INTERVIEW: Rebecca Black

For ten years Rebecca Black has felt like there was a giant cloud following her because of the viral success and overwhelmingly negative reaction towards her debut single ‘Friday’. But now the Californian singer-songwriter is embracing an unapologetic energy and rewriting her narrative. 

Her new EP ‘Rebecca Black Was Here’ is a definitive collection of tracks that explores the experimental side of her artistry from the smooth synth pop stylings of lead single ‘Girlfriend’ right through to the recently recently hyper-pop influenced ‘NGL’. Perfectly capturing the main influences that have been guiding her through this new chapter, she not only delivers bold soundscapes but she also unravels a vulnerable storytelling. Opening up about her identity as a queer woman to love, heartbreak and mental health, she gives listeners some heartfelt reflections to explore within the impressive layering. 

Highlighting this new direction, she celebrated the 10 year anniversary of ‘Friday’ earlier this year by dropping a star studded hyper-pop remix with Dorian Electra, Big Freedia and 3OH!3. Produced by 100 Gecs, this remix is ultimately chaotic in the most brilliant way possible. Each artist brings a new original take, with a fresh verse that adds a new 2021 perspective to the track, which in-turn allows her to reclaim the narrative. 

I recently chatted to Rebecca Black about the unapologetic energy behind her new EP ‘Rebecca Black Was Here’, explored the creative processes behind ‘Better In My Memory’, NGL’ and ‘Blue, discussed queer representation, and celebrated the 10 year anniversary remix of ‘Friday’. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your new EP ‘Rebecca Black Was Here’ is an unapologetic and definitive collection of tracks that introduces listeners to who you really are as an artist. When you listen back to these 6 diverse tracks are you overwhelmed by the journey its taken to get here, or are you more cemented in the excitement of the present? 

REBECCA BLACK: I think it’s a combination, that’s a good question! Right now it feels really good to have a collection of music out that I really led the way on. That has felt so so good. It’s a weird experience because you spend so much time in it and creating the songs, and I think it’s easy to live with the songs so much that by the time they come out it’s like “these are so old”. But I don’t feel like that with this project. Some of these songs I did write over a year ago, and while I have lived and breathed them, it is a different experience to have these particular songs out in the world and it’s really fulfilling to see people love them.  

TB: One song I’m really excited to talk to you about is ‘Better In My Memory’ as it immediately sets the foundations for this EP and it’s so addictively catchy. Can you explain how that track creatively came together?

RB: ‘Better In My Memory’ was one of the last songs that made into onto the project. I think a running theme for me while I was making decisions for this EP, like choosing ‘Girlfriend’ as the first single or making the track list, was that I never wanted to water it down for anyone to make it more digestible. Not that this project is extremely left field or anything like that, but I did want to make it clear that I am here to challenge myself, and I’m here to not just make music that already exists. I am inspired by so many different things, and I really love genre bending, and I really love hearing and working with people who aren’t afraid to put two things together. And I guess ‘Better In My Memory’ was essentially that. 

I took two of my favourite people I had been working with for this project; Ceci G and Micah Jasper. I had been wanting to bring them together to work on something for so long as they’re both the most creative and fun to work with people, and I knew they would love each other. We wrote the song half over zoom and half in person, and it started off as this light dance version of the song. The bass of the song was there, but we started pushing it, pushing it, and pushing it and making it as crazy as we could until there was no limit. The further we pushed the song the better we felt about it. It was a really fun process. 

TB: The song is quite contrasting because the upbeat production is met with quite vulnerable lyricism. When you hear the lyrics; “Reprogramming our history so it’s perfect in my mind. Changing the way it ended so you never see me cry” back now, where does it take you emotionally? 

RB: It’s an interesting experience to look back at what you’ve said about yourself in hindsight. A lot of this EP has to do with how I’ve handled a relationship that went right and wrong. It’s funny because right before this interview I was getting ready for a session I’m heading to after and I was journaling and coming up with ideas, and trying to figure out where my head’s at, and I was just like “it would be nice to write something that just didn’t mean anything because it is an intense experience to be so vulnerable and talk about what is really going on. But at the same time it’s the only thing I know how to do I kinda have no choice but be honest, and ‘Better In My Memory’ specially is just super honest, and that’s what this EP is. It doesn’t hold back or beat around the bush with how I’m feeling. 

TB: The opening line “I’ve been feeling, don’t want to feel this” is something I very much relate to as well *laughs*

RB: *Laughs* I love an emotional bop and this project is full of them, but the song is really meant to be emotional but also embrace the passive way of “It’s not a big deal, I promise”, and that is how I feel a lot of the time. 

TB: Now, the hyper-pop breakdown of ‘NGL’ along with the glitchy production is really sick, so what were your references for this track in particular? 

RB: ‘NGL’ was produced by Glitch Gum who’s an insane hyper-pop monster! And I wrote it with Marshall Vore who is the king of emotional, and has worked with Phoebe Bridgers who is one of my favourite artists. The song started very minimal with only what the verses are, and that’s basically what we wrote the entire song to. We knew that we really wanted to take it into a big pop song but with all of these insane glitchy distorted sounds to bring out those references that Glitch Gum does so well. When you listen to the song itself and the way it’s written, and you just sing it with a guitar; it would feel like a big old pop song. And then you add the production with that big epic bridge that goes into that really crisp vocoded lyrical section, I just think it’s fucking epic and it tells the story of how it feels to sing that song and what really happened. 

TB: Transitioning into more of a synth-pop world on the second half of the EP, ‘Blue’ is a track that stands out as it’s the candid heartbreak ballad that hears you just giving listeners your heart. What sort of sonical references did you have for this track?

RB: This song really didn’t change much from the day we wrote it. I wrote it on a very painful day of my world. It started with just that simple chord changing pad, and we barely added anything to it but just a simple drum. It started as a zoom session with Cody Tarpley who produced it. We had no ideas that day, so I just started talking about what I was going through and I was obviously having a really hard time, and the song is a representation of exactly where I was in my head at that time. I just remember it being a loudly quiet session because of that. He got inspired to try those chords and put them on a synth pad, and it really went from there. I really just wanted the production of this song to lend itself to the vocals, so we barely added anything but some Imogen Heap inspired harmonies and effects. 

TB: ’Girlfriend’ started this new chapter by explicitly celebrating your queerness. How liberating was it releasing a track that addressed this side of who you are?

RB: It was a little bit nerve wracking leading up to it, but it was amazing. I knew who my audience was, and I knew they would accept me for it and they would feel like “ah, music for me!”. There are so many amazing queer artists and queer presenting music out there at the moment, but we need more. So I was just glad that I could lend to the fill. 

I love that ‘Girlfriend’ celebrates queerness because there is a lot of difficult emotions that come with being queer. There are so many amazing songs, films, and shows and content around that, but I also love celebrating the beautiful things surrounding it too. 

TB: Talking about celebrating queerness, who are some queer artists that you are absolutely loving right now that you think people need to discover? 

RB: Oh my god, I’m surrounded by so many incredible queer people. I obviously love what Dorian Electra is doing, they’re just one of the most brilliant people in the world. I’m really inspired by artists like Quay Dash, Petal Supply, Alice Gas, who are all big in the hyper-pop world. Chester Lockhart is another person who I think doesn’t get enough credit for their music, it’s so fucking good! And Christine And The Queens is one of my favourite artists of all time. 

TB: On Twitter you teased that more new music will be coming very soon before you kick off your headline tour in January next year. So from working on ‘Rebecca Black Was Here’, what have you learnt about yourself as an artist that has impacted the direction of this next chapter of music for you? 

RB: I think I’ve finally learned that it’s so worth it to trust your gut. I know that is such a cliche thing to say but it’s so easy as a young woman, as a queer person, as any young person really to feel like there are smarter and more impactful voices other than your own to listen to. While there are so many incredible minds out there, I think harnessing your point of view is SO incredibly useful. We all have such valuable point of views to learn from, so I think that has really helped me to make the music that I want to make, and feel a lot more freedom to follow my instinct and to follow my gut and keep exploring. There are days and weeks where you’re creating and creating and nothing feels right, and that’s just a part of it. But then there will be a day where you are like “oh, yeah” and everything feels right. Personally I’ve had to accept that my value as a person has nothing to do with what I’m creating. It’s all a part of it. 

TB: You were meant to tour Australia last year for a Bingo rave, but alas COVID stopped those plans for happening. So can we possibly expect the ‘Rebecca Black Was Here Tour’ to make it down under? 

RB: I would LOVE to! I obviously don’t know what’s happening with COVID, but as soon as we can get there I will be coming. I was SO bummed that I couldn’t come tour last year, but I think somehow there is a silver lining there because the show I’ll be bringing when I finally come either this year or next year will be off the fucking wall, and that is something I couldn’t do without this new music. 

TB: Earlier this year you celebrated the 10 year anniversary of ‘Friday’ with a re-envisioned hyper-pop mix of the song with Dorian Electra, Big Freedia and 3OH!3. When you decided you were going to celebrate this song what did you want this remix to represent to you? 

RB: I think it was just really feeling like I had creative control over the thing that had such a big defining impact on my life and what people viewed me as. I think that was one of the hardest challenges coming out of the original ‘Friday’ experience when I was 13, because it wasn’t who I was as I had no idea who I was. 

I was just a kid and here were all of these people just writing me off as this one specific thing that had nothing to do with what I wanted to do or who I was. But there have also been so many people that have come to me over the past 10 years and tell me that they celebrate the song and that it’s a big routine thing at the office or whatever it may be. It’s an iconic moment in internet culture that I can now see in hindsight. So it was just amazing to take the one thing that has felt like a cloud over my life and really tackle it on my own and create something that I fucking love. 

The music video for this remix is so playful and there are a lot of little subtle and not so subtle easter eggs to the original music video. So what is your favourite one?

RB: One of my favourite parts of the video is how it not only references the video but it also references the time by using the rage memes as the people in the car. If you look closely they ARE the people in the car down to the wardrobe. We used how people parodied and referenced the song as well as honed in on the time period of this internet culture that doesn’t really exist anymore. 

‘Rebecca Black Was Here’ is out now!