Photography Charlie Cummings 

10 things you need to know about poet-turned-musician Arlo Parks

The 19-year-old Londoner makes lo-fi emo-pop about betrayal, anxiety and falling in love with your best friend.

by Jenna Mahale
20 February 2020, 3:30pm

Photography Charlie Cummings 

Arlo Parks is here to chronicle every high and low of teendom: from wishing you were born in a different generation, to falling in love with your childhood best friend, to wondering, “Why oh why did I date someone who would pick a fight over a bottle of Bacardi?” Hers is a brand of confessional pop that feels both personal and universal, and one that has earned her recognition from both critics and some of her most esteemed musical peers, including Lily Allen and Angel Olsen.

Arlo says she spent most of her school years listening to emo music, feeling like that black kid who couldn’t dance, and crushing on a girl in her Spanish class. Now 19 years old and fresh from supporting Loyle Carner on his European tour with a sell-out closing show at Alexandra Palace, she has accumulated a healthy amount of industry buzz. But she’s not resting on her laurels just yet. “I can always do it better,” Arlo says. “It is quite exposing to speak about things that are so personal, but learning to do that in a way that's elegant is something I'm always chasing.”

A poet-turned-songstress, she weaves literary references and arresting imagery into her songs, describing heartbroken nights and drug-addled evenings with a dark deftness that would make Sylvia Plath proud. Before she heads off on her own 13-date headline tour next week, starting at Berlin’s Kantine am Berghain, here are 10 things you should know about one of bedroom pop’s newest and most talented storytellers.

1. The first thing she ever performed on-stage was a Childish Gambino song
“It was a school talent show vibe. I remember singing "Redbone" with my best friend on bass and this other dude on drums. He was playing a little bit too fast, but it was fine.”

2. Her career took off during her A-Levels. Yikes
“I was doing revision while prepping for The Great Escape and all these other festivals, and doing all these label meetings. It was very much like every single moment of my day was taken up by something so it was quite intense, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. I couldn’t really afford to not do either thing.”

3. She’s shaken off her stage fright
“When I started, I would get quite nervous and I didn't have much stage experience. But after doing two support tours, I feel like all of that's kind of evaporated. Now I feel like performing is quite freeing.”

4. And befriended her impostor syndrome
“I think it's only natural to feel a bit freaked out, because I'm basically just a kid and I've been in the music industry for like a year, tops. Hopefully it's something that will fade in time, but I don't necessarily see it as a bad thing. It keeps me humble.”

5. Social media isn’t really her thing
“I'm quite technologically challenged.”

6. She’s a proper bookworm, and is currently reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and poetry by Ann Sexton
“So much of that work is about emotion, tragedy and being genuine. That's something I've tried to pull from.”

7. In fact, she’d probably be studying them at university right now if she hadn’t pursued music
“I’d be doing English Lit at UCL or something. And then maybe going into journalism.”

8. The name Arlo Parks came to her pretty much at random
“This story is really silly! I was reading an interview with King Krule in the Guardian, and he said that his name came from imagining a king crawling through a city, at his lowest point. And I thought, 'Low… Arlo.' I wanted it to have two parts because I thought that would be cooler, like Frank Ocean. I was out with my friends, getting really stressed about finding the second part to this name, and they were like 'We're in the park, just chill out!' And I was like, 'Parks! Damn.' And that was it.”

9. Like a lot of gen Z, she’s really feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders rn
“From my perspective, there's this feeling of helplessness, like the world is crumbling and it's down to us to save it, or at least claw it back. More and more kids are taking to activism and trying to make a change, but it does feel really daunting in terms of the environment and the political landscape -- we're going to have to sort that out somehow.”

10. She’s got the next five years all figured out. Kind of
“I'd like to have done two full records, played some shows in some weird, out of the way places, and maybe done some more collaborations. I don't think I'll be living in London, but we'll see... I don't like to set too many plans. I like to just go with the waves.”

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