- Words Maria Mukaranda
In a pulsating collision of indie vibes, hyper-pop energy, and a touch of '00s nostalgia, the music scene welcomes charlieeeee.
Charlieeeee’s debut single, ‘EASY’, is merely the tip of the iceberg. Behind the moniker lies an eclectic artist whose multifaceted creativity extends beyond the realms of performer. Picture a phenomenon somewhat reminiscent of Paramore and piri & tommy’s lovechild, and you’ll find yourself entangled in the sonorous world curated by Charlieeeee: a musical virtuoso, producer, songwriter, engineer, and the creative force dictating every note and visual in their trajectory.
Striving to be more than merely a name but a creator of spaces, charlieeeee founded the Trans Creative Collective, sculpting a haven for trans creators and allies in arts, music, and film. Since its 2022 inception, this collective plans to grow into a powerhouse, amplifying voices and reshaping the industry’s landscape. In an era where representation is paramount, charlieeeee works to be a beacon, advocating for the inclusion of trans and non-binary talent.
Beyond the spotlight, charlieeeee’s fingerprints are all over their visuals, directing a kaleidoscopic journey into themes such as Queer alienation in the music video for ‘EASY.’ But this is just the beginning. Brace yourselves for charlieeeee’s world: an immersive universe promising music, film, live events, and gaming activations, all masterfully orchestrated by the maestro themselves.
This debut single is a mere prologue; the era of charlieeeee is only the beginning.
The concept of charlieeeee’s world is intriguing – can you elaborate on the vision behind this concept and how you plan to bring it to life?
charlieeeee’s world was originally more of an ethos than a concept but, as the project has developed and grown, we’ve elaborated and developed. Effectively, charlieeeee’s world is a community where people can share skills, get feedback and more on my Discord server. It’s an aesthetic world. I have quite a strong palette using fluorescent yellows and greens and purple. There’s a Y2K feel to it.
It’s also about charlieeeee the alien, who doesn’t quite understand this human world. It’s about the way they see the world through their eyes, which is a lot of fun. We have delved into that with the music videos. Currently, there is one music video out. All the future videos link on from one another, so charlieeeee’s world isn’t just a concept, it’s a story.
How do you approach visual storytelling in your music videos, especially when exploring themes like Queer alienation in the video for ‘EASY’?
I like things to be fun: a bit cheeky and silly, so when I’m approaching topics like Queer alienation, or some of the feelings I had as a teenager, I approach them with a fun, playful nature.
‘EASY’ is about seeing the world through my eyes. In the initial scene when I land, I see all these couples that I don’t understand. I’m like, ‘Why are they together? Like, why would you want to be with another human? That’s so weird!’ Then I see a doll in the window and fall in love with it. And that’s kind of meant to symbolise how I fell in love with something that wasn’t traditional, which is being Queer.
At the same time, it’s about having a massive amount of judgement from people, but not caring because you have your own community. You have people like you who are having fun and that’s all it should really be about.
With your debut single, ‘EASY’, out now, what can fans expect from your upcoming projects and the development of charlieeeee’s world?
What I really like about ‘EASY’ is that it’s quite a soft introduction to what I’m doing. charlieeeee’s world is an incredibly collaborative project; ‘EASY’ features piri, which is amazing because I did the musical direction for piri & tommy, and we became really good friends during that process. I learnt a lot about music and how to work with other producers and artists; it really inspired me.
You can expect more collaboration going forward. As a non-binary person, I don’t see genre in categories. I follow what feels right. Mashing up these guitars on the DnB and breakcore beats felt amazing.
Can you touch on your work with the Trans Creative Collective – what was the inspiration behind its creation and how it has evolved since its launch in 2022?
The Trans Creative Collective is an amazing thing that I feel so grateful to have developed with some great people. It was born out of a desire and need for something to represent myself and my friends. Before the TCC, there were loads of incredible organisations that I was a part of for female producers, but the problem was that there wasn’t much support for trans or non-binary people. My friends and I would go into these spaces and want to get the education and learn in the community, but something always felt off.
With the TCC, we really went in on the mantra, “Everything is inclusive, not exclusive.” Everyone is welcome to be part of the TCC, but the whole point is you need to understand the ethos. We deliberately put trans in the name so that people think about what this is and who we’re trying to platform in this space.
The development has been incredible. It actually started with a documentary that we did with Abbey Road for International Trans Day of Visibility. We developed the whole project and carried on coming up with things. One of the main things that we noticed was people really wanting community and upskilling, so we specialised in doing workshops where we combined with other amazing people, like Tom Cane from A Work In Progress – where we would do workshops to get people learning new skills. It’s often aimed at people who are in the intermediate wanting to become advanced, but also we are there for beginners.
What we found was we needed to make sure the companies that we were putting people forward for, for jobs that we’d upskilled, were also educated on trans rights. We started the consultancy and we’ve done lots of work with companies, training them on how to cater for and support trans people in the workplace.
How do you envision the music industry changing or evolving to be more inclusive, and what role do you see the Trans Creative Collective playing in this transformation? How instrumental has it been to your own journey career-wise?
I feel a really big change in the evolution of inclusivity. I think people are believing in people a bit more, in the sense that if you are a trans artist, a Queer artist, a female artist, or just from any minority group, the music industry is listening to those groups more.
If you’re a freelancer or an independent artist, you understand what is important to you and what you want to do going forward. I feel very lucky to have my deal with Relentless because they’re supporting my visions and ideas. TCC is proof that it is worth supporting pre-existing organisations and ideas. We have put people into jobs, and different positions that previously they wouldn’t have had access to.
When social media came in, I think the role of PR and press changed, because people thought social media was going to replace rather than work with it. I think people are now realising the psychological damage social media has done to people who’ve got famous on TikTok or Instagram during the past couple of years.
Your musical style is described as ‘a blend of indie, jungle, hyper-pop, and ’00s’. How do you navigate such diverse genres, and are there specific artists or experiences that you’ve been particularly drawn to throughout your life?
I think it’s about a mindset. I don’t see genre in these categories. I think genre is just a way to package and communicate ideas, but I don’t ever see a restriction on how music should or shouldn’t be made.
My background was folk to start with and then I was in indie music, which taught me a lot about guitars. I learnt about hype and I learnt how to get a band going. When there was no social media, you relied on how well you did at a gig, and there was a thriving music scene you wanted to do well in. It didn’t matter how many followers you had, it only mattered what happened at the show. I then went into pop, like super into pop music, writing and producing music for a lot of big artists. So, I’ve got the folk thing, which is the emotional side, then I’ve got the indie, which is the hype, and then the pop, which is the top line, making it catchy.
The final piece in the puzzle was going on tour with piri & tommy, venbee and Ellie Dixon. piri & tommy and venbee especially really showed me this DnB style. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s the final piece. That’s the dance element. That’s the hype bit.’ You can get people hyped by shouting, and screaming, but what makes them want to move?
Collaboration has been an interesting aspect of your career, working with artists like MNEK, Raye, piri & tommy, and venbee. How do these collaborations shape your creative process, and do you have a favourite collaboration or memorable moment from your work with other artists?
Working with these artists taught me how to write pop music. I feel grateful to have not been an artist during that time, because it gave me space to develop. As soon as you’re an artist, there is a really heavy expectation on you, that everything you do is going to be amazing. When you work as a producer – which I did for 12 years – and as a musical director, you get to see what works, and what doesn’t.
I was mentored by Kamille and Fred again.. for a year as well, and one thing I would say about these people is that in pop and dance music, it’s about how efficient you are with your tools. Whether that’s music production or singing, it’s making sure that you have the setup that is going to make you instantly be able to do it. Production and computers should be an extension of your creativity, in the same way that playing an instrument is an extension of yourself. It should never be seen as a hindrance.
You have a few live shows planned. How do you see yourself preparing for your live shows, and what do you hope the audience takes away from them?
I want my shows to be experiences. You can make any space an amazing performance space, and it’s about the energy you bring into it. That’s something that I’ve loved over the years: playing the guitar for other people, performing in other projects and being on stage.
I also really heavily care about visuals. Lily, my creative director, has been working with me on all sorts of things. There’s a lot that goes on in the visuals for the live shows.
My first ever gig as charlieeeee was at the Southbank Centre supporting Years & Years and Clean Bandit, which was an amazing experience. I hope that the audience take away that they had a good time, and that they can see Queer joy and experience, knowing that there is a safe place for them to come have fun.
I’m addicted to Beyblades, so there is nothing more fun in my opinion than playing Beyblades with the crowd before a show. It gets you so hyped. So effectively, Beyblades, dancing and loud visuals are my version of a live show.
Looking ahead, are there specific goals or milestones you have set for yourself, either in terms of personal artistic growth or contributions to the broader music and creative industries?
I want to do loads of festivals. I love hyping up crowds before another act and getting to see everyone having a great time. It’s literally all about the energy and being in the moment. Playing Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds, Boardmasters or Boomtown would be amazing but I want to pace myself and really make sure I’m ready for it.
I want to carry the flag for getting people out of the mindset of set binary genres and not being afraid to explore. I want to keep pioneering new sounds and show people how they can have fun with whatever music they’re making. I also want to show that when you support Queer and trans people, amazing things can happen.
With all these upcoming big plans, is there anything you looking forward to the most?
I’m looking forward to sitting in the back of the van with my tour manager, band and creative director knowing that we’re on our way to play an amazing festival. Music will be playing in the van, we’re all laughing and having a good time. I had that with Latitude this year when I played for Climate Live, and it was such an amazing feeling. I’m looking forward to having that again and sharing it with everyone. I just can’t wait to share this massive artistic project that we have spent ages building.