What It's Like To Interview Lorde

by Matthew J.X. Malady

People are always saying things on the Internet all the time. But they are such teases. We like details. So we have to ask.

Interviewing @lordemusic over dinner, I suggested sharing truffle pizza. Her reply: “Then you’ll write about it like Lynn Hirschberg!”

— Jonah Weiner (@jonahweiner) October 11, 2013

Jonah! So what happened here?

Rolling Stone asked me to write a short profile of Lorde, a young musician from New Zealand whose single “Royals” has been the number-one song in America for three weeks now. This was just the other week. She was in Los Angeles to tape a performance of “Royals” for Ellen, and I spent the day with her. For dinner, we went to the Soho House, which is a members-only club on the penthouse level of a building in West Hollywood. An extremely fancy setting for an interview, and one that I don’t think Lorde chose herself (people in her entourage have memberships). Although she mentioned she’d just been hanging out with Tavi Gevinson at the Soho House in New York, which sounds like a fun night.

Anyway, “Royals” is about feeling a deep ambivalence toward ostentation and luxury — in the refrain, Lorde rolls her eyes at those things, even as another part of her finds them seductive. She sings about never having seen a diamond in person, about being from a “torn-up town.” (She’s from Auckland, so there’s a bit of poetic license at work.) All to say that she was probably doing some internal mental calculation about what it would mean for a scene in this profile to take place somewhere so expensive and exclusive. At the same time, neither of us had eaten much all day, so we had appetites. I spied a black-truffle pizza on the menu and, with nothing animating the decision beyond hunger and decadence, suggested that we split it. Which is when she shot back with the Hirschberg line. If I’d been drinking something when she said that, I’d have done a spit-take.

Her reply seems incredibly informed and self-aware and savvy for anyone, much less a 16-year-old. Based on the time you spent with her, is it representative of her general manner of being, and how did you respond?

If you were reading Vulture or Pitchfork or Stereogum in 2010, you were able to follow the whole Hirschberg/M.I.A. truffle thing in great depth. That piece did a lot to hurt M.I.A.’s image, but the truffle detail came off like pretty egregious artifice, and as somewhat malicious on Hirschberg’s part. When Lorde mentioned it, it was evidence of her savvy, and it was also revealing of her online reading habits, and by extension, those of pop-culture-loving adolescents of her generation. So maybe it shouldn’t have surprised me. But it’s rare that a profile subject reveals that degree of familiarity with tricks of the form. When I replied to Lorde to the effect of, “You know about that?” she followed up by talking about how Hirschberg had used the truffle-entrapment trick in another profile, of Megan Fox. So she’d done the homework.

In conclusion, the pie was delicious and she enjoyed it. I included the moment in the draft of the story that I filed; I think it made it to the published version, which is in the latest Rolling Stone, with Paul McCartney on the cover. I wrote that story, too, as it happens, and McCartney and I shared tequila shots at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Those were his idea.

Lesson learned (if any)?

I very rarely approach interviews with gotcha-style tricks up my sleeve, but I do commonly approach them from the perspective of a glutton, so I can’t rule out the possibility that in future interviews I’ll order more food that includes truffles.

Just one more thing.

She drank a virgin cocktail with dinner, so nobody needs to call child services.

Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor in New York City.