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Photos by Brian Ziff

Avril Lavigne has never pulled her punches. It’s been 20 years since she burst onto the male-dominated pop-punk scene and if you think those two decades mellowed her out you’d be sorely mistaken.

With the very first lyrics of “Bite Me,” her first single from her upcoming seventh studio album, Lavigne announced her presence with authority.

“Hey you, you should’ve known better / Better to fuck with someone like me.”

Truer words have rarely been spoken.

Lavigne didn’t go anywhere, of course. She’s been prolific since the release of “Let Go” in 2002, but her new work is a clear return to the pop-punk roots from whence she came. Lavigne has mastered the art of sounding simultaneously dangerous and innocent, a line few other artists would even imagine walking, let alone actually pull off. The track hits like a punch in the face from a loved one—it stings, but you still find yourself longing for the puncher.

“‘Bite Me’ is a little like a love gone wrong, revenge song where I’m taking my life back,” Lavigne says. “When I started making the record I was burnt out on love, I was feeling pretty over it. Although I would say probably only 80 percent of the record follows that theme, but then there are a couple of love songs.”

Given the abundant negativity surrounding us all—and after these two years you can’t really blame anybody for being negative—there is something particularly refreshing about an album entitled “Love Sux” that still features legitimate love songs. “It’s still hopeful,” Lavigne says. “I am a hopeless romantic and I do love love. But when I began the process of this album I was pretty over it.”

Photo by Brian Ziff

Photo by Brian Ziff

When the pandemic completely shut down live music, it gave musicians a curse and a gift. The curse is obvious, as the primary means for earning a living had been stripped away overnight. The gift may not have seemed obvious at first—particularly with the existential dread hovering over daily life—but it was time.

For a musician like Lavigne, each album cycle can feel like a grind. You write, you record, then you get on the road for months on end to promote the album. Then, when you finally return home, you have to start it all up again. It can be grueling. With touring off the table for the foreseeable future, Lavigne took advantage of the situation.

“I had a lot of time in the pandemic so I wrote a ton of songs reflecting back on my life in love throughout the past little while,” she says. “The other thing with the record is that I really wanted to make sure it had an empowering message, that there is strength in it. I write about stuff that I go through and even though I’ve had my struggles, I like to be open about that and try to still be inspiring.”

Lavigne’s ruminations extend much further than her past love life to include the women who inspired her to become a musician. If it wasn’t for the music of Alanis Morissette, the Distillers, the Cranberries and Hole, there likely never would have been a “Sk8er Boi.” There weren’t a ton of women rocking when Lavigne was growing up, but when she saw the likes of Brody Dalle covered in tattoos it proved that there was a place in the punk scene for her.

Photo by Brian Ziff

Photo by Brian Ziff

Now there is a new generation of female artists, Olivia Rodrigo perhaps being the most notable, who have been greatly influenced by Lavigne’s music. While reluctant to acknowledge just how influential she’s been—she may live in LA but her Canadian roots shine through—she does recognize the significance of her music.

“When I first came onto the music scene I was doing something different,” Lavigne says. “I was a girl writing empowering songs, standing up to men and playing guitar-driven music. At the time that was [barely] happening, so it was hard for me to do that and people didn’t expect that from me. When I was in the studio writing I was like, ‘I want to rock out more, I want to have guitars,’ so I fought to have that sound.

“Some people do tell me that I was able to help pave the way for other female singer/songwriters,” she continues, “and that makes me feel really good if it’s so. It’s me talking about me, so it’s weird to say [I was influential] (laughs). If other people say that, cool. It’s kind of not cool to say that about yourself. If I have helped inspire other people, I feel really honored.”

If the cliché that actions speak louder than words is true, the way Lavigne has gone about her business over the years sets an even greater standard than her lyrics could for young women hoping to emulate her career. Obviously there is the way she exploded onto the pop-punk scene as a teenager. Then there is the way she avoided the trappings of becoming a one-hit wonder, as so many of her peers did in the early 2000s. But perhaps the most impressive action of Lavigne’s career is the way she took charge 20 years later to once again do exactly what she wanted to do.

Photo by Brian Ziff

Photo by Brian Ziff

Lavigne was without a label and without a manager. Some would see this as a detrimental situation for a musician intent on furthering their career, but she saw opportunity. She joined forces with some of the biggest names in pop-punk—John Feldmann, Mod Sun and Travis Barker (whose DTA Records will be putting the album out)—and got to work.

“I wanted to make a pop-punk record,” she says. “We had lots of freedom, lots of time during the pandemic and I was working with people who are authentically punk rock. I felt like we all come from that background and we all complemented each other so the songs are really strong musically.

“I’ve got John Feldmann from Goldfinger playing guitar, I’ve got Travis Barker from Blink playing half of the drums on the album and Mod Sun playing drums as well,” she continues. “I wrote with these guys and there are collaborations with Machine Gun Kelly and blackbear. It felt like I got to make music with my friends.”

It may sound like the lyrics of a Twisted Sister song coming to fruition, but in the past Lavigne really did have to fight the suits to get more guitars put into her songs. This time around she just got to vibe with friends and rock out as hard as she desired.

The breadth of different styles of music represented throughout Lavigne’s discography is astounding; she has proven time and time again that she is an immensely talented singer-songwriter. As good as she is at writing crossover pop tunes or ballads, Lavigne may write in-your-face, fun pop-punk songs better than anybody else on the planet. Not only do the songs on “Love Sux” rock hard, but you’ll also find some of the strongest tracks of Lavigne’s career on the album.

Coming off of “Head Above Water,” the most serious album of her career, Lavigne really wanted to have fun again. “‘Head Above Water’ was very deep and emotional, I’m at a different place in my life now,” she explains. “I’m in a really great place, I’m having a ton of fun, I’m feeling great. This is where I’m at in my life, and this is the music I’m excited about right now.”

Photo by Brian Ziff

Photo by Brian Ziff

Pop-punk is very clearly having a moment right now. It would be too easy to say it’s fueled purely by nostalgia—if it were, people would just be listening to their old Good Charlotte albums again. Instead, you’ll find one of the most vibrant and interesting music scenes around. Most notably, the scene crosses generations in a way that few others do. If you go to see Avril Lavigne in concert you’re going to see 40-year-olds pogoing in the pit next to 14-year-olds.

“It’s really exciting for the new generation to be discovering the bands that I grew up listening to in high school,” Lavigne says. “And to see older bands collaborating with new bands in the genre makes it a really exciting time in music.”

The pop-punk scene has changed dramatically over the years. In the early 2000s it was much more of a cool kids club than it is today. There was a bit of rivalry between bands and outsiders had to prove they belonged before the standard-bearers would let them in. Today, much of that is gone as there is a much more congenial vibe. “It’s so much fun,” Lavigne says of today’s scene. “We have all these different artists doing songs together and it’s just a big party.”

Not only is there camaraderie in the scene, there was also a little romance happening in the studio. Ironically, while working on an album called “Love Sux,” Lavigne found a reason to give love another chance.

“When I began the process of this album I was heartbroken,” Lavigne says, “and I needed a breather [from love]. And when I got together with my co-writers and producers John Feldmann and Mod Sun, I was having those conversations. I wrote songs about stuff I had experienced in love before, but what’s interesting is that during the process of making this album over the course of a year, I did fall in love. That was a very positive change in my life, I wasn’t expecting it.”

A more gradual change in Lavigne’s life that we’ve seen in the decade since she first appeared on the cover of Inked is the growth of her tattoo collection. At the time, she had what you might call a smattering of tattoos—you definitely saw that she had ink, but in a quick glance it’d be easy to miss. At that point, and for a while thereafter, tattoos were exclusively a spontaneous thing.

“All of my tattoos for a good 15 years were just random,” she says. “I was probably super drunk and I was like, ‘Let’s do this!’ I never really thought them out. Then a couple of years ago I sat down with London Reese, who is now the tattoo artist I have come to my house instead of going to some random tattoo store (laughs). I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got all these tattoos that go just about everywhere, can we bring them all together and sort of make it look like a half-sleeve?’”

Reese went to work and turned Lavigne’s hodgepodge of bangers into a beautiful, music-themed half-sleeve. The primary focus of the piece is the tool of Lavigne’s trade, a microphone, and it is surrounded by roses and music notes. If Lavigne didn’t share the background behind the tattoo you’d never even suspect it was designed to bring cohesion to a patchwork of existing pieces.

Photo by Brian Ziff

Photo by Brian Ziff

The tattoo is a departure from the color realism that Reese is known for, and likely not the sort of creative deviation he’d make on the regular, but that’s one of the perks of being Avril. “He typically likes to draw his own art, but he’s my homie, he’s really nice,” she laughs. “He’ll come over and we’ll throw tattoo parties, he’s tattooed my friends and family, and he’s made paintings for me. He has such a good vibe, he’s so positive. It’s nice to have someone like that work on you.”

Lavigne’s first tattoo didn’t have nearly the foresight put into it. She was in LA working on her second album at the time. After a night out at the bar, she had the idea to get a tattoo, as one often does when deep in their cups. But before she went and got the now iconic “Sk8er Boi” star tattooed on her wrist, she needed a little extra encouragement.

“Part of me was like, ‘Wait, should I be doing this?’” she recalls. “So I called my older brother to make sure I had his blessing. I was like, ‘I’m going to get a tattoo, is that OK?’ He said it was OK. It’s the ‘Sk8er Boi’ star, it means a lot to me.”

This first tattoo laid the groundwork for the rest of Lavigne’s tattoo journey, showing how even when she’s being impulsive she’s still putting thought into her work. She took things slowly and stuck mostly to smaller tattoos, at least for the first 15 years. “I always wanted the half-sleeve, but I was trying to be responsible,” she laughs. “It’s funny, I say that while I have ‘Fuck’ tattooed on me three times.”

Stifling laughter, Lavigne then proceeded to give us a tattoo tour of all the fucks she has. There’s the classic “Fuck You” on her middle finger. On another finger she has “Motherfucking Princess,” a pretty lengthy bit to have on one little finger. “It was going to be ‘Motherfucking’ [on one finger] and then ‘Princess’ [on the other],” she explains. “Then we stenciled on ‘Motherfucking’ and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I don’t want to write on this finger cause it’s my ring finger. What do we do? Oh, shit, just put a crown.’”

The trio of fucks comes to close with block letters on her rib cage simply spelling out “Fuck.” For somebody who wanted to be responsible with their tattoos, getting the queen mother of dirty words inked on you thrice is a pretty bold move. “It’s my favorite word,” she laughs, “why the fuck not?”

If you’re looking for words to sum up her career thus far, those might be the perfect ones. Any time she’s been met with a challenge, “Why the fuck not?” could be the words she spits right back.

The haters have said so much over the years:

“There shouldn’t be so much guitar on this album.”
"Why the fuck not?"

“Nobody wants to hear pop-punk from a teenage girl.”
"Why the fuck not?"

“Nobody is going to want to hear a punk record from someone in their late thirties.”
"Why the fuck not?"

It’s all a load of trash and Lavigne has treated it as such. You would have thought that by now, two decades into a career so successful she’ll soon be receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, these haters would have known better to have fucked with someone like her. 

Pick up our 2022 Lifestyle Issue featuring Avril Lavigne, City Morgue, Rauw Alejandro, NLE Choppa and more at Inkedshop.com.

Photos by Brian Ziff
Photo Assistant: Max Flick
Fashion Director: Erin Kobrin
Fashion Assistant: Allison Cartagena
Set Design: Walter Barnett
Set Assistant: Attila Szkuklik
Makeup: Gabe Paduro
Hair: Lauren Bates

Photo by Brian Ziff

Photo by Brian Ziff