When Princess Chelsea’s video for “I Love My Boyfriend” arrived in my inbox last week – as these things sometimes do – I very nearly didn’t press play. We’ve had enough cloying hetero anthems for one year, I thought, give me some smth freaky and new god damnit.
But I did press play and today we’re premiering the track and video below. Turns out the Auckland musician is here to subvert expectations. “There is a boy I know / we are friends, we are more than / ‘cos every time he looks at me, I get electric shocks,” she begins in a voice sweeter than peach pie and syrup, her voice gliding over slow, classic garage rock riffs that sit somewhere between Velvet Underground and The Cramps. However she’s not singing about her boyfriend. She’s singing about some other guy she’s got a crush on. “But I love my boyfriend, he is good to me, he’s a good man,” she continues, her eyes sparkling through a deadpan expression, injecting a pure shot of cynicism into an otherwise saccharine tale of romance.
“I always try and trick people into thinking I’m this super girly character, with this innocent sounding music, then hit them over the head with a dark line. That’s my favourite thing to do,” Princess Chelsea – real name Chelsea Nikkel – tells me, her New Zealand drawl finding its way down the phone line. It’s about 11PM where she is, as opposed to morning where I am, but Chelsea says she’s often up until weird hours of the night piecing together tracks on her laptop while surrounded by multi-coloured LED lights like a mad cyber-scientist. “I feel at night there’s less distraction,” she adds, explaining how it takes two hours to get into the headspace to create anything, then away she goes.
This isn’t the first anyone has heard of Princess Chelsea, now 30. Back in 2012, her song “The Cigarette Duet” went viral, the video of which currently holds around 40 million views. You might recognise the twee, glockenspiel-y intro and droll verses from soundtracking adverts or floating out of radio speakers at the time. She’s more than a one-hit wonder, though. She’s the type of musician that consistently involves herself in multiple projects at once, and very little else. She’s part of the Lil' Chief Records collective in Auckland, for instance, and has played in a bunch of groups from The Brunettes and Teenwolf to a Paul McCartney covers band called Disciples of Macca. She basically submerges herself in the thing. Later this year, she’ll be releasing her fourth solo album, The Loneliest Girl, of which “I Love My Boyfriend” will appear on.
“I’ve got some new band members, which is pretty cool,” she says, telling me how they’ve spent the last three months tightening their live set before touring the album. “I don’t have much of a social life [outside of this] to be honest. I’m trying to find a balance, though. That’s kind of what the new album’s about. It’s about challenges when it comes to personal relationships. Although I’m not ‘The Loneliest Girl’. This sounds like a downer album, but it’s not.”
When I ask Chelsea what she’s going to do once we put the phone down, she tells me she’ll have a bath, put her laptop on a chair and play PC games from the late 90s – specifically one called ‘Theme Hospital’. “You have to build your own hospital,” she says, laughing. “It’s super relaxing and therapeutic somehow. You should have a go. I feel guilty if I’m playing computer games at any point, except when I’m in the bath.”
I leave her to enjoy these precious solitary hours constructing pixelated building blocks, and make a mental note to Google it myself. I also make a note to never not press play on a YouTube link based on its song name alone. Because “I Love My Boyfriend” is one of the weirdest and most wonderful tracks I’ve heard this year so far. And Princess Chelsea meets absolutely no expectations.
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Full European dates below:
31.08.2018 PL – Gdansk - Soundrive Festival
07.09.2018 FR - Bordeaux - Iboat
09.09.2018 UK – London - Shacklewell Arms
12.09.2018 FR - Paris - Point Ephemere
18.09.2018 BE - Liege - Reflektor
19.09.2018 NL – Amsterdam - Paradiso / Indiestad
20.09.2018 DE - Hamburg - Reeperbahn Festival
21.09.2018 DK – Bucharest - Control Club
22.09.2018 DE – Berlin - Funkhaus / Indiesession
23.09.2018 DE – Dresden - Beatpol
25.09.2018 CZ – Prague - Jazzdock
26.09.2018 CZ – Pilzen - Andel
27.09.2018 SK – Presov - Christiania
28.09.2018 SK - Liptovsky Mikulas - Diera Do Sveta
29.09.2018 CZ – Ostrava - Cooltour
01.10.2018 CZ – Brno - Fleda
04.10.2018 CH – Geneva - Kalingrad
05.10.2018 GR – Athens - Fuzz Club