#PLTFRM: Aziya

#PLTFRM: Aziya

Meet the London polymath weaving coming-of-age angst through psych-rock anthemics...

A new rock prodigy has arrived. Endorsed by the likes of Angel Olsen and H.E.R., 21-year old Aziya Aldridge-Moore's songs soundtrack the intense rapture of emotions marking the transition from teen to twenty-something. 

Debut EP 'We Speak Of Tides' evokes the currents of the sea to present a tale of flux and turbulence. On 'Marathon', spectral chords morph into stadium-sized strums as Aziya motions towards deliverance; 'Slip' is the distorted tale of a date laced with regret and grimy verve; a similar strain of ambivalence clouds 'Heaven For Me', a groove-laden number showcasing Aziya's ability to subtly shift the tonality of her vocals and sonics, anchored by an instantly accessible alt-pop sheen. 

With all the momentum behind her, Aziya's carving out a lane entirely her own. Remember her name. 

CLASH spoke to Aziya as part of our digital #PLTFRM series spotlighting global talent breaking down barriers. The London musician shared her guitar heroes, opening up about the cogent influence of 70s rock and psychedelia on her output and the leitmotifs explored on debut EP 'We Speak Of TIdes'.

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Describe the moment a young Aziya, roused by her musical heroes, decided she was going to pick up a guitar and do this thing called music? 

Hearing System Of A Down on a speaker, Patti Smith on another and J Dilla on another - if we had three speakers, which we didn't. But from a young age I was encouraged to not have any boundaries around the music I was listening to. It really helped me to explore different genres, and I'm so grateful for that because otherwise I'd probably be listening to the charts and wouldn't have found my love for psychedelic rock and indie. 

I think a young Aziya was just really exploring sounds. I started playing guitar because I was writing loads of love songs about non-existent lovers as a kid. My Mum caught onto that and got me a guitar and gave me something to accompany these ideas. From then I self-taught myself, I had some lessons but there was this real love of me wanting to make music. It was never me saying "this is a career" but "this is a passion, this is it!" 

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What would a dream festival line-up look like to you? Who would you want to join onstage? 

I love Prince of course, but we need to spotlight June Millington from the band Fanny and Sister Rosette Tharpe - that would be a dream line-up! I'd love to do a solo with both of them because they're two women that deserve more recognition. They've paved the way forward for so many rock and roll artists. They are the original trailblazers. 

Aziya wears blazer, trousers, shirt MM6 Maison Margiela PF21 / top Hildur Yeoman Womenswear / rings by Alighieri

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You were a teen not long ago. That's always a tumultuous, formative period for anyone; you're mapping out your identity on your own terms. What were you drawn to musically during this time? 

When I was a kid I was listening to quite a lot of rock, but when I got into my teenage years I started to discover more obscure, less obvious artists. Listening to Patti Smith but also pysch rock music as well; Led Zeppelin but also going down a rabbit hole of afro-psychedlia with artists like Ebo Taylor. 

In my teenage years I tapped into contemporary psych rock by Tame Impala: Kevin Parker excited me because he brought this undercurrent sound to the forefront. It's extremely listenable but also alternative. 

You're a BRIT school graduate and of course, it's recognised as an esteemed arbiter for musical excellence. What was your experience like there? Did it ready you for the industry? 

I think I needed it because I went in with the intention of finding out who I was as an artist. I think if I went in there thinking "I don't know why I'm here", my experience would have been negative. I went in with an open mind. I always see the BRIT school as a place with all of these facilities and a community of like-minded musicians who are willing to give you advice. But you have to go with a plan and a goal. Because I went in with an intention, my time there was invaluable. 

Honestly, I learnt so much from just using the studio and producing, I came out knowing what sound I'd explore and my love of rock was reawakened there. I remember the first live show we played was called Rocktober and I had to sing 'Cashmere' by Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin's 'Piece Of My Heart'. It was so nice to bring it all back, go back to basics. 

Aziya wears: Top + Trousers - Reuben Selby SS2022 / Earring - Kity Joyas / Necklace, Bracelet, Rings - Alighieri- - -

As someone who used social media so effectively over lockdown, how are you balancing the positives and negatives of that world now? 

The truth is social media is both amazing and a dark place. It's about utilising the good of it but also knowing your limits. Take time away from it for your sanity; so many of my friends have deleted apps and feel so much better for it. 

For me, I've used it as a platform for my career but I also limit my time spent on it. It's about striking a healthy balance. 

During lockdown you were performing covers and stripped versions of original tracks. You caught the eye of H.E.R. and performed on the Girls With Guitar series. I see a symmetry in your careers; the development side of things but also existing as black female multi-instrumentalists in an industry that glorifies male musicians and their ingenuity...

I'm definitely in awe with how she's dealt with all those barriers. She's very comfortable asserting her identity as a musician first, everything else is secondary to that. I have so much respect for that. She's a producer as well, which people don't often talk about. For me, I try not to think about labels, ultimately they don't matter - I'm a musician first and foremost. 

How did that IG performance come to light? You had some huge stars watching and it signalled a turning point for you...

Honestly, I thought I was getting hacked! H.E.R.'s manager reached out to me on Instagram, I thought - no this can't be! Then I researched the manager with my manager, we started a conversation and realized it was totally legit! She literally slid into my DMs and asked me what song we could play together. I had a couple of days to learn the song and woke up at 1am in the morning to perform it because of the time difference. I just remember feeling zoned out but also thinking I need to screw my head back on because I'm performing on a livestream with H.E.R, and Missy Elliott and Shawn Mendes are watching! 

It was mad! Credit to H.E.R for making me feel so welcome, bearing in mind this was the first time I'm seeing her and she's seeing me. She got the sound completely correct. I didn't have any music out, she got all the references and saw the influences of rock within my music. 

You write, produce, compose your songs; you have complete creative command of your career. What does that mean in the context of starting out? 

I still feel there's so much room for growth, it's so important I continue to evolve. I'm basically a control freak because I have a lot ideas. I felt the best way to communicate those ideas is by being able to engage in the software and technology other people are using so they can get my vision as well. 

I think if I didn't have that knowledge and control, the developed idea that that I've explored on my EP wouldn't be what it was. Learning the software isn't hard, people are deterred from doing it but you just have to have the drive to want to know what's going on in each session. 

Aziya wears top + trousers Reuben Selby SS2022 / earrings Kity Joyas / necklace, bracelet, rings by Alighieri

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The production side of things we'll come onto but Clash recently compiled a list of Prince's best guitar solos and you've cited him as a primary influence of yours. What is your favourite Prince guitar solo, on track or live? 

That's a good question! I'd choose 'Let's Go Grazy' which has an amazing solo at the end. There's no need for him to sing the melody because the guitar line is it's own kind of hook - that's so impressive! My favourite live performance of his guitar solos is definitely 'My Guitar Gently Weeps' which he did for the Guitar Hall of Fame with Eric Clapton and others. But his 5ft 3 figure stood out! He was the smallest figure there but his guitar solo lifted him all the way up, it's just insane to witness. That is the goal for me, emulate Prince! 

Name a song or record that transformed your worldview; made you rethink your own artistry? 

Another good question! My first one would be (it always changes!) 'When the Levee Breaks' by Led Zeppelin; hearing John Bonham's drumbeats, wow! You could take away the track and it would sound like hip-hop. 

Currently, a song that's really changed my perspective on things is 'Washing Machine Heart' by Mitski. I can really relate to her lyricism, to the way she paints love as this bleak thing. This one was a real eye opener for me. 

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'We Speak In Tides', your debut project was just released. When did you start to sow the seeds of this project? Did it take on a different feel and tone during lockdown? 

I was writing this project before lockdown. A lot of the songs were written and produced at home prior to lockdown and I was mixing them over zoom essentially; phone call after phone call over zoom! There was this period of planning: When do we want people to hear this? Do we want to remember this as the lockdown EP? Do we want people to hear it to coincide with the excitement of coming out of lockdown? It was a long period of time planning this but it's finally out!

It's weirdly cathartic because I can finally let go of these songs. It's almost nostalgic because a lot of the songs are about physical connection, touch and communication with other people and we're only now coming back into that world. 

You mention intimacy and physical connection as themes you explored on 'We Speak Of Tides'. What's the overarching narrative of the EP? It has a nostalgic, coming of age feel evoking films like High Fidelity and Breakfast Club...

Breakfast Club is my favourite coming of age film! I think with 'We Speak Of Tides', I explore human interaction and dynamics; love within family and relationships. It was me discovering and understanding how that works. I came to the conclusion that the push and pull motion that tides create was a symbol for the way we interact with each other; the idea of being really close to someone but also pushing them away. Hence, the title 'We Speak Of Tides'. Throughout the EP you get these little easter eggs and imagery of water flowing, I wanted to link it all together.

Aziya wears top + trousers Reuben Selby SS2022 / earrings Kity Joyas / necklace, bracelet, rings by Alighieri

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'Slip!' is a defining track from the EP, this stadium-sized song with anthemic shredding at the end. When I first heard the chorus, I thought you sang "you make me sick?" when it's actually "slip"! I feel both interpretations work here...

So many people have said the same thing! With 'Slip!', from the lyricism to the production, it encompasses all the things I was really excited about. For example, with the sound, I really want to keep experimenting with the idea of taking a hip hop beat and turning it into a heavy guitar song. If you took all the instrumentation away from that track...at it's core it's a hip hop track but done on a live drum kit. I'm obsessed with experimenting with that. 

I think the lyrics are relatable because I wrote it the day after a date with this guy, it was really on my brain - exploring this idea of being infatuated and knowing it's not going to end well. The whole song was basically a warning to myself that I should just leave it before it gets too intense. 

What happened to the guy...

What guy? 

Vocally you're versatile throughout the EP; there's rasp, but also a soulful undertone to your voice. How do approach the vocal production side of things? 

You know someone told they they record like a 100 takes...

I've interviewed artists before that strive for that level of perfectionism...

That's a whole other style and I appreciate it, but for me I try to evoke the vocal style of artists in the 70s, where they had one or two takes and it was those takes that had the most emotion even if they were imperfect. That's more important to me. I've always wanted to be as raw as possible and have as much emotion as possible. Autotune doesn't work on my voice, it sounds really bad. I don't use anything because I think that would strip away from me being honest with the listener. I want people to hear my mistakes. 

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Aziya wears top Reuben Selby SS022 / trousers Tommy Hilfiger Collection Fall 2021 / shoes Kira Goodey / rings by Alighieri

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What would you like the world to to hear and to feel when they experience 'We Speak Of Tides'? Does accessibility matter to you? 

I want an Ariana Grande fan to listen the EP and think "this is the best thing I've ever heard". I also want a Tool fan to listen to my EP and think "this is the best thing I've ever heard". Essentially what I'm trying to do is bring rock music into the mainstream that also has integrity to it, melodies that are catchy and that anyone can listen to. 

What's the most impactful advice you've been given in your career thus far? 

A piece of advice that has been huge for me since BRIT school, is to stay in your own lane. It's great to experiment and explore other worlds, but really focus on what you have to do, don't compare yourself to anyone else because everyone's on a different journey. Once you start comparing your journey, you start to doubt what you're doing: be confident, have conviction and be comfortable in your own lane. 

You've got live shows planned, finally! Are you planning your next project? If so, can you give us a teaser of the direction your going and how it might dffer from 'We Speak Of Tides'? 

Well the next project is done! It's actually done. With the first EP, although ironically it's all about relationships, I don't mention the word 'love' at all - I don't mention it unless I mean it. Since then, I've matured lyrically, and the word 'love' is introduced a bit more. The next project is a bit more romanticised. It's more up-tempo and you'll hear more of my Rock Goddesses on it! 

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Words: Shahzaib Hussain

Photography: Sophie Mayanne

Styling: Felicia Brown & LoveSycamoore

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