I first encountered Poppy as a teenager on YouTube, and her surreal performance art videos still call to mind the uncanny valley. That perfectly neutral, ethereal quality is apparent in her voice on Zoom where, in between tours and fresh off a festival gig in Toluca, Mexico, she took part in this week’s edition of Tour Diary. Poppy’s new record, Zig, came out earlier this year, and its stand-out single, “Church Outfit,” is a real crowd pleaser, a club ballad, with lyrics that reflect the late-capitalist zeitgeist. “Life is a commercial for death,” she whispers, “and you’re hypnotized by the advertisement.” Earlier this month, the video vixen talked to us about her pre-performance routine and putting on a show in head-to-toe latex.
JULIETTE JEFFERS: Where are you right now?
POPPY: I’m in Los Angeles.
JEFFERS: Are you currently on tour?
POPPY: I’m just recording. I’m starting tour in mid-January so I’m here at home just working on new music until the end of the year. Then, I go on tour from mid-January to April 1st.
JEFFERS: That’s a long stretch. Have you thought about your looks?
POPPY: Yeah, I’m gonna be doing a couple of custom looks for those tours. The outfit that I wore in Mexico was a custom piece as well.
JEFFERS: Cool. What was the inspiration behind it?
POPPY: My stylist, Eric, and I called it “Bondage on the Prairie” because we were in Toluca, Mexico, which is a prairie-like area a bit outside of Mexico City. It was very strappy, but also femme and ballet pink, which I love. We had a corset base, so that was fun to sing in because Mexico is at a higher elevation. I believe it’s even a higher elevation than Denver. So you’re working with that, the corset, and then the adrenaline and excitement. Breathing was a challenge, but it was really fun.
JEFFERS: It’s intriguing to think about how the clothing that you’re performing in physically affects your performance. A lot of your newer music is much more danceable, has that translated to the way you move on stage?
POPPY: Yeah, now and going forward it will. In the past, I never paid much attention to footwear on stage. I would wear really high heels or footwear that didn’t exactly make sense because I didn’t want to be somebody that just wore sneakers on stage, even though those are comfortable. I’m a big fan of wearing boots or platforms, and on the tour that I did in the fall, I was wearing heeled boots for quite a bit of it while jumping a lot. So I was jumping in heels for about an hour-and-a-half. That definitely wears on your feet. Now I’m big on making sure I have the appropriate footwear. Also, when you use a pedal board and you’re tapping different pedals, you have to make sure your shoes don’t get in the way. You can’t have pointed toes because you could end up triggering the wrong pedal.
JEFFERS: That’s so interesting. What shoes did you wear in Mexico?
POPPY: It was a minimal toe, more of a kitten heel boot. I really like this brand, Rombaut. Their shoes and their boots are really comfortable and stage compatible. I also have a couple of shoes from Acne that are nice, but for the next tour, I’m sure it will change. Simone Rocha shoes are really nice because they are platforms, mostly.
JEFFERS: Yeah, the platform sneakers are very comfortable. The ballet flat sneaker is still a chic stage shoe.
POPPY: Yeah, or a low kitten heel, too. Another outfit story that was funny was when I decided to wear a full latex outfit. It was head to toe, high neck, long sleeves, long pants. As soon as I got out on stage and the lights hit me, I was like, “This is not a good idea.” By the end of the performance, I was swimming in my own liquid because I was so sweaty. I remember bending over and kneeling down at one point, and I was sliding around in the latex because there was nowhere for it to go.
JEFFERS: Oh my god. It’s impressive that you just powered through that. Latex isn’t exactly a breathable material.
POPPY: Yeah, I felt like a big balloon. If you see someone in latex at an award show, it’s like a three-minute long performance. This was for an hour and ten minutes. And then there was the fact that it was long sleeves, long pants and a turtleneck of latex.
JEFFERS: Sausage in a casing vibes. Before a big performance like that, do you have any pre-show rituals? What’s in your system? What are you drinking?
POPPY: Usually I’ll do my vocal warm up and I’ll stretch and meditate. Sometimes my excitement for the show can take over and I need to center myself before I get on stage. I know there’s a task at hand. I want to be at my best for it, and I stopped drinking coffee altogether. The last time I had coffee was before this press day that I did in L.A. and then I vowed that I’m no longer going to drink coffee. I think I’m just a very sensitive person with a sensitive system. I get very very wound up easily by coffee and stimulants. So I’ll do an herbal tea before I go on stage, something to keep my throat and myself warm. It was cold on that day in Mexico. I have a lot of vocal syrups and lozenges that I will have beforehand, too. And there’s no meal that’s specific to a show day, but I keep it very clean and simple.
JEFFERS: When did you start meditating?
POPPY: A couple of years ago. When you’re traveling, so many things are out of your control that you need something to return to, to ground yourself, and I lean more holistic with my methods. It’s nice to put noise-canceling headphones on. Even if you’re in a chaotic environment, you just go somewhere else in your mind.
JEFFERS: It’s true.
POPPY: A festival is quite different from a show because there’s so many bands and so many people around. In our green room there was a band that was celebrating. We could hear them from across the way. I just put my noise-canceling headphones on and tuned it out. And then when I got back, they were still yelling and stuff. Like, I was gone for the last 20 minutes, but they were still there.
JEFFERS: Did you see any of the other performances at the festival?
POPPY: So we played on the Hell Stage that Muse was closing, and I saw Bad Omens’ set, who played after I did. That was it. We played the show and we were off back to Los Angeles.
JEFFERS: Did you have the chance to explore Toluca at all or was it very in and out?
POPPY: We did go to a restaurant that I really liked called Cascabel. That was the first night that we arrived, and that was tasty. I’ve been to Mexico City like six other times. One was for a pride event, another was for one of my shows, and then for music festivals in the past.
JEFFERS: What’s been your favorite song to perform live recently?
POPPY: From the new record, I really like playing “Church Outfit.” And “Knock Off” is another one that people seem to enjoy live. But “Spit,” which is my cover of Kittie’s song “Spit,” that one’s really fun. We usually play that at the end of the set.
JEFFERS: How do you unwind after that?
POPPY: Another routine—I love my routines, because I feel I’m able to think through them. While the action is a routine, I’m able to mentally go somewhere else because the action is so familiar. So after the show, I usually take off my makeup and get into my pajamas right away.
JEFFERS: That’s perfect.
POPPY: If I’m on the bus, I will go to bed. My cat travels with me. His name is Pie, so we’ll snuggle together. But if it’s a fly date and we’re doing a one-off show, I go back to the hotel and take a shower and probably be one of the first ones to go to sleep.
JEFFERS: What’s your sign? I feel like you’re very grounded in routine.
POPPY: I am a Capricorn. My birthday is January 1st.
JEFFERS: That makes sense.