Like most people, Aria Wells has had an intense last few months. Mix a global pandemic and personal losses with a period of career highs and the singer - otherwise known as Greentea Peng - sums it up in one word: “Rah.”
However, though tumultuous and often stressful, 2020 has informed the basis for the singer’s debut album ‘MAN MADE’, set to arrive this summer. “I was so not even thinking about making an album and then loads of stuff kicked off at the beginning of last year. There was a huge paradigm shift for everyone and it did something to me massively,” she explains. “All of a sudden it was like, rah, this year has been so intense. I was like, fuck me this is ridiculous and I was at a point where I needed to fucking purge because I had so many emotions, so many mixed emotions, it was mad. I was like right, I’m ready. I’m ready to fucking make an album, let’s do this.”
A long time coming, Greentea Peng has been wowing with her neo-soul stylings for several years already. Originally from South London, a period spent travelling led to her playing covers with her band Los Hedonistas in Mexico before she came back home for a summer and ended up recording 2018 debut EP ‘Sensi’. “From there, it was just a bit of a rollercoaster really,” she smiles. “I got onto the ride and I’ve had my hands up ever since.”
What would she be doing if she hadn’t come back to London? “Lots of drugs!” she laughs. “I was on a bit of a mad one before I came back to music and I think I would’ve just continued doing what I was doing, just hopping around. I think all forms of expression are vital and when you don’t express yourself it can be detrimental to your soul. It got to a point where I was like, fuck I’ve completely forgotten how to express myself and I’m going to completely implode if I don’t do something about it. And then I realised, of course I should start singing and trying to write again.”
“I’m just trying to get people in their spirit soul vibrating.”
Since returning, Greentea’s style of psych-licked, sizzling R&B and smoky vocals have seen her making undeniable waves in the city and beyond. Following ‘Sensi’ with 2019’s ‘Rising’, and with breakthrough single ‘Downers’ pushing her more into mainstream consciousness, the singer was determined to carry on finding her sound and herself in her music; “I didn’t want the classic two EPs and an album,” she notes.
But when the aforementioned shift thrust her world into a different light, she knew that it was time to work on something bigger. Decamping to the middle of nowhere for a month and a half, she settled into a big house in the woods to work on what would turn into her debut. “It was all just very perfect,” she describes. “Well perfect, tragic. But everything just worked out exactly how it was meant to.”
Inspired by the energy shifts occurring around her, the loss of Aria’s stepdad became a big influence on what she had begun to make. “I nearly lost my mind at the beginning of the year to be honest,” she confides. “I’ve definitely explored new areas of my psyche. I lost my stepdad, and that was really intense. It had a profound effect on the album and the sound of the album. I think when you lose someone like that, you start remembering the effect and influence they had on your life. My stepdad was the one who introduced me to a lot of different music as a kid, a completely different world of music; he was a grunger listening to Iron Maiden and The Clash and I’d never heard any of that. He opened a new world really. It really influenced the sound of the album in a way that I don’t think it would have if he hadn’t passed away.”
A self-described experimental piece of work that reflects the different moods felt while recording, Greentea and co even decided to record the album in an unusual frequency, with out of tune instruments, or as Aria would say “in tune with the universe, out of tune with Babylon”.
The result is a highly personal record, and one that Greentea Peng hopes will take people on a journey. “It’s definitely a trip - you enter here and exit here,” she smiles. “And there were a lot of mushrooms involved in the making too! So yeah, I do describe it as a trip. I just wanna spread the sound. I wanna get people in their fucking hearts. I’m just trying to get people in their spirit soul vibrating.”
As featured in the April 2021 issue of DIY, out now. Scroll down to get your copy.
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