Uffie

By
Photography Solve Sundsbo

Published August 20, 2010

If Justice are the kings of Parisian hipster electronic music, then Uffie is its first lady. A member of former Daft Punk manager Pedro Winter’s Ed Banger Records crew, Uffie—born Anna Catherine Hartley 22 years ago in Tallahassee, Florida—was first introduced to the world via a series of indie-club singles such as “Pop the Glock” and “Hot Chick” and then through an appearance on Justice’s 2007 debut, †. Since then she has emerged as one of dance music’s most irresistibly coquettish MCs. Her recently released first full-length, Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans (Elektra), both fulfills and expands on her firecracker persona. The record features production from Ed Banger labelmates Mr. Oizo and SebastiAn, but also grooves from Madonna producer Mirwais, raps from Pharrell Williams, and a duet with ex-Rapture member Mattie Safer. The album also features a cover of Siouxsie and the Banshee’s punk chestnut “Hong Kong Garden” and a surprising degree of introspection, reflecting the birth last October of her daughter Henrietta (with her French grafitti artist and nightclub entrepreneur ex-husband André Saraiva) mingled among the party starters. We recently caught up with Uffie in New York.

MATT DIEHL: Hey, Uffie! What are you up to?

UFFIE: I’m sitting in the lobby of the Bowery Hotel eating pizza.

DIEHL: Sounds relaxing. Indeed, there’s that line from your song “MC’s Can Kiss” that says, “I’m the least working girl in show business.”

UFFIE: I’m a bit lazy. Instead of going to the studio, I’ll watch TV. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I’m totally addicted to Gossip Girl. Once I get into an episode, I have to watch until it’s finished.

DIEHL: How did you finally get it going?

UFFIE: I got pregnant so I had time to be in the studio. [laughs]

DIEHL: I never thought that having a kid would be the thing that got you to work.

UFFIE: I know, right? It was the miracle trick. It was a surprise when I became a mom. It’s quite disturbing for some. My party image plus baby doesn’t really pan out. Now I’m up at seven every morning, as opposed to going to bed at 7 a.m.

DIEHL: What music is Henrietta into?

UFFIE: She really likes MGMT. When I play them, she gets really happy.

DIEHL: Is she a chip off the old block? Does she dance?

UFFIE: I mean, obviously. Hopefully she’ll be a nice little girl and go to law school.

DIEHL: At times on Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans you talk about wanting to have sex, but then there’s also this other side . . .

UFFIE: The mother side! [laughs] I discuss sex so openly that it becomes the only thing that gets talked about. It’s fun, fucking with people’s heads.

DIEHL: You’re a 22-year-old girl-slash-woman—what else are you going to do but have sex all day?

UFFIE: Exactly, right? It’s quite shocking. But on this record, I figured I’d discuss my views outside of partying. I went a bit deeper, and the music is a bit more mature.

DIEHL: On one song, you talk about a guy who turned “this wild child into a lady by night.” Who did that?

UFFIE: It’s a secret. It’d be quite scandalous if it got out. The first guy who made me fall madly in love is somebody very famous who everyone knows.

DIEHL: George W. Bush? Saddam Hussein?

UFFIE: How did you know?

DIEHL: You’ve said you want this album to confuse the pigeonholers.

UFFIE: Everyone always says I’m a rapper, and that I’m exactly like Peaches and M.I.A. People just take any female artist and compare me to them.

DIEHL: What about Ke$ha and Lady Gaga? Ke$ha says things like “I brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack,” which sounds very Uffie-ish.

UFFIE: Yeah, it does, doesn’t it? Somebody wrote an article that said if you play two of our songs at the same time, they’re exactly the same. What a coincidence. [sighs] Everyone’s sampling and recycling each other’s energy. Before no girls were doing this stuff. But now there are so many it’s too easy to just make comparisons.

Photo: Uffie in New York, February 2010. Stockings (worn over face): Look from London. Tank top: Bebe. Necklace: David Yurman. 

DIEHL: You’ve said that Mirwais was kind of the entrée to getting this album moving. How?

UFFIE: The original producer, Feadz, was my boyfriend, and then we broke up, so we didn’t really want to be in the studio together. Mirwais encouraged me to experiment a lot more lyrically. We talked about feelings and that kind of shit. It was like therapy.

DIEHL: You also have a duet with Pharrell.

UFFIE: Mirwais and I wanted a male rapper on this track called “A.D.D. S.U.V.” I’ve liked Pharrell since I was 13, so I figured why not ask. I met him a few years ago in Tokyo. We were doing a party for [Pharrell’s clothing and footwear lines] Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. I was, like, too nervous to talk to him—he came to my sound check and I was terrified, like, “Please go away!” Hopefully the next time we meet I can keep it together. Fingers crossed!

DIEHL: You were raised in Hong Kong, then moved to Miami before you settled in Paris. What was your worst Florida hip-hop fashion moment?

UFFIE: God, there were so many fashion no-nos. This is embarrassing. I loved how ghetto girls work black lip liner, so I did that. [laughs] I was always in trouble. I, like, keyed a car in Miami and got arrested, so my mom sent me to live with my dad in Paris.

DIEHL: I assume it was then that you had to step up your fashion game.

UFFIE: Obviously! I was into street fashion back then. Now I love young designers like Jeremy Scott and Brian Lichtenberg. Alexander Wang is amazing. I was originally going to study fashion—textile design, actually. I’m into fabric more than actual design. Then Ed Banger stole me away as I was turning 18!

DIEHL: Is it true your name is kind of a play on the word enough?

UFFIE: Yep. I was always being bad, so my dad would always say, “Enough!” But then “un oeuf” also means “little egg” in French, and somehow that turned into Uffie! My dad only calls me Uffie. When he calls me Anna, I know I’m in trouble.

DIEHL: When was the last time he called you Anna?

UFFIE: Way too recently! A few days ago. He was telling me to be professional at all times. And I’m like, “I know what that means: Don’t party too hard!”

Matt Diehl is a contributing music editor at Interview.

Photo: Cosmetics: Dior Beauty, including Capture Totale High Definition Serum Foundation in Cameo. Fragrance: David Yurman for Women by David Yurman. Styling: Ludivine Poiblanc/Management Artists. Hair: Recine/The Wall Group. Makeup: Kabuki for Dior Beauty/Kabukimagic. Manicure: Yuna Park/Streeters. Retouching: Masque Media Ltd. Special Thanks: Fast Ashleys.