Bass heavy grooves, confessional and introspective lyrics combined with a smooth and serene voice… This is the world Arlo Park has created before her first album has even been released. 
Arlo was naturally inclined toward writing from a young age, making her an already accomplished songwriter at just 20 years old. Influenced by a combination of music and poetry, the result is a statement about what music can really do for us, the power it holds to be able to communicate thoughts and feelings to one another, open and accepting.
Arlo, could you tell me a little bit about how you became interested in music?
When I was very young, there was a lot of jazz and a lot of ‘80s French pop playing in the house because my mum grew up in Paris. As I got a little bit older, I started developing my own tastes and listening to people like King Krule and The Pixies. Then I picked up the guitar and started teaching myself to make beats.
Having that wide range of influences growing up, I think it must make you more interested in different types of music as an adult.
Yeah, definitely! I think especially because I grew up having access to Youtube, it meant that I could just go down these rabbit holes and find anything from ‘60s soul deep cuts to Aphex Twin, to techno, to everything! I had access to such a wide range of different music – I think that’s what got me interested in music as a whole.
You’ve talked about how you are influenced by poets like Sylvia Plath and even Jim Morrison – as well as Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg. Do you think that reading and writing poetry made you more articulate and open-minded as a songwriter?
Definitely. I felt like it really expanded my vocabulary and encouraged me to write poetry. And I think having written from the age of about 11 years old – having that practice and having that time and inspiration – helped me hone my own voice and get to a place where I could communicate my feelings clearly.
The Covid-19 pandemic has kept people indoors, forced us to put our regular lives on hold, and the pace of life has slowed down significantly for a lot of us. I wondered how social distancing has affected you in terms of songwriting. Has it been inspiring to have more solitude, more time to yourself?
I actually felt very inspired during that time, which I didn’t expect at all! I was looking through a lot of old journals and trying to think about the experiences that shaped me and the conversations and situations that made me who I am today. That was something I was really focused on – the idea of the past and of nostalgia. Having the time to listen to albums all the way through, watch films, and just absorb art without those external responsibilities was one of the positives, although it has been a difficult time for everyone.
Many of your lyrics express an honesty about difficult emotions, and yet the music which accompanies them have such smooth rhythms and grooves – even your vocals are very smooth. That juxtaposition results in this highly emotional, confessional and yet calming and accepting atmosphere. That combination creates this space for emotions, everything that’s going on inside us, to be expressed openly, even if they are challenging – especially if they are. How important do you think it is for music to create spaces like this?
I think it is the most important thing. For music to make people feel held and comforted and not alone is one of the most special powers it has. Especially over lockdown, a lot of the music that I listened to was going back to music I listened to growing up that had soundtracked a positive moment of my life, whether that was Otis Redding or Erykah Badu. Creating that sense of feeling safe and warm was something very important to me – and that’s all I could hope to convey in others.
You have described your two most recent singles, Hurt and Black Dog, as songs dealing with the “possibility of healing from suffering” and as a way of “making those who are struggling feel less isolated.” I think music is the perfect way to uplift people. Is there a musician, album or even a song you’d like to share with us that gave you that same feeling that your music has now given to others?
That’s interesting. Listening to Walk in the Park by Beach House gave me that sense of melancholy but it also made me feel hopeful. I’ve always loved shoegaze-y dream pop music because the sounds are just so enveloping. I listen to that music whenever I’m in a difficult space, and it makes me feel like there is a possibility for joy even in the moment I’m feeling low.
Another important aspect of your music is the videos that accompany the songs. I love that you’ve worked with the same director, Molly Burdett, for just about all of your videos – do you think of the videos as extensions of the songs themselves?
Yeah, I do. I mean, I see them as separate but intertwined, and the visual serves to almost elevate the sound. Because we’ve worked together for so long, she truly understands my music, and the visual just complements it. I think even the way I write is very visual – I try to write as if I’m looking down the lens of a film camera trying to describe a scene to someone holistically. I also think that having that visual aspect not only elevates the song but also hopefully makes people maybe think about it in a way they didn’t before.
Besides video collaborations, you have also been working with other musicians. Last year, you did a song called Sangria with Easy Life, and you recently did a cover of Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees with Phoebe Bridgers. Has it been energising for you as a singer and songwriter to work with people you admire?
Yes! One of the most beautiful parts of music is collaboration, and it does feel so refreshing to be let into someone else’s process, to be able to sing together and work together, especially when it’s artists that I looked up to. To be seen as their peer is very special!
Is there anyone you would love to work with in the future?
I would love to work with someone outside of my genre, someone like Caribou, Flying Lotus or A.K Paul – I’d love to do something in the electronic world. Frank Ocean would be the dream of dreams!
Lastly, with the wonderful response you’ve had to your EPs and your singles, what can we expect from your first album?
My sonic palette has expanded, and it’s still going to have that introspective, emotional feel to it. I wrote it during lockdown after a lot of reflection. I’m hoping it feels like an evolution from the things that I’ve made before.