Bubbling with personality, verve and cutesy indie-pop charm, it’s no wonder Sky Ferreira has attracted legions of young fans and even grabbed the attention of smug scenesters and musicheads. After all, she does have that undeniable element of cool with her huge lined eyes, blond frizz and sultry purr. Her Instagram photos look like well polished ads for American Apparel or H&M. Not so surprising, the new Forever 21 Capsule Collection features Ferreira in their ad campaign. Indeed, audiences far and wide are no match for her appeal.
Ferreira started her career as a teenager, at the knee of label execs pushing their big Britney-like pop star agenda on a wide-eyed baby starlet with hidden indie rock aspirations. When creative differences interfered with production, Ferreira turned to like-minded artistic souls like Jon Brion and Dev Hynes to help nurture her edgy style, creative chops and, later, help bring it all to fruition. This prolific actress, model and singer-songwriter has since blossomed into a bright star of French pop, introspective indie synths, electro rock and well, more pop.
Although noticeably pushing away from her mainstream beginnings, Ferreira does acknowledge and honor a past that other child performers would rather choose to ignore. It all has lead her to one of two sold-out shows at the Bootleg Theater, a 1930s era brick walled warehouse near Downtown L.A., the perfect setting in support of her recent EP, Ghost.
The band How to Dress Well, featuring songwriter and producer Tom Krell, opened the gig, establishing the overall style of the room yet remained somewhat juxtaposed to Ferreira’s pop sensibilities. Krell’s ethereal R&B undertones and warm beats delivered serene introspection, appealing to a more seasoned ear. Krell effectively conveyed the avant garde, lo-fi production of his recent album, Total Loss, with a subtle performance, allowing collages of random visuals and echoed sounds to do most of the talking. His falsetto vocals played off each element creating a type of conceptual art not often seen onstage.
Ferreira emerged next, a vision of weathered rock star indifference and alt-fashion perfection. Her command of the mic and downturn gazes showcased her stage presence as undeniably stylish and loaded with empathy, as she charged through a short set filled with the bulk of material from her EP, Ghost, and selected singles. “Lost in My Bedroom” droned with delight and glittered with Ladytron-like synths, but at times struggled to compete with the intergalactic light show and overzealous fog machine around it. Ferreira, at times, seemed to disappear into both.
The theatrics later subsided during “Sad Dream,” a beautifully simple melody dedicated to her mother and brother, both in attendance. Her intense whispered resonance mirrored that of a ’80s era Suzanne Vega, able to convey deep emotion with just the slightest of inflections and accents. It was in these few quiet, effortless moments that her talent became truly evident. “Red Lips,” co-penned by Garbage’s Shirley Manson, followed with infectious down beats bouncing amidst Ferreira’s icy, almost deadpan vocals before erupting into a chorus of heavy guitars. Her biggest hit, “Everything is Embarrassing,” ably showcased that lush, airy, ’80s reverb and edgy-glam appeal that made the song an underground indie hit before being named song of the year by New York magazine.
The somewhat disjointed Ghost, co-written and produced with Jon Brion and Greg Kurstin, among others, plays better live than on the record thanks to Ferreira’s integrity and capable instrument—deft enough to belt, groan and whisper with ease in smooth transitions. A general focus on vocals and instrumentation over production will only benefit future live performances, but it can be assured that as more records, shows and collaborations come from this rising indie-pop ingénue, all can expect her to deliver a little better each time. It’s worth seeing her progression along the way.
Catch Sky Ferreira on tour:
7/12/13 Cincinnati, OH @ Bunbury Music Festival
7/21/13 Chicago, IL @ Pitchfork Music Festival
Cover photo by Hedi Slimane