Down the Rabbit Hole: Arlo Parks

Interview By Callum McLean
Photography by Trent McMinn in London, UK

‘Wise beyond her years’ doesn’t quite do justice to Arlo Parks’ unique proposition. Sure, this 18-year-old Southwest Londoner is a savant soul-star in the making with a poetic bent to boot. But there’s also something understated about the way she carries her intimacies of romance, loss and hangovers. Parks captures both the personal urgencies of teenagedom and a generational malaise, and deftly flips them into pensive, slouching grooves – as if to say ‘this is our lot, might as well settle in’. On the rise to reknown and still not out of school, Arlo updates us on Gen Z emo, thematic boozing and toxic relationships.

Six months ago you hadn’t released anything official yet, and now you’re about to hit the festival circuit and set off on a European tour in autumn. How’s the rollercoaster been so far? 

It’s been pretty wild. I’d been putting out unofficial demos on SoundCloud for a couple of years, and then it all kind of exploded at once in December. Which is sick but I am also still at school, so it’s tough balancing the two. It’s my last year now so I’m just doing my exams and then I’m out for good!

It’s clear that London is not just your literal home but a spiritual one too. But do you feel attached to any kind of scene there?

I don’t think so. I see myself in the generation of artists that don’t fit into a genre or a specific niche. I guess I’m just an Internet kid. There’s a lot of South London jazz and all that – I wish I was cool enough to slot in there, but not quite! I’m just doing my own thing.

Well despite that there’s been a lot of focus on you, since Super Sad Generation, as representing some kind bittersweet, Gen Z struggle. What do you feel is special about this moment?

Our generation is one that has started talking about a lot of things. Social media allows you to connect with a lot of people, but that openness also brings a lot of anxieties.

You’ve been compared to Billie Eilish and a type of teen goth image, but I’m not sure I see it.

I feel there is a little bit of that angst in my music, and I talk about quite dark things, but I don’t go into the dark aesthetic. I’m into emo – and I say that loosely, as in emotional. I mean I did literally listen to My Chemical Romance when I was younger, though not so much now.

“Going out with your mates is such a central part of being a teenager, so I guess that’s kind of subconsciously infiltrated my writing.”

You do have that lyric in ‘Romantic Garbage’: ‘I wanna put my problems inside you’. Is that a pick-up line or a threat?

I feel like it’s neither… It was more about when you like someone so much that you start to overshare and trust someone to the point where you talk to them about your problems. You’re in a relationship where you mirror each other and start to pick up each other’s bad habits.

I noticed that every track of your EP mentions getting wasted – there’s a different kind of alcohol or drug mentioned in each one. Is this a running theme? Are you working through the moods?

I didn’t even notice that! Going out with your mates is such a central part of being a teenager, so I guess that’s kind of subconsciously infiltrated my writing. A lot of the problems I’ve seen among my generation have also involved some kind of substance abuse and getting fucked up, so I guess I internalized that too. Especially in London and England in general, there’s quite a big drinking culture.

In ‘Cola’, you hit back at a soured romance: ‘take your orchids elsewhere’. Did someone actually bring you orchids?

It happened to my mate. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, when you’re in a relationship and someone does something silly and they just give you flowers to make up for it, and they’re like, ‘Oh I love you’  That doesn’t fix anything, you’re still an arsehole. 

I can’t believe people still give flowers in this day and age.

Yeah, and they’re expensive, man! I went to a flower shop and I was like, “Jeez, no, I’m not doing that…”

With so many memories of getting messed up in parks and summer romances, Down The Rabbit Hole should be a perfect fit. Where will we find you lost in the forest this weekend?

I’ve never been to a festival in my life. I’m excited about the surreal, psychedelic stuff. I’m a nature fiend, so I’m gonna wander through the forest for sure. Also you’re gonna find me moshing to slowthai. That’s for sure!

Arlo Parks played at this years Down The Rabbit Hole Festival. Subbacultcha has proudly produced this years Down the Rabbit Hole festival guide for the fifth time.