POiSON ANNA is finding the most extreme version of herself through sound
“It’s important, I always say, to dress how you feel. Be how you feel,” Khloe Anna, better known as POiSON ANNA, states. “Don’t be something else.” It’s an uncompromising MO that permeates everything Anna does, from her striking debut mixtape, EXCELSiA, to how she carries herself in the world.
There’s a mercurial quality to Anna’s self-expression; her sound is shapeshifting, an intoxicating fusion that encompasses brooding trip-hop, swaggering dub and poised experimentalism. Her visual style is equally multifaceted. I meet Anna in a garden where the photoshoot is taking place, an oasis tucked away amid the fast pace of London. Among this natural fauna, Anna looks in her element; she’s barefoot, wearing a flowing blue and white lace dress with a midnight blue silk shirt layered on top. “Yesterday I was in all black and my hair was all slick and I looked really regal,” she says. “I looked at myself and thought, ‘Gosh, if someone who doesn’t know me meets me today, they would think this of me. But if they saw me maybe two days ago, they’d think something else.’” She describes this visual extension of her inner world as like inhabiting different characters. “London puts a high level on expressing yourself in really different ways,” she says of the city she was born and raised in, and which allowed her to explore all these aspects of herself.
Dress and gloves: Wed Studio
Corset: Brian De Carvalho
Ring and earring: Amy Rodriguez
Bag: Simone Rocha
Her music videos, accompanying tracks from her mixtape, evidence this as well. The ominous COMiN FOR YA sees the British-Czech artist dressed all in black, while the self-directed visual for FAiNT features four brightly-dressed dancers, vivid beacons among the darkness. Released in June this year via NTS, EXCELSiA, which Anna describes as “the most extreme version of myself in a way”, comprises a deeply reflective, revelatory meditation on society’s disconnect. The artwork, Breath of Gaia by Josephine Wall, is a visual representation of the narratives woven into EXCELSiA: “The whole image represents the new breath of Earth and breathing in the old and laying out the new. She’s basically whispering her essence onto the world.” She pauses to point out a squirrel in the tree above us, before continuing her train of thought. “I kind of felt like that embodied what EXCELSiA was about. Just giving the world that breath of fresh air with my music.”
The importance of this spiritual aspect is tangible in Anna’s work and identity. Even the way she speaks hints at a serene wisdom beyond her 23 years, a trust in the force of the cosmos. “I allow the universe to really guide me where I’m destined to go,” she reveals, and this outlook has certainly worked for her so far. In 2018 she featured on A$AP Rocky’s album, Testing, which led to a fortuitous meeting with Dean Blunt, who’s now a close collaborator of hers. “It was at a time where I was looking for more but I wasn’t quite sure where I was heading. And then it just kind of unravelled itself. Especially with Dean, it was all happening in front of me and then I realised that it was meant to be,” she says.
Flower crinoline: Damsel Elysium
Dress: Wed Studio
Top: Sania Parvez
Tights: Lauren Perrin
Ring and ear cuffs: Dosisg6c
Arm cuffs and bracelet: Paniz Zohdi
Prior to making music, Anna’s main form of expression was improvisational dance – which she studied at the BRIT School. “You get to wear your own clothes at 14. Every day was a fashion show for me,” she laughs. “I actually remember my first day,” Anna smiles, “[I wore] this really cool vintage sailor’s jumper, it was red and had a matching collar with a navy trim.” She paired it with “baby pink Chinese pajama bottoms, blue creepers and a Louis Vuitton vintage backpack that was my mum’s when she was 21 – it was completely falling apart but that was my look”.
The influence of dance is evident in Anna’s music, lending a particularly visceral quality to her sound. It makes sense that it was through dance that she arrived at singing in the first place. “When I realised that I enjoyed expressing myself through dance I was like, ‘What could come hand in hand with that?’” she remembers. This natural progression between disciplines hints at how she sees both dance and music as artistic extensions of herself. “For me, communicating certain emotions was always difficult. But then if I danced it wouldn’t feel so heavy any more,” she reflects. “Or if I were to sing something and realise, ‘Oh OK, cool, that’s how I feel’ then they all kind of tie into one. That’s why I embody all of it, when I perform or just in my day-to-day.”
Flower headpiece: Damsel Elysium
Full look: Simone Rocha
Rings: Amy Rodriguez
In terms of where all this is heading next, she hints at “some cool collabs coming out” alongside a desire to expand on her creative outlets even more. “As much as I’m the artist, I want to be behind the camera as well,” she says. Importantly, Anna emphasises that this is just the beginning of POiSON ANNA’s journey. “It’s been refreshing to kind of let go of that piece,” she says, referring to EXCELSiA. “Just appreciate it for what it is and allow that to be the foundations of what is yet to come.”
EXCELSiA is out now via NTS