photo credit: Charlie Cummings
“Arlo Parks gives teen angst a human face” – FADER
“I am blown away..Somewhere between Portishead and Syd of the Internet“ – Independent (Ones to Watch 2019)
“sensitive, precise and intimate” – The Line of Best Fit (Fifty Best Songs of 2018)
“poetically emotional” – Wonderland
“poignant songwriting and alluring voice” – COLORS
“Remember the name… she’s brilliant” – Huw Stephens, BBC Radio 1
With the release of her confessional debut single ‘Cola‘ at the end of last year, Arlo Parks stopped listeners in their tracks. Seemingly out of nowhere, this intriguing young artist released a song which very quickly entered The Line of Best Fit’s ‘Fifty Best Songs of 2018’, and then saw her named amongst a plethora of brilliant talent in Independent’s selective Ones to Watch for 2019 round-up. She reached #1 on Hype Machine’s Popular Chart immediately (and subsequently re-entered the #1 spot weeks later), and had nods from COLORS, Dummy, London In Stereo, Wonderland, Mahogany, KCRW, BBC Radio 1, BBC 1Xtra, Beats1, Radio X and many more.
Today, following a premiere on FADER, Arlo Parks has released her follow up single ‘Super Sad Generation’; a delicate ode to the emotionally wrought youth of today. At just eighteen, the young London based singer demonstrates soul and compassion beyond her years, and says she “made this record to pay tribute to all those kids that are in a lot of pain and are confused as to why” (more below).
“When I look at my generation I see a kaleidoscope of dejection, passion and anxiety – there’s this strange mix of sadness and intimacy that saturates generation Z. Super Sad Generation was inspired by the time my friends and I sat on the green at sunset, half wine drunk and ugly crying for no reason in particular. We talked for hours about ghosts, disappointing our parents and depression. Everyone I loved seemed so angry and sick and aggressively alive, I’ll never forget that evening. On the bus ride home I wrote the poem that would eventually become Super Sad Generation – a reflection on how a lot of things break and a lot of people get hurt during adolescence.”
On a personal level, Parks struggled with her identity growing up; a self-confessed tom boy who was super sensitive and “uncool”, she says it was like “I’m a black kid who can’t dance for shit, listens to emo music and currently has a crush on some girl in my Spanish class.” By the time she reached 17, she shaved her head, figured out she was bisexual and produced/wrote an album’s worth of material.
Growing up in South West London, half Nigerian, a quarter Chadian and a quarter French, Arlo Parks learned to speak French before English. A quiet child, she’d write short stories and create fantasy worlds, later journaling and then obsessing over spoken word poetry, reading American poets such as Ginsberg and Jim Morrison and watching old Chet Baker performances on YouTube. These days she references Nayyirah Waheed, Hanif Abdurraqib and Iain S. Thomas as her favourite modern poets, and it is clear that their works are as influential on her song writing as any musician. Books too, such as The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Parks says, “the way Murakami writes in that book is how I aspire to write my songs; gritty and sensitive and human.”
Fela Kuti’s ‘Water‘ and Otis Redding’s ‘Sittin On The Dock Of The Bay‘ sound tracked Arlo Parks’ childhood, but it was aged around 13 that she discovered King Krule; an artist who would heavily influence the music she writes today. Later listening to more hip-hop (from Kendrick Lamar, MF Doom and Earl Sweatshirt to the more confessional sounds of Loyle Carner) and rock (Jimi Hendrix, Shilpa Ray and David Bowie), as well as the subdued, pained sounds of Keaton Henson, Sufjan Stevens and Julien Baker, Parks explains, “I would write stories so detailed you could taste them, while maintaining the energy and life of the hip-hop I loved.” There’s a visual, almost cinematic quality to her writing too, which is born from her love of horror films, streetwear and abstract art.
‘Super Sad Generation‘ is out now. More news/music coming soon.