Ariel’s name is inked in bold black letters on the front of her right hand. In one sense, it was a gift to herself, continuing a tradition she has of getting a tattoo every January on her birthday. But it’s also a permanent form of motivation – an inscribed reminder to “do it, record it and get it out.”. For the last couple of years she’d been writing music under a different name, before being hit with an extended phase of writer’s block. The “it” she speaks about is her creative rebirth as Ariel.
The British pop artist – who you might put into the same after-party tableau as Charli XCX or Tove Lo – had recently found herself washed ashore at her parent’s house in Guernsey. The pressures of living in London had taken their toll and she needed time to recuperate. “I was doing a shitty job I hated to pay rent, not having any mental space,” she explains. “It was supposed to be a restorative summer. But I took my equipment back and was bowled over by how quickly the music started coming back in.”
In early July, she released her debut single “All Night” (listen below). If you like your pop songs shined to the grill with a layer of darkness too, then that tune may be your bag. As hopeful as it is tinged with a melancholic blue, it’s the sound of getting in at 3AM, pouring one last glass of Patron, and twirling around the room, alone, but feeling like you can take on the whole world, no matter what. Later that month, she followed “All Night” with “We Bring Our Friends” – a crystalline bop that sparkles with the grinning deception of someone trying to have a banging time on a shit night out.
We’ve met at The Boundary Project, a relatively boujee rooftop bar in east London – not too far from where, last year, Ariel initially felt the murmurings of the mini-breakdown she somewhat addresses on “We Bring Our Friends”.
She’d landed a publishing deal and should have been living the dream. In reality though, she was crushed: paralysed by freedom; searching for the creative spark but fumbling through procrastination instead. And so the pressure mounted. As she puts it on that track, “there are things I could never tell you” – a response of sorts to all those nights where she may have told friends everything was great, even though it wasn’t. Living in a city where everyone is busy busy busy can be stifling. “It’s the hideous dichotomy between lying about things being great, and it not,” she says.
It’s not that Ariel couldn’t write the songs. She’s mad talented (she studied at London’s prestigious Purcell music school, around the same time as Tirzah and Mica Levi) – it’s just that the whole thing got a bit too much. Moving back to Guernsey for a while allowed her to loosen things up a bit more. Being home also helped with the writing process, as did the cleansing properties of the sea, which Ariel looked at from her bedroom window. She even ended up writing some choruses while going swimming.
Today we’re premiering Ariel’s latest track, “In-N-Out” (listen above). In a nutshell, it’s about being hot and cold. When extrapolated, though, it homes in on several things: how the pop culture industry finds people interesting when they’re new. That throwaway culture and its effect on people are then all twinned with the song’s story of a relationship. Like Ariel’s previous releases, she walks a path of duality and wraps her narrative up in a fizzing, addictive hook.
By now, you might be wondering where Ariel got her name. And if you were, then yep – you’re right: it’s from The Little Mermaid. Not the Disney one, though. In that story there was a sense of aspiration and a cute happily-ever-after ending. Instead Ariel’s name comes from the slightly darker Hans Christian Andersen original. She found a copy of the book when she was home last summer and became inspired.
“In that version, Ariel dissolves into seafoam”, she says. “I was reading it and thinking about how it was this moral tale of young women not to step out of line, to keep them in their place. I came back to London with no team; I wanted to have as much agency as possible. I wanted to see if I end up dissolving into sea foam or if it works out.” Perhaps next year she’ll get a tattoo of a mermaid swimming.
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Ariel will play her debut live show in London early next year. Tickets here.