The Dam’s slow burning, hypno-hopeful creates a playlist of her most-loved tracks.
Bea wears jacket by MARQUES ALMEIDA.
Bea is all too aware that in giving this interview, she could expose everything she’s been hiding for the past few months. “I’m trying to explain things without telling you too much,” she says, coyly. “Because I’d like to keep the interpretation open.”
Ever since her tracks “Breadwinner” and “Safe Ground” appeared online earlier this year, the Amsterdam-based singer has fought hard to safeguard her identity. She deals in startling music and equally arresting imagery. Nothing else.
She’s already begged us not to print her full name (“If I have the right to ask you not to use it, then I’m going to ask you not to use it”), and to keep schtum about her musical collaborator, a Dutch pop producer. “He usually makes very different stuff from my music,” is all she’ll offer up. “I’ve probably said no to something like 25 different interview or photo shoot requests,” she says. “It’s felt good for me not to delve into that hype. I want to wait until I feel I’ve accomplished something.”
The reason why Bea’s finally speaking to Wonderland is that she has accomplished something quite significant. This morning, she uploaded Good Thinking, her self-released debut EP. In a year, 23-year-old Bea has gone from being the voice of insipid Dutch techno 12 inches to a dazzling pop prospect. Solo, her dance floor credentials have mutated into eccentric electronica — Bristol trip-hop rubs up against glacial electronics, offsetting her piercing voice.
The EP’s standout track is “Below”, a groove-heavy anti-capitalist tirade, underscored by a frenetic tubular bells sample. “Filthy Believer” is about “old sex” and then there’s “We’re Like The Hard Born”, which she says, “comes from a very sad place. It’s how I feel when I observe people in a group when I go out at night.”
Bea wears jacket by FYODR GOLAN, skirt by MARNI, watch by BABY G and boots by CHEAP MONDAY.
Bea has always felt like something of an outsider. Born in the Netherlands to Cornish immigrant parents, she attended Dutch school but was steeped in English culture at home, the radio set permanently to BBC Radio 4.
She has mixed feelings about her hometown of Amsterdam. She finds its live music scene “dismal” and has struggled to find musicians to support her on stage. But she admires the city’s intimacy. These days she’s “living a kind of double life” financing her music with three jobs: waitressing at a noodle restaurant, working on the door at parties and occasionally assisting photographers on shoots.
Her visual grounding is stamped across her music. She speaks of a “healthy and very personal working relationship” with Piet Langeveld, “an autonomous visual artist”. Their close bond resulted in an unforgettable photograph of Bea, slumped in a shallow bath against a mosaic of green tiles, wearing a translucent muscle man bodysuit, procured from a costume shop. (The look recalls Robbie Williams ripping off his flesh to become the dancing cadaver in the “Rock DJ” video.) “It was meant for a man, so I had to sew the crotch out.” Bea’s engaged in a fraught staring competition with the camera, albeit with a distinctly arched eyebrow.
She carries this theme into “We’re Like The Hard Born”, where, this time clad in a naked suit, she films herself with an iPhone perched on a selfie stick. A billowing smoke machine suggests a plain somewhere between a Turkish bath and the Arctic Circle.
“When you watch it, you’re looking at me observing myself,” she says. “You need to have patience for it.” Patience is rewarded with the image of a singing digital Labrador, superimposed over Bea’s face. Don’t seek any explanation for this, though: it’s the product of an imagination that shuns justification. “I want to put question marks where other people might put exclamation marks.”
Here the songstress creates a playlist exclusively for Wonderland…
Andy Stott – ‘Leaving’
iiO – ‘Rapture’
Chic – ‘At Last I Am Free’
Haruomi Hosono – ‘Sportsmen’
Judee Sill – ‘The Donor’
Brian Bennett & Alan Hawkshaw – ‘Mermaid’
William Orbit – ‘Water From A Vine Leaf’
BANGS – ‘Take U To Da Movies’
Arvo Pärt – ‘Salve Regina’
Piotr Kurek – ‘Becoming Light’
Hair: Marcia Lee at Caren using SHU UEMURA.
Make Up: Valeria Ferreira at Caren using SISLEY COSMETICS.
Fashion Assistant: Ronan Mackenzie.