If you glance at Maggie Lindemann’s Instagram account or watch her most recent music videos, you might imagine that the artist has always been a platform boot-wearing, guitar-shredding emo queen. But she hasn’t always made pop-alternative-metal music — the kind that can be heard on her astonishing debut EP Paranoia, out today (Jan. 22).
Lindemann made her debut in 2015 with the dark indie offerings “Knocking On Your Heart” and “Couple Of Kids,” but by 2016, the Dallas-born singer was churning out pleasant, feel-good songs. “Early in my career, I didn’t know what I wanted to do or the sound I wanted or [anything about] my brand at all,” she says now.
Her breakout 2016 single “Pretty Girl,” where Lindemann sings about the superficiality of social media over a bright (but familiar-sounding) beat, was eventually certified Platinum, and its glitchy Cheat Codes x CADE remix racked up over 700 million plays on Spotify. Lindemann could have made a successful career heading down that pathway. But even as she dabbled in such glossy, straightforward pop, the dark side was hovering patiently, waiting for her to answer the call. Eventually, Lindemann felt the tug of a more exhilarating option.
In 2019, she released “Friends Go,” a ska-tinged throwback that brought Lindemann’s preference for a guitar-driven sound to the forefront. The track “opened this door to something new, and I started writing more pop-alternative-rock-leaning music,” she says.
“Friends Go” gained even more attention once super-drummer Travis Barker joined a version of the track, an experience that Lindemann calls “surreal” — and which turned out to be transformative for her. “When Travis hopped on it, I got a real taste of what it would be like to do that,” she says of accessing her punk rock side. “I immediately loved it, and I never want to go back to what I was doing.”
Emboldened by a co-sign from rock royalty, Lindemann steadily released singles throughout 2020, each one edgier than the last — like ”Knife Under My Pillow,” a tight two minutes of livewire skate punk splendor, and “Scissorhands,” which was inspired by the 1990 cult Tim Burton film and features slashing knife effects — all leading up to her long-awaited debut project.
Paranoia has arrived nearly six years into Lindemann’s career, and it’s for the best that she waited. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do or the sound I wanted or my brand at all,” she says of her first years in the business. “I didn’t know who I was yet — I was still growing up.” As she experimented, Lindemann formed and scrapped ideas for an EP over the years. It wasn’t until early 2020 that she felt the timing was right, and she completed the project during the pandemic. “I’m glad that I didn’t put out an EP before this one, because looking back on it, I would be disappointed in myself if I had a pop EP out and then switched genres completely,” she says.
At 22 years old, Lindemann is also remarkably mature about her journey. She’s glad to be making more interesting music now, but she doesn’t disparage her pop past. (“I like pop music, too, but the energy in rock and alternative music is so different.”) She still wears pink, though it’s more likely to appear on her person in the form of streaked hair than a feathered dress.
Lindemann’s EP cleverly covers a range of styles, though all of the songs are more or less in the rock lane. “Some are a little more metal-leaning, some are more punk, but they’re all sonically in the same world,” she explains. Lindemann found inspiration in Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, Avril Lavigne and Paramore — as well as Evanescence and Flyleaf, which is why you might suddenly find yourself transported to the inside of a Hot Topic upon hearing a song like “Loner” (“Yeah, I’m a loner/ And I like it that way/ I like a dark room/ With nobody but pain!”). The tracks are nostalgic, but not cheesy or inauthentic; Lindemann’s voice and production are the real deal.
Paranoia was released via Caroline Records and Lindemann’s own label, swixxzaudio, which she formed after leaving 300 Entertainment. “I wanted to have more control over what I was doing,” she says, asserting that the Caroline crew is mostly hands-off when it comes to A&R and creative decisions. “It feels more like teamwork, rather than having someone telling me what’s going to happen.”
2021 has Lindemann feeling good, but she’s being cautious. The singer got diagnosed with COVID-19 in June 2020, and experienced body aches and a terrible fever — “I don’t have the antibodies, and I do not want to get COVID again,” she says firmly — and continues to stay away from as many people as possible, which means an in-person EP celebration and future music video plans are on hold. She does have live versions of Paranoia songs in the works, though, and would love to perform live once it’s safe.
No matter what the year brings, you can expect that Maggie Lindemann will be calling the shots. “I feel like I’ve found myself and grew into this person that I am now,” she says, visibly proud. “I’m my own boss.”