INTERVIEW: Kim Petras

Kim Petras is a superstar in full bloom. From introducing herself to the world with her breakthrough pop anthems ‘I Don’t Want It At All’ and ‘Heart To Break’, to deep diving into her emotions with her vulnerable project ‘Clarity’, and her theatrical side with her Halloween themed project ‘TURN OFF THE LIGHT’, she has already shown listeners so much growth and diversity. 

With over 40 songs already released in the short 2 and half years that she’s been active, she’s consistently shown different sides to her artistry and cohesively delivered strong pop hooks that will quickly get stuck in your head. 

2020 marks the beginning of a new chapter for the singer-songwriter as she prepares for the release of her highly anticipated debut album. And the record’s lead single ‘Malibu’ show’s impressive promise of what is to come with her catchiest pop hook yet that will transport you to peak summer. 

Comparing the tingling feeling of falling in love to the euphoric sensation that Malibu brings with its warmth and sunny rays, she has you immediately imagining those beautiful beaches and sun soaked days while twirling around the poolside like Sharpay in High School Musical 2.

I recently chatted to Kim Petras about the 80’s influence behind her new single ‘Malibu’, the star studded quarantine music video, as well as her love for Gwen Stefani’s ‘Love Angel Music Baby’ and how it’s influenced how she wants her debut album to be. Check it out BELOW; 

THOMAS BLEACH: Your new single ‘Malibu’ is a playful pop song that is honestly the embodiment of a summer anthem. With the 80’s tinged synths mixing pure nostalgia with a unique pop freshness, how did this song’s sonical foundations come together creatively? 

KIM PETRAS: Well, I originally wrote the hook three years ago and we could never really get the rest of the song finished. So it was a lot of trial and error to get it right. 

I didn’t want it to be as bubblegum as ‘Heart To Break’ or ‘I Don’t Want It At All’. It’s more inspired by early Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince songs. It feels more like a superstar pop song instead of a bubblegum pop song. It’s something I’ve always wanted to achieve with my sound, so it just took a little time to get it right. 

But I think it also comes down to the way the vocals are cut as they are big, passionate and loud. I always get really excited when that key change happens in the last chorus with the way it changes from the bridge into the chorus. I’m really proud of it. 

TB: The lyrics contrast the romanticism surrounding ‘Malibu’ with the feeling of falling for someone and not being able to stop thinking about them. So from growing up in Germany, what was it about Malibu that seemed so magical

KP: Seeing it glamourised in TV shows and movies made me envision it as this crazy magical place, but then I got there and it was just a bunch of rich people’s houses and was nothing really exciting. It just wasn’t as special as I thought it would be. I mean, if I had a friend who had a house there I may have thought differently *laughs*. 

But I was just really inspired to write a song about the way I thought about it when I was in Germany and had never been there, and didn’t think I would ever get there. It’s that mix of fantasy and magic that perfectly intertwines with love. So it’s a total fun pop love song.

TB: I definitely feel that disappointment though, like I had always dreamed about Hollywood growing up and then I got there and it was just a dirty tourist strip and that magic I imagined just wasn’t there.

KP: Oh totally, It’s the same thing! It’s a funny thing to write about but I actually find it really inspiring most of the time with how you thought something would be and your interpretation of it versus the reality of it. 

I never thought reality was really interesting, so instead I do like to write about the fantasy of something. 

TB: What is one of your favourite lyrics from the song? 

KP: I think the whole bridge! Ooh, baby, you left me tingling. My nails soft peach and the sea salt’s sinking in. Ooh, baby, I don’t need anything. It’s all been beachy since you came crashing in”.  I just feel like those lyrics are so fun.

I never quite have full bridges. I have a lot of songs that have instrumental breakdowns, guitar solos, synth solos, or adlibs. But this one is a proper bridge and it’s something that I feel like I could make a whole song out of. Like it could easily be the hook to a song. 

TB: I just loved all the summery references in the lyrics as it’s winter here in Australia at the moment but listening to this song made me feel like I was in Summer again. 

KP: I love that! That is honestly all I wanted to do with this song! 

TB: You’ve recently shot a lockdown music video for ‘Malibu’ and there were some pretty amazing cameos in there like Amanda Lepore and Paris Hilton. Was there one that you personally freaked out over having?

KP: I mean, Amanda Lepore was amazing, she is such an icon to me so I was very very grateful. I thought it was so crazy that Pabllo Vittar was in it! I’ve actually never met Pabllo, but I’m a big fan so I was very stoked when they said “I’m so down sis”, that was amazing. 

I think it’s pretty cool that Demi Lovato did it. I love Demi! Obviously Paris Hilton has to be in it, and Charli XCX was incredible too. Honestly everyone in there is incredible and I feel so blessed to have friends who support me, love my music and are willing to help me. It honestly just makes me feel very emo.

TB: I just loved how everyone approached their video differently. Like Aly & AJ shooting themselves in the bath was really cool! 

KP: Yeah! It was just supposed to be a “bring the beach to your home” vibe. And we all just tried our best and deliver something cool and different. I’m so stoked with how it turned out. 

TB: You premiered the song and the animated lyric video through Grindr, which for some people may sound like a really strange way to promote a track. But what do you think it’s about the Gay community that has embraced your music so much? 

KP: I owe it all to the gays! My whole career started in little gay clubs in Brooklyn and they really just loved my music and started playing it and got everybody else to listen to it. And then it just snowballed from there over the last two years. I feel so lucky, but at the end of the day it’s all because of them. 

I think it’s a really perfect place for me to premiere my music and music videos. I’m apart of the LGBTQI+ community, so to me it’s not weird at all. 

I’m so grateful forever that I have such a loyal fanbase that just loves my music, listens to it, buys it, and comes along to my shows and sells them out. A lot of the time it still feels very surreal to me. 

TB: ‘Malibu’ is the official lead single for your forthcoming debut album. So reflecting on the process of your first string of singles you released from 2017 – 2019 to where you are at now with creating this new music, what is the biggest thing you’ve learnt about yourself as an artist?

KP: I think I’ve just consistently pushed myself harder and harder with everything I’ve dropped. My number one aspiration is for it to be better than what I’ve dropped before, and so far I think I’ve achieved that. 

I have so much to say, and I feel like it’s still just the start. As I start gearing up for my debut album, I’m just learning to have fun with the process and I’m finding how I want to say things.

I still feel misunderstood in so many different ways, but I’m just going to use music to express and explore that. 

TB: ‘Clarity’ was a standalone collection of tracks that was a little darker sonically and quite vulnerable lyrically, what was it about this creative moment that had you wanting to experiment that way? 

KP: I’m just making the music now that I’ve always wanted to make, not that any of the stuff I have released before isn’t that, but I’m just learning to go with the flow of things. 

I went through a really bad heartbreak, so I wanted to make a break-up record and I wanted it to reflect what I was feeling, and what I was listening to at the time to help me get through it. So that’s how ‘Clarity’ came together, and that’s how I’m approaching this next chapter with what I want to say and what I can’t go without saying any longer. 

TB: Now I read on socials that you’ve been listening to Gwen Stefani’s ‘Love Angel Music Baby’ album a lot during lockdown, which I love cause that is one of my favourite albums of all time! 

KP: That album is a huge reason that I’m even an artist. It’s one of my favourite albums of all time too. Definitely top 5 albums of all time! 

TB: Such a brilliant pop record. What is your favourite song from the album? 

KP: Oh shit, this is so hard *laughs*. I think ‘Hollaback Girl’ is one of the hardest songs anyone has ever made. It’s insanely good! 

But I will definitely pick ‘Cool’. I think it’s such a timeless, amazing and beautiful song. But in saying that, it’s hard to pick because I think ‘Luxurious’ is incredible, ‘Harajuku Girls’ is also incredible, all of the singles are flawless and ‘Rich Girl’ is a bop. 

TB: I love ‘Bubble Pop Electric’, that’s such a fun song!

KP: Yes! Honestly, the whole album is so great from front to back. It’s an iconic record! 

TB: ‘Love Angel Music Baby’ is a high concept debut album, so is that something you would want to explore yourself with this forthcoming debut record? Do you have a concept in mind?

KP: I do! I can definitely not talk about it but I have a title, I have a concept and I have an exact idea of how the cover needs to look. I have always been into pop escapism and I think all of my favourite albums have done that. Like Marina And The Diamonds ‘Electra Heart’, ‘Love Angel Music Baby’ by Gwen Stefani and like every Madonna album. 

My main goal for this record is for it to feel cohesive and for it to be one sound, and I feel like I’ve achieved that. 

TB: We are currently living in strange circumstances with COVID-19. So what is your creative headspace looking like right now? Are you writing heaps? 

KP: Yeah, I’m writing a lot. I’m possessed by this album so until it’s done I can’t really think about anything else. But I am also playing a lot of Animal Crossing with my fans, playing a lot of video games and watching a lot of movies that I’ve always wanted to watch. 

It’s honestly been really nice because the last two years for me have been really “go, go go” with a lot of travelling across the world in a short amount of time. From making music videos to doing radio tours and press tours, it’s all become a bit of a blur. So I feel like this time has been great to allow me to re-focus. 

TB: You came out to Australia last year for Sydney’s Mardi Gras as well as some exclusive side shows and even opened for Rita Ora in Brisbane. So reflecting back on that visit, what was one of your favourite memories? 

KP: Well, I performed at Sydney Mardi Gras so that was really inspiring and was honestly my favourite pride event I’ve ever been to! But I missed Kylie Minogue by 5 minutes every time. It was once at a restaurant and then again at the parade and then backstage. But it was the closest I’ve ever been to her and it was amazing, so one day it will happen *laughs*. 

But honestly it was so incredible meeting my Australian fans as I had never been there before so it was so great to meet them for the first time. I’m still in touch with a lot of them and are in group chats with them. I love them so much so I can’t wait to be back again!

Kim Petras’ new single ‘Malibu’ is out now!