If there is one thing FLETCHER has learned, it’s that nothing is black and white – that’s why her latest EP, ‘THE S(EX) TAPES’ captures every shade between. “I know she thinkin’ that she found herself a winner / I know you fucked her on the counter right before you cooked her dinner”: the singer-songwriter has no time for sugar-coating when, in her world of smoky noir pop, honesty is her sharpest component.
FLETCHER – real name Cari – calls me from a beach on the Californian coast. She had to get out of her apartment, she explains, because everything around her carried the weight of too many memories about her ex-girlfriend. ‘THE S(EX) TAPES’ might feel like the final word on their relationship, a chapter closed – but of course, it’s complicated. The project was just as much a visual one, following a cinematic arc: seven music videos for seven tracks. And who was behind the camera? FLETCHER’s ex, the lines between artist and muse, as ever, blurred.
And while the story might be a little unfinished, it captures a moment in time while they were in quarantine together, where the world outside was just as confusing as their own, private one. It’s this no holds barred outpouring of feeling that makes FLETCHER a pioneer in a world in which we can be unapologetically ourselves, in all our chaos.
I’m so interested in this idea of FLETCHER being a persona. Who is she? How is FLETCHER different to Cari, and why is it important to have a separation between the two for you, as an artist?
That’s an idea I’ve been playing with for a really long time – not for anything other than my mental health. From a really young age, I decided that I needed to be the artist who I needed growing up, who I really needed as a little girl, and so like Cari really needed FLETCHER. It’s the thing that keeps me going and reminds me of the reason why I do this. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the connection my music makes with people. Somebody said something the other day: that my music made it easier for them to breathe again. I just broke down crying when I heard that. FLETCHER allows me to step into all my superpowers and my vulnerabilities. At the same time, they’re also the same person. Cari is really sensitive and soft and tender, and FLETCHER is too, but I think… FLETCHER is my highest self – future me – and I’m always trying to step into that. It’s definitely been an interesting journey.
You’re completely unfazed by being direct in your music. Is there any fiction – or artistic license, if you will – involved with the songs you write, or is it all taken entirely from your real experiences?
I think every single song that I’ve ever written has come from a real thought or a real feeling, even if it’s just the foundation of the song. One of the most personal songs on it is a song called ‘Sex with my Ex’, and the lyrics were just pulled from a text message exchange with my ex and the conversation we had when we met up. I remembered it really vividly, and I just wanted to put a melody to those words. At the core of every single song, it always stems from a real feeling and a real place.
How does it feel laying all your cards on the table knowing the person who inspired the song will listen? How do you navigate that? Have you ever heard back from an ex after you dropped a release?
It’s a really weird thing. It makes you question if you should express your feelings in this way, because I know that someone else is going to hear it and that there are feelings on the other side of it. But at the same time, when you date an artist, or you date a writer, you’re kind of signing this unwritten contract that you might be immortalised in a song forever. It’s a funny concept, but it comes with the territory: if you hurt me, then I’m going to write about it – that’s just the way that it goes. It’s definitely an interesting thing to navigate, in the context of a relationship. It’s easier when you’re not in one anymore, and you’re able to do you, and write how you wanna write, but there’s always an element of consideration knowing that someone else is gonna hear it.
‘THE S(EX) TAPES’ is just as much a visual project as it is a musical one. Your ex was the one behind the camera, and you filmed the entire thing throughout quarantine together. What was that like? Most people might think that scenario sounds like a nightmare. How can you get over someone if you can’t escape them?
It was a really emotional process, I think, for both of us. We were in quarantine together, but we had no intention of filming a project. We’d been working through a lot of stuff; we had a lot of painful conversations. We were talking about the future, about breaking up, what we both needed and where we were, as people. I feel like oftentimes the media will give these two kinds of examples of relationships, where you’re either happy together, forever, and everything’s great, or it’s like, ‘Fuck you. You’re my ex. I hate you.’ What about the in between, of like, ‘I love you so much, and there’s so much love here, but I still have so much growing to do independently, as a person, without the safety net of somebody else.’ That will make me a better person and make me a better partner. I think we ended up going through this really therapeutic process because we were having those conversations of like, ‘OK, let’s just show people what it looks like: a real fucking example of what it means to be in love in your twenty-somethings and trying to navigate it.’ Relationships aren’t black and white, and neither is love, neither is life.
In a world of ghosting and swiping left and right, why is it important to you to defend being a hopeless romantic?
The desire to have things so quickly is because we’re all just craving connection, and wanting to be loved and seen and held. At the root of that, we all just have this fucking massive fear of loss of connection and loss of belonging. We still need to be talking about what love looks like. I’ve never been on a dating app, so maybe I’m missing the whole point of it – or maybe that’s what makes me a hopeless romantic, because I’m like, ‘No! In person, real feelings!’ I don’t think it’s necessarily lost, but it’s just covered up by a lot of shit, a lot of masking, of people being afraid to admit they want to be loved. That’s what we all want at the end of the day, and I think that’s where so much pain in the world comes from, too.
How does ‘THE S(EX) TAPES’differ from the EP you released last year, ‘you ruined new york city for me’? How has your situation changed, and how have you developed as an artist both musically and emotionally?
Oh my gosh, so much has changed. You learn so much! The two situations were very different relationships, and two really incomparable ones. The first one was my first love: it was, like, passionate, overwhelming, and toxic. A lot of things. I feel like with ‘THE S(EX) TAPES’, it was the first time I was in situation which was really stable and beautiful.
There was so much honesty and transparency; I saw what it was like to be able to be really honest with somebody, to have them stand next to you and to be seen. I think the difference between the two projects, though, was that usually I have more time and space and perspective to drop a thing before I talk about it, and I’m able to formulate how I feel. ‘THE S(EX) TAPES’ was like a word vomit – or emotion vomit – because it is happening in real time. It’s a living and breathing thing. I’m currently hiding out on the beach somewhere in California because I just had to get out of my apartment because it just reminds me of too many things. It’s a real thing that I’m in the thick of right now. I’ve changed so much over the course of those two years. At the core of all of it, it’s my honest experience of what I’m going through in that time.
I’m curious – did you ever fall back in love with New York? You live in LA now, how do those cities differ for you and what effect have the two places had on you and your music?
I’ve definitely fallen back in love with New York City. For a while, when a place or things are so connected with somebody, it’s really hard to feel anything different other than the feelings that the other person left you with in that space. It was hard for me to be in New York, and then after a while I’d gone back and spent time, made new memories, and you know, found new restaurants and new bars, and was in love there again. New York City has become un-ruined for me and made me start feeling all the things that made me think, ‘Yes, this is the reason why I loved this city in the first place’. My family lives in Jersey, and I’m home often – I’m like a real big homebody – and yeah, I think I’m such an east coast girl at heart, you know. I’ve learned to love it again, which is kind of metaphorical for my self-love journey, if you will, that I’m on at the moment. I’m just figuring out how to look at it in a new way and love it again.
You’ve worked with producer Malay again for this EP. Why was he the right fit?
I’ve been a fan of Malay for a long time. His sonic landscape, his sound, and all the work that he’s done with, like, Lorde and Frank Ocean and Sam Smith. It was to do with the timing and the place of it, we were on a vibe and we just rolled into these songs. We’ve always really liked working together, and he brought these songs to life – but I also feel like we had such a foundation from the first project we did together that we thought, ‘How do we push this even further?’ We kind of already had that base of understanding each other creatively. That applies to a lot in life, actually: ‘how do we push the boundaries from the foundation we already have?’
Why was it important to work with a team of female songwriters?
Yes! ‘The Babe Gang’! Every song was co-written with a female on the project, because I don’t want to write about sex and feelings with dudes. I want it to come from the female perspective, because that’s what I’m writing about in all of its forms, and what it means to be a women. We’re so multi-faceted and have so many feelings; they’re all really beautiful and can all co-exist and take place within the course of an hour, or a day. I don’t know, there’s so much put on women’s emotions, and being “too emotional” to handle anything but it’s quite literally the opposite, it’s our fucking superpower. The more superpower in the room that you have, the better the song will be, right?
Tell me about your choice to stay away from using gendered pronouns in your music.
I’ve never really wanted anybody to feel removed from the story. The important part of a song is the intention and the emotion behind it. When I’m listening to something, I’m immediately trying to relate it to my life in some capacity. The lyrics probably mean something so different to me compared to the person who originally wrote them. The important part about the song is the emotion and the intention behind it. I wanted to give people as much opportunity as possible to immerse themselves in the story. At the end of the day, gender doesn’t have anything to do with it at all. It doesn’t fucking matter. If you got heartbroken, or turned on by, or hooked up with a non-binary person or a trans person or a cis person – male, female, whoever – it doesn’t fucking matter. I put it in the song if it feels necessary for me as part of the story that I feel like sharing, but I am really conscious of it because at the end of the day, what is gender, anyway? It’s just a construct, so who cares?
How do you hope ‘Sex Tape’ will be received, and where do you plan to go from here?
I just want people to feel like they’re getting a hug from me. Maybe that’s me projecting like, ‘I need a hug!’, but I just hope that people know that it’s OK to be honest with yourself. it’s OK to be messy, it’s OK to think you have one plan and then it doesn’t pan out, and for things to just not be together or be packaged perfectly. That’s just not real life, and it’s never gonna be, and things are unexpected. We feel bad feelings, and we feel good feelings. We’re still going to be OK through all of it. In terms of where I’m going, all of my last bodies of work have been about other people, and I want to write about me. I need to live that, and figure out who that person is without somebody else – what I’m passionate about, my hobbies outside of music. I’m on a bit of a journey right now that I very much intend to write about.