It’s the middle of my after-school Zoom call with teenage hyperpop prodigy glaive, and he pauses what we’re talking about — and puts aside his half-eaten Cheesy Gordita Crunch — to show me his “most prized possession.” 

When he raises both his hands, which are filled with about 20 unused Taco Bell gift cards, toward the camera, I can only assume he’s got the most sinister look on his face. His massive bleached hair covers any chance of seeing his eyes, and all I can really make out is the 16-year-old smirking from his Hendersonville, North Carolina, bedroom. 

Read more: Here's everything you need to know about rising hyperpop sensation glaive

glaive, aka Ash Gutierrez, is an internet-born superstar at this point. It’s been a year since he first began creating abrasive and angsty music in the pandemic as a sense of escape, and people are already handing him infinite amounts of Taco Bell gift cards. It started with a few SoundCloud loosies, which snowballed into his 2020 EP, cypress grove. 2021 saw him mark his territory as not-your-average-high-schooler with his all dogs go to heaven EP and the ericdoa collab project then i’ll be happy

With the momentum of his latest single “prick,” and with a promise that he’s now creating the best music of his career, which is surprisingly still very much in its infancy, 2022 is going to be the year that glaive becomes more than the next big pop star; he’ll be the recipient of a GED. So maybe the next time he opens up about his life, he won’t be fresh out of detention. 

The last time we spoke, you explained that you were missing a lot of school. Come to find out, you got detention today. How’d you survive that one?

It has been a very unenjoyable experience, I would say. I used to be really scholarly. I used to do really well in school. Music just took over that “want” to do something well. So I just do music now. I have two more weeks of school. And every single day, I have detention because I had too many absences. 

At your Brooklyn show with ericdoa, I was thinking about the changing landscape of teen pop stars from Disney, Nickelodeon. There’s so much accessibility to releasing music now. Do you think you represent a new age of teenage musicians?

I think it’s down to what age you’ve gotten on the internet because I definitely like being on the internet enough to know about music, to find out about underground music, to find out that you really can make music from anywhere. You just need a microphone. I think that allowed me to go and make songs. Maybe there’ll be some kid, probably 6 years old, on the internet. And by the time he’s 10, he has a platinum song or something. I feel like it’s gonna happen. If they can figure out how to engineer it correctly, I feel like anybody can do it. I definitely could see a 5-year-old going crazy.

You’ve still got an album on the horizon. When we spoke about all dogs, you mentioned that book you were shown as a child that inspired the EP. What has been fueling the latest material?

I’ve yet to do much stuff that has really hard-hitting bass and a little more trap production. I think that’s what this stuff is more leaning toward. It’s produced by a guy named Perto. Wonderful guy, actually might be my GOAT. But he produced “prick” and all that. There’s this one song that has a very weird guitar, so it doesn’t even sound like a guitar. There’s just some beautiful chords that I played on this one song. There’s a more poppy, kind of dancey song on there. I think all the stuff coming out now is probably… It depends on what you think of as experimental. It’s just pop music with 808s and stuff.

Do you think, as fame has come, you’ve still been able to harness that angst of being a North Carolina kid who’s forced to attend school and go to detention? Or do you think your drive is coming more so from these tours and seeing the world a little?

My favorite song that I made recently is called “Lap Number One.” My favorite line on the whole song was, “Acting like you won, but it’s your first lap,” which is where the name of the song comes from. A lot of that is more about experiences that happened [in 2021]. Everything is just a mesh of my experiences. But this upcoming stuff definitely has a lot more of that influence.

2021 was the best year of your life. What about it made it that way? 

My favorite thing about [2021] was probably the contrast because I think that having highs and lows in one’s life is very important to realizing how high the highs are [compared] to the lows. So [2021] has been the first year where I’ve had the best high. I’ve had some of the best conversations, but I’ve also had some of the more difficult things in my life. I’m going to school every day. People that I used to know super well, I would consider them friends, they don’t even want to. That sucks.

That’s the low end of being in Hendersonville and being in North Carolina and just realizing the reality of not going to school for a year and then also having your life change without having physical contact with people. It makes them be weird. Then the contrast is I’m also getting to go do shows. I got to go to Mexico City, a place that I don’t think I probably would have ever gone to. The contrast has been what made it beautiful.

Are you taking that mindset into another year, or does it feel like a hard one to top? 

I think that’s the goal. I think stagnation can be very damaging to one’s life. That’s why I struggle with living in a small town. I think it’s a little difficult to not want to do other things. For me, growth is going to continue to happen. I think that the biggest growth I found is traveling and making myself experience new things. If you want to travel and be forced to meet new people, become a somewhat successful musician.

This interview first appeared in issue #402 (22 for ’22), available here.