Goldie the python disappeared from the Sudanese Archive in the summer. The artist (real name Brittany Parks) was surprisingly extremely cold-blooded: “We weren’t sure we’d find Goldie, but she was hiding in the studio. We even released a dead rat, trying to get it to smell it and come out, but it didn’t work! Eventually, she popped out and I think she got hungry in the end, but I don’t know why it took her so long.”
When she talks to NME, Parks is somewhere in Europe and thinking about her home in Los Angeles, the place where she created her latest album, “Natural Brown Prom Queen,” released earlier this year. She has spent the last few weeks on a dizzying tour that took her across the European continent from Copenhagen to Amsterdam and Barcelona, along with a sold-out performance at the famous KOKO Hall in London this evening (November 23). Python remains in the States.
“The tour was a long, long journey,” she says with a laugh. “The shows were a party. The energy was really good, everyone danced a lot. I think this is the first album where the music is more danceable. People have always been busy in the past and you can tell they were really listening, but I feel like now, with this album, people are listening, of course, but they’re also having a good time.”
“Natural Brown Prom Queen” is a genre stylization of sound. In 18 tracks, “Archives of Sudan” playfully skips over genres, creating a work that is pleasantly difficult to classify; often it combines several genres into one track. The Sudanese archives, combining rap, rock, R&B, soul and electronica, as well as pop music and contagiousness, undoubtedly created one of the best albums of the year.
The album revolves around the theme of home, especially catharsis for a person who was kicked out of the house at a young age. “She was kicked out because she lay on her back / Well, so it seemed to her mom and dad / Crying about her boyfriend: “They will never understand me,” she sings in the hit “NBPQ (topless)”. “As a child, I was a rebel,” she explains. “I was out late and that’s why I was kicked out of the house because I wanted to explore the indie scene.”
Britney Parks grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, the twin of her sister Kat. Her parents separated when she was little, and she picked up the violin at the age of nine, becoming interested in it after seeing Celtic musicians perform. However, it was the African violinists she discovered on YouTube that motivated her to play in non-traditional, or rather non-Western, ways that were crucial to her success. Her stepfather, who worked for LaFame Records, encouraged Britney and Kat to form a pop duo and strive for commercial success, but these dreams dissipated when Britney naturally gravitated to Cincinnati indie music.
In “NBPQ (topless)” she deftly sets up a scene: “Mom knocked on the door and everything went wrong / She said, “My boyfriend thinks you can become a star” / So we framed her. in a pop duo / With his twin sister Katherine Parks / And it really didn’t even work out.
Parks, however, was more attracted to indie music in her hometown, she was interested in the leftist bands that make up the Cincinnati scene, rather than the commercial success that her stepfather wanted her to pursue. “I don’t think people give Cincinnati credit for having a music scene,” she explains of the scene that shaped the Afghan Whigs and members of The National. “A lot of people leave Cincinnati, and I grew up experimenting there. I would create different bits on Garageband and learn how to loop my violin.”
Throughout the “Natural Brown Prom Queen”, the Park family and Cincinnati are both a theme and a feature. “It was nice to be able to include my family,” she says, “because I wanted this album to pay homage to my hometown, but also more personal.”
Her sister, Kat, wrote the lyrics for “Yellow Brick Road”, and “Ciara” tells the story of her cousin from Chicago, and her mother gives an oral interlude to “Do Your Thing (Refreshing Springs)”. Highlighting “513” is an ode to her zip code when she was growing up: “I really don’t want to follow/ Tricky, trendy little things/Hollywood will make you empty/I’m too ingrained in my habits.”
After leaving Ohio at the age of 18, Parks moved to Los Angeles, immersing herself in the city’s central beat scene, including Low End Theory, a now-defunct hip-hop and electronic music nightclub. It was here that original artists such as Flying Lotus, Kutmah and others gathered in a place where Parks often found herself absorbing everything around her before she met Matthew David, founder of the influential Accidental Records label.
Matthew David was inspired by what he heard and sent him to Stones Throw, who, after hearing Britney’s music, signed her to the famous label, best known as the launching pad for the success of Mablib. “I do not know what made Matthew want to listen to my music, but I just met a person who wanted to listen to my music, and he sent it to the right person. I guess I was in the right place at the right time,” Parks says.
In 2017, the first self-titled EP “Archives of Sudan” was released. With the help of a violin, which delicately hovered over the dizzying electronic products, “Archives of Sudan” attracted the attention of the world underground. This was followed by another EP called “Sink”, on which Sudan continued to polish her experiments before the 2019 debut album “Athena” was released, which won a new audience both in the mainstream and underground.
“I have to give credit to my team, because it’s much better and easier when you have a team behind you that supports you,” she says. “I have all these crazy ideas, and it can be overwhelming, but it’s very nice that there are people who bring my vision to life exactly as I imagined. Because of this, [Natural Brown Prom Queen] is also less limited.”
After the release of “Athena” in 2019, the Sudanese Archives were supposed to go on tour and see how the ascent of her star reaches sky-high heights, but then the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, and everything stopped. However, there was a silver lining among it all.
“It seems to me that the whole year 2020 is a blur, but I used that time to write one of the most songs on the album,” she says. “The whole pandemic was literally my diary, in which I recounted everything I felt.”
She has set up a home studio in the house she shares with her All City partner Jimmy, also known as James McCall. It felt like a long overdue goal that she finally achieved, which in turn allowed her to focus primarily on her music. “I spent more time in the studio than at home,” she says. Located in the basement of her house, it has a separate entrance, allowing Parks to build a studio full of plants.
“I always knew I wanted a studio in my house, but it worked out great where I live now,” she explains. “It’s a nice little space where I have all seven different instruments hanging on the walls. It’s like my little cave.”
Hiding in her studio allowed the Sudanese archives to create an album that for her became a reflection of her abilities. “When I started the creative process, I knew I didn’t want to work with strangers like strangers,” she says. “I’d rather work with people I have a relationship with, but at the same time, if someone comes along who has a great idea and they want to include it in an album, I won’t say no. At the end of the day, I want the songs to be as good as possible.”
The album with the original title “Homesickness” eventually became a mirror of Parks’ upbringing with her use of the violin in a natural inclusion of how she demystifies the traditional way of using the instrument.
“[Kat] said that on this album I learned to use my violin in different ways,” Parks explains. “I didn’t even realize it when I started making the album, as I didn’t even realize what I was doing. I’m just following a feeling or what I’m feeling. I started by looping and overdubbing instruments, vocals and melodies until the song was created.”
The violin plays an important role in an undeniably light pop record. He is confident and unshakable in his authenticity. With lines like, “Sometimes I think if I was fair—skinned/Then I’d go to all the parties/Win all the Grammys, make the boys happy/Fuck, I look cheeky, they think I’m sexy,” she peppers. an album with uncompromising lyrics, smoothly backed up by infectious melodies.
“Melodies have always come very naturally to me,” she says. “Even as a child, when I listened to the radio, I always hummed, but on a higher octave. I think I needed to learn how to hone my production skills and grow to include the violin.”
With the release of “Natural Brown Prom Queen”, the Sudanese archives have established themselves in modern culture. Her talent is not only for the underground, but also for everyone to witness how the talent of the generation flourishes. The release of the album shows how all the folded energy of her whole life rises above the project, which is a perfect union between vulnerability and honesty, but at the same time extremely contagious.
While Britney Parks may miss Goldie the Python, her home studio and the comfort of living in Los Angeles, Britney Parks can now play the record to crowds across Europe who have been waiting for her presence for years, and it seems natural. “It’s a completely different feeling than when I was just performing a couple of songs. I’m not used to playing more than an hour on stage, but I’m so grateful that I can do it.”