“Every release day, I completely forget to eat, I forget to go to the bathroom, I forget to drink water,” FLETCHER says over Zoom one August afternoon. It’s been 12 hours since the 26-year-old pop star released “If I Hated You,” the brooding second single from her The S(ex) Tapes EP, and its steamy video shot by her ex. She’s taken a shower and gone to therapy — “so that got me out of my dark slump in my bedroom.”
All things considered, the Los Angeles-based pop star seems to be doing well for someone who broke up with their ex, quarantined with them, made an EP about it — and then had that ex shoot the music videos for said EP. Its seven tracks skew toward upbeat, danceable anthems that one fan described as music “to f*ck, dance, and cry to [...] all at the same time.” On social media, FLETCHER’s Twitter dispatches lean into her sarcastic personality, a suggestion she’s gotten some perspective and distance from the event. But over Zoom, FLETCHER quickly sets the record straight: She’s still very much in it all.
“I was just crying two hours before we got on this about my ex not texting me back,” she confesses. “I am so in it. This music is so current.”
Born out of quarantine, The S(ex) Tapes was lovingly nurtured to life by FLETCHER and her ex, YouTuber Shannon Beveridge, as an effort to document their turbulent four years together. “A sex tape is really somebody in their most vulnerable form, in their rawest form,” she says. The project, then, is also the singer at her most naked, when it comes to her life (“I just had sex with my ex in a New York apartment,” she sings on “Sex (With My Ex)” and her feelings (“My life’s a mess but it’s hot” goes “The One”). Combined with Beveridge's videos — gritty and visceral from their homemade quality — it's a startlingly open and immersive package, one that strips away pop's plasticky sheen for something more messy, and human.
Below, FLETCHER opens up about how the project came together, the terrifying act of speaking your truth, and why she wants to make music that's emo and still makes you want to twerk at the same time.
You say that this album is the most honest that you've ever been. Did you have hesitations sharing it?
Oh my God, a million. I think because I'm in the pits of a breakup right now, even writing “shot by my ex” on my Instagram today, I cried as I was writing it because I was just like, Oh, God, it makes it really real. It was like the first time even confirming anything and it was hard. I didn't sleep a wink last night. I had two panic attacks, I woke up every hour and I was like, “F*ck, this is happening. This is happening. I'm really f*cking scared.”
I think that comes along with being so honest. Just putting yourself out there on a pedestal, when you're already hurting and trying to make sense of what is even happening in your life. And then to speak about it and then have somebody else have the opportunity to criticize it, is the scariest thing that I think I've probably ever experienced. I think I'd be absolutely lying to you if I wasn't like, if I was acting all calm, cool and collected, because I'm not.
The project was created while you guys were quarantining together. Were you both like, "Well, let's at least have something to do and turn this situation into a project"?
I think we had just been having a conversation of us just being like, “Well, what are we doing?” We're broken up but we're in quarantine together, and there's so much love here, and we've been through so much. She's an incredible director and photographer and makes incredible art. I love making stuff with her. Making this with her was my favorite thing that I've honestly ever been a part of because it was just... you're being captured by somebody who has seen you in your most vulnerable state, naked in every sense of the word. How beautiful of a way to be able to process something that's actually really f*cking painful? And to make it into something that can be shared and can be seen and turned into art.
Is making music for you generally a therapeutic process?
Yeah, it is, because it allows me to say f*cked up shit that I probably would never be able to say in words [otherwise]. I could just put a pretty melody behind it and then get away with saying some crazy, psycho, petty bullsh*t. It has been a form of therapy for me. But in terms of just creating it, the process from start to finish, it's really what helps me have perspective of an emotion or or an experience that I've gone through. How the songs then take on different meanings. Everything that I've released up to this point, I look at it through a different lens now, through a different way and every time I sing it and perform it, it feels a little bit different. It takes on new forms.
"We can still be emo and want to twerk at the same time."
Is there a particular song on this project that's transformed in meaning for you since you wrote it?
It's funny, because in the past, I've sat on songs for a really long time. “Undrunk” was written two years before it ever came out. With this music, it all was done very recently. I feel like I'm experiencing it still for the first time with people. Everything, I feel so in it. I'm so in the middle of a breakup, I'm so in the middle of this music, I'm so in the middle of everything that I'm talking... I was just crying two hours before we got on this, about my ex not texting me back. I am so in it. This music is so current.
How is your relationship with your ex?
I think our relationship has always been something that's just been so painfully honest, and because of that, it has been so beautiful. I think it's rare that you can find people in your life that you're able to just have such open, candid conversations with and be truthful and show your bare self and still be loved through it.
She's my favorite person. She's the greatest person. I think it's always just been a matter of me being extremely emotionally codependent on people, and never learned how to stand. I've jumped from relationship to relationship. I've never taken the time to stand on my own two feet and be independent and process things by myself. The relationship is always beautiful. There's so much love there. There will always be so much love there.
Even though this album is technically about breakup, it's so upbeat and so dancy. Was that an important thing for you to consider, to make sure that the songs were still danceable and not a depression hole?
Yes. It follows the arc of feelings throughout a breakup, but the flip side of that — it's like some nights you feel really hot and you go out with your friends and you're feeling yourself and you're dancing and you're just like, I want to get up on a table and get drunk and maybe make out with somebody tonight. It's the way that it felt.
I think creating this music, having been on tour now, was something that was really at the forefront of my mind while I was making this music too. Because I am like, OK, this is when I feel really good, when I perform live, this kind of energy. I created things from a space of, how do we make the production give as much of a feeling as the lyrics and melody? Listen, I've done my fair share of just straight-up sad, crying in your bed music. I'm still going through shit, but I want to bop to it. We can still be emo and want to twerk at the same time.
Are you thinking about a debut album coming up?
I'm planning on my debut album coming out this year, but sweet queen corona threw a bit of a monkey wrench into everybody's plans. And honestly, I couldn't have been more grateful for that happening. It's been a really traumatic and really terrible thing for so many people, but I think it's really afforded me the opportunity of time and space and silence and perspective. She'll be ready when she's ready. It's just not her time right now. So we're just going to give The S(ex) Tapes all the love and let that represent me right now, because that's just the phase of my life that I'm in. I'm excited for it to be out in the world, even though it's not perfect and it's really messy. But that's just the FLETCHER brand.
The S(ex) Tapes is out now.