Róisín Murphy is difficult to describe, much less fit into a category. Her name is usually associated with adjectives such as eccentric, intriguing, striking or experimental, and her music evolves and changes direction relentlessly from album to album. As she herself says of her latest solo album, Take It Up To Monto – “these songs refuse to care what people think about what I’ve done before or what people think I should do”.
The stage performances are as unpredictable and exciting as her songs and often include almost theatrical moments. The brilliant concert at the Serbian Exit Festival this year was no exception, where within an hour and a half the Irish performer changed costumes with natural ease for almost every song, and without interrupting her performance in any way. A stage filled with clothes racks, suitcases with three-headed masks, glasses and all sorts of head accessories from flamingos to a penis with wings (oh yes, you read that right) added to the overall feel of a real spectacle and reminded us why Róisín is not just a singer, performer and musician, but a true artist.
Róisín Murphy’s strong connection to fashion as another mode of self-expression goes back a long way – to the days of Overpowered, when she turned to designers like Gareth Pugh and V&R. Fashion for her is a kind of code and she has never been afraid to experiment with it or rely on stark contradictions. For her next album, Hairless Toys, she revisits the fashion of her teenage years and vintage influences. She rejects designer clothes because “the whole idea of brands and labels in fashion has grown to such an extent that it doesn’t feel appropriate or interesting to rely on that for this album.”
Over the past two decades, Róisín has continued to experiment in more and more new areas, directing her videos or using in the visual part of her concerts photos she has taken during her travels. She escapes clichés and definitions and asserts her creative freedom without conforming to other people’s expectations.
“You have to be so flexible in the world today,” she says. “The question for me is what makes a pop star, a filmmaker, an artist… where does that lead me in the future? The answer is that it can take me anywhere I want, really anywhere. It can take me to a gallery or to being a filmmaker… and keep making music all the while.”
“Relying solely on my music is not that exciting for me,” she adds. “I think I’ve always wanted these different levels of creativity to develop in parallel. When I have a positive perspective, I think maybe the world is more ready for that than it was years ago. Maybe I’m in a good position and time to be that kind of artist.”
text and photos: Sofia Hussein for Dinya
video: Exit festival