FLETCHER on How Quaranting With Her Ex Led To Her Most Honest Music Yet
The pop singer/songwriter’s new 'The S(ex) Tapes' EP is an unfiltered healing processby Bianca Gracie
FLETCHER is quite impulsive.
Her new The S(ex) Tapes EP was originally set for a Sept. 18 release, but she couldn’t wait any longer and surprise-dropped it over a week early.
“I just felt like it was pretty on-brand for me to leak my own sex tape,” the pop singer/songwriter tells SPIN on Sept. 9 — the afternoon of the new release — with a cheeky laugh. “I wanted to be able to just share it with people as soon as possible.”
There aren’t any rules when it comes to FLETCHER’s music (born Cari Elise Fletcher), whose career kicked off with 2015’s viral hit “War Paint.” The artist attributes it to giving “way less fucks” in every aspect of her life.
“I used to give way too many and it messes with your mental health,” she says. “I’ve taken on this new attitude, especially over the last couple of months. I’m just going to say what I want to say and do shit how I want to do it. You can’t please everybody.”
That mentality is partly what led to The S(ex) Tapes, a seven-track project that — in the spirit of a typically wild sex tape — unravels a passionate cycle of make-ups and breakups. After various conversations regarding their future, FLETCHER called on her ex to direct all of the project’s videos. The artist has openly discussed her love life before, most recently with last October’s You Ruined New York City For Me. While that EP was recorded long after a previous relationship, the raw emotions threading The S(ex) Tapes are occurring in real-time.
During the pandemic, FLETCHER returned to her native New Jersey to be with family and then-girlfriend of four years, YouTuber Shannon Beveridge. Yet the pair broke up in the midst of quarantine while the artist was still working on her own codependency issues. “My way of being able to make sense of all of this has been through therapy and being really, really honest about what I’ve been going through [through my music],” she says. “I’ve been crashing on my couch ‘cause I’m too anxious to still sleep in my bedroom because it makes me sad, you know? It’s one of those moments that’s been really trying, but also quite liberating at the same time.”
FLETCHER continues: “There’s just so much to unpack and life isn’t so cut and dry. This EP allowed us to turn something that was pretty painful into something tangible that we could share. It’s like art in that way.”
SPIN spoke with the artist (who recently returned to Los Angeles) on how she regained her sense of self during the EP’s recording process while simultaneously mending broken heart pieces.
SPIN: What stands out on the EP is how you portray the normalcy of same-sex relationships. The media often unnecessarily dramatizes it. There’s no filter behind what you’re putting out when it comes to your relationships.
FLETCHER: I think queer relationships in the media— especially with two women — have the tendency to be hypersexualized and often portrayed through a male gaze. It’s entirely not representative of actual queer relationships. I’ve never even thought about the fact that I’m intentionally creating something from a queer perspective. That’s not my headline. It’s just this feeling of loving somebody so much and love being a really complicated thing between two people. These are all things that have nothing to do with who the other person’s gender is.
I think fans relate to you so much because you’re not doing this to make a statement. You’re not putting “QUEER” in bold capital letters — this is just who you are.
I really appreciate that. I also think there’s still such a stigma around women’s sexuality. The more that we talk about our pleasure and just having genuine, authentic experiences within the discovery of sexuality is so key. I mean, men have been talking about their experiences for literally ever. Like, let’s chat about that wet ass pussy. [Laughs.]
When you dropped “Bitter,” I tweeted about how naughty you were getting. The main lyric that stands out is: “I know you fucked her on the counter right before you cooked her dinner.” It’s so petty! [Laughs.]
Yeah, I really love that one too. It was produced by Kito and I wrote it with one of my really good friends from college, Mary Weitz. We had lost touch for a while and “Bitter” was the first time that we hung out again in a really long time. We’ve all been petty about sh-t before. You’re almost [thinking], “Are you doing the same things with that person that you did with me?” I think it’s really easy to feel replaced. “I know you fucked her on the counter before you cooked her dinner” is probably the petty sh-t I’ve ever said. [Laughs.]
On the flip side — and tell me if you agree with this — “Feel” is the most honest moment on the record. How difficult was it for you to face those emotions head-on?
I have felt the sensation of “Feel” more than one time at different points throughout the course of the relationship. So every time it comes back again it doesn’t hurt any less than it did the first time. It feels super real. That song was written by Jennifer Decilveo and Caitlyn Smith. When I heard the demo of it for the first time, it was a guitar voice memo. I started crying because that was the stage that I was in. I knew I just had to take it and put my own spin on it. So yeah, I cried a lot recording that song. “Feel” [reflects] the stage that I’m currently in right now, too. So it’s definitely hitting me the hardest. It’s a heart ripper-outer.
We’re both ‘90s babies and love Britney Spears. The song and video for “The One” give me those vibes.
We shot that in Jersey and like with all the videos, we didn’t have a crew. I literally set my iPhone up in the corner of the room to snag some [behind the scenes footage]. We did the set design, the glam, the hair, the makeup, the light, everything. So for this one, we were literally taking the lamps from my parents’ bedroom. We ordered a fog machine online and got red light bulbs from Amazon. Being from the Jersey Shore and going to clubs and shit, I really wanted to bring that super dirty, Britney Spears-inspired sweaty bass to it. [Laughs.]
While being in quarantine with Shannon, did you ever question yourself? Like, “How did I end up here?”
Yeah, it’s always been a tug of war. I’ve never really been in a situation where I’ve met somebody who’s the most amazing human who I love with my whole heart. But also having a lot of stuff that I still feel like I need to figure out. How could you be good for somebody else if you can’t be good for yourself? [The unknown future] is just a really hard pill to swallow.
I could not have imagined making this project with anybody else. I couldn’t have asked for a better other half of my brain and a creative partner who’s on the same wavelength [as me]. But yeah, it’s emotional. That’s why this EP coming out is so, so bittersweet because this is a time capsule for the time that we spent together. It’s representative of where our relationship was and just her always capturing me in the most beautiful, intimate way. It’s something that I’m going to hold in my heart forever.
You dropped your debut single “War Paint” back in 2015. With every passing year, it seems like you’re wiping that paint away and becoming more vulnerable.
That’s a cool visual. I’ve never really thought about it like that, but I think I did start my career with this idea of being like, “You have to be really tough and a badass and a super warrior.” I realized that strength is in simplicity. You have to let your crown fall sometimes, you know?
You’ve also embraced your sensuality more than I’ve ever seen. The video for “If I Hated You” is basically a ‘90s Calvin Klein ad.
I used to have this idea that sexuality had to just be depicted in a certain way. I always just thought I was too shy to be sexy. I just had this container that sexy fit in. But “sexy” can literally be whatever the fuck you want it to be like. You don’t have to have any amount of experience to be considered sexy or to want to feel sexy. I think it’s just about owning your body, feeling empowered, and making your own choices. There’s so much to learn about yourself through that. The more time goes on and the more experiences I have, the more I feel in touch with myself and in my body. Also being with somebody that provided me an outlet to make me feel that way was definitely a big part of that.
Going back to when we first met and I included you on my list of 2015’s “Anti-It Girls of Pop.” You’ve continued that notion of not wanting to fit a cookie-cutter mold that most people associate with female pop musicians.
I don’t even know that that was something I necessarily was setting out to do. I was just like, “Oh fuck, why does anything have to be any certain type of way?” I’ll say what I’m feeling and see if that works, you know? Oversharing is caring! I’ve never had a filter. I don’t know what happened. It got lost somewhere when I popped out in Jersey. [Laughs]
It’s probably a Jersey thing.
Yeah, it straight up didn’t exist with my parents. There’s no such thing in the Fletcher household.