Twigs is someone who grew up with a lot of quiet, surrounded by valleys, cows, and sheep in Gloucestershire, a largely rural county in southwest England. "The hardest part of the day would be if you got stuck behind a tractor on the way to school," recalls the 25-year-old. And though she moved to London to pursue dancing and singing about eight years ago, she's still managed to carve out calm amidst the buildings, sirens, and chatter. "I definitely keep myself to myself; I don't really go out," she says during our Skype video call. "If my friends want to see me, they know to come around to my house." She tends bar on the weekends-- "so I can afford to pay for the extra things I want as an artist"-- but even inside a noisy pub, she creates her own silenced shorthand. "My friend bought me a 'Twigs' nameplate necklace as a joke one Christmas," she says, "so when people would ask my name in a loud bar, I'd always just point to the necklace."
That understatedness runs through to her music, a serene style that pairs the xx's unflinching intimacy with a menacing undertow reminiscent of Massive Attack's Mezzanine. On her unassuming 2012 debut EP, she used negative space in a powerful way, her high-pitched whisper drifting in and out to narrate eerily charged scenes. A forthcoming four-track follow-up, dubbed EP 2 and out on September 9 via XL/Young Turks, finds her even more gloriously weightless. Her voice now brings to mind Janet Jackson at her most delicate on tracks like the devastating first single, "Water Me", which features production from the young breakout producer-- and Yeezus collaborator-- Arca. Perched on the floor of her label's London office in a pair of plastic overalls and hoop earrings, she engages gamely throughout our entire webcam interview, holding up photos of her mother at a young age and showing off her gaudy iPhone case. When we talk about her moniker-- which is now affixed to the acronym FKA, at the request of another artist called Twigs-- she explains that itís a long-running nickname that refers to the way her bones crack... and proceeds to demonstrate by contorting her hands and arms. Her joints crack so loudly and quickly that it sounds like a bag of marbles spilling onto a wood floor-- popping exclamation points from an artist who doesn't need to shout to be heard.
Pitchfork: How did you begin singing?
Twigs: I started writing seriously when I was 16. I grew up in a place called Gloucestershire; my dad is Jamaican, and it had quite a large Jamaican community. There was a youth club there with a low-key studio, and they'd have guys rapping, and I'd put the chorus down on the track. Eventually, people started saying, "You've got a really nice voice, you should start doing your own stuff." I realized that's all I wanted to do for a career by the time I was 18. Gloucestershire is kind of in the middle of nowhere. I started getting interested in dancing and music because there isn't very much else to do. If you're from a small town, you have to be imaginative, especially if youíre an only child like me-- you make up games in your head.
Pitchfork: Did you ever train as a dancer?
T: I moved to London to go to dance school when I was about 17, but then I realized that I didn't want to be a dancer anymore, so I dropped out after five or six weeks. All I wanted to do was sing and make music. But I still train every single week-- itís just a part of my life. I do ballet at least once or twice a week, along with contemporary and hip-hop. Iím training with a UK krump group called Wet Wipez. My mom used to be a dancer and a gymnast, sheís part Spanish. When I was younger, she was a salsa dance teacher, and she'd sneak me into salsa nightclubs and put me under the DJ desk.
Pitchfork: It seems like there's a lot of exciting music being made in London right now. Do you feel part of an artistic community?
T: No. I honestly have no idea what's going on. I'm a quiet person. During the week, Iím quite simple. I wake up in the morning; I go to ballet; I come back; I maybe make a beat. This year, Iíve just been in the studio a lot. Whenever a new music artist comes out, everyone's always so curious and wants to interview you and put you in this magazine or that magazine, but I didn't want to get distracted. I've been writing for almost 10 years and I just wanted that process to continue where I'm in the studio every single week.
Pitchfork: You've also been on the cover of i-D magazine. Are you at all concerned about being a fashion darling before people know your music?
T: I feel confident that the work I've put in will make people see me as a music artist before anything else. With Young Turks and XL, the music always comes first. But, of course, all these other things are exciting. I was never the pretty girl at school. I'm tiny and mixed-race. I grew up in a white area. I was always the loner. I was always kind of off-- a little weird, wanting to be a ballet dancer or have opera lessons. So being on the cover of i-D is really exciting, but ultimately, the reason why I moved to London and the reason why I've been on this journey is because I really love making music. I can't imagine doing anything else.
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"Dude just seems like he's been chosen for some reason. Maybe he did a backspin for Oprah or something." micMajestic