10 Questions With… Cariss Auburn

10 Questions With… A series that delves into fresh new releases from some of our favourite artists. With a focus on our Melodic Distraction hosts and wider community, this lil natter gives us an insight into their musical escapades when they’re in their studio, not ours. 

We chat with Wolverhampton-based singer and producer Cariss Auburn ahead of her EP release ‘Refraction’. Supported by PRS Foundation’s ‘Women Make Music’, Cariss’ soul-pop electronica is genre-bending and confessional. With singles ‘Float’, ‘Daydream’ and ‘Oblivion’ receiving support from BBC Radio 1, Spotify’s Fresh Finds and The Line Of Best Fit to name a few, we have a feeling this rising star is only just getting started!

Hi Cariss! We’re so excited for your upcoming EP ‘Refraction’. Can you describe the record to us in 3 words?

Introspective, honest, bangers? This is hard!

You cite a huge variety of exciting influences, from FKA Twigs through to Billie Piper. What is it about these women that inspire you?

I definitely think that ‘Because We Want To’ by Billie Piper had a formative effect on me. With artists like FKA Twigs who are constantly pushing the boundaries of the presentation of music, it’s very freeing to see that I can try new stuff creatively and take an interdisciplinary approach to putting music out. Especially as a black woman doing cross-genre music  – because I want to! I have so many ideas that I want to try out in the future to push myself more, it’s exciting.

What other artists were you listening to a lot while making the release?

I spent a lot of the time keeping up with the releases from other independent artists in the UK, such as iamkyami, Sophielou and Bina. There’s a lot of people doing really cool stuff and it’s been nice feeling that sense of support and community online whilst we can’t go out to shows.

Your visuals that accompany the singles are simply stunning. How important is the visual aspect to you and why?

Thank you, I really appreciate that. It’s definitely important to me to have a visual partner to the music, because some of the tracks have been part inspired by the visual arts themselves. ‘Float’ was inspired by the art piece ‘Contact’ by Japanese collective Mé, for example. I just love inviting people into my little world and the visuals help form that.

Talk us through the inspiration behind your fashion style too – it’s so unique! Do you have particular designers or styles that you follow?

Ta! Most of the time I like to be comfy – I love wuzg00d’s style. When it comes to artwork and videos I take a ‘why not?’ approach. I love looking through magazines like Sicky and Schon, as well as artists like Rina Sawayama and Denai Moore. I have a Pinterest board to keep track of images I love and things I want to try. 

As a Wolverhampton native, do you find your surroundings have much impact on your music?

I take a lot of inspiration from life around me, so yes for sure. Even though Wolves is a smaller city, it has a lot of musical heritage – Beverley Knight went to my old school! So growing up in an area that has those icons you can set as inspiration for your own career was really cool.

Latest single ‘Oblivion’ was born from remembering the feeling of getting ready for a night out with friends. What are you most looking forward to about life post-lockdown?

I was reminiscing the other day about just looking at a menu?! I realised how many little days out and trips I go on with my friends. Seeing shows as well, I love watching live music so I can’t wait to get back into that. 

What’s one thing people may not know about you as a musician?

I can play the cello!

As an independent artist supported by PRS’s Women Make Music, do you have any advice for any fellow females looking to put out their own material?

Just go for it and fully believe in your vision of what you want to do and the artist you want to be. That’s the passion that funding panels will (hopefully) see and that’s what will help you stand up for yourself at every point in the process. It might be a bit cliché, but I wish I had this pep talk when I started out so I have to say it now! The other thing would be to enjoy the community of artists around you and other women in the industry. So many women want to lift other women up and help how they can so just reach out and ask!

What’s next for you?

I just want to keep going and going and see what I can do. I’m already writing and I’m really appreciative that people are connecting with me, so let’s go let’s go!

‘Oblivion’ is out now via Modern Sky – stream/download here, and check out the magical visualiser by Hannah Thomas below. Keep your eye out for EP ‘Refraction’ landing on 6th May!