Arlo Parks embraces the poetic noise of KCRW Live From: Apogee Studio.
Photo by Andres Herrera.

Arlo Parks: KCRW Live from Apogee Studio

Intimate performances, fresh sounds, and candid conversations with a view.

Like a quiet storm, UK singer-songwriter-poet Arlo Parks arrived in 2021 with her debut LP Collapsed in Sunbeams as an artist fully formed. That year, she was awarded the 2021 Mercury Prize, multiple Brit Awards, and multiple GRAMMY nominations. Amidst the whirlwind, Parks was the first guest (alongside Courtney Barnett) to play Live From: Anne’s Backyard while in town for her first stay in Los Angeles. 

Fast forward two years, and Parks now calls herself an Angeleno. The artist cites an intrinsic link between her new home and the lush, 1990s-esque-alt-electro atmospherics present throughout her sophomore album My Soft Machine.

“The first few sessions I had surrounding my record were in LA,” says Parks. “And at the same time I was exploring the city a bit, and getting to know it. And that [Anne’s Backyard session] was a wonderful moment to have on my first trip.”

Our latest adventure with Parks brings us to Apogee Studio for a set recorded and mixed by Bob Clearmountain. The performance is filled to the brim with her trademark lyrical richness and buoyed by her growing penchant for musical experimentation. See: album cuts “Devotion,” “Purple Phase,” and “Impurities.” 

Parks also joins KCRW’s Program Director of Music Anne Litt for a poetic conversation breaking down the backstory behind the heady title of her new album, reveling in the noise of Deftones and Aphex Twin, and embracing the idea that “music is the vessel for the words.”

More: Arlo Parks: KCRW Live From Anne’s Backyard

The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.

KCRW: Describe the journey from your Mercury Prize-winning debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams to where you are now in the release cycle for My Soft Machine

Arlo Parks: The first songs that I made for My Soft Machine were made before Collapsed in Sunbeams came out. I have this limbo moment between when an album is coming out and when I finish it where I feel completely free. 

I was just touring super intensely at that point, but also mulling things over. I’d have these little two-week pools of time where I could be in the studio. So My Soft Machine was made in these little fragments of time between London and LA. And, basically, when I was on tour… that was my time to think about what it was that I wanted to say, and [also] read and fuel and sponge things up. Then when I came to the studio in between that, that was where I could unload everything that I’d learned and found. So that's kind of how it came together.

Does your new era with this album feel like a continuation or a difference for you and your creative trajectory? 

I think I do feel a difference. The main one for me is that Collapsed in Sunbeams surrounded the experience of characters and people in my life… And this record feels a lot more about me personally. It’s a bit more scary, but also a lot more rewarding. 

I felt like I was working off a blank slate where I could pull in Deftones, My Bloody Valentine, Aphex Twin, and Boards of Canada — just really show who I am as a musician, and who I love to listen to. At the heart of it I just love music, and I wanted to share that a little bit more with this record.

Is this new album noisier than the first one?

Definitely. I got a lot more interested in using sounds that were more abrasive, but also [exploring] the light and shade of that. Having moments where I was singing quite sweetly, or singing a love song, but bringing a sense of edge and disruption to that even if it was deeply embedded in the music.

More: Country singer Margo Price finds kinship with ‘Strays’: Live from HQ

Would you eventually like to publish poetry, or other types of writing?

I feel like, for me, music is the vessel for the words. It's the vessel of what it is that I want to say. I would love to explore it in different formats, whether it’s a poetry book, a script, or a novel. At the core of everything is the words. It's always been about the words for me.

Can you tell us more about the film reference behind the album title My Soft Machine?

It was pulled from a film called The Souvenir by Joanna Hogg. It was talking about the reason why we watch films and create. It’s about not seeing reality as it plays out, but reality as experienced in “this soft machine” — through my body through my eyes.  

I felt like that really captured what I wanted to do with this record. It’s about how I process things, and the specific ways in which I remember things, see things, and feel things. It’s really about the world through my eyes. It captured the shift between the first record and the second as well. The first record was me as an observer from afar, then this one is me in it and feeling it.

More: Explore KCRW Live From sessions

Credits:

KCRW Music Director: Anne Litt
Interview: Anne Litt
Recording / Mix Engineer: Bob Clearmountain/Apogee Studio
Audio Editor: Myke Dodge Weiskopf
Video Director / Editor / Color: Angie Scarpa
Camera Operators: Dalton Blanco, Vice Cooler, Angie Scarpa, Jessica Amodeo
Executive Producer: Ariana Morgenstern 
Event Producer: Liv Surnow
Assistant Producer: Anna Chang
Art Director: Evan Solano
Digital Producer: Andrea Domanick

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