Arlo Parks: ‘I cried at the end of my first gig’

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Charlie Cummings

She is still just 18 years-old but London newcomer Arlo Parks’ debut track Cola, released at the end of 2018, fizzed with original confessional lyrics mixed with a smooth funky groove and a dash of jazz for good measure.

Its heady delights were such that in April Lily Allen made the track one of the her top five songs on Apple Music.

“She’s from Hammersmith – same as me… Honestly, this song just knocked me off my feet,” Allen gushed.

“That was really crazy,” laughs Arlo on the Brighton beachfront ahead of a packed out show at the Great Escape in Brighton in May.

“I really had no expectations when I put it out,” she continues. “Because I was like, there’s so much music out there. Like, I shouldn’t be too upset if it doesn’t catch on or anything. But people seem to really like it.

“And I made it in a living room with this guy called Luca (LA-based producer Gianluca Buccellati). So yeah, I’m just super pumped, but I never expected it.”

The song, essentially a stinging riposte to a former lover and delivered with Park’s laid back jazzy flow also alludes to her phase as a teenage goth, referencing her love of My Chemical Romance and punk music – sonic influences not exactly made obvious from the song’s style and tempo.

I’ll miss your T-shirt in the rain / The one the makes you look like Gerard Way

I know it’s kinda dumb / But I miss the way you dressed all punk / With the black and the studs and the ripped up gloves / Bet she loved your tough-guy front

“I definitely had that emo phase,” she says, “and that’s kind of stayed with me, I guess. I like kind of dropping in references to make the story a bit more vivid.”

If anything, the emo influence plays out in a much more obvious way in Parks’ track Super Sad Generation, in which she dissects the ennui of “Generation Z”, pressured by social media, self-medicating with drugs and with their finances strangled by the high cost of living.

We’re a super sad generation / Killing time and losing our paycheques

“I would say in Super Sad Generation, it’s connected to emo in terms of like, being emotional and being in touch with your feelings,” she explains. “But there’s no kind of like thrashing guitars or screaming and stuff. You know, I wish I could do that. But I can’t.”

The video for the song features her younger brother: “He’s super supportive of me. It’s very, very sweet. And he worked for free,” she laughs.

Raised in West London, the teenage poet and singer has played just a handful of gigs, selling out a BBC Introducing show in June.

“This [the Brighton show] is my first official gig since I’ve released any music properly,” she says. “The first one was terrifying, I was so scared the whole way through and I cried at the end.

“Tears of joy, though!”

Her father “used to play like a lot of jazz in the house. And that’s what kind of inspired me and I was always making songs, just acoustic songs in my bedroom.

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Melanie Tjeong

“I liked The Strokes, Erykah Badu, MF Doom and then Nick Cave. So, a broad range of different things and I take a lot of inspiration from literature and stuff.

“I was really into Brave New World and a lot of poetry. So like Ezra Pound, Sylvia Plath… I kind of like the grittier side of literature.”

Next up for Parks are sets at Glastonbury and Latitude, plus a support slot with Kiwi soul star Jordan Rakei on his European tour in October.

“I think I’m going to put out a double single sometime during summer,” she says.

“I’m going back to my kind of guitar roots after two songs which were a little bit more electronic.

“I’m going to keep kind of pushing the bounds of what my music is.”

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