Glen Parks has a natural honesty many artists are not able to express, especially while blending multiple sounds and energies. Track to track, synth and indie rock elements switch on and off and sometime entangle, but this LA-based artist has perfected the blend of genres with finesse. As a solo project, the work holds an organic luminescent vulnerability, edging heartache and yet the live performance adding theatrical presence, both contained neatly, which has found this electropop extraordinaire a perfect candidate for festivals like DTLA PROUD, Olympia, Seattle and SF Pride.
Maintaining this solo project for almost a decade, Glen Parks was named after an actual plot in the artist’s hometown of Encinitas, CA. The stage persona was invented due to the anxiety stripped-down performance stirred. Costumery initiated a safety blanket, later developing into an attachment much more profound. “I play with ideas, styles and personalities that I wish I was until I’m confident enough to become them,” the artist explains. “Over the past two years, sometimes I feel more like Glen than Amanda. I actually go by Glen Parks when I introduce myself a lot these days.”
An imaginative childhood and undergrad at CalArts, creating soft sculptures and assemblage art installations, further informed the construction of this persona. “I’ve been playing dress up, both on and off stage, for as long as I can remember. I used to save parts of my Halloween costumes as a kid and wear them to school, tails and bells and such,” they laugh. “I think the act of decorating myself and my spaces helps me feel safe. I’m hidden but still there. I’m afraid of talking so I think I like to decorate... there are other things to talk about then my actual self/feelings.”
Welcomed into LA’s queer spaces (Queer as Punk, Exposure, Gay Guts) and touring with drag punk Pussy Tuesday has furthered an education in aesthetic: “I learned a lot that tour, like how to put on fake eyelashes and set makeup and hair. It was like beauty pageant training.” The persona has been a test of how feminine the artist can be while maintaining a sense of safety and yet freedom in their physical body.
“She lets me wear mesh shirts with my tits out and fringe down to my ankles in heels with studs while most of my day clothes are flannels, pants and flat docs,” the artist says of the altering wardrobe. “Amanda and Glen have separate closets.” The record artwork features playful femme photography and design, a collaboration between WUSSY’s Savana Ogburn and LA-based Iris Ray.
“Soft Brown Heart” is one of many catchy dirges on Glen Parks’ upcoming full length, Will You Wish For Others, though its emotive eloquence and sugary slick veneer is a perfect example of symmetrical energy. An equal tame of bitter and sweet, “Soft Brown Heart” allows endearment yet never wiles too wildly into emo extremes of confessionalism. Easy on the ears and just enough stirring of feels, Glen Parks’ poppy disenchantment becomes elevated by electronics and their earthy vocals (well worth a gander for fans of Kristin Hersh or Stevie Nicks).
The new single is a break-up song, but one that examines grappling with one’s inner contradictory emotions more than the projection of the relationship that soured. “‘Soft Brown Heart’ literally means a heart made out of shit,” Glen Parks laughs. “I was in a long and toxic relationship and found out that I had been cheated on and lied to for months. Afterwards, I stayed in this weird place of wanting to be with them while having so much hate and then hating that I still wanted them.”
As a queer-identified individual (though sometimes using “gay” and “lesbian” to describe themself), Glen Parks’ writing in itself respects the amorphous nature of both emotions and gender: “I try in my writing to steer away from pronouns. The genders and identities of lovers, friends and people have varied throughout my life and it’s helpful for me to keep them neutral in my songs; the meanings of the songs can forever be changing.”
Now happily coupled with their girlfriend, dog and routine breakfasts, switching long stretches of homebodying, tea and recipe experimentation and others of drag shows, thrifting, parties and pool tables, Glen Parks works freelance, carving time for the writing process. Songs realize on piano or guitar, lyrics and timing loom into pop tuning, and melodies explore where they can go, structured through Ableton at last. The distinctive leaning on vocal harmonies contributes to the musical ambience, never bogged into vacant complacency. Producer Zach Schwartz a.k.a. DJ LMNOP worked alongside the artist on the excellent upcoming debut album, a collaboration made with ease, and recently two favorite queens were added to the live set: Joey Flamboyant on drums and Vicky Jean Mochi on bass. “Soft Brown Heart” is a small but fulfilling taste of what’s to come.
Stay tuned for more Glen Parks’ news and releases throughout 2019 and other juicy content on glenparks.com.
Sunni Johnson is the Arts Editor of WUSSY and a writer, zinester, and musician based in Atlanta, GA.