Avril Lavigne Is Still The Motherf*cking (Pop-Punk) Princess
For the last 20 years, Avril Lavigne has been an enigma that nobody could quite figure out. Was she an ingenious, 17-year-old, tomboy songwriter, or was she a “poser?” A fashion icon who made girls around the world rock neckties, or a bad influence who showed butt cleavage at the VMAs? A Guinness-world record-breaker who reached over 100 million views on YouTube for her “Girlfriend” music video, or a clone imposter named “Melissa?”
Maybe the reason the media and haters had trouble with Avril Lavigne is because they couldn’t put her in a box, and unfortunately for them, they still can’t! Avril is still rocking her punk-rock style, but changing it up every once in a while with a pink or sparkly number (like her recent outfit choice for this year’s VMAs). She’s still writing deep and poetic songs, but also high-energy, fun tunes that you can blast when you’re pissed off at your boyfriend. People on the internet are still speculating about weird conspiracy theories, but Avril still looks and sounds almost exactly the same as she did on her debut concert tour in 2002 (and that’s a good thing).
Avril’s upcoming album, Love Sucks, is a throwback to the Avril you probably fell in love with when you were too young to attend her concerts without a chaperone. Better yet, she’s collaborating with some of your other favorites, both new (like MGK) and old (like Blink-182). We spoke to the punk-rock princess about her upcoming album, her style evolution, the toxic media culture of the 2000s, and what it’s been like recording and dating during a pandemic (keep scrolling for a cute story about her first kiss with her boyfriend, Mod Sun).
We’re having this exciting alternative, pop-punk, whatever you want to call it, resurgence right now. Was this part of your inspiration for getting back into the studio for your 7th album?
No, it’s not why. After my tour got canceled ‘cuz of the pandemic, I was just talking with my friends, like Travis [Barker] and stuff, and just started making this kind of record, and it just kind of worked out that way really.
Good timing! With seven albums, where do you find inspiration to keep your projects fresh or find new inspiration for your music?
In general, I feel inspired right now by music, and I’m really amped on this album. This album’s really upbeat, pop-punk, it’s super fun and I’m super inspired because I have a lot of really fun people around me that I’m working with such as Blackbear, Mark Hoppus from Blink-182, Travis Barker, MGK, and being in the studio and working with these people has been very inspiring because I’m a huge fan of their music. I haven’t had an album like this with this many features, so it’s fun just working with everybody and I feel so lucky that I get to work with my friends in the studio.
The three tracks I’ve had the privilege of hearing from the album all sort of talk about being in unhealthy and unhappy relationships. Can you tell us about your inspiration for those songs?
Well, the record is called Love Sucks, and that’s because that’s how I was feeling when I started the album. I was feeling really over love and relationships, and I was like, I just need a moment to focus on myself. And that was the first time I had ever felt that way, where I was just like, “I’m just gonna do things for me and not worry about being in a relationship,” but then that didn’t last very long. So yeah, just after going through a few relationships and that not working out, it’s like…ya know. But, I’m in a great place in my life right now and I do think that the album is very light and it’s fun and sort of poking fun at my ups and downs in love. I got to just kind of reflect on that and write about it.
I love that they’re fun and upbeat, but it’s stuff that everybody can relate to! I feel like so many people I know, including myself, have gone through periods in our lives where we’re like, “Oh my God if I have to go on another bad date or be in another bad relationship again, I don’t know if I can make it through that!”
Yeah! And the record has an empowering message and it’s kind of just like knowing your self worth and standing up for yourself and not letting someone take advantage of you, and knowing when to say “no,” and making the best choices for yourself, and not letting someone else walk all over you type of thing. So I feel like it’s good to have that message for people.
I love that! Can you share with our readers some type of lesson you learned from taking that time for yourself or just from some of the relationships you’ve been in?
It’s really that I’m the most important person in my world and to put myself first. Life is short, if you’re not happy or someone isn’t treating you right, then move on.
So, I heard his song, “Karma” and I loved it. He’s so fun in the studio! We got together and he introduced me to John Feldman and I felt like both of them really understood me. We all complimented each other and our energies all just fed off of each other—we were all just having so much fun! I’d say this is probably the most fun record I’ve made!
That’s amazing! Is it important for you to have a partner that you can creatively collaborate with?
I feel like I go back and forth…I don’t really actually know. It’s been fun with Mod [Sun] to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and they understand my world. And it was fun for us because we really bonded over music. And I feel like most of my friends are musicians, so we’re all just sort of similar types of people.
If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
Well, I love Nirvana, so I guess somebody who’s not with us today would be like Kurt Cobain. Right now I’m collaborating with the people I’ve wanted to collaborate with, which is Blink-182 ‘cuz they were my favorite band in high school and my teenage years! Getting to work with Travis [Barker] and Mark [Hoppus] was very epic for me—it was an epic opportunity! I was blown away by Mark’s talent! He really can do it all: Songwriting, recording himself, producing…When I had my studio session with him, I don’t know if it was Zoom, but we were on camera and so he was recording himself and it was going into the ProTools, and then we were recording me, and simultaneously the session was being updated. I’ve never worked that way before, but we did it because of COVID, but I was like, “Oh my God! Go, Mark!” He’s like a total producer, engineer, his songwriting…He was so quick and so good! And then he would just record himself and I was just blown away by his talent. So I did an interview with him the other day, and I told him that. I was like, “You had a huge impact on me musically while I was young and becoming who I was becoming musically!” That was the band that I really related to and gravitated towards and loved at such a young age. It was cool because during the interview the other day, I was able to tell him that.
I didn’t even think about that, how recording must’ve been a little more challenging with COVID…
I had a mask on for at least six months in the studio…
That is crazy!
My first kiss with Mod was with a mask on! And I made everyone around me wear a mask around me in the beginning because I was super paranoid. I didn’t want to get sick, but yeah…our first kiss we had masks on!
Oh my God, that’s so cute! Was that in the studio?
I’m not gonna say where it was but…
Fair enough! What you were saying with Blink-182, how they were so influential on you in your teenage years, I feel like, with the amount of time you’ve been in the spotlight, so many of your super fans were kids at the time. I remember being in the third grade wearing a tie to school because I was so obsessed with your first album! Has it been cool to see your fan base grow up with you as you’ve grown as an artist?
It’s really, really cool and unique that my audience gets to grow with me, yes! And I can actually see it, and I’ve known certain fans from day one that I recognize out in the front row. I have a relationship with a few of them that felt trustworthy, you know, you gotta be careful! So there are people from day one that I keep in touch with and I recognize people and they still come to the show, and a lot of them are from—it’s called “Avril Bandaids”—from day one. I feel so lucky that so many fans were so young when they connected with my music and got to grow up with me and they still connect with my music. My fanbase is truly just incredible!
So I know in the early 2000s, most celebrities were told to keep their lives private if they could, and now it’s kind of the opposite, where you’re expected to keep up with social media, post about your life, etc. Was this a weird transition for you or have you learned to like social media?
I’d say I am still pretty private, because the stuff I post on social media is typically about my music or what I’m up to and that’s how I let everyone know what’s going on. I like social media and I like sharing some parts of my life, but some people are on it all day long and I can’t do that. I like it because it’s how you can connect with the fans and give them accurate information and update them directly. Back in the day you didn’t have that at all. I’ve never had a rumor that I’ve had to clear up, but I think about that often. If there’s just some crazy rumor, you can just tell people directly, “that didn’t happen.” That’s the cool thing! You have a voice and you get to say what’s for real and they get to hear it directly from you!
I feel like that’s always what I thought about too! Especially because during the time you were just getting started, I feel like the media was extra critical towards celebrities.
Oh yeah, for sure! I didn’t even think about that, you’re totally right!
Like, they were cruel sometimes! Do you feel like the media is more forgiving now?
Well, I haven’t done anything crazy, like there haven’t been any real scandals with me, but I hear what you’re saying! The press was for sure more mean in general to celebrities [in the early 2000s], and harsh and critical, and that shit doesn’t fly as much these days anymore. [A certain gossip columnist] was so mean to everybody and it was just literally not okay or healthy for people. I actually called him ‘cuz I was getting huge headaches, and I was under so much stress. I was in a new city every day on a promo tour. I worked so hard to write these songs and put them out, and he kept talking so much trash about me and he was so unbelievably mean to me and it was so hurtful, so I was like, “I think I should call him and tell him.” And I called him from the road, from my tour bus, and I was like, “Hey, this is Avril,” and he was like, “Oh hi.” I was like, “I just wanted to call you to let you know that you’re hurting me.” I tried to just communicate that to him and he kind of just laughed in my face and then went to his fucking trashy website and continued to talk more smack. And now people can’t get away with that because it’s not okay! And it isn’t funny, it’s fucked up. And you’re totally right—did you watch the Britney Spears documentary? They show how harsh the interviewers were towards her, like commenting on her body. You can’t even talk like that to people anymore—you would get in so much shit! Things were way harsher back then, people were more critical and mean. It’s unacceptable to treat people like that now I think, don’t you?
For sure! I feel like, at that time, people forgot that celebrities were real people. So I think it’s cool that you called him to be like, “Listen, I’m reading this and it’s hurting me,” and it says something about him that he still was just like, “Ok, whatever.”
Absolutely! I was like, “Wow, he’s so cold, he has no heart.” I’m a genuinely compassionate, sympathetic, empathetic person and I was just like—my mind is blown that he didn’t have a heart. But I like to see that the world has sort of rallied around the idea of not standing for bullying.
Speaking of weird rumors, I know you’re familiar with the conspiracy theories about you having a clone named Melissa, and I feel like people started talking about this theory again with your appearance at the VMAs. What are your thoughts on that?
But on the other hand, doesn’t everyone constantly say that I literally look the same as I always have?
Yes, and you do! You literally look and sound exactly the same as 20 years ago!
So it’s funny because everyone says I look the same, but then there’s that. That doesn’t make any sense. Also, how random? When people bring it up, and it’s been brought up to me for like, years, that there’s this conspiracy theory that I’m not me or something? I’m a clone? How did something like that get so—I don’t know, it’s just the weirdest rumor. I mean, do you think it’s true?
No! The weirdest thing to me is that they made up a name, like where did you guys get a name from?
I know! It’s so weird that it’s continued to go this long too. It’s so bizarre, I can’t help but laugh at it!
It’s so random! When I was reading about where it came from, people justified it by saying that your style changed. I think it was after the first two albums, you kind of started being more girly and playful with your style—which obviously is normal, people experiment with their style. Did you make a conscious decision to dress more girly?
When I was introduced into the scene, I was very young, I was 17. I was a tomboy and I grew up in Canada. I went fishing and camping, playing hockey with the boys on the boys’ hockey team, playing all these sports, hanging with the guys. I was a total tomboy. When I hit my twenties, I’m not going to be dressing like I’m 17 anymore…I didn’t think about it. My fashion changes all the time. I’ll still rock hoodies and skate shoes and vans, but not every day! My fashion’s evolved and I’ve been introduced to really cool designers. Before, I wouldn’t want to wear a dress, but I learned I appreciated nice clothes and had fun with them. But I also like to still keep my fashion casual, because I like to be comfortable and I love it to kind of have a rock and roll flare. I also was able to see that my style really resonated with the fans. Each album cycle, I see the fan base show up to the shows dressed like me. So album one was like necktie, straight hair, black eyeliner, white tank top, and then the next album Under My Skin, everyone was dying their hair black underneath and wearing the bondage pants. And then the third album, The Best Damn Thing, everyone was doing the pink streak in their hair and it was so fun to see that as I changed and my fashion evolved, the fanbase, they connected with that, and were into it, so that’s been really fun. I started my own clothing line, Abbey Dawn, it’s just like a rock n’ roll fashion brand, so I’ve been able to have fun with the fashion and the music, and it all ties in together.
Your style is amazing. I feel like designers must’ve been putting out ties back when your first album came out. I feel like it was so influential at the time, it was crazy!
I know! And I’ll always love baggy pants and a hoodie, but I also love tutus or a short plaid skirt, and pink, and Hello Kitty!
Same! Going back to what you were saying about how you’ve literally looked the same since you were 17—can you share any skincare or life secrets for staying so young?
Well, I tried to stay out of the sun for years! I always ate really healthy and drank a lot of water. Lots of organic fruits and vegetables, no processed foods or junk. At one point I was vegan, at one point I was vegetarian, and then I ended up just eating protein, like fish and meat. But, I’ve always been really health-conscious and just tried to eat healthy, organic, and just as healthy as possible really. And then on the other and, just like beer…beer and wine.
Everything in moderation! I know you have to go, so I’ll just ask you one last question: Is there any other hint you can give us about what to expect on the new album and tour?
Well, I told you about all the features. I can’t wait for people to blast this album in their cars. It’s so much fun, tons of energy, and super sassy! I think it has an empowering message for women or people. I get to tell my story, what I’ve been through in love, my ups and downs, and I take it and I turn it into a good thing! You live life and learn lessons, you put your head up and you move forward! And, ya know, we only get one life, so you gotta make it count and surround yourself with good people. And if you’re not happy, move on! If someone’s not treating you well, move on! I’m really excited to take these songs out live, and I think it’s probably what the fans want to hear from me right now. My last album was more mellow, more introspective. It was deep, it was heavy, and this album is like, I’m in a great place in my life, I’m having fun with music, and I’ve made a pop-punk record from front to back. I’ve made an alternative album and we’ve taken it to alternative radio and it’s different to go down that road. And I’m just loving music and I feel really lucky and blessed to be working with the amazing other musicians and artists that I’m working with on this album. And I’m just happy and grateful to still be here, and thankful for my fan base for still being this supportive 20 years into my career. I still feel their love and their support and I’m so grateful for that and that I can just continue to make music today and do what I truly love in life!
Photography and Creative Direction: Jacob DeKat @JacobDeKat
Stylist: Bianca Agrusa @bianca_agrusa
Hair Stylist: Lauren Bates @laurenbateshair
Make Up: @mrs_lindysue
Location: Cherry Soda Studios @cherrysodastudios
First: Brittany Jackson @brittanyraexoxo
Second: Brooke Murray @brooke_murrayy1
Sydnee Nanas @sydnee_rai
Sooyon Kim @sooyonelinakim