BASIC Issue 19: Avril Lavigne

RETURN OF THE POP-PUNK REBEL

Presented by KOTTÉ

BASIC MAGAZINE @basic_magazine

Photographer VIKTORIJA PASHUTA @viktorija_pashuta

Producer JACKSON CHONG @jacksonchong_

Stylist MAX GOR @maxgor

Executive Producer MASHA ZOLOTOVA @masha.zolotova

Hair & Makeup LAUREN BATES @laurenbateshair

Words by KIMBERLY HADDAD

Jewelry Stylist LANA VAA @aarnika

A wave of nostalgia sweeps over me when I revive memories of being a key holder at Hot Topic, rocking magenta-dyed locks, folding end-less piles of band tees, and singing along to Avril Lavigne’s infectious anthems “Complicated” and “SK8RBoi”. It has been nearly two decades since the Canadian singer-songwriter released her very first debut album, Let Go, but the queen is back and you’re gonna wish she was your wifey. After breaking into the music scene at just 17 years old, the eight-time Grammy nominated global superstar has sold more than 40 mil-lion albums worldwide and has continued mainstream success from the release off our more follow-up studio albums, includingUnder MySkin(2004),The Best DamnThing(2007),Goodbye Lullaby(2011) andAvril Lavigne(2013). Now, in celebration of her 20-year anniversary,Lavigne is returning to her pop-punk roots with her latest single “Bite Me” and an extensive world tour.

You have been doing music professionally for nearly 20 years now. It is so wild to think that I grew up listening to you when the music video for “Complicated” was all over MTV. Talk to me about your early life and what led you to the world of pop punk.

When I really first started to play music, I was a young child—maybe around six, seven, or eight years old. I was in church, up on stage singing and performing at local fairs. I was doing country music at the time and dabbling in that genre. When I got into high school, I was like, okay, I am not feeling this and I paused on it. In that moment, I didn’t want to sing because I wasn’t into the music I was doing at the time. Then, when I was around 14 or 15 years old, I was like, okay, what do I want to do? I had a guitar in my room and just started to write my own stuff. But when you get into high school, you start to buy your own CDs and cassette tapes, and I was really into bands like Blink 182, the Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox 20, and Green Day. I was into punk and rock ‘n’ roll. When I started becoming my own person, I was really into rock and punk music. I was also into skateboarding. I had really found my style and what I was feeling, so I started to write that stuff and it became my first album.

What was the first cassette tape you purchased?

A lot of them were gifts and I borrowed a lot of them from my brother and people at school. You know, we would share them. Do you remember doing that? But overall, I had Alanis Morissette and a lot of country stuff like Shania Twain.

When you first embarked on your music journey, you were very young and didn’t fully understand the industry or how everything worked, but you were eager to create and share your music. What was it like hearing yourself on the radio for the first time and when did you really comprehend the impact you were making on the world?

When I heard myself on the radio, I lost my shit. I was like, oh my God, I got it. It worked! I mean, I knew I had a record deal. I dropped out of high school and was writing my own songs, so it definitely paid off. But it wasn’t really sinking in. It was just so crazy to me that I was on the radio. When I won my first award for Best New Artist—it was a Moon Man—I was like, holy shit, I made it. From there, everything started to happen at such a rapid speed. To be honest, I don’t even know if everything was sinking in when it was happening. I was just a hard worker and every day was a new city, a new photo shoot, or something big.

Can you recall where you were or what you were doing when you heard yourself on the radio for that first time?

I was in a car and on a promo tour. I had just been at a radio station working and when we got in the car, we heard it. Honestly though, I still get excited every time I hear myself on the radio. Here’s a fun memory: I was in Tokyo working on my second album. I was walking through Harajuku Alley and all the little stores were playing my music. I would be shopping and hearing my music and then a truck would drive by with my face on it. I think it all really hit me during that time.

Your latest single “Bite Me” is currently out and the world is anticipating your seventh studio album to be released in late February.As a woman who is returning to her pop–punk roots, can you talk to me more about the development of this album and what it means to you? I understand you worked on it, almost exclusively, with your close friends.

I didn’t have a label or manager at the time. I was talking with Travis Barker—I’ve known him for 15 years— early on during the pandemic and he asked me about my music. He was like, we have to get in the studio. Then Mod [Sun] and I connected and he introduced me to Feldy [John Feldmann]. All of us started working and writing and I was also working separately with Travis. In the end, we all worked together on some stuff and that was sort of my process. MGK [Machine Gun Kelly] and a few others are on the album as well. It was just all the people that I know in the music scene. It was so fun and totally did not feel like work at all. I was just hanging out and working with my crew, writing, and having a blast. I think the album is a true reflection of where I’m at right now. It’s about looking back on love and my ups and downs, but it’s also light hearted, fun, and kind of funny. I’m in a good place in my life, a happy place. All my song writing is about my emotional journey. Sometimes it’s reflecting back or it’s just what I’m going through. The song “Bite Me” is a song about having to say goodbye and being the one who got away. It’s about a guy who fucked up and realized we had a good thing and wanted a second chance, but me not giving it to him. It’s a female empowerment anthem and knowing when it’s time to walk away. That theme is found throughout the whole record.

It must have been a really good feeling to have had the opportunity to be working together and being with close friends, especially during the pandemic when a lot of artists were hurting or may not have had access to their typical creative outlets.

Absolutely, 100 percent. It honestly gave us time to enjoy ourselves. I had the time to enjoy myself, to keep writing. We had enough songs for a record, but we were just having so much fun and I wanted to keep doing it. We wrote like 30 songs.

How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

From day one, I have been really honest with my song writing and have really turned to my instruments. Sometimes, you can’t always rely on humans, but I have always been able to rely on my guitar, my art, my journaling, and myself.

In a previous interview you had mentioned reflecting on your life and the fact that back then, you didn’t have a stylist or makeup artist, but instead, you wore your own clothes out of a suitcase for a year. What was it like having to do this all on your own? Did not having that support affect the way you felt about yourself or your work?

Not having a stylist still happens to me today. I actually did everything myself for the “Bite Me” music video. I have a tour comping up too, and I’ll have to style myself. It’s more work, but I have to do things myself sometimes because I’m very hands on. It’s nice when you have a helpful team who gets you. You need to, especially at the rate this industry moves at. It’s intense. But it’s like my song writing. It has to come from me and the same goes for the style. Yes, it’s nice when you have people helping you, people who understand your vision, but I’m just super hands on with everything. I think I’m more comfortable styling myself because no one knows me better than myself.

I want to get into skateboarding a bit because back in the day it was rare to see women in the sport, yet you served as a catalyst for introducing skateboarding to a generation of young girls and inspired many of them to try it for themselves. How did you initially get into skateboarding?

I was a total athlete. I played ice hockey on the guys’ team, but then I auditioned and made the girls’ team in high school. I played baseball in the summer and I was a pitcher. A lot of people in my high school skateboarded and I hung out with a lot of guys, so that’s when I really picked it up. I was rollerblading a lot too, especially as a hockey player. Growing up in Canada, it snowed a lot and our school would take ski trips where we would ski and snowboard. Skateboarding was the thing to do when the snow would melt. I loved it and I loved hanging out with the guys. That was a pretty big part of me when going into high school. I was writing my own music, playing the guitar, and skateboarding. I wore black eyeliner and dressed in baggy clothes. I entered high school when I was about 14 years old and dropped out at like 15 or 16 and then got a record deal. I remember moving to New York for maybe six months. I actually skateboarded through the streets there a little bit, which is really hard to do. And then, I went out on the road.

It seems as though you have learned the power of saying no when it comes to who you are and how you approach both your life and your career. It’s not an easy thing to do, but saying no enables you to feel empowered, respected, and above all, it makes room for more yes. How did you learn to prioritize your needs and master the art of saying no?

I had to fight for a lot. I would show up to photo shoots and they had racks of clothes I didn’t want to wear. I was like, gross, I am not wearing this pink frilly shirt. I would fight with the editors and there was always drama. I just wanted to wear my necktie! So, on my first album, I think people probably assumed I would have songs written for me and sing more poppy music. During my first six months working in NewYork, I hated everything. I was like, this sucks, they’re making me sing their songs, and I had to have a huge meeting with the label. I told them I wanted music with guitars, that I wanted to rock out and sound more like a band. They gave me time to let me develop and I ended up going out to LA. I was always speaking up and pushing and continuing to express myself to whoever I needed to. I still have to do that to this day. Like with anything in life, especially with work, it’s hard. You have a ton of people on your team and a record labels, but people can’t guess for you. You have to have a strong vision and really push everything in that direction to achieve that. You have to be clear of what you want and don’t want and you have to speak up a lot. That’s what I find, and it’s never easy.

I applaud you for having the capacity to do that. It’s incredibly challenging to be authentic in that way and speak up for what you want under that kind of pressure, especially as a woman in the industry.

It really is, and I recognize that. It drives me crazy sometimes. My pet peeve is having to repeat myself in life because I’m a really chill person, but that’s part of the fight and it makes it worth it in the end.

What do you enjoy doing outside of music that contributes to your musicality? In essence, a hobby that you might turn to in order to rejuvenate your creativity.

I love to cook. It’s a passion for me. I paint too .I’m a Libra, so it’s funny, I’m really into decorating and making my house a vibe. I have a fun closet with a pink couch and chandeliers. It’s gold and French-inspired, but also rock ‘n’ roll. I’m very much into décor and I am very organized. I love keeping my house clean. I also love to dirt bike. I love camping and rollerblading down the beach.

How does it feel to be receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year?

It’s a very big honor and an exciting time because it’s marking the 20th anniversary of my music. I just want to be in the moment and celebrate the gift of music and this amazing opportunity that I’ve had in my life. I want to celebrate the fans, the tours, and records. I want to be very present for it and just reflect on the last 20 years.

Reflecting on those 20 years, what has been one of the biggest lessons you have learned throughout your career?

I don’t know what the biggest lesson I’ve learned is, but reflecting back, it’s been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. I just want to do the Libra thing of finding balance and working hard, but having a blast and enjoying it. At the end of the day, I love music and I love writing, but it can be intense, so it’s all about that balance.

You have a world tour confirmed for 2022. How are you feeling about it?

We’re starting in Europe, so after dealing with the pandemic, I’m definitely looking forward to traveling. I’m really looking forward to being in all these cool cities, connecting with the fans and putting on a live show again. My last tour was in the fall of 2019 and it was supposed to continue into 2020, but it got cancelled. So, I’m just excited to pick back up and get out there again.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?

Yes! I had such a good time shooting with you guys. The stylists were incredible and they picked out amazing outfits. The clothing was literally my favorite thing and the photographer was also super cool. This interview was really great too. I have been doing tons of interviews and sometimes they don’t have very good questions, but yours were really great and I appreciate the time you took.

Awe, that is super sweet, thank you. It was our pleasure and we are thrilled to feature you in this issue.

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