New Noise: Au/Ra

We talk to surrealist pop princess Au/Ra ahead of her new release “Kicks’”.

Au/Ra is about to become your new pop obsession. In fact, last year none other than Rick Astley, of “Never Gonna Give You Up” fame, sung her praises on social media. Born in Ibiza and raised in Antigua, her previous single “Concrete Jungle” focused on the differences between city and island life. The track showed off her exquisite vocals, which were draped over bursts of synth bass lines, and has now attracted more than four million streams on Spotify.

Her next single, “Kicks”, is a similar dreamy pop record. We sat down with Au/Ra to find out more about the pop powerhouse.

Your debut single “Concrete Jungle” was inspired by the difference between city life and the island where you grew up, having been born in Ibiza and raised in Antigua. Can you tell us what it was like living in these different places, and how they compare to LA where these tracks were recorded?

Living on an island is simpler and more difficult in many ways. You have to be prepared to go the night without power, huddled around a candle, or not knowing whether the water will turn on the next morning. But on the other hand it’s worth it – one of the reasons being that I’m writing this on a little boat anchored in front of a deserted offshore island. Being able to grow up in such a diverse and free environment is a major reality check. You learn how to improvise, work with what you have, and enjoy the little things. I also love coming to Los Angeles and other cities because the contrast between lifestyles is so great.

When did you first realise that you wanted to pursue singing?

I know that some people dream of becoming famous but somehow for me it’s always been just about the music. It was a very natural thing to love as I grew up watching my parents, who both work in the music industry, create music in the studio. I really realised that I wanted to pursue it when I was around 10 years old. I loved watching YouTube videos, and seeing other kids my age uploading videos of themselves singing gave me the courage I needed to ask my dad to record me. I got shut down by him a couple of times, because he thought I was too young.

Your sound has been compared to Florence Welch and Lorde. How would you describe your sound?

I would say my sound consists of alternative pop with electronic influences. I’m still experimenting though, so I’m open to the possibility of other influences joining in.

Who are some artists that have inspired you?

My dad was one of the first people involved in the trance scene, so I was definitely inspired by his music. Other than that, I love the uniqueness Lana Del Rey’s sound has, and the style of The Neighbourhood and Arctic Monkeys.

“I loved watching YouTube videos, and seeing other kids my age uploading videos of themselves singing gave me the courage I needed to ask my dad to record me.”

Tell us a bit about your new single “Kicks”.

“Kicks” is about accepting uniqueness and not being afraid of being different. I think it’s a message that is especially needed in our society. The song, to me, is also about how different it is growing up on an island.

In “Kicks”, you sing about how all you need is “a beat that’s sick”. What’s a song that you have heard recently that you would consider “sick”?

I love the beat of Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know”, and the bassline is sick too.

What are your plans for 2017?

To develop my sound, get my music out there and do more live performances. I’m also super excited and very humbled to be performing at the SXSW festival in March.

Elly Watson