FKA Twigs looking cute and fresh on The Fader

It’s only February, but the tree outside Twigs’ apartment is already blooming with clusters of tiny purple flowers. Tucked away on a quiet street in East London’s Bethnal Green, her renovated brick row house opens to a sidewalk littered with petals, and if you stand at her second-story bedroom window, you can see the blossoms blowing in the breeze. Visit at this time of year, and she’ll point out that it’s the only tree in her neighborhood with the disturbing irregularity of waking up a month early, so that its blooms fall off and die, unable to survive the final inhospitable nights of winter. “It’s sad,” she says, as though the tree’s abortive attempt at flowering were somehow a conscious act of poetry.

Right now, she’s kneeling at a floor-length mirror in her room, getting ready for a trip across town to the Notting Hill offices of her record label, XL. Born Tahliah Barnett, Twigs is petite and startlingly pretty, with shoulder-length, wavy black hair and big, round eyes. Her lips almost preternaturally resemble the heart shape immortalized by the 1930s cartoon character Betty Boop, whose plastic, doll-sized likeness is incidentally perched atop the bureau by her door, gripping a silver microphone. Twigs has been studying dance since she was six years old, and while her early ballet instructors deemed her feet to be poorly suited to point shoes, she’s got the conscious posture and long limbs that make it possible to pick a serious student of the form out of a crowd (the nickname “Twigs,” she explains, comes from her habit of cracking her joints when she stretches). A mug of decaffeinated tea sits beside her, and above her bed, which is freshly made and piled high with pillows in various patterns of floral brocade, there’s a frame of rose-shaped Christmas tree lights around a vintage poster for Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, with the novel’s preteen protagonist licking an orange popsicle. Schubert is playing softly from her MacBook speakers; a portion of wall is covered in self-portraits by Frida Kahlo, the artist’s single, iconic black brow the lone masculine angle in the room. “Moths are the only animals I will ever kill,” Twigs says, showing me a hole on the elbow of her sweater.

She opened the door this morning unmade-up, and it isn’t until she’s penciled her eyes, rouged her lips and put on her hoop earrings and septum ring that Twigs finally becomes recognizable as the stylish, mysterious singer/producer/dancer/director I’d seen online. In the video for “Water Me,” a song taken from her second EP, 2013’s EP2, her head ticks side to side like a metronome before digitally inflating like a balloon and leaking a single, globular tear. “I just thought it was really interesting to manipulate your face beyond what is considered beautiful, and like, maybe it is more beautiful like that,” she says of co-directing the clip with the artist Jesse Kanda. Thus far in Twig’s career, as if by magic, all but one of her songs have simultaneously occurred to her with a concept for a video, typically revolving around the sort of fantastical, inscrutably symbolic scenario that arrives to one in dreams. “Breathe,” which she co-directed with close friend Grace Ladoja, contrasts Twigs’ spoken-word, baby-doll vocals with the sight of her smashing the windows of an SUV with a hammer. “Ache,” a supplicatory R&B stomper that begins with the line I’ll come when you ask me, slows down the violent gesticulations of a gas mask-wearing krumping dancer until it looks like he’s writhing in pain.

Since signing to XL’s imprint Young Turks about a year and a half ago, Twigs has been making a point of thanking the label for every release: tomorrow, they’ll put out a video for her collaborative single with inc., so today she’s delivering a box of frosted cupcakes to the label’s staff. (Officially, she records as FKA Twigs, the FKA tacked on between her first EP and her second as a result of a legal issue with another artist.) When she’s ready to head over to XL’s offices, she leaves and re-enters her bedroom several times to retrieve the odd personal effect and tube of mascara. Even in the most quotidian situations, Twigs has a flair for the theatrical. “I always look back before I go,” she says, staring somewhat ruefully down at the bed. I ask her if she’s afraid of forgetting something, and Twigs shakes her head: “No, it’s because I never want to leave.”

Twigs is a self-described loner, a trait she attributes partly to growing up in Gloucestershire, a rural county of southwest England she likens to the verdant backdrop of Downton Abbey. “I was always by myself,” she says of a childhood spent wandering the region’s rolling hills and feeling lost at the Catholic school she attended on scholarship. Born to a mother of Spanish descent and a father of Jamaican origin who left when she was young, Twigs was bullied for being biracial, and while an early affinity for ballet, tap, modern dance and singing made her the sort of enviable student who would invariably be cast as the lead in the school play, it wasn’t exactly a recipe for popularity. At 17, she left home to attend dance school, but soon decided it wasn’t for her, dropped out and enrolled at Croydon College, a school in South London. For the first time in her life, Twigs was one in a sea of people of color.

Now 26, she enjoys a tight-knit circle of friends and collaborators (including Ladoja; her roommate, Sooz; and her stylist, Karen Clarkson), but says she’s still the one among them who’s always the first to leave a party. In conversation, she points repeatedly to her tendency to “sit inside [her] skull”—mostly because that’s where her best ideas come from, but also because she’s got the kind of brain that never stops grinding. On the tube to Notting Hill, to pick up cupcakes for XL, it suddenly occurs to Twigs that she may have forgotten to blow out a candle that’d been burning in her room. When the doors swing open at the next stop, without any warning, she runs across the platform to a train that’s pulling in from the opposite direction. I hurry to follow, and as we ride all the way back to Bethnal Green to check on the candle, she asks me whether I think she forgot to blow it out. I say no. “So you don’t think I forgot, and I don’t really think I forgot,” she says, her mind shaping the situation into a bet against ourselves. “What do we say happens if we go home and the candle’s still on? I know! If we go home and the candle’s still on, then we can’t eat cake.”

“Control” is a word that’s hard to avoid when speaking of Twigs’ music and videos, surfacing in her every contrapuntal drum pattern and physical twitch with a sly precision. Barely anybody had heard of her when she self-released her debut EP, but when the video for “Hide” caught the attention of the music press in late 2012, she seemed the rare artist whose vision had, like the glistening muse in Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus, arrived fully formed. (In fact, after beginning to work casually with her current manager, Mikey Stirton, in 2008, she spent several years in search of her sound, writing songs and going into the studio with various producers.) The beat on “Hide,” a staccato, wooden flapping that she produced in collaboration with Tic, an A&R at Young Turks and member of the band Nautic, decelerates over the course of the track like a car running out of gas. The visuals, featuring what looks at first like an animated computer graphic but is actually a performance by Twigs herself, contrast the gyrations of her nude midsection with a phallic stalk jutting from an anthuriam flower that’s covering her crotch. With its confusing combination of masculine and feminine sexual attributes, the video draws in the male gaze as much as it disrupts it. As her hand pauses to caress the flower, it also raises a question: who’s really being pleasured here?

The song laid the foundation for a Twigs sound full of wayward rhythms and denatured hooks. EP2, which she co-produced with the Venezuelen artist and Kanye West collaborator Arca, juxtaposes a honeyed falsetto with the sound of her voice warped and pitch-bended until it hardly seems human. Synthesizers create convincing orchestral illusions with the sounds of strings and brass; drums hit on the offbeat or on a secondary meter entirely, often with the clarity and menace of a cocking gun. Twigs and Arca recorded EP2 simultaneously, with her banging out drum beats and singing while he manipulated her vocals in real time, and they sound like longtime partners, linked by a mutual interest in futuristic, rubbery pop music. Actually, Twigs had never even heard of Arca before her manager got them together for dinner in New York in early 2013, after the online success of the first EP had yielded an offer from Young Turks. When Twigs giggles and says that she and Arca bonded by tango-ing and salsa dancing around the studio, she sounds as if she genuinely believes that their compatibility as musicians stems simply from their joint Latin background. A similar feeling of accidental idiosyncrasy surrounds her explanations for her music’s complicated drum arrangements (childhood tap classes) and low-end bias, which she attributes to chronic tinnitus caused by a summer listening to X-Ray Spex on crappy earbuds in her early twenties, making it difficult for her to hear midrange frequencies.

rest of the article and pics @ SOURCE

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