Uffie Teaches Isabella Lovestory How to Do the Tootsie Roll
Uffie, best known as the princess of late-aughts electropop, or what the kids are now calling “indie sleaze,” is back with a new sound. Her latest album, Sunshine Factory, produced by Toro y Moi and Lokoy, is a trippy blend of poetic bangers and indie beats that mirror the surreal times we’re living in, while reminding us why we fell in love with the hipster icon in the first place. To learn more about Uffie’s return to the spotlight, the Honduras-born, Montreal-based indie pop star Isabella Lovestory called up the singer to discuss London accents, going viral, and learning how to do the tootsie roll.
ISABELLA LOVESTORY: I’m so excited to be interviewing you, it’s crazy.
UFFIE: Yeah, this is a fun setup.
LOVESTORY: I’m such a big fan. I don’t know if you remember that Tweet that I posted.
UFFIE: [Laughs] We’re coming full circle, it’s amazing.
LOVESTORY: I know I was like, I’m just gonna pretend that was me in those times.
UFFIE: I love how people just went there.
LOVESTORY: Do you remember that night? I wonder why she had an abacus…
UFFIE: No. [Laughs] It was a weird time, to say the least. I mean, we were all walking around with fluorescent sunglasses that had no lenses in them, so an abacus would fit right in.
LOVESTORY: So, I first discovered you on Tumblr—you were a Tumblr queen. How does it feel to be the ultimate internet underground icon?
UFFIE: Obviously that’s flattering, but there is something funny about it. It’s amazing that you can reach people from all around the world, and they get to say whatever they want about you without ever having to look at you—but it’s exciting. I try not to dive too deep into it, I always look towards the next thing.
LOVESTORY: Sick. You posted your first song on MySpace, how was that?
UFFIE: I made “Pop the Glock” for this label called Arcade Mode. It was supposed to be my only track. I really wanted a music MySpace page, because it looked cool. So I just posted the song online. I’m not sure how long it took to go [viral], but in my memory, it was really, really fast.
LOVESTORY: That’s crazy. How did you start making music?
UFFIE: I was living with a DJ at the time, and he was like, “Please just do a song.” I think it was because I wasn’t French, or he just liked something about my tone of voice.
LOVESTORY: So you didn’t think of making music before?
UFFIE: No, I wanted to be a writer—poetry or novels—I wasn’t sure, but something in that vein. I was a dancer when I was a kid, so I guess that was the stage element, but I didn’t even like singing in the shower. I’m not the biggest fan of my voice.
LOVESTORY: I love your voice.
UFFIE: To this day I’m still self conscious when I’m in the studio.
LOVESTORY: Really? So do you prefer recording in your bedroom or are you into studio vibes?
UFFIE: Definitely the studio now. Learning to produce my own vocals during the pandemic was intense. It’s so hard to work with your own vocals, because you’re so judgmental of yourself. I grew to have a massive respect for the producers doing all of that.
LOVESTORY: That’s stressful, but so cool. Were you going to the studio more during the pandemic?
UFFIE: I was going almost five days a week. It was a bit much. I was writing for my project and co-writing for some other artists.
LOVESTORY: How does co-writing differ from your own songwriting?
UFFIE: I gained a lot of confidence as a songwriter through working with other people. Writing for other artists is really cool, because you get into their mindset. You get to be another person for a minute, you get to help reveal their truth and their reality. It’s freeing to know, like, “I’m not gonna have to sing this on stage for the next ten years.”
LOVESTORY: Yeah, it’s therapeutic to become someone else and have to stick to your own personal story. Who’s someone you would love to write a song for, who doesn’t make music?
UFFIE: Oh, that’s a good one. Tilda Swinton.
LOVESTORY: Whoa. What would that sound like?
UFFIE: I’m obsessed with her, I love her lifestyle. She has a castle in Scotland—she lives there with her lover, her ex-husband, and all of her children. She wears kilts and Haider Ackerman silk suits. She’s everything to me. It would be super ethereal, like lots of strings mixed with a weird Laurie Anderson element.
LOVESTORY: You should pitch it. So what’s your songwriting process like?
UFFIE: I keep a word bank going. I’ll think of two words that don’t make sense but sound good together, or a film reference. I keep it all in my Notes app until one of them starts to emerge as a concept that I can build on. I like to develop a storyline, but sometimes it’s just, “That just sounds fucking cool.”
LOVESTORY: I love that about your music. I also love how you sing about dark topics over really sweet happy melodies.
UFFIE: I love a contradiction, it just adds so much texture.
LOVESTORY: So do you just write stuff and then you listen to the beats?
UFFIE: It’s rare these days for me to write over a beat. It’s easier to be there when they’re choosing the chords and whatnot, to be able to change the key if you want to draw out a different feeling. I work with very few people on my music, but I did a lot with Toro y Moi for this record.
UFFIE: I also love writing from scratch with a friend of mine from Norway. He’s a producer called Lokoy who is also on the record. With him, I have this weird ability to come up with a chorus on the spot. We have a very good track record, we feel very free together. I’ve also been working with an artist in London called Sega Bodega, who I love.
LOVESTORY: That’s so cool. Do you live in London?
UFFIE: No, I live in Los Angeles.
LOVESTORY: I was wondering because in Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans, you have a British accent.
UFFIE: My dad’s British, actually. And I grew up in Hong Kong. I was living between Paris, London, and Berlin when I recorded that album. I’ve been here for like six years now.
LOVESTORY: Okay, nice. So the British accent, did you put it on?
UFFIE: I think it’s emphasized a bit, but I used to speak with a British accent.
LOVESTORY: I love it, it’s super iconic. What inspires your sound? It’s so unique, I don’t want to put it in any specific genre. It’s really experimental.
UFFIE: I’m just trying different things. Like you said, I’ve never been one to respect a genre. What was different with this album was that I used live instruments. This record has bass guitar and drums. Before, everything was electronic.
LOVESTORY: Are you going to perform this album with a band?
UFFIE: Eventually. I wanted to make an album that didn’t make me feel like I could only play at nightclubs. I wanted it to be a full-on show with a band, it just translates better live. If it’s just you with a laptop on stage, there are too many gaps between vocal parts. That it can be hard. You’re like, “What do I do?”
LOVESTORY: I feel you. I’m also working on a project where I’m using live instruments for the first time. It changes everything. There’s more of a story.
LOVESTORY: So what about your new era, what’s it gonna be like?
UFFIE: So this record is like an imaginary place. During the pandemic I just wanted to be in a forest, or like, at fucking Berghein. I was like, “Why can’t there be a forest rave to look forward to?” I wanted to play with the trippiness of reality. I was microdosing a lot of mushrooms and thinking about how surreal reality actually is. Sunshine Factory is an imaginary place that I’m bringing to life. It’s a sweet, safe space for everyone’s most out-there self.
LOVESTORY: It sounds super eclectic and fun. How does it feel to be coming back?
UFFIE: It’s wild. I’ve been dabbling in features here and there over the years, but my kids are finally at an age now where they’re making their own breakfast on Saturday. It feels like a good time for my family, which was really important to me. At the beginning of my career, I was going nonstop trying to do it all, and I had little babies. It was really hard. But I think it’s an exciting time in the world. There’s so much change, and as much negativity as there is, there’s an opportunity to put some good out there. It just feels like a solid time to come back.
LOVESTORY: It sounds like you’re ready to rule the world once again. What do you think about the industry right now?
UFFIE: It’s bizarre. TikTok is kind of like MySpace was at the beginning— you can just put a song online and it can go viral. So that’s exciting, but on the flip side, a lot of labels just don’t develop artists anymore. It’s very much streaming- and algorithm-based, and music and artistry suffers for that. Obviously I’m not a huge fan of Spotify splits and things like that. I think it’s pretty demotivating to a lot of artists, especially independent ones, and it’s not sustainable. So, I do think there are some shifts on the horizon.
LOVESTORY: How do you feel about artists making songs solely to go viral on TikTok?
UFFIE: I wonder, is that all some kids know now? To grow up in an era that is so ADHD, where you’re constantly flooded with new things, creates a very different mindset than the one I grew up with. I would sit down and play an entire record, listening for the story. It’s a very different than working for an algorithm. I personally don’t fuck with it.
LOVESTORY: It’s like a factory. It’s very soulless.
UFFIE: Very robotic.
LOVESTORY: And rushed. I’m against it. I can understand how it’s a good business tactic, but what I respect about you is that you take your time and make something that’s yours, not everybody else’s.
UFFIE: Totally. I heard that the records that are streaming or selling the most right now are all old records.
LOVESTORY: Really? I keep hearing Deftones on TikTok.
UFFIE: And like, “Boom Boom Boom,” by the Venga Boys.
LOVESTORY: You should make a TikTok. I think “Pop the Glock ” needs a TikTok moment, it would be a good dance.
UFFIES: [Laughs] would you do it for me?
LOVESTORY: I’ll do anything for you. [Laughs] I was trying to do the tootsie roll. What is it?
UFFIE: I swear I heard it in an old hip-hop song, and that’s where I pulled it from. It’s definitely a Miami, dancing-and-grinding-to-the-floor type of move.
LOVESTORY: Yeah, that’s what I was imagining, a roll down to the floor. You should do it on TikTok.
UFFIE: Oh, my god. That’s cheating.