She released two albums, BLQ VELVET and the incomparable Rose, the merits of which landed her a spot opening for 4AD’s Empress Of earlier this fall. But the Atlanta singer’s talents do not only lie within her music. She can also recommend a great horror film to you when you’re trying to keep it low-key on a Friday.
In honor of Halloween, FACT caught up with Abra to talk about her interest in the genre, looking to Reddit for horror literature and women’s on-screen representation.
What drew you to horror in the first place?
I was really, really sheltered when I was little. My parents didn’t let me watch anything that was even left of center. This went on until I was in middle school. I went to a sleepover in sixth grade, I don’t know, I was really young. It was the first sleepover I was allowed to go to and there was a marathon of every horror movie that was out at the time, or had just recently come out. I was traumatized for like two years. I didn’t sleep for a week and when I did sleep, I slept in my brother’s room for two years after that. I just couldn’t handle it.
At first, I was really scared of it, but I didn’t like the idea that something could make me feel like that. I was so scared and it was something I couldn’t run away from. [Years later], I was getting my nails done one day and Joy Ride was playing on TV. I ended up watching the whole thing and I just got a little high from the fact that I watched it and didn’t let it scare me like I did when I was little. I started watching more and more horror movies, trying to see if I could find one that could scare me. I felt really empowered that I wasn’t scared and I grew to love them.
“When they reveal the villain, it’s not as scary anymore.”
Do you remember what the movies at the sleepover were?
We watched Scream 1 and 2, we watched I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Vampire and I think that was it. It was a stacked night.
Do you find that when you watch horror movies, you’re looking to be taken back to the feeling you got when you first saw one?
I haven’t seen a movie that scared in a long time. I kind of go into it like, “I wish you would” but I don’t really have that expectation to be scared.
What are you top three favorites?
The Conjuring [because] it was really scary, but it was really well-done, artistically and cinematography-wise. It’s a beautiful film and it’s also terrifying. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer because Brandy is in it and it was good to see a black girl in a horror movie when I was little. It’s classic to me and that was the one that would not get off my mind for a very long time. It still sticks with me. When I got into a bathroom, I look underneath the stalls if no one else is in there.
The Taking of Deborah Logan is so close to reality. I don’t want to give anything away [and] it’s a little outlandish toward the end, but the whole film is done really well. The acting is really good, the plot is very believable and it still maintains a big fear factor. That’s the one scary movie I’ve seen in awhile where I was like, “Damn.”
Have you seen anything recently that stuck out to you?
I haven’t watched a movie, but I read a horror story. It’s called Borrasca and it’s on Reddit in the no sleep subreddit. It was really disturbing and supposed to be true. It kept me on the edge. It’s four chapters and I only meant to read one to see if I liked it, I was only going to read the first few paragraphs and I ended up reading the whole thing on the car ride [to the San Francisco tour date] because it was so well-written and really intriguing about some freaky shit that goes on in the mountains.
Do you regularly use Reddit to read horror stories?
That was actually the first time I did that. I just pulled up some stuff to read for the car ride because you lose service in between cities. But now I definitely will. It was probably the first horror literature I’ve ever read.
Your Twitter handle is @darkwavedutchess. Was that or is any of your music influenced by horror?
Not directly. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I feel like how I came upon horror movies and the idea of facing your fears and not being afraid of things that scare you, to look them in the eye, especially with horror movies, when they reveal the villain, it’s not as scary anymore. It’s always scarier when it’s some shadow lurking around, but if they try make this grotesque, evil villain, when you see it, you’re like, “Oh, that’s not that scary.” I look at life that way. If something freaks you out, face it head-on. Look it in the eye and it evaporates. It loses its mystique and you can analyze it logically. Those principles I apply to my music.
Has watching horror led you into any other genres of music at all?
I don’t think so because I was listening to strange music before I got into horror. A lot of weird soundtracks and dark classical music and a lot of rock. It’s usually something I’ve heard before.
Earlier you mentioned that one of the reasons you like I Still Know What You Did Last Summer is because you felt represented on screen. A lot of people feel that horror tends toward misogyny. What do you think?
I actually haven’t noticed that, to be honest with you. Maybe in the classic films, where there is a damsel in the distress or there’s the girl who is the quote unquote slut and she gets killed first, she’s dumb, there are a lot of stereotypes, but as I’ve gotten more into horror movies, the range of women is very broad. There’s a horror movie called You’re Next, which has a very strong female lead. These days, I haven’t noticed a lot of misogyny. There are a lot of female leads, a lot female heroes, a lot of female villains.