Greentea Peng: ‘A pop star? I have no interest in being a pop star’

The Guardian – By Rachel Aroesti – Sat 29 May 2021

A polluted intersection on the A1 does not seem like Greentea Peng’s natural habitat. Its ear-splitting soundtrack – of screaming horns and the odd exploding crisp packet – could not be further from the 26-year-old’s preferred sonic mode: blissed-out, dub-inflected psychedelic soul that speaks of renouncing ego, embracing love and bringing down Babylon. But it is her chosen location: the south London-born musician, otherwise known as Aria Wells, discovered this Turkish roadside cafe on her current visit to the capital and has returned repeatedly. “This place does amazing baklava,” she enthuses, before asking a slightly confused waitress to dollop some chilli sauce into her soup.

Where exactly Wells is visiting from is a mystery: she will say only that she has relocated to the countryside (precisely which country’s countryside remains unclear). It was a move, she explains, made in pursuit of a “general equilibrium, now my lifestyle’s got a bit more intense”. It’s another way of saying that things are going rather well for Wells.

She only began releasing music as Greentea Peng (a moniker inspired by a packet of the Peruvian green tea Seng that featured a woman in a tea-leaves bikini; “peng” being British slang for attractive) in late 2017; just 18 months later, she recorded a performance for the German music platform Colors that went viral. Last year, she guested on the Streets’ comeback mixtape and showcased her huskily honeyed vocals and leopard print Rasta crown on Later … With Jools Holland. Having picked up comparisons to Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu, in January she placed fourth on the BBC’s next-big-thing forecast Sound of 2021, securing her position as one of the most promising and idiosyncratic talents in British neo-soul’s current wave. Next month, she is set to release her gorgeous and highly distinctive debut album, Man Made.

Claiming to be “all about the music” is, of course, a massive cliche, but with Wells one is inclined to actually believe her. She wants Man Made to be “an offer of healing”, and insisted on recording it tuned down to 432 hertz rather than 440, the frequency standardised in the mid-20th century to allow instruments worldwide to be tuned to the same pitch. Some people feel 432 is a less abrasive option (there are online quizzes you can do to see if you agree); Wells describes it as “more of a bodily, heart-zone penetration-type frequency”. Her band weren’t exactly converts, “hating” Wells for using it because they had to constantly detune their instruments in sessions.

The visual side of the industry also leaves her cold: in an ideal world she “wouldn’t even make music videos. I’d do shows and I like to dress up but I would probably leave that out.” Nor is she delighted when I mention the aesthetic – numerous face and neck tattoos, arresting hats and, today, sky blue eyeliner and many, many necklaces – that helps her stand out from her fellow singer-songwriters. “What, I’ve got loads of tattoos? I don’t think it’s a big deal, I guess it is for some people. It seems to be.”

It is no surprise that the onus on artists to promote themselves on social media is something Wells finds “jarring” and “tedious”. “I probably wouldn’t have Instagram any more if it wasn’t for having to promote my music, and that annoys me,” she says. What would happen if she decided to get rid of her account (complete with 150k followers) today? “I dunno if my label would let me,” she muses, before backtracking. “Nah, of course they would. I guess.” In any case, Wells cannot deny the platform’s smothering influence. “It’s like the main way people promote their shit now,” she says. “It’s infiltrated every aspect of society. You can’t get a job because you don’t have enough followers on Instagram; I’ve heard people not being allowed in parties because they don’t have enough followers on Instagram. That’s fucked up.”

After her parents split up, she moved from London to the south-coast town of Hastings.

Wells began travelling as a teenager. When she was 21, she moved to Mexico in order to “switch up the energies. I wanted to go somewhere far away and beautiful and culturally different and do some self-delving.” (She has mentioned in other interviews that it was an attempt to kick her addiction to Xanax, and that at the time she was in a “proper bad way”.) In any case, she found what she was looking for when she landed a job at a yoga retreat, a place she says transformed her, altering everything from her diet to the way she viewed herself.

Read entire article, see photo’s & music video’s here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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