Photographed by Ellen von Unwerth
"When I trust you we can do it with the lights on." She whispers over an off-kilter bass, downtempo beat. Still, it feels manic. Like deep breaths in conflict with shallow thumps of the heart just before falling into bed.
Barnett enjoyed transforming into characters through costume. In the living room she staged a showcase of cardio exercises, pretending to star in music videos. She stood on chairs and struck poses and was met with smiles from her parents. "It turned into a really weird sort of little photo shoot," she recalls with blushed cheeks. On another occasion, the girl decided to live as feline. Her mother made her a cat mask adorned with sequins. "We'd sit on the floor together, and she'd make me a tail. I'd be a cat for the whole weekend and have my water out of a bowl. My mum would just go along with it," she says, paying tribute to her mother's creativity and encouraging nature.
"I didn't grow up with lots of money, or the newest toy, and I couldn't always go on the school ski trip or to France on half-term. But through all of that, my mum and dad instilled into me that you can do whatever you want, and everything I did they said was amazing."
As a teen, Barnett frequented U.K. youth clubs, community centers that provide recreational and creative programs for low-income families. Today, pervasive fiscal austerity measures on behalf of the national government have shuttered social services across the board, including funding cuts to youth clubs. Barnett laments, "A lot of underprivileged kids were really excited about writing music in studios or taking dance class. When they cut the money, it meant that those things stopped literally within two months. It was so sad."
Initially, Barnett was largely reliant on others to produce her music. Results were mixed and often in conflict with her idiosyncratic minimalism. "I found that I would like it to a point, but the producer would then beef it up and I would start hating the song," she tells. "I had a lot of tiffs with producers because I'm very particular." She grew weary of engineers using generic sounds across disparate artists. "I found that it can show a real lack of understanding and originality."
"When you have a vocalist, a young girl, waltzing in a studio, really knowing what she wants, people feel intimidated. I'm soft-spoken, but someone can look in my eye and know that I know what I want and know that I know what I'm talking about," she says.
"I think it's quite a sonic exploration. I connect with my body, but I connect with sound much more. My body fits into it afterwards." She adds, "Sometimes if I'm not sure about a drum rhythm or the swing of the thing I get up and I'll have a little dance to see how it feels."
Lately she's been exploring waacking and voguing, stylized choreographies that rely on dramatic arm movements, and krumping, an improvisational form of street dance that she describes as the contemporary of hip hop. "It's spontaneous, very expressive. It comes from aggression and frustration," she explains. "But within that you can find elation. You breathe and pump yourself up by taking in energy." With facial expressions and body gestures, dancers direct the room's attention. "You talk with your hands. You jab, and within the jab you say what you want. You can use each other to get energy. You can go up to someone and take their energy, then throw their energy on the floor."
For Barnett, art fully reflects life.
"Or it could be a lover. Sometimes when you really truly give yourself to somebody, it can completely backfire and you just end up feeling really insecure, really paranoid, jealous, and ugly. It's from loving someone. If that person isn't right for you, all those positive emotions that you are trying to put on someone can end up negatively projected back onto yourself. Then you hate yourself for it. You're searching for something to make you feel good and to be a better person, but you realize how far away you are from being your best self."
"The more music that I put out and the more material that I do, the more I'm completely certain of who I am and the type of person I want to be and what I have to give." She holds a steady line, "I can't be shaken anymore, by anyone. I've got to that point in my life that if you're not a good person, and you can't make me feel good with love and life, then fuck off, basically."
FKA twigs by Sølve Sundsbø for V Magazine
She filmed something in Los Angeles during the past week btw...
I won't lie, yesterday was very special
Choreography assistant to Ryan Heffington at FKA twigs new project in LA @fkatwigs @sirheffinton #benjaminmilan #houseofmilan #voguing #fkatwigs #ryanheffington
#Prison with my homies @karenclarkson @soichiinagaki and @fkatwigs #LAPrison #LA Our Block
THE WILD MAGAZINE
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hopefully, third time's a charm, mods. i've cut out more than half of the article.