a The tainted intersection on the A1 does not look like Greentea Peng’s natural habitat. The soundtrack that breaks the ear – of loud trumpets and clear, bizarre explosive beams – couldn’t be farther from the 26-year-old’s favorite vocal posture: a cheerful, dull, psychedelic soul that speaks of abandoning the ego, embracing and bringing love. Down Babylon. But this is where she chose: the South London-born musician, known as Aria Wells, discovered this roadside Turkish café on her current visit to the capital and came back again and again. “This place serves great baklava,” she said enthusiastically, before asking a slightly confused waitress to put some chili sauce in her soup.
Exactly where to visit Wales is a mystery: she will only say that she has moved into the countryside (i.e. the countryside of the country precisely remains unclear). It was a step, she explained, in the pursuit of “general balance, and now my lifestyle is more intense.” It’s another way of saying that things are going well for Wells.
I started releasing music only as Greentea Peng (a nickname inspired by the Peruvian green tea box Seng featuring a bikini-clad woman with tea leaves; “peng” is a catchy British slang) in late 2017; I registered after only 18 months Presentation of the German music platform Colors That went viral. Last year, I hosted The street back mix bar Her honeyed vocals and leopard scales were shown on the Rasta crown Later … with Jools Holland. Having picked up comparisons with Amy Winehouse and Erica Badoo, in January she ranked fourth in the BBC’s next major predictions. Vote 2021, To secure her position as one of the most promising and distinguished talents of the current wave of British New Spirit. Next month, she is slated to release her gorgeous yet highly recognizable debut album, Man Made.
On paper, it feels like a smooth execution of a stellar master plan, or at least the prevailing success. Indeed, Wells finds this possibility absurd. “Pop star?” She makes fun, when I ask how she feels about becoming one. “I have no interest in being a pop star or a household name. People are being pressured …” she shakes her head scornfully. “Once you start to feel like it’s about anything other than music, then I’ll take a step back.”
The claim that “it’s all about music” is, of course, a huge cliché, but with Wells one really tends to believe it. She wanted Man Made to be a “show of healing”, and insisted on recording it set at 432Hz instead of 440, the standard frequency of the mid-20th century to allow machines around the world to be tuned to the same pitch. Some people feel 432 options are less abrasive (there are online tests you can do to see if you agree); Wells describes it as “more than the frequency of penetration into the heart area of the body”. Not exactly her band of mutants, Wells “hated” to use them because they had to constantly pull their instruments off at the sessions.
And the visual aspect of the industry also leaves it cool: in an ideal world, “you wouldn’t even make music videos. I would do performances and would love to get dressed but maybe leave that out.” Nor is she happy when I mention the aesthetic – the many tattoos on the face and neck, the cute hats, and today, the blue eyeliner and the many necklaces – that help her stand out from her fellow singers and songwriters. “What, I have a lot of tattoos? I don’t think it’s a big problem, I think it’s a problem for some people. It looks like it is.”
Not surprisingly, the burden on artists to promote themselves on social media is something that Wells finds “upsetting” and “boring”. “I might not own Instagram anymore if it weren’t for my having to promote my music,” she says. “It annoys me.” What would happen if she decided to get rid of her account (Complete with 150k followers) Today? “I don’t know if my branding will allow me,” she said, before backing away. “Nah, of course they will. I think.” In any case, Wells cannot deny the platform’s stifling effect. “It’s like the main way people are promoting their shit right now,” she says. It has permeated every aspect of society. You can’t get a job because you don’t have enough followers on Instagram; I’ve heard that people are not allowed to attend parties because they don’t have enough followers on Instagram. That’s fucked up.”
Its current label is a major one: Man Made will be released on AMF Records, which is part of the Universal Music Group. Wells says the setup suits her. “I don’t have the business mind to be a freelance artist. Even if you aren’t, you still have to deal with a lot. Suddenly I had to set schedules that I wasn’t used to. It’s really out of character.”
She seems to have a loyal team around her, leading her down a long-term career-minded path. “I was very fortunate in that sense because if it weren’t for my first manager, I probably would never have gotten this … I was cool just making music and uploading it to YouTube or SoundCloud. My group was in Mexico; in my head I would always go back to Mexico and sing on the beach.”
Welles began traveling as a teenager. When she was 21, she moved to Mexico for “switching energies. I wanted to go somewhere far, beautiful, and culturally different and do some self-exploration.” (She mentioned in other interviews that it was an attempt to get off her addiction to Xanax, and that it was at the time a “bad way.”) Anyway, she found what she was looking for when she landed a job at a yoga retreat, a place she says she has, and changed everything From her diet to the way she viewed herself.
One evening, she performed Lily Allen’s Smile at an open night with the microphone, a moment that was instrumental in reigniting the love of music that Welles had lost as a teenager. She had enjoyed performing as a child, a hobby influenced by her father, an actor who shared his love for musicals as Oliver Twist. After her parents separated, she moved from London to the town of Hastings on the south coast, a decision prompted by her mother’s unwillingness to allow Wales to attend a local high school, because “the schools were all turning into academies.”
Were schools in Hastings any better? “Damn I know!” She laughs. “I don’t want to say it was a litter school or anything else, but I didn’t have the best time. It was confined: You had to wear the same clothes that everyone else was wearing. You weren’t really allowed to question anything, I was just an independent type of kid.” .
When Wells first moved to the coast, she created funky, home-inspired tunes on GarageBand and performed at local festivals. At fourteen years old, she completely stopped. “I went into a more bleak phase: the singing and the music just didn’t match how I was feeling.” It wasn’t until her early twenties, when that impromptu performance led to her becoming a part of a Mexican beach band, that she began broadcasting music to the world again.
Between Hastings and Mexico, Wells returned alone to London at the age of sixteen. Before finding a job at a bar accompanied by a “messy” party lifestyle, she studied politics in college. This was another specific concern of her childhood. “I participated in the Youth Parliament and stayed like this,” she says. I wanted to be London mayor or prime minister. In later years, I might have been somewhat disappointed. ”For whatever reason? She gave me a look:“ I mean, come on. The list could go on and on. “
In 2019 Welles uploaded a spoken word poem with the title Bon Borys on YouTube (“I bet you sleep well at night as the number of homeless people rises / While 70-year-olds and people with disabilities have to work at night,” one husband mentioned). She says she does not like “becoming too political in interviews,” but identifies a major man-made topic as “austerity.” As in economic policy? “Austerity in every sense of the word. You can interpret it however you like, but I will leave it as an” imbalance. “
Aside from inequality, one of the main recurring themes in Welsh music is drugs. Early one Moon child, She says she “would rather spend my time high and stay consistent.” On Man Made has a “big little animal” and appeals to the listener to “free your mind and eat some magic mushrooms.” A track called Free My People includes the song: “All my brothers have been released on marijuana charges, please.” When do you think the broader community’s attitude toward medication will change? “Once they figure out how to make money from it,” she says dryly.
Wells says she has never experienced resistance from above for her references to drugs “because I don’t make music for children.” And she has no intention of starting. “I don’t think levitation is my main theme in my music but it was definitely present, because it was a constant theme in my life.” Is it still? “Oh yeah, I love weeds. Marijuana: It’s a beautiful plant.”
Wells admits that her approach to life does not fit well with the rookie artist’s strict schedule. I’ve already marked out the remainder of 2021 “which is really upsetting to me, because I don’t like making plans.”
It’s an outlook that everyone may have to take thanks to the uncertainty of pandemic life, she notes; Possible “silver lining”. It could be just one of the ways the audience can hop into Greentea Peng’s frequency in the near future: a wavelength teeming with soothing sounds, healing right intentions and feelings. It’s definitely not a bad place to be.
Man Made was released on June 4 via AMF Records