The phrase “psychedelic music” calls to mind the trippy hippie imagery of the ‘60s and ‘70s. But psychedelia for the modern age looks like mazie, a 23-year-old pop star on the rise.
Last year, mazie exploded in popularity as her song “dumb dumb” took TikTok by storm. Now, after a string of singles including the rock-infused “girls just wanna have sex” and the ethereal “it’s not me (it’s u),” she’s releasing her debut album “blotter baby” on February 24, a sonically diverse project showcasing mazie’s irreverent lyrics and signature vocals to full effect. INTO sat down with mazie to talk about the importance of being a little silly, what it means to be part of music’s TikTok generation, and getting more vulnerable than ever in her songs.
Hi, mazie! Let’s talk about your most recent single, “it’s not me (it’s u).” What was your inspiration for that?
It was about a relationship that I had never really taken the time to write about in that way before. There was just a lot going on, a lot of transition happening at the time, and we had started it in two different pieces. We’d written the chorus before I left for tour and then didn’t have verses. It felt really hard for me to write. And then I came back from touring, and then we just attempted to write the verses a billion times. And then we, I don’t know, finally got through it. But it was the hardest song I’ve ever written for sure.
What do you think made it so difficult?
Just because it was very authentic to the situation and what was going on. It was just very real.
Yeah, I get that. It’s also a bit of a departure from some of your other songs sonically, getting a little more dreamy, a little slower. What was it like to kind of work in that different sound?
It didn’t feel at the time that we were working in a different sound, just because that was a song part of the entire album process, and we were writing a lot of music like that. I think there’s more similar moments to “it’s not me (it’s u)” on the record than other songs that I’ve put out before. So we were very intentionally trying to be songwriter-focused for a lot of the record and even writing most of it acoustically, which is very different for my producer and I, because my music tends to be a little more production-focused. And we were just sort of like, “Alright, we’ve been there, done that. Let’s just get to the songwriting.”
Can you tell me more about the album as a whole, and what it was like to explore so many different sounds?
What was really difficult — and not difficult in the way that it was a challenge — was when you’re approaching a full body of work, which I had never done before, there were just so many routes we could go. There were so many different things we could experiment with. So I think at first we were a little overwhelmed by how much choice we had, and the ways we were going to explore. And then it just started coming together. I don’t know, we just started to pursue the things that felt best for us in our flow in the studio, and it was a lot of experimentation.
Coming back to this idea of putting songwriting first, with “it’s not me (it’s u),” do you have a favorite lyric from the song?
I think the first couple lyrics, like, “I want to fight but don’t even bother, ‘cause when you yell, you look just like your father.” Actually, the verses in general, the stuff about codependency and everything, those were some of my favorite lyrics that I’ve ever written.
I also wanted to talk about your previous single, “girls just want to have sex.” It’s a headbanger, it’s a good time, but there’s still a little bit of a taboo in music when it comes to being so candid about centering women’s pleasure and having queer sex. How do you feel about that taboo?
It doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever. It still doesn’t make sense to me. I actually was a little taken aback when I was first posting about the song coming out and people hearing it for the first time, just the fact that there’s any weirdness around it at all. Like, I just live in a universe where that doesn’t exist, and so it just was like, wow, I forgot that people care that much, which is bizarre to me. But in the studio, it wasn’t intended to inherently be this big statement. It was just like, “This is how I fucking feel. Let’s have fun today.”
One of my favorite things about your music is that you’re not afraid to be a little silly, a little irreverent. How do you feel about incorporating humor into your music?
It’s so important. I think taking yourself so seriously can be a little problematic. Like, you have the range of “it’s not me (it’s u)” where we were taking ourselves really seriously, and you have songs like “menace” and a variety of others where it was like, that is not the vibe. That was me just literally being like, “Let me just yell into the mic really quick and see what happens.” And there is just as much value in that process as there is in a super heady cerebral process.
Absolutely. You also had this big boom in popularity with “dumb dumb” going viral on TikTok. In general, how do you feel about being part of this TikTok generation of music?
It honestly depends on the day that you ask me how I feel about it. I am excited by it, but primarily frustrated by it, just because I think it’s hard to communicate with an audience on that platform when it’s primarily an influencer-first platform. I think you’re seeing a lot of artists try to be an influencer, and I feel like that a lot of the time. And it feels so counter to being a creative who’s in the studio, and that’s the primary vehicle for what you’re expressing yourself.
For me, I feel like I dilute myself and the seriousness of what I’m doing by trying to be on there in some ways, but I’m navigating it, and I’m figuring out how to be authentic to my artistry on there, but it’s challenging. You can’t progress your career without being on there and participating in social media. So I don’t know. We have to have it, but it’s challenging.
Yeah, almost a necessary evil. I’d love to talk more about the album as a whole, “blotter baby.” Is there any overarching theme or story to the album?
I wouldn’t say that there’s inherently a story. It’s not a concept piece. As much as I would love to work on a concept piece, it was hard enough as it was to make this. But I would say psychedelia. That’s just sort of the message I’ve been consistently talking about. There’s a lot of touchstones on classic psychedelic rock on there. I’m just really trying to modernize what psychedelic music sounds like.
Do you recommend that people take psychedelics before they listen to the album?
I feel like legally I cannot! [laughs] I have never listened to my music on psychedelics, so if someone does, they should let me know what it’s like. Because I would have a mental breakdown listening to my music, but let me know.
That is a great legal-friendly way of putting it. Where does the title “blotter baby” come from?
It was one of the first things I had written down in the process. We had attempted to write a song called “blotter baby” a billion times, just because the alliteration is fun and whatever. But I feel like I’m “blotter baby,” I feel like the album is “blotter baby.” Blotter paper is what LSD is on, so it was just a little nod to that.
Which non-single track from the album are you most excited for your fans to hear?
I think “u and i will always be ok.” I think that one’s just very, very sweet, and the writing on it — again, one of if not the most authentic song to my life. Every single line is based on a real person, real event, so I’m so excited for that one.
I love when people get that personal in their songwriting, because the specificity of it makes it feel universal.
I totally agree.
Wasn’t there a line in there, like, “this stupid cat is all we’ve ever saved”? I heard that and I was like, “Oh my god, I’m gonna cry.”
I love that you know that! That’s crazy.
Do you have a cat?
Oh, yes. He’s around. His name is Marty. Marty Bird. I’m obsessed with him. He’s the love of my life.
I’m missing my cat right now. Anyway, what do you hope listeners take away from your music?
I hope they feel like they know me a lot better. That was really the main thing I was pushing for, was like, “Okay, we have a sonic world, but we don’t have me yet.” I just have been really hesitant to be open and share myself in that capacity, and I feel like I did with this record in a lot of ways. So I hope that they just feel like they know me better, but also that we know each other better. It really feels like an “I’m in my early 20s” album. And I’m excited for people to hopefully connect with that so we can all give each other a nice hug at some point.♦
“blotter baby” is now streaming on all platforms.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.