Arlissa announces new single ‘Sticks & Stones’ – released March 328 January 2013
Twenty-year-old South London newcomer Arlissa will release her debut single, ‘Sticks & Stones’, on March 3 (London Records). This follows a breakthrough end to 2012, with Arlissa securing a place on the BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2013 list (also featuring the likes of Haim, AlunaGeorge, and Laura Mvula). ‘Sticks & Stones’ was also first performed on Top of the Pops’ New Year’s Special; the first time the flagship programme has tipped a brand new artist, with additional support already coming from the likes of Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens, Fearne Cotton, Mistajam, Trevor Nelson and Jo Whiley.
Arlissa is half American, half German, but was raised largely in Crystal Palace. A year ago she’d moved out of the family home and watched her friends go off to university, whilst she stayed put; working in a shop to fund studio time, intent on making music her life. She wanted to encapsulate the tribulations of young love, and she had plenty of source material: Arlissa had also broken up with her first boyfriend (of three years). “Everyone must have a time in their life when everything goes wrong,” she says “and that was mine.”
A turning point proved to be ‘Sticks & Stones’, now Arlissa’s first single, and the blueprint for the album thereafter. Its claustrophobic lyrics – “Can’t you understand, I don’t want battles?” – shoves the listener inside a relationship going nowhere. “I was listening to a lot of Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush and Crystal Fighters – it had to feel really earthy, ethnic and organic. I didn’t want to sound like anyone else on the radio.” And as its evocative tribal rhythms contrasted with the kitchen sink drama of her lyrics, so Arlissa stumbled upon a formula that befitted her unique name (it’s pronounced “Arleessa”).
Having worked on it for two years, Arlissa’s big break came through one of the most unlikely of sources: Nas was passed her demo via a publisher, and flew Arlissa out to L.A to record a duet (his second ever with a UK artist). Arlissa has since penned a management deal between Roc Nation and Three Six Zero, or the team behind everyone from Rita Ora to Calvin Harris and Hurts. Still, this is no pop puppet: she turned down a role in a girl band at the age of sixteen, when “it became clear that I was going to have a particular song or a particular style imposed on me. They just wanted any girl to fill this slot that they had created, and even then, I knew that was nothing like the type of artist that I wanted to be.”
Arlissa’s big sound is now being set alongside an equally strong aesthetic: in January she returned to her native Louisana, filming the video for ‘Sticks & Stones’ in Honey Swamp Island (the striking marshlands also depicted in ‘Beasts of The Southern Wild’). And whilst Arlisssa may have piqued attention with a great collaboration, it’s what she does next that’ll really resonate…and surprise people. “That track was a great opportunity but it’s very much a standalone thing,” she says. “You wouldn’t expect Dido to rap just because she was on Stan!”
Jan 31 Notting Hill Arts Club, London