required reading

“It’s Embarrassing. We Know.”: How Cazzie David and Lorde Forged a Friendship on the Internet

By
Photography Richie Davis
Stylist Sean Knight

Published November 18, 2020

Shirt and Jeans by Gucci.

“Proof that we’ve acclimated to this time is the number of self-timer thirst traps that now exist,” Cazzie David wrote on Instagram in September, next to a photo of herself in a black bikini. In May, when she posted the cover art for her debut book, a collection of personal essays called No One Asked for This, she captioned the image—a painting of David taking a dour selfie, dressed in a gray hoodie, an arrow sticking out of her heart—“I am so scared.” And when, on the night of the 2019 Grammys, her mother, the film producer and environmental activist Laurie David, texted her, “Caz, this social media addiction problem is serious,” she put it up on, where else, social media with the comment, “Totally agree.” If David’s father, Larry, represents the cantankerous, yet somehow cuddly contradictions of the Boomers, Cazzie has emerged as a self-deprecatory, anxiety-prone, arch-comment-spouting, conflictingly attention-seeking, change-hungry, justice-demanding, tech-savvy voice of her generation.

Take, by way of introduction, the 26-year-old Angeleno’s eight-episode web series Eighty-Sixed from 2017, which she co-created and starred in. The show followed the plight of a broken-hearted millennial trying to get her life back on track after being dumped by her boyfriend. David soared, playing tone-deaf to her own self-pity and adorably squirmy in the absurdity of everyday social interactions. In retrospect, Eighty-Sixed was the perfect primer for No One Asked for This, which she constructed around doctoral remarks from a neuropsychological evaluation that she was given as a young teen. The collection dives headfirst into David’s relationships with her younger sister, mother, and father; her obsession with tabloid culture; the checks and balances of privilege; and her most debilitating embarrassments and insecurities. Like the best comedians, she turns the touchiest subjects into the stuff of gold. But don’t take our word for it. If you need any further convincing, just listen to Lorde.

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LORDE: Cazzie David! I miss you.

CAZZIE DAVID: We talk every day.

LORDE: I feel like we should start by discussing how we met. I’m sure people are a little mystified by our deep friendship.

DAVID: We met on the internet, okay? It’s embarrassing. We know. Do you think it’s worse to admit you met your boyfriend on a dating app or a really good friend on Instagram?

LORDE: I don’t know. It’s definitely not the version that I would write for us. I would have loved for us to have met outdoors, preferably on a vineyard.

DAVID: But we do have so much in common. We both love having a cat. We both would never tell a waiter that our order is wrong.

LORDE: I would literally rather die than tell a waiter that there’d been a mishap with my order. But then we really met, and you got to see me at the VMAs where I was potentially the second-to-most feverish I’ve ever been in my life.

DAVID: You performed with a deadly flu. It was crazy.

LORDE: The worst. Beyond the worst flu ever. But you still liked me and now I feel like I’m a part of your family. We spend our summers together.

DAVID: Being friends with you involves dissociating, because I’m also your biggest fan.

LORDE: Shut up! I’m interviewing you for Interview and it’s a really big deal. This feels like the start of your debutante season or something. To me, you were really my ideal modern debutante. You were this depressed stoner with a hot body who also wrote an amazing book.

DAVID: Can you write a song about me called “Depressed Stoner with a Hot Body,” and then the chorus can be “who also wrote an amazing book”?

LORDE: You really did. You sent me the book and I laughed the entire way through. The first thing I want to talk to you about is your inclusion of an actual neuropsych evaluation that you got as a teenager. Why did you decide to frame the book around it and did anyone object?

DAVID: So, I found my neuropsych evaluation last year when I was going through my mom’s things. I opened up a file drawer, and there was a folder labeled “Cazzie,” which is very Gossip Girl. I pulled it out. In the midst of all these failed report cards was this psych evaluation that I remember doing the testing for, but I didn’t know she had kept the evaluation. I never read it. I kind of just read the first page. It sounded like a very clichéd Wes Anderson character intro. I felt like I had to include it. When people say things about themselves, I often feel like you have to take it with a grain of salt. But to be able to include something that someone had written about me for their job about how flawed my personality is, well, it felt like evidence enough that I’m not trying to be someone I’m not.

LORDE: I can imagine your mom freaking out over it. I know that my mom would definitely freak out about that.

DAVID: It was super upsetting to be like, “So, I found this in your drawer.” I felt like I had finally one-upped her. But she’s been totally cool. She has a really good sense of humor.

LORDE: I suppose there’s a precedent for artistic oversharing in your family, which is a good thing. No one would be shocked by something like that.

DAVID: When you’re writing comedy or personal essays, you have to be so blunt and straightforward. Do you feel like you can be super revealing and confessional while still using metaphor? Can you hide behind that?

LORDE: Yes.

DAVID: Then that’s what I’m really jealous of with songwriting. You can say all the things you want to say, and still kind of hide a bit.

LORDE: There is definitely more of a cancellation-filtration system in music than in comedy. I feel like you, as a person, are on the brink of being canceled at all times. It’s my hope that this comes out before that happens. Another thing I noticed in the book is how extremely fluent you are in the language of fast-moving popular culture. You spend a lot of time on social media. You mainline the Daily Mail.

DAVID: I don’t know what it is about it. I know adult men who are addicted to checking it. I haven’t fully analyzed why it’s like candy to me.

LORDE: Honestly, it’s one of those facets of modern life that chic people never cop to, but we’re all looking at the Daily Mail all the time. It’s true.

DAVID: What is the harm in endlessly scrolling past Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas getting coffee? Is that how I want to spend my time? Definitely not, but there’s something less toxic about it, I guess, than other apps. How do you think they choose which celebrity they’re going to post getting coffee? Being a Daily Mail celebrity is a very specific thing.

LORDE: And it doesn’t always correspond with the real world. I feel like there are people in the Daily Mail who I’ve never heard of, and yet they must get an insane amount of clicks. I love a Miami Beach moment on the Daily Mail.

DAVID: The chicest! Or eating at Nobu.

LORDE: Actually, I do have one serious question for you: Have you ever been to Nobu Malibu? I’ve read that during this pandemic, there are “celebrity quarantine pods” where it’s them, their parents, and the entire waitstaff of Nobu Malibu. Have you ever been? What goes on in there?

DAVID: If you and I went to Nobu Malibu together, we would look so out of place. We would be looking around the whole time like two deer. But by about week three of the pandemic, I became obsessed with that kind of behavior. It felt like this reality show that we got to watch in real time about celebrities having to be locked in their houses and watching what they would turn to for attention. If you haven’t noticed, I would say that since Nobu Malibu reopened, everyone stopped making bread.

LORDE: At the start of the pandemic, it felt like celebrities were behaving in this particularly insane way because they were terrified of being erased. Corona sort of became the only celebrity, which was a really interesting thing to watch happening as someone who consumes the Daily Mail.

DAVID: There was a widespread fear of seeming useless.

LORDE: I think you’re able to make evaluations about society because of how voraciously you consume the culture of social media, which is obviously very different to what I do. Doing that, for me, destroys the part of my brain that can make work. How do you balance needing to have your finger on the pulse while also not going insane?

DAVID: In some ways, it’s not really a choice. You’re amazing in that you’ve been able to keep your distance from social media, but I’m truly very addicted to it. And in some ways, I want to feel connected to people who also feel confused or depressed or embarrassed by our behavior. I don’t know. I wish I knew what else I could do with it. It would just be nice to have any skills whatsoever so I didn’t do this.

LORDE: You have skills. You can slalom water ski.

DAVID: Well, if you’re an angry person and you spend all your time watching these people from your bedroom, you’re going to collect observations about them that you want to share, whether they’re meaningful or not.

LORDE: Part of what made me peace out on social media, apart from feeling like I was losing my free will, was the massive amounts of stress I was feeling about our planet, about systemic racism, and about police brutality in this country. I don’t know how you, someone I would describe as being reasonably neurotic, cope with that. How do you deal with having front-row seats to the hellfire?

DAVID: Even people who aren’t neurotic are totally freaking out. We’re watching the hellfire from our window. It’s a front-row seat in reality, not just virtually. I’ve always been an anxious person in the regular world. I guess it’s nice to finally be on the same page as everyone.

LORDE: Your family has always been interested in environmental activism. Your mother, Laurie David, who we love and worship, produced An Inconvenient Truth, which is obviously an iconic climate change film and was very ahead of the curve about subjects like jet fuel and single-use plastic. So maybe your family didn’t have the same uphill battle that it’s been for the rest of the people who have been catching up to the fact that our planet is totally fucked.

DAVID: Yes, it’s weird to have so much fear and anxiety about something that your parents already instilled so much fear and anxiety in you about. And there’s literally nothing we can do about anything beyond our own carbon footprint. On a large scale, there’s only voting at this point. Do you feel less like the world is ending when you’re in New Zealand than when you’re in America?

LORDE: Definitely. That’s probably not realistic, but I feel that more is being done. I feel like our government is more proactive about acknowledging that we are living in a rapidly changing climate and legislation has to reflect that. People care in New Zealand. You can’t not when you live there. It’s in every part of who we are and how we live. It’s the only thing that matters. There’s nothing less cool than not caring about the environment in New Zealand, which I love.

DAVID: You have such incredible leadership. And you managed to get rid of COVID for a while.

LORDE: We had a solid 100 days without COVID. It was a good run.

DAVID: Right now in L.A., we have these wildfires, the fear of COVID, and extreme anxiety. All three of those things give you the same symptoms. It’s heart palpitations, or your throat hurts and you have a headache. I guess in New Zealand, at least you don’t have to worry about two of those. You just have your anxiety. And then on top of it, Instagram.

LORDE: Trying to post a cute photo. I love hearing about the single world in 2020 from you. It sounds like a terrifying place from your descriptions in the book. I particularly loved the different responses from casual partners when you ask them to wear a condom. One guy just said, “Boring!” I can’t.

DAVID: They’re just such pieces of shit. Truly. The best part about being single, which is never going to be a good experience, is that you get to collect these funny stories that you can share with your friends. It’s kind of like how devastating it’s been having Donald Trump as president. Literally, the only thing we have is the ability to make jokes about him. If we couldn’t do that, we would be fucked. Being single, on a really minor scale, is kind of like that. At least you can make some jokes about how miserable you are and how insane the person treated you the night before.

LORDE: Getting endlessly gaslit and living to tell the tale.

DAVID: It’s good material.

 

LORDE: You also do a great job in the book of capturing your insane family dynamic, including your relationship with your gorgeous sister Romy.

DAVID: When you were around all of us for weeks on end, who did you think was the craziest member of my family?

LORDE: You’re all very different. I think that Romy is a saint and puts up with a lot. And I love seeing how your mom holds everyone together while also driving you slightly insane. Your dad just sort of floats through it all.

DAVID: So me, is what you’re saying.

LORDE: You guys are also constantly playing what I would refer to as a parlor game. You love an after-dinner round of Celebrity or Code Names. There’s a lot of writing on slips of paper and putting them into a hat and drawing things out.

DAVID: We’re super competitive. We played games my entire childhood. But you couldn’t understand the incentive. Like, “Why do I care to win?”

LORDE: You were like, “It’s the glory.”

DAVID: Yeah, there’s truly no point in it, besides to distract yourself from the fact that we’re all living.

LORDE: You’re a good family to play with because you’re obviously all very quick. I’m very slow with that sort of thing. I feel like I let the team down. But you still keep me around.

DAVID: No, your New Zealand references were really helpful in Scattergories.

LORDE: Since this is Interview, I wanted to be chic and ask you about visual art. I know your parents are Alexander Calder fans. Which artists or photographers do you love?

DAVID: Calder kind of reminds me of baby mobiles. Is that a stupid thing to say? I admittedly don’t know much about the art world. For fear of sounding pretentious, I do like my mother’s taste in art. Some artists she loves are Jean Cocteau and Thomas Hart Benton and Deborah Roberts. I don’t think I’m actually smart enough to ever really sound pretentious, but I still avoid it. I can’t even taste a wine and say anything after I drink it. But my most pretentious friend told me that the last person to use their brain in the art world was Marcel Duchamp 100 years ago.

LORDE: Ugh. I don’t like that answer. I have an artist that I want you to check out, a beautiful painter named Salman Toor. His paintings really remind me of you. They remind me of party photos, but they’re exquisitely painted. There’s occasionally a character sort of scrolling through their phone in a corner.

DAVID: I’ll check him out. I will say, I bought my first and only art piece last year on a date so that the guy I was with would think I was cool. I guess it’s fair to say that I care more about boys than art.

LORDE: You’ll get there. Okay, random questions: If you were a vegetable, which vegetable would you be?

DAVID: I want you to know that I played this game in third grade with my best friend, but with objects. I told her she was a pipe cleaner, and she didn’t talk to me for five months. I’d say that I have a distorted self-image so it is hard for me to choose what I am. I could tell you what I want to be, which is a cucumber because it’s refreshing and very clean. But I’m not a cucumber. Maybe I’m a shitty cucumber, like a zucchini.

LORDE: A zucchini with a beautiful yellow blossom on the end. That feels very you.

DAVID: I would like to know what you think you are, and I’m glad you think I’m a zucchini. I don’t know what to do with that, but I’ll be analyzing it for the next few hours.

LORDE: I used to think that I was a leek and now I think I’m a fennel bulb.

DAVID: See, you actually do have an accurate self-image. You are definitely a fennel bulb.

LORDE: Thank you so much. Now, I want to ask you a question that I ask everyone who makes work. There was an episode of a Malcolm Gladwell podcast in which he describes creatives as being either a Picasso or a Cézanne. Picasso was prolific at the start of his life and his process was very conceptual. Whereas he’d say, “I’m going to make this,” and that’s exactly what he would make, Cézanne’s process was a lot dreamier. He would make ten versions and sometimes the third version would be the one that would end up coming out. Do you identify more with Picasso’s method or Cézanne’s?

DAVID: Picasso worked fast. Cézanne kept refining. I guess Cézanne is my answer.

LORDE: Interesting.

DAVID: I don’t know if that’s what I am, but it’s what I want to be.

LORDE: I’d love to be a Cézanne, but I am more of a Picasso.

DAVID: Would you have had sex with Picasso?

LORDE: Yeah, definitely.

DAVID: Really?

LORDE: He was tiny but had an epic potbelly. That’s my whole vibe. I’d be down. He was kind of freaky.

DAVID: I want that to be my vibe. I really do.

LORDE: Would you have had sex with Cézanne? I don’t know what he looks like. Let’s both google him.

DAVID: I think I would rather have sex with Cézanne than Picasso. He seems like a quieter guy.

LORDE: I think you would have had sex with the Van Gogh portrait, which is just a skeleton smoking a cigarette. That feels more you.

DAVID: For sure. A full skeleton. Exactly.

LORDE: Last question. What is your vision of our friendship? Are there any ideas or scenarios you see us in?

DAVID: I hope we’ll be in rocking chairs on Martha’s Vineyard, old and super witchy, talking about Daily Mail stories.

LORDE: You think we’ll still be talking about the Daily Mail?

DAVID: No, we won’t. But I do hope we’ll always be friends. I can’t imagine you wanting to be friends with me for that long. Can you imagine wanting to be friends with me for that long?

LORDE: I can, and I look forward to it. I have this vision of us. There’s this amazing little hotel in the South of France called La Colombe d’Or. I think there’s a world in which you and I are in a pool at La Colombe d’Or drinking spritzes, and we’ve both put out work that’s gone well for us, and we’re living our best lives. That’s my vision.

DAVID: That’s so chic. Please, take me there. Now, before you go, do you want to come out as a stoner in this interview, like Kendall Jenner just has? Or did we almost get through this interview without me fucking up?

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Hair: Clayton Hawkins at A-Frame Agency using R+CO.

Makeup: Holly Silius at Frank Reps using Chanel Cosmetics.