10 things you need to know about new guernsey popstar ariel
Probably the most exciting person to have ever made it off the Channel Island.
Photography Bob Foster
Last summer Ariel was stuck in London, drowning in writer’s block and poor mental health. Not knowing what else to do, she headed home for three months and ended up writing all day, every day from the room above her mum’s garage. With a view of the sea and the beautiful, wild surroundings, she felt inspired for the first time in a long time. Along with her mojo, she discovered an old copy of The Little Mermaid, and within it, the tale of a girl aspiring for something beyond her known world. “It was weirdly comforting but also crazy in that the original was basically designed to put women off getting above their station,” Ariel says. “I wanted to see where I could take that story in my own life.”
Music was taken pretty seriously in Ariel’s household from the start. She practised piano every single day before breakfast, only giving herself the day off for Christmas, before being shipped off to the prestigious Purcell School for classical training at age 14. And yet she didn’t start writing songs until she was away at university studying something else entirely. It was then that it became an obsession. Since the Guernsey sessions, Ariel has shared her debut single All Night, last summer’s sad post-party tune that soon got followed up by We Bring Our Friends and the massive, very catchy In-N-Out.
Which brings us up to today and the release of Dream Team, another bright pop bop with a dark story sitting right behind it. This time about abuse of power in the industry, inspired by a conversation between an artist and their manager that she overheard backstage at a festival. “Like every woman on the planet I’ve been reflecting on my experiences of being pressurised, pushed around and worse,” Ariel told i-D over email. “For women in the entertainment industry to have their hands tied contractually is a dangerous thing when there’s a clear predatory culture surrounding them. The way corporate interest is packaged and sold as aspirational is really twisted to me, so I wanted to switch the perspective and play the predator on Dream Team. I wrote it before the #MeToo movement broke, but when it finally did, it added an eerie new layer to the song.”
Taking that eerie new layer to another level are the samples of Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump making secretly-recorded inappropriate comments that lurk throughout. “I put the samples in later and it added this terrible weight. It’s dark but it kind of has to be for how it will fit into the story of the album.” Across the unassuming track, Ariel invites the listener in, feeds us dreamy lies and sells us the world. She’s fooled us good alright, but we love how it sounds.
Keen to know more about this conceptual creep and pure talent, we asked Ariel to tell us more about her world. Here are 10 things you need to know:
1. Ask her what kind of music she makes and she’ll tell you straight up...
“I write songs about what I see. At the moment it’s got some pretty strong pop and electronic influences but I have a load of songs that don’t. The album will be a mix. It sounds wanky, but I like to write and produce around the atmosphere the song demands.”
2. Her earliest musical memories are pretty adorable.
“My dad has a cassette collection of us messing about at the piano and singing before I could talk properly. I then remember jumping up and down on the shitty floral sofa bed we had in the lounge when my mum came off the phone with a piano teacher who lived round the corner. She’d arranged my first piano lesson. I was 4. That same piano teacher had to cover the piano with a dust sheet when I was about 6 because I’d get so distracted by my own reflection I couldn’t concentrate. Young Narcissus!”
3. Living in Guernsey has pros and cons.
“The best thing is that it’s so cut off, the worst thing is that it’s so cut off.”
4. Her dream dream team would consist of...
“A dream team of creative mentors please: Marina Abramovic, Ridley Scott and Beyoncé.”
5. She’s a massive cynic.
“But I’ve also been to some dark places while making these records and I’m realising after the fact that writing them has been a form of therapy for me. I feel like I’m able to minimise darkness if I can get inside it and fuck around.”
6. Ariel has got a very special live show coming up on 8 Feb.
“We’re building the set from scratch. Part of it is a boxing ring, which has been a head fuck but I have some very talented friends. I wanted to do something immersive so expect to get involved.”
7. Each year on her birthday, she gets a new tattoo.
“A good friend listened to the demos for the album last year and said he felt like a caged bird was re-finding its voice. So that's what I’m getting this week…”
8. The messed up world inspires her.
“Everything being a mess is inspiring. I’m about 20 song ideas behind myself at the moment. And the live show, purely because of how much I'm putting into it. It's turning into a centrepiece for the whole project.”
9. Her middle name is literally ‘St George’.
“What the fuck is that?! I literally sound like Brexit. I have lived in Berlin and around France though, if that counterbalances it.”
10. She’s got a solid plan.
“Release album 1. Tour the show. Then I really want to live out of a van next year. Maybe I’ll combine the two… and then eventually move back to the beach.”