This Sunday, as part of Vivid Sydney, avant-garde electro pop maker, multi-discipline artist, and bold creator of live shows which don’t just push boundaries, they swallow them up, FKA twigs, will offer something completely different – to anything else you’ve seen.
Expect to move, to think, to be uncomfortable and to be lose yourself in something beautiful. As she explained in this 2015 interview, it will a look inside her in some form because “I'd rather share my insides than my outsides". So Wind Back Wednesday gets in the bioscan.
Tahliah Debrett Barnett, aka FKA twigs (as in, formerly known as, and “twigs”– a nickname from her ballet dancing days) aka the boldest and most exciting new artist in the UK in a world of regulation pop stars and identikit R&B provocateurs, is having fun with my name.
“’Can you play with me? Not now Bernard’,” she says in a light and almost child-like voice. “Not Now Bernard was one of my favourite books as a kid. ‘There’s a monster under my bed’ ‘Not Now Bernard’.”
Given her own mixed nomenclature we joust a bit about names: me suggesting if she’d been called Bernard it would have been understandable she would perform as FKA twigs; she spouting therapy speak: “Be yourself, love yourself, strive to be the best Bernard you can be, you can do it. You stand tall, you look in the mirror and [she starts to giggle as she goes on] say three times every day, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.”
Has she considered doing a self-help book and accompanying video?
"No," she laughs. "It would be the demise of them."
One life lesson we could learn from twigs’ debut album and her filmclips and photos is that it is possible for sensuality and discomfit, appeal and danger, to occur at the same time without needing to turn into some kind of 50 Shades of Oi Bondage Up Yours.
"Yes, definitely. Why wouldn’t it be?,” says the slight 27-year-old who first came to London from Gloucestershire as a teenage dancer and now makes fractured art-meets-R&B songs that ride on beats and burst of intense vocals. “Not everything is simple: life is complicated, love is complicated, everything is complicated so why not be honest about it?"
It's not just lyrically and visually that she mixes sensuality and discomfit, but sonically as well. The album seems quite dense with sounds but in fact is light and flexible, the discomfit just under the skin of the songs rather than smacking you in the face with force. The album was produced by twigs for practical (she knew the sound she wanted) and philosophical reasons.
"I'm a very honest person, in general, you know what I mean? With friends I tell the truth of how I'm feeling all the time so that was important to me, to tell the truth. And I'm not very inhibited, if that makes sense. I don't have inhibitions in terms of describing how I feel, so that just came through in the music,” she says.
“But to be honest with you, I was just 26, I'm not a mastermind and it’s just a 26-year-old point of view of falling in love and falling out of love and being in lust and trying to figure out my life and trying to figure out my sexuality and trying to figure out who I am as a person. Isn't that what everyone goes through?"
Well yes, except we’re not clever enough to present it this vividly. One of the repeated themes through her videos is heightened realism: eyes bigger, exaggerated limbs and bolder colours, which also reflects some of the sounds.
"It's what my aesthetic is at the moment. I guess I was bored of seeing singers’ arses. I don't want to do that. I don’t want to indulge that,” she says. “This isn't a vanity project, with me telling everybody I'm the most beautiful girl, because I'm not. This isn't a thing to prove I'm the most sexy girl in the industry or I'm the most beautiful or have the biggest arse.
“These are unrealistic goals for me, personally, so what do I have? I have an imagination so I'm not going to share my sexuality with you in that way but I want to share my imagination and creativity with you. I'd rather share my insides than my outsides."
It may not be something she can address directly but it's not just young women facing these self-loathing and distorting perspectives but there isn’t anyone addressing boys the way she is addressing girls.
"My record can be for boys as well," twigs says. "It's about the inside, the most important thing."
And she said she can't do a self-help book.
FKA twigs plays Carriageworks, June 9 as part of Vivid Sydney.