atlanta artist abra aka darkwave duchess isn't afraid of the dark side
Not to be mistaken with the shadiest Pokémon around, we get to know the lo-fi singer and producer with an exclusive look at her new music video.
ABRA says she's lo-fi to a fault and we love her for it. While artists like The Weeknd and Kelela explore the parameters of R&B through their overlapping takes on the genre, there's a D-I-Y quality to ABRA that will have you listening on loop. Last month saw the release of her entirely self-produced second LP, ROSE. We talk to her about Pokémon, her Awful Records crew and Britney Spears, plus give you an exclusive look at the visuals for new track, U KNO.
Your new EP explores the loss of innocence, hurt and reconnecting with people among other things. What are your top tips for getting over heartbreak and sullied friendships?
I always end a relationship when it's hurting my spirit. I can still be heartbroken about it ending though. The only thing I've found to heal a broken heart is time and good self-image. For me, that has always come from art and pouring myself into my music. When you're interested in something you become interesting. When you push yourself to be more than average whether by learning a new skill, or bettering the skills you already have, not only does it pass a lot of time, but it gives you a lot of confidence.
The video for U KNO - shot by UNIF - has a lot of dark elements. How does it tie into the backstory to your alias, Darkwave Duchess?
Darkwave Duchess represents my desire to not be afraid of the dark side, which is the side that is my vulnerable, hidden-to-the-world-but-comes-out-late-at-night self. I feel like my generation hides a world of deep emotion and thoughts behind ambiguous tweets, texts, emojis, and other digital things that take the edge off our raw human expressions. We don't say how we feel out of fear of rejection or seeming too intense or needy. I feel like this idea ties in well with the themes of deadpan drama, repressed desire, and nuanced moodiness in the video juxtaposed to the vulnerable, and expressive, needy nature of the lyrics.
How did you become involved with Awful Records?
I had been friends with Father for a few years and then one summer I came over to the barrio to work on a collab with him. We both realised we liked creating art together. I started coming over every day and eventually he asked me if I wanted to join the Awful roster before he closed it off.
You produced your new album, ROSE, entirely by yourself. What did you draw from sonically to mould your sound?
I watched Coming to America, Trading Places, Harlem Nights, and Jackie Brown over and over on mute every night. I also looked at a lot of fashion and photography from the mid-80s, especially Thierry Mugler and Helmut Newton. This time period was very comforting to me during a time that I was very sad and uninspired. It wasn't a calculated move, it was just what I was doing at the time. Roses was the first song I made for the album and the first thing that shook me out of my creative bind. I made it in ten minutes while watching Jackie Brown and when I was done I knew I had to make an album around it.
Your music embodies a natural DIY thing with the lo-fi vibes on BLQ VELVET. Explain your beat making and recording process…
I serve the bass! Everything comes from the bass line. After I get something groovy, I'll drive around with the bass line on loop until a song or lyrics come to mind. Then I'll lay a rough of that and just experiment with building around the track with harmonies, backing vocals, chopping things up. Anything can be chopped up and made into an instrument. All I'm doing is having fun messing with sounds until I make something that gets me excited. When I finish producing the song, I'll go lay a final vocal cut in my closet on my snowball mic.
Dead or alive, who would you love to produce for?
Britney Spears. Her songs and sounds have inspired so much of my music.
You share your name with a Pokémon. What's your hidden ability?
Teleport. I am the shadiest, most disappearing-ass person I know. I'll be at your party one minute and the next, by time you text me to ask where I'm at, I've already retreated to somewhere (usually my room) so I can be alone.
In L.A. tonight? Catch ABRA at The Well alongside Antwon, A Chal & Tommy Genesis.
Text Laura Arowolo
Photography Pierre Solo