With expansive instrumentals and a sleek, cutting voice, singer-songwriter, Farao, weaves brooding ballads over folk-driven electronic melodies. Her sound evokes a more sinister Bat for Lashes meets Zola Jesus, but with a confidence and strength rooted in her own grey melancholy. Her thoughtful lyrics are above all honest and capture a fragility within her equally stark yet luscious sound.
Born Kari Jahnsen, Farao’s fashion vibe can be described as comfortable utilitarian. Broiler suits, dark, moody hues and long, brown locks, Jahnsen epitomizes understated, European cool. Born in the small Norwegian village of Ulnes, Jahnsen has also lived in Reykjavik, Iceland, but is currently based between London and Berlin. Throughout these travels, Jahnsen has honed her musical craft along with a signature look rooted in vintage and, most importantly, comfort.
Farao’s debut album, Till It’s All Forgotten, was released this past week, and we caught up with Jahnsen via email to get the scoop on her touring essentials and why exactly people should just wear a swan dress if that is what they want to do.
Paste: Tell us a little bit about your style and how it influences your performance on stage.
Jahnsen: As long as what I’m wearing is comfortable, I don’t think the way I dress influences my performance on stage very much. I wear androgynous broiler suits by German clothing designer and friend Dominique Krauch when I perform, because they look great and are very comfortable.
Paste: What do you think makes up an ideal stage outfit?
Jahnsen: Something that makes you feel comfortable and is not distracting you from performing well. Also, something that reflects your artwork in some way.
Paste: How would you say your onstage style differs from your offstage style?
Jahnsen: Not much at all, I have the same style onstage and offstage.
Paste: How has your style changed since you first started performing?
Jahnsen: I started wearing the broiler suits not so long ago, because I love the industrial and androgynous look. Wearing it makes me feel playful. I used to wear dresses and more feminine stuff, but got bored of it and started going for more gender neutral outfits.
Paste: Does the touring life influence your style?
Jahnsen: Touring life means a lot of travelling and carrying equipment in and out of venues. I guess it makes me wear more comfortable clothing than I normally would. I mean, you don’t wanna load equipment into a venue wearing heels, and you can’t bring too many outfits in a small suitcase, so I go for the all-rounder options.
Paste: Do you have any favorite stores to visit on tour?
Jahnsen: I almost exclusively shop in second hand shops and thrift stores, because it’s more environmentally friendly to reuse something that already exists instead of buying something new. In addition to that, I prefer wearing vintage clothing because it’s usually one of a kind—instead of yet another pair of trousers from a high street shop, which is probably made by underpaid staff in a sweatshop somewhere in Asia, under horrific working conditions you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy.
Paste: Do you go about packing for tour in any special way or just throw everything in a suitcase?
Jahnsen: I throw everything in a suitcase about an hour before I have to leave, and, if I’ve forgotten to bring something or took the wrong thing, I’ll deal with it later. As long as I have my passport, wallet and phone—that’s all I need.
Paste: Are there any specific artists who have influenced your style?
Jahnsen: I really admire the way Björk dresses, because she manages to upstage herself every single time. It’s always over the top, amazing costumes that make me think about how the hell can she perform in that thing. I certainly get inspired by her attitude of this is what I’m wearing, deal with it. She wears it with confidence, and it has inspired me to only wear things that make me feel confident.
Paste: Did growing up in Norway impact your personal style? How about when you lived in Reykjavik or London?
Jahnsen: I think Reykjavik has inspired my personal style more than anything. Mostly because of the individualistic mindset you find in Icelandic society, where you are encouraged to do what you want and not follow anyone’s ideas but your own when it comes to who you want to be. This is reflected in how you dress as well, and if you want to wear a dress with a swan draped around your neck, then that’s exactly what you have to do.
Paste: Do you have any beauty essentials?
Jahnsen: I don’t wear much makeup, but if I do it’s only mascara, and I like making my eyebrows big and bushy with an eyebrow thingy I have. If I’m going to a party I might put on this lipstick that I have from Mac called “Amorous,” because it suits basically anything. Also, instead of buying fancy, expensive cleansers and moisturizers, I only wash my face with honey and rub it with avocado oil. My skin has never been better.
Paste: Last but not least, how would you sum up your personal style?
Jahnsen: Vintage and not too feminine, I guess. My go-to outfit is high waisted jeans and my favourite t-shirt that says “jazz & fuck” on it.
Farao Tour Dates
15 – St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club+
16 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall+
17 – Detroit, MI @ Majestic Cafe+
18 – Toronto, ON @ Adelaide Hall+
19 – Montreal, QC @ Pop Montreal+
21 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts+
22 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg+
23 – Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall+
25 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall+
26 – Portsmouth, NH @ The Music Hall Loft
29 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo^
30 – San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge^
+ with The Cribs
^ with Alina Baraz