if I finally came alive.