Arlo Parks Wants Her Songs to ‘Feel Like Surround Sound Cinema’
Parks said that a sense of intimacy and connectedness is at the core of her recording: “I think at this time when the space between people is so pronounced and the chaos can feel overwhelming, the songs touch a certain, vulnerable part the human.”
The past year has been a whiplash for parks. Her US tour, which opened for Paramores Hayley Williams, was sunk by the pandemic, but her profile has still risen, aided by the support of a group of well-known admirers including Billie Eilish, Wyclef Jean and Michelle Obama. “Cola” featured prominently on Michaela Coel’s acclaimed HBO series “I May Destroy You,” and Parks herself starred in an episode of “Overture of Something That Never Ended,” an artistic miniseries co-directed by Gus Van Sant for Gucci . Blooming your career in the face of so many suffering has obviously been a mixed blessing. “I definitely had to work on feeling undeserved,” said Parks.
Phoebe Bridgers, who played two songs with Parks in a London church for BBC Radio last September, has seen a similarly timed and therefore similarly strained rise. “We talked about it,” said Bridgers. “It’s depressing, but only for our own health. When you make music you feel like at least a semblance of work. But I’m looking forward to the world in which the two of us will be different from the one we left. “
LIKE A TEENAGER Growing up in the West London borough of Hammersmith, Parks was literal, athletic, awkward, sad and frightened all at the same time, which means he wasn’t too different from teenagers. She felt herself constantly watching the world around her and then trying to process what she saw. “It was more a matter of rethinking – purpose, love, what success was, what loss was, what I was going to do with my life,” she said. “I think living life in a way that was very attentive and empathetic, was stressful at times, but made me who I am.”
Her keen eye and slightly injured psyche have proven to be invaluable assets for her songwriting. “Super Sad Generation,” another product of those early sessions with Buccellati, begins with parks coolly staging the scene: “When did we get so thin / did we start doing ketamine over the weekend?” Other early songs pile up precise details and proper names: Ritalin, powder blue walls, food from Parma Violets – a popular British candy – on the way back from therapy, the t-shirt that makes an ex look like My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way .