Text Khalid Azizuddin
The release of Rosie Lowe’s debut EP Right Thing intersected with what can be charitably called ‘a low point’. This writer had just sabotaged a healthy relationship and was using the hard-won freedom to reinvent himself as a kind of mole-man Christ: hairy, swaddled in bedsheets, taking communion of week-old pizza crusts. It was the perceived indignity of closure that couldn’t be faced, the implicit betrayal of what was by accepting it as such. Coming across the EP’s title track then was a stroke of great fortune. With eloquence it details the case for beauty in the close and reconciles that with the twin nausea of grief and regret. Sonically, it combines Dave Okumu’s love of propulsion and KWES’ layered textures, culminating in a cathartic wig-out as guttural pitch shifted vocals give heft to Lowe’s femininity. The EP maintains the standard throughout with similarly emotive subject matter and immaculate production rooted in UK bass music traditions. In anticipation of her debut full-length in 2015, we sit down electronically – email – with Rosie Lowe to have a little chat.
Has growing up with jazz influenced your current output?
Jazz has definitely influenced me and my musical output, but maybe not in ways that are audible. I fell in love with jazz harmony very early on and singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Liane Carroll, and Billie Holiday made me want to sing. I was brought up on such an array of music that it’s hard to pinpoint the direct influences in my output.
Your lyrics are vulnerable in a way that we found quite confronting, almost adolescent in its lack of pretension. Are they mostly anecdotal or inventions?
My lyrics are almost always my personal experiences and they come from a very honest and raw place. I use music as my emotional output and my council; I often don’t even realise how I’m feeling until the song is written and I’m like, “Ah, that’s what’s going on.” I have of course invented or written from other people’s perspectives – but most of the time the songs that stick are the ones I feel emotionally connected to. I love upfront, clear, simple lyrics that are instantly relatable. They are the lyrics I’ve always been drawn to so being direct and clear is key for me.
Does being vulnerable so publicly not scare you?
No, I don’t think it does. In society we’re taught that vulnerability equals weakness, but I think it’s the opposite; to be vulnerable and transparent and honest is the strongest thing, because we are all vulnerable, so we may as well be open about it.
Do you think this will characterise your future output or will it just be sustained for this period?
I think my music represents me as a person and I’m a very open person. I’ll always aspire to be honest and open in my music and to my audience. So I can’t imagine that vulnerability changing. Although I’m still developing as a musician, artist, and human being, so it’s hard to know what my future output will be.
What is your general disposition? Are you a happy person or are things usually taken very seriously indeed.
I would say I’m generally a happy person but when things are tough; I definitely feel it. I’m very emotionally connected, and being a creative in the music industry can be testing. The magical thing about my job is I can channel that energy into my writing and therefore the biggest struggle for me is when creativity doesn’t come or I feel uninspired – It can feel mortifying and it can feel like I’ve failed.
Name three songs you like that is completely different from your sound.
Vince Staples’ ‘Blue Suede’
The Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’
Ludacris’ ‘Growing Pains’
Our adoration for the music video for ‘Games’ is in part due to the casting and storyline. Is there any commentary in it or does it have bugger all to do with the song?
The song is about an unspoken friction in a friendship due to resentment and jealousy and balances of power and control. We wanted to represent that in a subtle and beautiful way through a friendship that has an unspoken bond; unclear whether they are friends or siblings. We (myself and the director, Fred Rowson) wanted to present this subtle narrative in a culture other than our own, because the song is about feeling like an outsider in this relationship. We wanted the viewer to feel like outsiders, too. The relationship is impenetrable and one we were never going to, entirely, be let in on.
As a talented up and coming artiste, it is entirely possible that you will gain some measure of fame in the future. Is this something you are anticipating with glee or without?
My aspirations have never been on fame – there’s nothing that attracts me to it. With fame often comes an intrusion in to your personal life and I am keen to keep that side of my life personal. Recognition on the other hand, is a totally different thing. Music is a powerful thing and it can touch people and help people through hard times… that’s what I do it for and that’s something I aspire to have, but it’s not about the numbers for me; it’s about the people you touch along the way and even if that’s one person, then I have succeeded in that.
Your love of androgyny is known. Is this rooted in anything specific? Wouldn’t it be easier (read: more marketable) if you had a distinctly feminine aesthetic (i.e. BANKS, FKA twigs, et al.)?
For me, music is neither male nor female. It’s always been un-gendered for me and I’m keen for my music to be at the heart of what I do; to be listened to and not judged from my looks or my gender. There’s so much emphasis on gender in the music industry and we’re so often boxed into ‘male’ and ‘female’. I make music because it’s my life. One of my favourite quotes (and I cant remember where I heard it or who said it) was “a note is neither male or female, it’s just played good or bad.” I think that says it all.
Dave Okumu and Kwes are towering talents in their own right. Can you please describe them for us? Is Dave as serious as he looks? Is KWES the sensitive chap of awkward elevator encounters and badly timed rollerblade dates in real life?
Dave isn’t serious at all! He’s the kindest man I’ve ever met and is one of my favourite people on the planet. He’s the best listener, the most articulate talker, he’s patient, sensitive, and an absolute joker. I call him a walking miracle.
Kwes is a beautiful human with a very kind heart. Once you get past what seems like ‘shyness’, he’s one of the funniest and wittiest people I’ve ever met. He is also extremely sensitive, so working with the two of them together was a very special and deep experience.
When can we expect your LP?
Post summer madness I hope – keep your eyes peeled in September!
Rosie Lowe’s latest single ‘Who’s That Girl’ is out now via iTunes.