“This is a very nerdy story,” Au/Ra warns, when I ask about her stage moniker: “I’m a huge The Lord of the Rings fan… When I was younger I wrote a fan fiction and the main character’s name was ‘Aura’. I really connected with it, I love what it means.”
But first, the Ibiza-born, Antigua-raised singer had to convince her parents — who both worked in the industry — to let her start making music. “Go be a lawyer or something. You’re really good at arguing, so do that,” her dad would say. He wasn’t wrong; Au/Ra quickly won him over, dropping her first few singles before most of us landed our first Saturday job.
As well as The Lord of the Rings and “literally most of the fandoms” (her Instagram bio reads: “a dork that makes music n fangirls a lot”), Au/Ra’s artistic vision is inspired by Japanese anime and manga comics. From her signature pine-green, hip-skimming hair to her hyperreal videos and cartoon cover art, she’s crafted an ethereal aesthetic to match her dark, airy electro-pop tunes.
Au/Ra tells me she’s most creative when real life is on hold, suspended between time zones in the sky: “I tend to come up with most of my ideas on an aeroplane,” she says breezily. “It lets my imagination run free for a little bit. I start to imagine: if this was a movie…”
But despite being drawn to the realms of fantasy, the 16-year-old’s lyrics delicately explore the challenges of teenage girlhood in 2018; Au/Ra wants you to know that beneath her otherworldly persona, she’s overwhelmed by reality too. On her new, debut EP “X Games”, “Panic Room” portrays what it feels like to suffer an anxiety attack, and “Emoji” unpicks the facades we build online. “Nowadays, a lot of people hide behind their profiles and this idea of who they are,” she muses, highlighting that the romanticisation of social media personalities works both ways: “Often, we don’t even want to find out who people really are! We want to perceive them as this perfect avatar too.”
So Au/Ra’s made a commitment to connect with her fans in person, and her next goal is to perform a headline tour of her own. “That’s the best feeling – to be able to play your music and sing it with people in the audience,” she explains: “It’s going to sound cheesy, but it makes me feel very connected to everyone. It somehow makes us friends.” In that case, the newcomer’s about to become pretty popular. These days we could all do with someone to escape reality with, and Au/Ra knows exactly where to go.
Taken from the Winter 2018/19 issue; out now and available to buy here.