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Arlo Parks' Frankenstein Approach to Music Making

Rob Feher

In a world crowded with manufactured personas, Arlo Parks shines as a beacon of authenticity and creative brilliance. Disregarding musical trends and committing to an authentic sound, the English singer and songwriter is as one of the most exciting artists of the moment. In her music, there's a conscious effort to blend textures and sounds, resulting in a swirling indie pop experience that draws on many genres and movements. Beyond music, she emphasises letting go of the pursuit of perfection and cultural shifts, embracing creativity as a lifelong journey. Parks, who has toured globally and opened for renowned pop artists Harry Styles and Lorde, recently released her new album, "My Soft Machine," which comprises of diary-like lyricism. This month, she is preparing to embark on an Australian tour. From a hotel room in Seoul, after witnessing Vegyn's DJ set at Cakeshop, Parks looks forward to the rush of performing and connecting once again.

Rob Feher: How are you? What have you been working on lately?

Arlo Parks: I’m well, currently sitting in a hotel in Seoul, after a wonderful night watching Vegyn DJ at Cakeshop and playing my first ever headline show. I’m mainly in a soaking mood, absorbing books, the new Japanese House record, the new John Carroll Kirby record, writing little bits and pieces when I can, but mainly just filling my creative cup.

RF: How has the response been to the release of your album My Soft Machine?

AP: The thing about releasing a record is that there’s always such a range of opinions existing in one big soup – people who feel that the work is a progression, a regression, a masterpiece, daring, complacent, beautiful, boring – the only thing that matters to me is what my fans think, signing a tiny little girl’s record at her first ever signing, watching kids thrash to dog rose, feeling people really living with the music – that has been the most special response.

RF: Could you elaborate on your writing collaborations with Paul Epworth and Romil Hemnani? How did the development phase inform the sound of your new album?

AP: I met Romil because I was a huge fan of his work with Brockhampton: his productions shape shift, challenge and warp so effortlessly. I came to his studio, and we listened to the Beatles, and drank coffee and made Impurities almost accidentally. Paul is my favourite person to work with. He is so sensitive, so big hearted, so totally in love with making beautiful things. We work out of Church Studios in North London, the first song we made today was Too Good’ and we never stopped. Both Romill and Paul allow for total experimentation. Everything is possible with them. I entered the album making process feeling totally free.

RF: As someone who appreciates a diverse and extensive range of music, how do you seamlessly incorporate and blend your music together?

AP: I think I naturally cherry pick elements of the music I love and create something new. It’s a Frankenstein approach: taking the kick from a house tune, incorporating the way Bilinda Butcher’s vocals are buried in a ‘My Bloody Valentine’ song, infusing Pharrell’s cadence. It’s about trusting your tastes.

RF: Throughout your various projects, what has been the most challenging aspect of creation, and what have you learned from those experiences?

AP: Letting go of the idea of a project having to be perfect and culture shifting. I think approaching a project as a steppingstone, or the best thing that I can do in a particular moment, has helped me find ease in creativity. I learnt that creativity really is a lifelong journey.

RF: How does your environment impact the spaces in which you create your music, including the soundscapes, ambience, and lyrical context?

AP: I’m constantly travelling and constantly soaking up my environment. I love the unpredictability of organic sounds, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the wind in the trees, ocean-water smashing rocks – I find a lot of comfort in digesting my songs whilst walking in nature and then embedding subtle nature sounds in my music.

RF: How do you manage to effortlessly integrate vulnerability and playfulness into your art?

AP: I think art is naturally both of those things. It’s something urgent that bursts out of you, you’re showing your innards but you’re also sometimes banging on a tambourine for 45 minutes and feeling silly. Great art is about allowing yourself to just be and embrace the fun of it.

RF: In previous interviews, you mentioned personal limits. Does personal growth as an artist allow for a clearer definition of these limits, and if so, how?

AP: Yes, I think you become more confident, more aware of yourself, in tune with what makes you feel good, or invaded, or sticky. Limits are ever changing though so I think a big part of personal growth is honouring your own sense of mystery and knowing that your limits change every single day.

RF: The world's musical output is currently at an all-time high. How do you continue to evolve your music at your own pace?

AP: I made a promise to myself that I would never put out anything that I didn’t love, and I cling onto that promise. Making something good really does take time.

RF: In your opinion, what improvements does the music industry need to make in order to better support the artists who drive it?

AP: It needs to give people the space to make good work rather than pressuring them to be a music-making machine. Taking emphasis off the success of one song or record and focusing on a long-term career. Understanding the mental health sensitivities of artists.

RF: Apart from music, what inspires you the most?

AP: Film, text messages, galleries.

RF: How do you see your artistic expression through fashion? Does it complement your music or play a different role in your personal expression?

AP: Fashion is another way of showing the world who I truly am. When I feel mischievous, when I want to dress like a spy or more preppy or outrageously, when I feel in touch with my masculine side, when I want to show everyone how much I love Nine Inch Nails, I can show it. I can ‘externalise’ what is within.

RF: What aspect of coming to Australia and performing at Splendour In The Grass this year excites you the most?

AP: Playing in Australia last year was mind-blowing: the energy, the hunger of the fans, how sweet and respectful they were. I can’t wait to experience that rush again.

See Arlo Parks perform at Splendour In The Grass. Tickets available here.

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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