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Photography: Daniela Germade

“There’s a hopelessness that you get in England and it’s reflected in the weather.”

I’m on a video call with feeo (real name Theodora Laird) as she takes a break from her day job. The producer and vocalist takes a second to look out of the window at the rain pounding the London streets on a dreary day in mid-March. She is thinking about the rigidity of the British class system, the decimation of protest movements by the Thatcher government, and the idea of “England as the exasperating epicentre of all of this suffering”.

Against that kind of backdrop, you might expect the music she creates to err on the side of gloomy, but a typical feeo record is, much like the impression she gives on our call, warm and open. Her latest self-released EP, Run Over, the follow-up to last year’s Ah, Hunger!, balances playful experimentation with sophisticated composition and incisive storytelling. Full of unexpected melodic leaps, it melds a pop sensibility with glitchy beats, over which her voice soars, powerful and densely textured. Run Over showcases both her talents as a songwriter, and her capacity to engage with the mundane, the deeply personal and the political all in the space of one track. The World Weeps, Her Cancer Conceived in Sweet England, for instance, discusses colonialism and environmental pillage in tones so soft you barely notice the violence of the lyrics. 

feeo, who is 24, grew up steeped in the performing arts. She developed an interest at school and was also influenced by the Caribbean storytelling traditions imparted by her dad, an actor. “I just always did all the things. I was a drama kid. I did musical theatre later on, which is such a crazy thing to do,” she says, chuckling about a childhood spent immersed in a medium she describes lovingly as “crazy” and “depraved”. Currently, she’s getting deeper into exploring the politics of performance. “There’s so much stuff with Blackness and performance, and perception and self-perception, which I think is super interesting,” she says, citing the theories of African-American poet and academic Fred Moten, who saw within Black identity and performance the possibility of transgression and escape from established norms. 

feeo’s interest in developing her onstage presence, and exploring the boundaries of performance and being watched, partly stems from her early childhood, when her family moved from northwest London to Witney, a market town on the edge of the Cotswolds. “It wasn’t super bad. It wasn’t like a crazy random little village where you get stared at. I just quietly felt like an alien but I didn’t even know why.” 

It was during her early teens that music began to play an outsize role in her life, allowing her to overcome feelings of angst and loneliness. She began to combine her love of The Smiths and the electric guitar with her skills on the piano and the possibilities of sound collage offered by electronic production. After releasing her first tracks at the age of 18, she went on to collaborate with like-minded artists, among them Loraine James. She added her tender vocals to the sputtering beats on James’ track Sensual, from her 2019 album For You and I.  

For now, feeo’s focus is squarely on what’s coming up. In the run up to gigs in London, Leeds and Glasgow, feeo will be experimenting with different ways of translating her EPs to a live audience. She’s also working on her first album, which is an opportunity to sharpen and expand her creative vision, and fully explore the boundaries between contemporary political topics, her own identity and the fertile space opened up by performance. In fact, you sense that feeo is almost impatient to get her music – and the abundance of ideas it engenders – out into the world. “I kind of get so obsessive about it,” she laughs. “And then it is quite nice to let go of it and just have this release; like, that’s the past. Next thing.” 

Sounds like: Hazy beats for curious minds
Soundtrack for: Introspective springtime afternoons
File next to: Tirzah, FKA Twigs
Our favourite song: Tnteen
Where to find them: @_feeo_

Run Over is out now via feeo