Grace Acladna has come bearing beautiful notes and info on what’s not great about London.
This 22-year-old has something special when it comes to not only vocals but lyrical composition. Grace Acladna is yet another talent to come out of London, yet she has so much to say about it that might not be deemed positive. She dissects the city into pieces in the song “London” from her debut EP, taking in its charms and its fickle nature, then followed by the cosmic jam “Afterlife” which speaks of a desire to break free – very soulful.
Signed to Hometown Records, Grace also enjoys creating her own artwork to enhance what she is trying to express in her music, so not only are we graced with her charm musically, but also visually. Shades of soul, electronica, and psychedelica mist over her work, together with her heritage – she comes from a family of Egyptian choir mistresses, Bajan gospel singers and a lineage to Halim El-Dabh. Let’s keep our eye on this mystic gem.
You have a very interesting and unique style which comes across strongly in your music. Where does this come from and when did you realise this is what your aesthetic is?
My style comes from being exposed to and exposing myself to a wide variety of music, film and art. I grew up listening to all sorts, everything from Buena Vista Social Club, the Prodigy and Dianne Reeves to King Tubby and Maria Callas. As I got older I got more into mainstream RnB and Hip Hop – Missy Elliot, De La Soul – then into Indie and Rock – Blur, Vampire Weekend, CSS – as I crawled through a tempestuous quest to “fit in” with my friends at school. But I was always listening to a vaster range of music than my friends seemed to, even within the confines of a particular genre. This time in my life really helped to stimulate my curiosity, which became the fuel to my creativity.
When you start out with not much experience or knowledge it’s impossible to make something that sounds as good as what you’re listening to. So I had to be inventive in making my music sound good with the limited resources I had, which meant that I started making music with an odd combination of influences. Check out my Spotify playlist for a deeper insight into my musical influences!
Can you tell us a bit about your artwork?
I’ve had a secret obsession with representing hair through collage in portraits since I was about 14 when I saw this artist whose name I can’t remember put Afro hairstyles on portraits of white women from the 1950’s. Then whilst rummaging for inspiration I came across more artists like Bryony Lloyd, Giannetto Coppola, Boetti and Kusama whose playful relationships with colour and patterns I very much admire. Once I came up with a name for the EP, it was really easy to link the concept to the style. I started off with the drawing of the hair and the rest came so easily. The drawing is meant to represent my brain and the beautiful mess of thoughts I swim through on a daily basis.
What do you think it adds to your music? Does it represent something specific?
I think the combination of music and visuals can be really powerful; you can give people another insight into the world you envisage and hopefully they come out of it with a deeper understanding of what you’re trying to express.
Who is your lyrical inspiration?
I find inspiration for my lyrics in all kinds of places, sometimes I create songs based on lines I’ve overheard strangers say on the train. Sometimes if I feel it strongly enough I can improvise a whole song from a single thought or emotion. I’ve always loved writing poetry since I was a child, then as a teenage I got into rap which was probably the first thing that really prompted me to write songs. I love the free flow that rappers use to tell a story. They’re not constricted by melody, they can paint a picture with far more articulation and eloquence whilst being playful with rhyme and rhythm. I’ve never rapped but occasionally the mindset of it helps me write.
You’ve called your debut album Songs of Subconscious. Why have you chosen this name? Would you say that you create your music when zoning out of reality and into a place where you feel creativity most?
I chose this name because none of the songs on the EP, and the majority of songs I write, are not about me, or my experiences. I make up a lot of stories and I often wonder where they come from… are they part of a collective unconscious or do they seep into my mind through dreams or just day-to-day occurrences that my conscious mind doesn’t pick up on? Plus, three of out four of the songs on the EP are about death, a subject that is not usually in the forefront of my thoughts! It’s just a subject that I often focus on when being creative, so I felt that perhaps my subconscious is trying to tell me something…
You have an amazing background. Do you think your rich heritage has impacted the kind of music you create?
I think that my heritage has had a part to play in my music, but a lot of other cultures have as well. I’ve grown up around so many different people and I’ve looked at how different cultures have drawn from each other throughout history; in a way my musical approach is a continuation of this. Also, there were things I thought I was borrowing from my Bajan roots, and then I realised they were also prominent in Egyptian music and where I thought some elements were Egyptian, I then realised they were present all over north and east Africa and Arabia. The interesting thing is that the three ethnicities I come from have all built legacies upon a mélange of cultures and ethnicities, so it’s almost as though I’m wired into the behaviour of my forebears.
What is it about London that makes your relationship with it so conflicted?
London is clothed in beauty and ugliness, if you look carefully enough amongst the ugliness there are gems. I live in Hounslow, the second worse borough in all of England (it’s true, they did a survey) and I love it. Walking down the high street you can hear a hundred different languages and buy food from Russian supermarkets, Indian grocers and Filipino food stores. Because everyone is different, I never feel like I don’t fit in. And I feel like that most places in London. But there are things politically that I don’t like about London, like the lack of support for homeless people and how the juxtaposition between wealth and poverty is becoming increasingly prevalent. My love affair is an ongoing battle and my weapons are forever changing. Ultimately, I love it here but I have to learn how to find peace amidst the madness.
Can you explain to us what ‘psychedelica’ is?
Psychedelica isn’t a word I have personally used to describe my music… I think there are elements of it lurking amongst an array of influences on my life. I’m not trying to channel Kesey’s Magic Trip or anything; I just like the dreamy nature of psychedelic music, its openness to the spiritual realm – in a cultural sense – and how it opened up peoples minds to alternative ways of seeing life.
What are your current goals for your music?
My current goals for my music is to create a more intense and involving musical experience that transports the listeners mind to the ultimate dream state. “Free your mind and your ass will follow”.
If you were to write another song on your conflicted relationship with anything other than London, what would it be?
We are all conflicted. About EVERYTHING… Maybe. Sometimes.