Newcomer Sudan Archives (born Brittney Parks) is blazing her own trail. The 23-year-old singer grew up in a strict religious Cincinnati household and taught herself how to play the violin.
Alongside her twin sister and a stepfather who once worked in the record industry, Parks was slated to be part of a pop group when things took a distinctly different turn.
She found inspiration in West African fiddlers, changed her name, and took her first-ever plane ride in a move to Los Angeles to carve out a different path.
Parks fused folk music and electronic production, cranking out distinctly unique covers of Kanye West’s Black Skinhead and Kendrick Lamar’s King Kunta.
A chance encounter with L.A.-based Leaving Records founder Matthew McQueen (aka Matthewdavid) led to the release of the 6-song Sudan Archives EP on Stones Throw Records - Leaving’s exclusive distributor.
Parks and her EP have received high praise from the likes of The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork, and she was invited to play at the Moogfest Music, Art, & Technology Festival alongside Flying Lotus, Animal Collective, and Talib Kweli.
Recently while she was enjoying a day off in San Diego, PACIFIC caught up with the up-and-coming performer for a phone chat about it all.
PACIFIC: First, congratulations on the success! Are you feeling like there’s some serendipity at work here?
BRITTNEY PARKS: Thank you! And I do. It feels very preordained. Oh, I really don’t know. But there’s definitely some trippy vibes going on with that whole alignment. And I’m just trying to keep it blowin’. (laughs)
Are you working on new material?
There is an album, which will be coming out in the first part of next year. But hopefully, the EP can kinda make a pathway for collaboration with some cool artists. Or just maybe, because people are listening to it, it’s going to push me to make some more crazy bangers! (laughs)
Where did the inspiration come from to completely change gears and become Sudan Archives?
I don’t know. Ever since middle school, I just never felt like I fit in. And at one point, I had to really embrace that. I was just tired of trying to fit into this box or hanging out with this clique of people to be accepted. I said, “I’m just gonna release everything I’ve got right now, move across the country, and become who I want to be.” It was a natural thing, in that sense, because I was just tired of trying to fit in. It wasn’t really working. And it never really did.
If that other group had gained traction, you’d be in a very different situation right now.
Exactly. I’d probably have a movement coach and everything. (laughs) “Move this way! Move that way!” (laughs)
And now you perform alone?
Yeah. I usually just have my SP-404 (linear wave sampler), which cues my backing tracks, and an electric violin. I’m singing and controlling the whole set.
Do you have a specific way that you create?
I just like to spit out as many songs as possible. The label thought it’d be a good idea to, you know, “just sneak her out there a lil bit.” So I just spit out an EP and am continuing to make songs. Actually, right now, I’m trying to do a 100 beat-day challenge. And I don’t think I’ll make it to a hundred days, but every day so far, I’m trying to make a new song. We’ll see how far I get with that.
When: 9 p.m. Aug. 25
Where: Whistle Stop Bar, 2236 Fern St., South Park
Can you talk about making the video for “Come Meh Way”?
I volunteer for the Taiwo Fund, which is a non-profit organization that provides education to low-income children. We flew out to Ghana to launch a music-production class with the students there. I was doing a GoFundMe and got Pandora and Abelton to help sponsor the trip. So Stones Throw was like, “Oh, well, since you’re already going...” and they sent out a videographer to capture the whole thing and ended up making a music video. That was my first out-of-the-country experience. It was a game-changer for me. I’ve always wanted to go to Africa and then the first place I go to is Africa. And you were talking about the preordained alignment. It’s just crazy to me. I go there of all places.
Did you ever say, “Well, Sudan is only four countries away...”
I know! I was like, maybe I should just see if someone would come with me on this crazy adventure trip to Sudan! “Is anyone down? It’s just a few countries away!"
First EP ever gets love from Rolling Stone and The New York Times. You get to play Moogfest and have Stones Throw behind you. Pinching yourself yet?
I’m crying inside. (laughs) But I can’t show anybody. (laughs)
Will any of the EP songs be on the full-length?
I think two songs from it will be included. But I definitely have an idea of how the rest of the album is going to sound. Right now, it’s just a matter of re-recording some vocals at the Stones Throw studios. Most of my music is made in my bedroom. So it has a bit of a low-fi vibe when I have the raw stems. But when I take it to Stones Throw, Matthewdavid helps me engineer certain parts and we re-record some of the vocals. It ends up having a mixture of lo-fi and really good quality compression. So it’s an interesting sound overall.
The rest of this year just dedicated to getting the album done?
Yes. I have most of the songs done. It’s really about just figuring out the flow. I really like albums that have a story. And I’d like to figure out how to do that. Kendrick Lamar’s How To Pimp A Butterfly had skits and conversational interludes - and I just love that stuff. But before, I was just a Soundcloud artist, so I wasn’t considering all kinds of things. Now, I’m starting to consider things like, “How am I going to re-do that song when I play it live?” I think I’m becoming more organized. And that’s a good thing.