sizzy rocket on the music of her life

The 27-year-old singer-songwriter talks about the records that have meant the most to her— including Future and Drake, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and ANTI— from 10 to 26.

photo by carina allen

Sizzy Rocket's music— hedonistic and playful, like a candy-colored car crash— is in a category all its own: one constructed out of 2010-pop's ashes and built from the groundwork fellow alt-pop artists Sky Ferreira, Sleigh Bells, & co. laid years ago. Her newest single, "That Bitch," which came out in February, does not ask nor demand your attention, but instead invites you along for the ride— and who would say no? In an interview with PAPER, the 27-year-old singer-songwriter stated: "'THAT BITCH' is about owning yourself — even the crazy, messy, wild, emotional parts that might be 'too much' for people, even when you feel insane and down and alone... it's about being unapologetic in the process of figuring out who you are and pummeling through anyone and anything that gets in your way."

Sizzy Rocket's challenging of the current canon of mainstream pop music about queer women feels deeply transformative, and "That Bitch" serves as a testament to how women in the industry are moving beyond the strict borderline of label control. Here, she breaks down the records that have defined her music, career, and personal life thus far.

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The White Stripes: Elephant (2003)

I remember the first time I heard this record... I was 11 years old, haha, which seems so young to appreciate garage rock— but it really changed my life. We were outside at recess, and my BFF at the time was like, "Have you heard of this band called the White Stripes?", because she was super cool and always discovering new music and fashion. And I was like "no," because all I listened to was bubblegum pop. So she put the headphones over my ears, and as soon as I heard that "Seven Nation Army" riff, I felt electricity through my entire body and my life was changed forever. I had never heard anything like it— heavy and abstract and unstructured, a chorus with no words, a pinched, imperfect voice... shrieking guitar, almost horror-movie-like, and lyrics that were poetic, visual; of a certain world. It was my escape. I listened to that album and only that album for a year straight. I feel like I discovered who I am through this record, and finding it was absolutely crucial to who I became as an artist.

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Peaches: The Teaches of Peaches (2002)

I discovered Peaches when I was probably 19 or 20. I was living in New York at the time and just partying my ass off. Going to the club every night, dancing on the table, having the absolute time of my life and not giving a fuck. "Fuck The Pain Away" is a super anthem in the lesbian community, so I heard it out all the time at the lesbian bars I was going to. It was my drunk girl calling, like, "Move the fuck out of my way, my song just came on and I have to dance." But I love all of Peaches' albums— she is definitely one of the most influential icons in my life. I love the way she explains sexuality, with these campy, nursery rhyme melodies and clever lyrics. Not to mention her live shows, which are an incredible and colorful rock 'n' roll spectacle. Ugh, I fucking love her.

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Show Your Bones (2006)

2006 was a really important time in my music discovery. I was 14, which, for a teenage girl, is the age where fashion and music and magazines and pop culture start really soaking in, and you start choosing your identity based on those things. Discovering Karen O was huge for me— to see a girl in the front of a band with all these crazy, avant-garde handmade outfits on, swallowing the mic and shit and screaming over those guitars... it really connected with me. I was inspired by her confidence, her energy, her swag. And It's Blitz, their next record after Show Your Bones, was timed perfectly with my break-up with my first girlfriend— I think those kinds of records, the ones that keep you going through rough times and first times and weird times, are the ones that make you a fan for life.

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Bright Eyes: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (2005)

I've probably listened to the song "Poison Oak" at least 500 times. And "Land Locked Blues" probably 1000. I remember laying on my bedroom floor probably 14 or 15 just soooobbbbbing to Conor Oberst. I absolutely loved his poetic lyrics— they definitely shaped me into this messy, emotional, hopeless romantic, IRL and in my music. Looking back, I was also super drawn to his DIY approach— running Saddle Creek (his label), being involved in different projects outside of Bright Eyes, unstructured songs that were more like art pieces with these crazy vocal layers and a full string section and bombastic instrumentals, imperfect vocal takes... that whole era of indie music had a very organic, human feeling that grabbed me. Taking the time to set up and record a live string section was super important. And there's something to that. 

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LCD Soundsystem: This is Happening (2010)

The first time I heard LCD Soundsystem I was probably drunk in Chinatown somewhere... a freshman at NYU, wide-eyed to the city and just scouring every street for cheap alcohol and some kind of trouble to get into. This album is the perfect soundtrack for that, haha. I actually named my first album THRILLS, which was completely based on my tumultuous first 5 years living in the city, after the LCD Soundsystem song "Thrills." It was always in the background of my debauchery. 

I realize as I'm writing this that all of the artists I've mentioned so far (except for the YYYs) have taken their own unique approach in not just making music, but releasing it, distributing it, promoting it... and, to me, that's what makes you truly legendary. I was always super inspired by James Murphy and the DFA movement — him considering himself a "failure" but then immersing himself in his art and basically creating a whole new sound and building this dope New York community of artists and fans... iconic.

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Travis Scott: Astroworld (2018)

I think the older you get, the harder it is for an album or a movie or an art piece to have a big impact on your life — at that point, all of your values and tastes have been established by other albums and other art pieces that came out during crucial times in your youth and your teens, you know? But this album fucking CHANGED me and my whole perspective on hip-hop and just contemporary music in general. IMO it needs to be playing top to bottom at the MOMA 24/7. I mean, Travis Scott created an entirely new sound— it's a slick, sonic collage of poetry, abstract sounds, relevant, contemporary, and new, yet familiar and timeless. He pushes those boundaries. And I love how every detail is important to him— the capitalization of the song titles; the album cover photographer (David LaChapelle); his incorporation of the art world; again, the spectrum of shimmery vocal effects and adlibs that become hooks in and of themselves; and "Sicko Mode." Fucking "Sicko Mode."

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Drake and Future: What a Time to Be Alive (2015)

This album soundtracked a solid 2 years of my life living in Brooklyn— I mean, I literally have a lyric from "Digital Dash" tattooed on my arm (fun fact: my brother has a matching one). I got it the night before I moved to LA with my ex-girlfriend, who I spent most of my time in New York with, as a send-off. I would say it was also the first time trap was really teeming at the surface of mainstream music, so it was the first time I was discovering those kinds of sounds, crispy hi-hats and huge subs and lyrics and phrases that were fresh and of the moment.

And that moment, 2016, was arguably the best year of my life, probably of all of our lives— I had a small group of friends from NYU and we were just living out there, going out every night, not really partying as much but just being with each other at our apartments, talking about the world and smoking cigarettes and shit. It was such a specific time. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE.

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Cigarettes After Sex: Cigarettes After Sex (2017)

I've actually experienced this album 3 way— single and desperately lonely, recklessly in love, and completely heartbroken. And I swear each time it just got better. This whole record was on repeat top-to-bottom the summer of 2018, when I went on my first big tour and fell in craaaaazy stupid lesbian love. It was a busy summer, haha. I have so many specific memories of these songs, in old rundown hotels, in the back of a tour van, driving around LA at night because we had nothing else to do— which is kind of funny because all of the lyrics on this album are also specific and personal. But that's the thing I love most about this band: how naturally they capture the delicate beauty of specific moments, fully immerse you in that vibe, while still giving you space to create your own. It's so tense— true romance.

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The XX: I See You (2017)

2017 was a dark year for me— I was really depressed and really anxious, feeling isolated in L.A. and just crying all the time. This album really helped me work through all of my tangled emotions. Not only is it musically brilliant and lyrically beautiful, it perfectly explains what that feeling, that vacuum darkness, is like. And it doesn't matter what caused it— it's all the same, and I think we can all relate. Uplifting music is important when you're going through something like that, but you have to acknowledge how you really feel, and I See You helped me figure that out and connect with myself. 

I love the contrast of this record, too— the heaviness of the lyrics and the lightness, the patience in the sounds. What they're saying is super deep and heartbreaking, but the music sounds calm and reassured. I needed that. When "Replica" opens up after the first hook into an explosion of marimba and guitars, under the lyric, gently sang, "Do I chase the night or does the night chase me?" it healed me. [It's] one of my favorite moments on the album.

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Rihanna: ANTI (2016)

I mean, I'm pretty sure this album blew everyone's minds. I certainly had never really heard a female pop artist go that fucking hard before, in an artistic way, with style and class and raunch all at the same time, moving seamlessly from spitting about sex and weed to classic heartbreak ballads with that signature, raw Rihanna vocal— "Needed Me" will forever be one of my favorite songs, and "Love On The Brainis just fucking classic. I mean, it's definitely what you need to hear when you're going through that shit. Rihanna is one of the most dynamic artists of our time; she took risks other artists weren't brave enough or fucking cool enough to take at the time, and made something completely fresh and simultaneously classic. That's so inspiring to me. It's so difficult to break out of the perception people have of you, the boxes they put you in— but on this record, she's empowered AND soft and feminine; cool and laid back yet in your fucking face and unapologetic; sexy and explicit yet eloquent and demanding of respect. It's an insane masterpiece and shaped the way I define myself as a woman.



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