Photo: @sphialiv / Courtesy of Motormouth Media

Slayyyter’s Inferno: In Conversation with the Logged-on and Laser-focused Pop Starlet

Following a chaotic and self-destructive year, laser-focused pop starlet Slayyyter prepares to ascend with her debut album of noisy pop bangers, Troubled Paradise. She tells us her story.

Troubled Paradise
12 June 2021

I think your music has always been defined by having a high production value from the very beginning, but the first thing I noticed about Troubled Paradise was how much denser the songwriting and production are. So many of these songs have surprisingly complicated structures. “Throatzillaaa” is under three minutes but it sounds like five or six because it’s, like, a literal four-movement symphony about sucking dick. It has so many parts. I’m wondering how your approach to songwriting changed between the mixtape and the album.

Honestly, it’s funny. It wasn’t even until after dropping all the singles that I noticed how the song structures are kind of bizarre. I remember when we made the song “Troubled Paradise,” I didn’t think too much about what the structure was. I know the chorus comes in once, and then sort of at the end, but everyone was like, “A 32-line bridge?! This is unheard of!” and I was like, “Yeah, that is kind of weird, why is that so long?” {Laughs}

I just kind of threw caution to the wind on this project. I grew up studying YouTube videos of Max Martin talking about pop songs and reading about song structure, and I always stuck to a formula for everything I did. I think this time, I got more comfortable in my skin, more comfortable pushing boundaries, having longer bridges, including random sections. I feel like “Cowboys” is really weirdly composed, too. I didn’t want to stick to the rules as much. I feel like if you make an album and every song is the same old verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus, it all starts to kind of sound the same. I wanted to have the songs come out of me naturally and leave them that way. I hate looking back and trying to make something more palatable.

Yeah. And I think something even more cynical is happening with music right now– people aren’t even bothering with verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. It’s this minute-and-a-half long string of hooks, hoping that something sticks– the actual dedication to songcraft isn’t there. Listening to Troubled Paradise I was surprised by how many risks it takes. It made me think of when Lorde’s “Green Light” came out and Max Martin called it “incorrect songwriting.” Or people talk about Lana Del Rey “West Coast” the same way. It’s just cool how no song goes where you expect it to go.

I feel like there are no rules with how to write a song necessarily. Obviously, there are structures and tricks you can adhere to, but a good song is a good song. It’s been cool to see people applauding those choices. Like, in YouTube comments, when people are like, “Woah, this structure’s crazy,” I’m like {valley girl voice} “Oh, like, thanks. Like, wow, like, yah! I did that on purpose!” It makes me feel like there’s room to be riskier on whatever I do in the future.

Photo: Courtesy of Motormouth Media

You’ve talked on Twitter about how every song on this album is either a hero or a villain. Was that the central concept when you were starting the album?

Yeah, kind of. I drew a lot of influence from really bizarre places. I was thinking about Dante’s Inferno. I was inspired by such different concepts of heaven and hell, or being able to contain good and evil at once. The whole first half of the album is really angry and evil-sounding. “Self Destruct” is just me screaming my head off and talking shit– but then it dives down into this sad and emotional “heavenly” sphere. I feel like each song fits into one of those two categories. Even with my hair, I dyed it all dark with a light streak. I was just into the idea of storybook villains, Cruella de Vil… I feel like it all kind of shines through in little ways on this project.

On my first playthrough, I couldn’t stop thinking how insane it was to open an album with “Self Destruct” that has a line like “pussy real fat with a tight bleached asshole” and then close that same album with “Letters” which is so tender and exposed. It’s the most intense and vulnerable love song I’ve heard in that sort of PC Music-inspired style. I was stunned by how pretty and special that song is. Obviously, the lyrics on “Self Destruct” are in line with things you’ve done in the past, but what was your vision for introducing this other side of yourself on an album that’s so dedicated to brat raps and talking shit? Was there concern that it was going to be too many things happening at once?

Sometimes I thought people were going to think it was unfocused, but I’m kind of an unfocused person. I go through really quick phases of being really into hardcore industrial electronic, but then I’ll switch to Katy Perry Teenage Dream for like four weeks straight. I wanted to show that I can do a little bit of everything. I’m not just the Y2K girl. I’m not just a one-trick pony that makes Britney Spears copycat songs over and over again. I wanted to show versatility. I think “Letters” is cool because I feel like it’s a sendoff into the next era I’m going to go into and what a different place I’m in.

I wrote Troubled Paradise through a heartbroken, single, manic phase. I was so pissed about so many things, out of control, drinking way too much, so depressed and emotional, but that last song is all about finding and being in love. I’m at a more stable place in life; I’m more optimistic. It’s a sweet thing to end on. “Self Destruct” is me being out of control, “Letters” ends me in a good place. It’s like the story of my life for the past two years.

I love that. The production on everything leading up to “Letters” is so noisy and chaotic, and I felt so hit by how open and tranquil “Letters” is because of it. I always associate the final songs on pop star albums being “The Ballad”, and I feel like that’s happening with “Letters” too.

Absolutely. I’d never really made a ballad before, and I was inspired by all those pop ballads. When I went into that session, it came out naturally. Originally it was the second-to-last song on the album. It was going to close with “Villain”, but at the very last minute, I was like, “No, “Letters” should be the sendoff into the universe. I’m finally happy, I’m finally free of all these heartbreaks, all this depression, this is what I’m sending off into the world.”

Something I was looking forward to hearing on Troubled Paradise was your take on vulnerability because the mixtape was pretty much all flirty sex jams and kiss-off tracks. So I was blown away by “Clouds”, which I think straddles that line between a sort of bouncy club track and genuine sadness. It kind of reminded me of Robyn in that way. What’s your experience been with it being out in the world now?

It’s been awesome, honestly. Especially because I feel like it’s gotten the most love out of all the singles. I wrote that one alone in an Airbnb to a beat, and it came out very fast. To see everyone resonate with that one the most has been cool because I’ve never made a song before about feeling like I want to die. It’s a dance party song that you can cry with your friends to. It’s one of my favorites on the project for sure.

I think my favorite on the whole thing is probably “Serial Killer.” It reminds me so much of “Detective” by No Doubt. What was the process like with that one?

I feel like that one has the craziest story. That beat is so old. The producer had these albums on Bandcamp, and I was going through this really heavy synthwave phase where I would dig through producers on Soundcloud and Bandcamp, so I wrote the song to that beat when I was 19 years old. It was before Slayyyter, before the 3 Y’s. I was just bullshitting and writing songs on people’s beats. I would hit up these producers, and they’d be like, “This random person has no music out. No, you can’t have this.”

I’d posted a demo of that song on Soundcloud a long time ago, and people were like, “This is really cool, you should make this for real,” like, “Release “Serial Killer”!” Post-mixtape and everything, we got in touch with the producer, and he was so down to make the song, and I recorded all the vocals myself during quarantine. I wrote that so long ago, way before anything cool ever happened to me, but I still feel like it’s my most clever songwriting I’ve done. I’ve never done anything so cinematic. It feels like a song from a movie.

I think even with this album pivoting away from beats and electronic production, I think a lot of people are still going to call this album “hyperpop”, which to me seems like a bit of a reductive reading, but do you feel like that label fits what you do at all?

Not necessarily, but I’m not really one to correct someone on what they think my music is. I feel like if you look at hyperpop in general, my music isn’t totally in the same vein. It’s almost a little bit less experimental. But anyone who’s making pop music that’s more underground right now is automatically called hyperpop, so I’m kind of just like, “Sure.” I wouldn’t call my music that, but I’m not going to throw a fit if other people do.

Your music can be lighthearted or even funny, but it’s not really “ironic”, like so much hyperpop tends to be. So much pop music coming out today is kind of making fun of pop music while also regurgitating it, but yours is much more earnest.

No, I’m so serious. I’m in it. There’s not an ounce of irony; I’m really a fan of pop. I’m not making fun of pop music even when I’m making fun of myself, or my sexual experiences with men or things like that.

Right. I think people are almost embarrassed to be making pop music in some way. There’s really none of that in what you do.

Oh, yeah. I think pop isn’t a shameful thing. I wish people would think of it as something really cool again, like in 2010 when everyone was into crazy Benny Blanco production on Katy Perry songs. I think people think it isn’t cool to make bubblegum pop. But I’ll think it’s cool forever. I’ll never not think it’s cool.

Photo: @sphialiv / Courtesy of Motormouth Media

Yeah. I mean, it feels like the hyperpop “thing” is sort of about to burst. It feels like a really small snake eating its own tail. Many of the artists doing hyperpop are referencing things that happened less than ten years ago or even less than that. This quirky, ironic bank of references is going to run out really fast, but also, now we have a moment where there’s a huge alternative market for pop music suddenly. How do you feel like the hyperpop moment has impacted pop music in general?

When I first discovered SOPHIE and PC Music, I’d never heard music like that before. It was so crazy. I feel like the originators always do it the best in a way. I feel like I was kind of late to the game, but even after me, so many artists are popping up on TikTok that all sound kind of the same.

They know it’s a product that can get them added to a Spotify playlist.

Yeah. You see a lot of artists that haven’t made hyperpop-sounding music in the past, but because it’s becoming such a thing, people are shifting to that zone. It’s all just a trend cycle, and it’ll only last so long. I feel like it’s definitely meeting the end.

But again, I think your earnest approach to it is really what separates you from the crowd. “Devil” and “Motorcycle” are such straightforward pop songs and there’s not really that dumb wink in the delivery.

I feel like I’m also very sneaky about the Auto-Tune I put in vocals, which separates me a bit too. If I use Auto-Tune, I want it to sound unclockable, so it’s that Y2K sound and not so robotic. But that’s also a tool I like to play around with sometimes– obviously, there’s so much Auto-Tune on “Villain”– but I think that’s why so many artists reject the term hyperpop. As you said, it is like a snake eating its own tail, and people want to get away from that. People want to play with whatever sounds and textures and vocal processing they want without feeling like they’re making it for a niche audience. I think that’s where some of the disdain comes from– because you use any Auto-Tune at all on a song now, and it’s like, “Boom: hyperpop”, and that’s not always true.