Interview by Fleur Adderley Photography by Agnes Haus
"The female body, my ‘home’, is the centre of what I create"
Can you first tell me how your creative career first began?
As a solo artist, when I moved to London a bit over 5 years ago I decided I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted my work to be more honest and upfront. I wanted to slow down and become more emotionally honest and vulnerable in my sound. Before this, I had been very much entrenched in collaboration, and dance music which is about moving energy in a different way - more high energy and less introspective.
You are known for integrating a variety of art forms into your practice, mainly music, film and photography. How do you go about combining these different artistic outlets?
The female body, my ‘home’, is the centre of what I create, especially as a vocalist. Therefore it became integral to capture this essence in photography and film.
I decided on it being monochromatic mostly as a timeless and classic palette. I co-create the images with Agnes Haus, focusing on the female form, working symbiotically with my environment. The still photos often become inspiration for the moving image, and sometimes they are just stills from a video.
Your self-titled solo works are an extremely striking and insightful view into your creative mind. Penelope 1 and Penelope 2 are not only incredible albums, but they are also accompanied by video art and photo books. Can you tell me a bit more about these works, their origins and the inspiration behind them?
P1 + P2 are part of a trilogy. There is a magic in the number 3. There is the beginning, the middle, the end. There is body, mind, spirit. There is birth, life and death.
The first two parts of this trilogy are addressing elements of this.
The first album was me coming to life, coming into my own strength as a woman. It was about taking the courage to go out there on your own, naked and free. A way to say NO to the patriarchy. The second album deals with loss, grief, and death and acknowledges these as part of life. The third album addresses birth, being a mother and the celebrations and complexities of life as a woman.
You are also set to release Penelope 3 in the coming months – can you tell me how the Penelope series has developed over time and what we can expect from this third album?
Unfortunately due to Covid crisis, my album is not coming out till early 2021. But this is a small price to pay. As we know the world is going through some very intense times of change. I intend to hit the ground running in 2021.
Penelope Three was finished just before lockdown, but the themes feel current. I chose to work more with my voice, and hopefully in so doing I am saying more. I have continued to address my own challenges and those that society places on all of us. I hope that P3 will address the dismantling of gender constructs and all identity labels within society. Now more than ever there is a need to be free of patriarchal constructs and the time is upon humanity to evolve. Confidently acknowledging our vulnerability and our strengths and giving voice to these is how I hope humanity and the earth can heal.
"Confidently acknowledging our vulnerability and our strengths and giving voice to these is how I hope humanity and the earth can heal."
You are also one half of the band The Golden Filter, which I was lucky enough to see you perform in Bristol last year. The band has an experimental industrial electronic sound – can you tell me about how this band first came together and where it is heading?
The Golden Filter formed in NYC in 2009. Stephen and I were neighbours who met over our mutual love of music. Soon after that, we were playing DIY art spaces in Brooklyn and then later touring around USA and Europe with a bit of a following.
As we released 3 EPs and an LP in 2019, we intended 2020 to be a hiatus year for releases, as we are both working on our solo projects.
It seems that you juggle a number of very impressive projects simultaneously! How do you go about balancing the projects and commitments you have? Is there anything you naturally prioritise?
Balancing projects can be tricky but if you are honest with yourself, your time and your ideas you can get it done.
Also having LOTS of different notebooks for each thing going on helps keep it all together. I love to organise and I make tonnes of lists!
Practicing yoga and meditation is probably my priority number one for keeping everything organised. If I am sorted within then I can think straight and begin work, which also ensures that I maintain my faith in my aspirations, dreams and abilities. When I am not writing music I am producing video or photo shoots - preparing everything from locations to costumes to set design and rental, etc. I love being involved in all levels of planning all the way through to the final execution of everything I’m involved with.
Where do you see your sound and art progressing?
I haven’t thought too hard about this as I suppose I live very much in the moment. I guess I would like to collaborate with some more musicians and artists in the future. Overall I would say that after Covid-19, I like the idea of moving into my future with a greater sense of community and connectivity.
What are the ways in which you are remaining grounded, inspired and connected at such a strange and isolating time?
As I don’t have a car and I’m avoiding public transport, my world has become quite small and slow-paced - walking speed mostly with the odd bike ride. Slowing down has been very healing and the quiet has led me to focus in on tiny details within nature. I now adore listening to bird calls. Sadly the planes are beginning to fly again, the traffic on the roads has increased and politics have gone completely MAD - all of this makes me want to head to the hills! More importantly though with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining momentum, I am fired up to help in any way I can to break down the white supremacist patriarchy.
"I like the idea of moving into my future with a greater sense of community and connectivity."