Arlo Parks writes the kind of lyrics that make you want to stop a track and rewind it just to hear them again. Images like “you leave a bit of blood in every room” (from “george”) or “I had a dream we kissed and it was all amethyst” (“Eugene”) punch through, making her gentle indie-pop songs an intoxicatingly visual experience.
It’s no surprise that the young multi-hyphenate Londoner started writing poetry and short stories when she was just 11. “My work is inspired by the raw chaos of the Beat Generation in 60s New York, surreal movies like Mulholland Drive, and the hallucinogenic spoken word pieces created by Patti Smith,” she says. She also notes King Krule and Jean-Michel Basquiat as being among her sources of inspiration, but Arlo’s punk poetry has its own, soulful voice.
Her 2019 EP Super Sad Generation on Transgressive Records – a prelude to the debut album she’s currently working on – was an incisive portrait of her inner life, from big weekends to the quiet heartbreak of unrequited crushes. Her cinematic writing won’t let you look away.
How is your work unique to you or informed by your perspective, experiences, or identity?
Arlo Parks: My songs mainly revolve around London youth culture, mental health, and fragility. I write from the perspective of a young, black, queer woman and the inner sense of turmoil I experienced when I was younger and still figuring myself out. I rarely edit my songs, so they really are a pure expression of my subconscious.
What or who gives you hope and why?
Arlo Parks: The kids that are being vocal and actively campaigning for change in whatever sector give me hope – the way they refuse to settle for chaos and injustice makes me hopeful for the future. Art made by creatives that are striving to express themselves in unusual and pure ways make me hopeful for the future. These include Kerby Jean-Raymond’s inclusive and disruptive brand Pyer Moss, SOPHIE’s album Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, and Maggie Nelson’s mingling of prose and poetry in Bluets.
“The kids that are being vocal and actively campaigning for change in whatever sector give me hope – the way they refuse to settle for chaos and injustice makes me hopeful for the future” – Arlo Parks
What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund?
Arlo Parks: I want to print and publish a poetry book about the visceral emotions of adolescence. I would also like to organise a book launch night that would involve spoken word pieces from young, local, queer artists, in order to champion representation and create a safe, creative space for young people that may feel marginalised. Furthermore, I would love to tie the night in with a mental health charity in order to increase awareness. This project would help me start my journey of helping young people who may feel like they don’t have a space where they can exist comfortably in the world of the arts.