"You can’t say that I said I was a child prodigy! My gosh!” splutters 16-year-old Lorde (real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor) over the phone from her house in Auckland’s North Shore City district. Via two EPs of observational, Grimes-endorsed, scalpel-sharp pop – infused as much by the fantasy worlds of hip hop as the rumour mill of school life – Lorde, so-called because of a fascination with aristocracy, has fast become New Zealand’s biggest star, scoring two number one singles. “It’s pretty quiet here and there’s nothing much to do so I make music,” she shrugs. “My friends and I call where we live The Bubble because we feel so enclosed. It feels like such a waiting period. Everything is on pause.”
With the nearest city a 30-minute boat ride away and no real local music scene to speak of, Lorde’s music has an eerie sense of isolation to it – a strange hybrid of influences that takes in the assumed rush of the world outside New Zealand and the stasis of her surrounding area. “I grew up never being able to watch live music, unless it was a band from overseas,” she says. “I’ve never felt like I’m part of this throbbing cultural mecca or anything like that.” In fact, twitchy recent single “Tennis Court” is named after Lorde and her mates’ favourite hangout (“No actual playing of tennis takes place, of course!”), while another makeshift night spot is something they call The Cube: “It’s on the edge of a cliff and it’s this overhang covered by a metal roof. The metal is rusting and breaking off and you’d probably get tetanus from it. You have to take three or four people and they have to be the right kind of people because you usually get stuck there.”
I’ve never felt like I’m part of this throbbing cultural mecca or anything like that
Over an intoxicating mesh of atmospheric drum-machine claps and warm synths, her unique, half-rapped vocals and lyrics touch on everything from material obsessions (“Royals”, recently remixed by The Weeknd) to dangerous cliques at school (“The Love Club”). It’s these more anecdotal songs that could get her in trouble when her debut album Pure Heroine is released on October 28. “There’s a lot of very personal stuff on there – my friends are like, ‘Oh fuck, now the whole world is going to know about that thing I did.’” If things go to plan, the whole world will know a lot more about Lorde herself pretty soon.