London aesthete Amaroun shares a journey that is wholly reflective, taking its pauses and figuring through an idea of belonging and self along the way. Growing up amongst the internal conflicts of religion and queerness, the British-Jamaican artist uses smokey vocals and psychedelic pop-folk production to channel the overcoming of her surroundings, offering solace to those going through the same. Making her debut in 2016 with autumnal warmer ‘Bed Bugs’, the track favours acoustics and serves as a reference to her originating experiences with music, learning to play the piano and guitar aside her band to later establishing herself as a multi-instrumentalist.
Today, Amaroun’s sound reaches outwards to a more eclectic pool of inspirations, naming the likes of Trivium, Tupac to David Bowie as early influences. Debut album ‘Mars’ dips into the lo-fi with stripped-back songwriting, painting a more vulnerable approach as opener ‘Excellency’ croons “last night, could’ve called you my wife…” Piecing together a 10-minute short film that extends the sentiments behind the project, the visuals see Amaroun sat in a desolate church, later exploring her sister’s choreography that divides itself between the contemporary and the avant-garde.
Ahead of a headline show, Clash sat down with the forward-thinker to discuss the 10-track project, maintaining as an independent artist and channeling her own experiences through art.
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Is there a moment that pinpoints the start of your journey as Amaroun?
It was always kind of there just not fully actualised. The moment I started living my truth and letting others in on my truth Amaroun just naturally emerged from the shadows.
How did ‘Mars’ come into formation and how does the film extend your debut’s sentiments?
'Mars' was sparked, actually, by creating a song of the same name that charted an experience of homophobia I experienced I had with my lover. Writing that then set fire to an intense period of writing where each track just flowed out of me one by one like they were all meant to emerge together each expressing a different aspect of my experiences and learnings as a black queer woman in this wild world.
In that deep writing haze it was already clear that these songs needed to be set to some kind of visual story to expand upon the themes in Mars in a way that again felt like an invitation in to my soul rather than a display or spectacle.
The film centres around a piece of abstracted dance choreographed and performed by my sister, Sophia Brown (star of The Witcher: Blood Origin out later this year). Having her on board was so important to me and the project, her closeness to me and my story meant there was no one better to express the messages in Mars.
How and what led you to release your debut album independently?
I’ve never been one for conformity or rules so independence and owning my masters is deeply tied to my identity as an artist.
If the right opportunity with a label came along I wouldn’t rule that out but I’m really passionate about all artists having the right to own their work and see the old model of labels and their artists as something so that needs to change so the true power is in the hands of the creators not old white guys in suits.
You describe your visuals as a 'mind expanding experience of the endless spaces, memories and moments'. In what ways do you feel your art expands the mind of your listeners, and perhaps in turn your own?
I’m not sure I did say that but I like it.
I think if you let it all or most art has the capacity to expand the mind.
I know with my work I’m really asking the listener to look inside themselves, find their own meaning in the words and then use them to act as inner thoughts guiding you that mind expansive moments aren’t always tied in a pretty bow or discovered on Instagram.
I hope with this record people can use it as a safe space to spend time looking inside themselves, thinking about the deeper meaning of each song and indulging in that yummy feeling of expansive space out provides for the listener.
How would you describe the process of channeling your own experiences through your art and do you feel that there is a boundary between the personal and the artist?
I’ve always used music as the most effective tool. I have to express myself and my thoughts and have never felt a solid wall between me as myself and me as an artist, the two are on a continuum with one another constantly overlapping with wavy and hard to see boundaries.
Historically music was a life saver for me, I hid this huge part of myself for survival but it always leaked out in my lyrics , in this space where it felt safe to be free because that’s just words in a song but I myself could still hide behind that in some way.
Nowadays music and I have a much healthier relationship with one another my guitar, my laptop, my whole studio are all therapeutic tools I use to help me through my experiences, good or bad, and keep me focused on a path of self love and peacefulness.
You’ve just announced your headline show. What are you most looking forward to perform and do you feel ‘Mars’ will be received in a new way to your older material? If so, why?
I love to perform live and have missed it so much over the past few years.
I like to keep things raw and intimate I believe that’s where audiences really see the music as it’s intended.
I’m most looking forward to performing 'Choose' and 'Slowdawn'. They both have a real intoxicating and enveloping vibe when performed and I can’t wait to see how the audience dives in to that feeling. Who knows whether 'Mars' will be received differently from my earlier releases – you’ll have to come down and see and share your experiences with me.
What I do know is that we are all constantly evolving as humans and artists are no different. We need to get past the belief that an artist just does one type of thing or one genre. The most beautiful parts of life are in the shifts and bends and we all need to be ready to embrace and enjoy change and growth and not live for just one moment in time or one type of experience.
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Amaroun's debut album 'Mars' is out now.
Words: Ana Lamond
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