There’s a jigsaw piece missing from the centre of Sudan Archives. Speaking from LA, the former Brittney Parks (“not even my Mom calls me that now”) can explain the how, the when and the what of her budding career, but the reasons why she’s chosen to put herself in the limelight remain tantalisingly out of reach.
Seemingly more at ease in the background than being centre stage, Sudan Archives has a natural reticence. She’s courteous and has a warm laugh, and her conversation contrasts with her on-record braggadocio. “I ain’t got no friends / I’m too confident,” she sings on ‘Wake Up’ over Sudanese-inspired fiddle, laid-back soul and a hip-hop beat.
The sentiment is in keeping with her narrative of growing up in Cincinnati without many friends and feeling like she didn’t fit in, which is possibly the result of her upbringing in a religious household. While her peers were playing The Pussycat Dolls and Linkin Park she “didn’t really listen to any modern music because I was in such a strict household and we only went to church and listened to music there.”
It was while in the gospel church that her interest in music was piqued. “I’ve always messed around with instruments and when I would go to church the choir would really encourage young kids to just pick [them] up,” she tells me, and not having and scores to follow, she “had to figure out what to play to their music. And so that just developed my ear,” she says, “which eventually helped to develop my own sound because I was so used to making up ideas.”
She played around with a lot of different instruments as a child but she decided to learn the violin after a group of fiddlers came into her class in fourth grade. “They played Irish jigs and stuff and I thought they sounded really cool,” she enthuses. “So that’s when I really wanted to learn violin and be like them because they played violin but they were also dancing and singing.”
A few years further down the line a teenage Sudan was being influenced by the local music scene in Cincinnati, where she attended a lot of electronic shows. “I would see these producers and they would make music off of these drum machines, these [Roland] SP-404s,” she says. It was an interest that developed further when her father gave her an iPad when she was 16. She couldn’t afford to buy the equipment she heard musicians playing so instead downloaded apps that were replicas of drum machines, “because what the guy was playing beats off was a 404 and they had SP-404 apps.”
The attitude of local producers and rappers also had a profound influence on Sudan’s approach to music making. “They were really DIY,” she says, “and they made their own music and their own beats and their own flyers. And so I think that really inspired me to do it my own way, even if I didn’t have the tools.” She began to rethink the music she’d been making with her fraternal twin sister, too. It was what they’d always done, writing songs together that were ‘more pop’ than the music Sudan makes alone today. “That’s probably why I wanted to do my own thing,” she says, “because I wasn’t really into the pop that we were doing back then. And so I just started to do my own thing and get a little experimental.”
This epiphany led to a shift in how Sudan approached music. “I started making my own beats on an iPad and I just thought it might be cool to play violin to those beats. So I started to mix it together.”