The witching season may be fast approaching, but Connie Constance is bursting with the joys of spring. Having quietly worked her way through the pandemic, the Watford artist is now mere weeks away from releasing her second studio album ‘Miss Power’ – a record that truly cements her earthy indie sound.
As she chats to NME, Constance has just received some very good news: two days after we speak, she’ll perform ‘Heaven Takes You Home’ with Swedish House Mafia in front of 20,000 people at London’s The O2, following a very successful surprise appearance in Ibiza this summer. “[Ibiza] was absolutely ridiculous,” she says with a laugh. “It was just like, this is not where my music usually goes. I won’t ever perform in Ibiza without doing something like this. It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience — until now, I guess!”
Forever proving herself wrong, the artist born Constance Power has learnt to adjust to life’s ever-evolving plot twists. Growing up in Hertfordshire as a mixed-race indie kid, representation wasn’t easy to come by. But she threw herself into the sounds of the early noughties, drawn to lyricism that felt conversational and raw. “Arctic Monkeys were huge for me, obviously. I remember sitting on the bus in my first year of school thinking, ‘I don’t know if I fit in here’. And then one kid came up to me like, ‘Yo, are you listening to the Monkeys album?’ I shared a headphone and thought, ‘Sick, this might actually be alright’.”
A dancer since childhood, Constance was accepted into the prestigious Urdang Academy in her late teens with a view of pursuing the art form as a career. Within six months, though, she realised that her passion was actually more of a hobby, outstripped by a growing affection for music. Completing the academic year for the sake of her mother’s stress levels, she soon pivoted to SoundCloud after being encouraged by her friends to upload her early ideas.
Her talent didn’t stay undiscovered for long. With her distinctive husky vocals and observational storytelling she was snapped up by AMF, an imprint of Virgin EMI. Early EPs and her 2019 debut album ‘English Rose’ showed intense promise, but Constance found herself being frustrated with the direction in which she was being pulled, encouraged down genteel singer-songwriter and R&B lanes. Privately, she wrote ‘Monty Python’, and felt strongly enough about its angsty indie style that it became an ultimatum and a way to push back against label expectations.
“When I made that tune, I was like, ‘This is it; this is the start of the sound that I’ve been trying to get this whole time,’” she recalls. “I already hadn’t had the best time at the label and wanted to go, but it really was like, ‘If we play this song and they don’t vibe with it, we can’t do this any more’. So that was it, really – they didn’t get it, didn’t hear that it was the right thing for me, and my manager managed to get us out.”
Though it was the outcome she ultimately wanted, Constance was still crushed. Bruised from the situation, she decided to “use the last bit of Ps” to decamp to LA and seek out potential collaborative sessions. When a friend suggested Swedish House Mafia, she threw herself in.
“I went in there, and the guy who linked us up could tell that I was a bit overwhelmed,” she laughs. “So they built me this small room in the studio: I had a glass of red wine, mic, pen and paper, and just locked in and wrote the tune. Mentally I wasn’t in the best of places, but it meant that I had real stuff to say. Two years later, they called and were like, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna put this on the album’. I’m like, ‘Oh my god! Thank you!’”
Confidence newly restored, Connie Constance 2.0 truly feels like a fresh start. Working with long-term friends Sam Breathwick and Sam Knowles (AKA ShyGirl and Hak Baker collaborator Karma Kid), she breathed ‘Miss Power’ into life through ‘Prim & Propa’, the title track from her 2021 EP.
“I’ve found that a lot of my male mates have always had my back,” she says, speaking about her two favourite collaborators. “When me and Karma Kid made ‘Prim & Propa’, it was always meant for the album; it had the soulful verses and then that big anthemic chorus. And then ‘Till The World’s Awake’ happened and we were like, ‘Damn, it’s lost its spot’. We worked even harder on that chorus. We were like, ‘No, it’s not anthemic enough! More! More!’”
If it wasn’t already obvious, ‘Miss Power’ is an album designed to make people move. “We wanted pure danceable anthems, like Florence & The Machine-type indie but with Bloc Party, not Calvin Harris,” she explains. “But then I can’t have an album without having important messages in there too. I was very inspired by Daughter‘s song ‘Youth’, that kind of folksy picking guitar.”
The album does indeed have those gorgeously soft finger-plucked ballads, but ‘Miss Power’’s super-strength is its ability to conjure up intimacy, like stumbling upon a magical clearing where an excitable gathering is about to begin. On ‘In The Beginning’, she incorporates found sounds from the New Forest, introducing herself as “friend of the elves and helper to the changelings” with dramatic, swooping intention. Referring to “gremlins, goblins and foe” on Instagram, she relates to her fanbase as a gathering of souls, reflecting her natural, spiritual aesthetic.
“I definitely wanted the album to feel like it was meant to be played outside,” she explains. “It’s my dream to play this album from start to finish in a forest, having this kind of fairyland Skins party. I haven’t shaken off that era at all; I love all coming-of-age type stuff.”
It’s definitely easy to imagine a single like ‘Mood Hoover’ soundtracking an episode of the cult E4 TV show, where messy teenagers fell in and out of complicated love. Set to cottagecore visuals of shiny red mushrooms, it was inspired by Constance’s own relationship, unpacking the baggage that reveals itself when you entwine your life with another.
“The first lyric actually came from Mumsy. She called my little brother a ‘mood hoover’ all through the pandemic, and it was too good a phrase not to use,” she says. “I think when you get past 25, everyone’s a little bit… fucked? But when you love a person, even when there are things that annoy you, you wouldn’t want it to be any other way.”
“It’s my dream to play this album from start to finish in a forest, having this kind of fairyland Skins party”
In stark contrast, ‘Kamikaze’ makes no compromises. Channelling the riot grrrl energy of X-Ray Spex and Bikini Kill, she takes aim at sexist convention by spitting out no-nonsense lyrics: “I’m not your perfect little princess / I have my own unique vagina”.
“There’s all this pressure for females to fit into a box — your music is dissected, your hair is dissected, everything,” Constance says. “That song was the time to just go all-out on that anger and vent.”
The subject of punk is a matter that’s close to Constance’s heart. Alongside her own music she runs Black Punk Party, a London-based club night that she hopes can soon host release parties for other artists. Currently putting the finishing touches to their upcoming Halloween event, the goal is that it might play a significant part in breaking down the sort of stereotypes that haunt Constance even now.
“Just yesterday, this guy at a gig asked me if I was going to perform R&B,” she says. “It’s rough, but it feeds my passion to change things. I want, in 10 years’ time, for a Black kid or mixed-race kid to be making indie music and it just not be ‘a thing’.”
Being truly punk, she says, is also more about personality than it is genre. “For me, M.I.A is punk, Santigold, obviously Polystyrene. But it’s also Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse doing these big bangers. And that’s important. It’s all well and good being stressed and shouting, but I want to show you can make whatever music you want, have fun with it and get a message across. You can live your best life doing it.”
Having overcome several hurdles, Constance does appear to be having a truly good time. ‘Miss Power’ is strong and decisive, but also peppered with moments of honest introspection. “Ooooh, I’m feeling weird today,” she murmurs before the title track, while ‘Yuck’ sees her slipping between gentle Jamaican patois and the rougher edges of her spoken-southern dialect, recalling the likes of Jamie T or Kae Tempest.
Some lines are cheeky, funny ponderings (“I don’t like the government / They all look like upside-down frogs” and “Sainsbos or Tesco / They both do a shoddy pasta pesto”), while others are loaded with more gravity. In the chorus she explores gender identity, singing of her uncertainty: “Sometimes I don’t know if I’m a boy or a girl / But life is going pretty swell now / I’ve been smiling a lot / Can’t you tell?” Her candour is her strength, but, as she admits herself, the world often likes to fixate on labels. How does she think it will feel to share such work-in-progress openness with the world?
“That’s just the blessing of music. It feels good to get everything in your brain out,” she says. “On ‘Yuck’, I’ve said a lot of things that were on my mind at one moment, and I might not feel the same forever. But I also get excited about saying something that I think needs to be heard, something that I can relate to. Now when I have those thoughts, I can just listen to that song and be like, ‘Yeah, that was where I was at.’”
The only thing that remains is to take ‘Miss Power’ out on tour. Galvanised by her experience supporting Nova Twins, work has begun on levelling up Constance’s own live performance, finding ways to mimic the punk duo’s tightness: “Seeing these epic women on stage, they’re so clean. When those girls stop touring and have a moment to breathe, I’d love a collab.” In November she’ll hit the road with Yard Act, a group that she describes as one of the “best bands of the last couple of years”.
“I first met them at the Total Refreshment Centre in London. As soon as James [Smith, frontman] opened his mouth on-stage, I was like, ‘This is so fun’. I really love their point of view: it feels refreshing, like going down the pub and getting stuff off their chest. I feel like our music has that in common: just down the pub, ranting…”
At this stage in Constance’s career, ranting is nothing to apologise for. After all, her ability to self-advocate is what has gotten her to this point; a place where she can release what she wants, collaborate with who she wants, and keep herself open to every possibility. Of the album’s release, her expectations are low: after so long thinking that she might never get here, its mere existence feels like vindication.
“It’s been such a long journey that I’m truly happy to just see what comes along,” she says before pausing, pondering her ambition. “I mean, I would flipping love to tour Japan and Australia, all that big stuff. But really, once this album comes out, it’s just gonna be like, ‘We did that’. It’s gonna feel good.”
“For me, M.I.A, Santigold, obviously Polystyrene are punk. But it’s also Lily Allen [and] Amy Winehouse doing these big bangers”
Constance might be humble, but like any truly mythical queen, there is always the question of whether she will use her new-found powers for good.
“I can be really bad when I get a mean comment,” she admits. “If people troll me, I will troll them back. I can’t remember what someone said on one of my YouTube videos, but I think I replied something like, ‘I will haunt you when I die.’”
Forests, fairies and poltergeist threats? At Connie Constance’s witchy fingertips, indie autumn is looking like an absolute hoot.
Connie Constance’s new album ‘Miss Power’ is set for release on November 4