break out with kelly lee owens

Interrupt your worldview with this Alexander McQueen-soundtracking London singer-songwriter.

by Matthew Whitehouse and i-D Staff
26 March 2016, 10:10pm

If you saw the recent Alexander McQueen autumn/winter 16 show, you'll have noticed that offsetting the lullaby sweetness and glamour of the collection, was a soundtrack of almost throbbing and savage beauty. It was the sort of music we'd describe as "Lynchian" if it wasn't the most hackneyed term for female signers which inhabit the same wild-at-heart-weird-on-top universe. The person responsible: Kelly Lee Owens.

The London singer-songwriter actually describes her favourite film as Overview - a short documenting astronauts' stories of seeing the Earth from the outside, released by a collective dedicated to "worldview interruption" - and it speaks volumes. "I hate restricting myself," she says today. "I don't see myself as a single genre, feeling or #. Essence, individuality and freedom is what excites me." It seems Kelly Lee Owens is interested in creating a universe of her own.

Can you describe your music for someone that hasn't heard it please?
Maybe... // subaqueous // analogue // bass // lucid //

Did you always want to be a musician?
I always wanted to be involved in making music in some way, but it took me ages to figure out exactly how I wanted to express it myself. I collected ideas and sounds over the years, watched other people, listened to their experiences and stories, learned about what I did and didn't want to do. I think artists should always take their time to find that out. Being in my mid twenties when I started to properly write and produce was definitely the right time for me.

Do you still work at Sister Ray Records too? Has working in record shops had any discernible impact on what you do?
1 or 2 days a week - depending on how busy I am. I love it. I get to play vinyl all day and talk to strangers about their love of music, it's magic! Also I get to sell my own records directly, which is not something everyone can experience..and for sure, working at so many records stores over the years has exposed me to all sorts of ridiculously amazing music!

How about being from near the coast in North Wales? Has that had an impact?
I only recognise now how Wales might have affected me... It's always when you leave somewhere or someone that you realise the impact they had on you. There's a little poem that goes :

"To be born Welsh

is to be privileged.

Not with a silver spoon in your mouth,

But, with music in your blood

And poetry in your soul."

(In Passing by Brian Harris)

You first came to many people's attention when you contributed to Daniel Avery's Drone Logic… Was there a particular moment when you thought, hang on a minute, I'd quite like to do stuff on my own thanks very much?
Dan Avery and Ghost Culture were the first people I properly worked on music with and we work really well together. If it wasn't for Dan making Drone Logic and Erol and James pushing me to write more maybe I would never have had the confidence to finish my own tracks. I learnt that you can't be afraid to fail in front of other people - you have to pull yourself in to uncomfortable situations in order to extract the best out of yourself at times.

How did Arthur soundtracking the Alexander McQueen autumn/winter 16 show come about? Did you enjoy hearing your music in that context?
The guys at Alexander McQueen just contacted me and asked if they could use it. I said yes because I really respect them as a fashion house and also personally I really connect to Lee and what he was about - his determination to stay outside the box. Last year I also DJ'd at the V&A in conjunction with the Savage Beauty exhibition, so this was a wonderful continuation. Their collection fitted perfectly with the track!

Why did you label the song #notag on Soundcloud?
I hate restricting myself. I don't see myself as a single genre, feeling or #. Essence, individuality and freedom is what excites me.

Tell us a little about your new single 1 of 3
Technically speaking, what you're hearing on the track is the first time I messed around with a real 808, so your hearing me filter stuff live and using the drum machine. It was a lot of fun to make! Emotionally - there's vulnerability in the track but there's also strength - both are important. Both are present in any type of relationship. The end section is me taking back the power - understanding the truth of the situation. I think when you know the truth, having that knowledge of it gives you some kind of power, because it open you up to choice.

If you could say anything to anyone, who would it be and what would you say?
"Thank you" to Arthur Russell.

Why Arthur Russell?
He was an artist who didn't compromise - an artist who worked almost up until the day he died. He wrote music which is inventive. Immersive. Ahead of itself. Beauteous.


Photography Daniele Fummo

Alexander McQueen
Arthur Russell
Daniel Avery
Drone Logic
kelly lee owens
music interviews
autumn winter 16