ANOTHER week; another great female artist…
has come to my attention. London-based; German-born, NINA is one of the most impressive Pop/Electro.-Pop artists coming through- her voice is among the most distinct on the scene. A lot new Pop-based artists tend to stick too closely (to someone else’s voice); come off as somewhat uninspired and unoriginal- NINA has no such flaws; she is one of the most captivating and singular artists on the block. Under the caring wing of Aztec Records, the superstar has recently covered Heart of Glass– by the inimitable and timeless Blondie. Her fan-base is building and diversifying- gaining support and kudos from all corners of the world- new music is mooted; the signs are all bright. Inspired by the likes of HAIM, Fleetwood Mac and The Doors; NINA channels multiple sounds/sensations into her music; creates stunning atmosphere and compositions- those that get inside the heart; convey everyday emotions and personal insight. Having released the E.P.s My Mistake and We Are the Wild Ones (one of its tracks is featured/reviewed below), eyes on are the German singer: it will be exciting to see where she goes next. With her music gaining so much support; her songs winning-over so many fans, I was keen to catch up with NINA; see who influenced her (growing up)- and when we can expect a new E.P…
Hi NINA. How has your day been? Where are you speaking to us from?
It’s been a productive day. I just finished recording a new track in my home studio.
The modern scene is seeing a lot of female singer-songwriters come through. What would you say separates you from the crowd?
It took me a long time to find a project (and a sound that I wanted to represent) and I think I found something that it’s different from the rest. Something that takes me back to my younger years, the retro feel, the synths; the sounds I grew up listening to. I think people can relate to that.
You are based in London- and represented by Aztec Records. How have you found life in London?
There is no place like London- I’ve lived in London for 11 years. I’ve pretty much lived here throughout most of my youth. Although I’m a free spirit, and don’t call anywhere my ‘home’; I put London very close to my heart. The music scene is like no other. London is magical and very influential.
Being born and raised in Berlin, how does the music scene differ here (compared to London)?
I think it’s hard to compare Berlin and London. I couldn’t tell you which music scene I’d prefer; they’re both so different. I like how hardcore Berlin can be- with their Techno/House raves- and how surprising London can be (with constant up-and-coming raw talent). Amazing artists like Amy Winehouse, Ed Sheeran; Jessie J., John Newman (and many more) all started off performing in little venues in London. It’s inspiring to see.
Growing up, which artists influenced your sound/direction?
I loved bands like Depeche Mode, Queen, The Doors and artists like David Bowie, Blondie and Cyndi Lauper. Their stage presence, charisma and sound were mesmerising.
Which current artists would you recommend?
From the U.K. it has to be The Levity- a new up-and-coming band from Devon. Their live shows are awesome and I’ve been collaborating with them recently on a couple of songs. They’ve got the ‘80s sound nailed to perfection.
And from the States, HAIM- they’re simply awesome.
Your latest track is Heart of Glass (a cover of the Blondie song). What compelled you to record that track?
I’ve always been a huge Blondie fan. Growing up listening to them definitely shaped my music style, so it was an easy choice. I knew I wanted to make it my own; but that isn’t easy to do with a song you’ve listened to all your life. But me and my drummer (Laura Fares) sat down one evening and it just flowed. I’m glad the response has been great- and I’ve had lots of Blondie fans sending me lovely comments.
Your My Mistake E.P. (released last year) was met with acclaim; it resounded with listeners. What themes inspired the E.P.?
The ‘80s era and the New Synth-Wave movement. The main theme is about learning from unsuccessful relationships. It can hurt but it will get better.
I am reviewing We Are The Wild Ones -the title track from the E.P. – and was wondering: that particular song stands out in my mind. Can you tell us a bit about it (what inspired it etc.)?
Like ‘My Mistake’, the ‘80s were a big influence. I collaborated with another band and we knew exactly what we wanted it to sound like. It’s about escape, wanting to be free and loving ‘til the end, no matter what. “Find what you love and let it kill you” like Bukowski said.
Can we expect new music from you soon- an E.P. or album- and touring dates?
Yes; I’m releasing my 3rd E.P. very soon- and I’m working on that with amazing producer Richard X (who I deeply admire). I’ll also be touring Sweden, Italy and Germany before the year ends.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming singers; are there any words you would offer?
Always stay true to yourself. Work damn hard; find yourself and your own style and never give up. Be strong, be focused.
Finally- and for agreeing to take part in the interview- I will play any song here (of your choice) – name it…
Massive Attack – Teardrop
We Are the Wild Ones’ title track looks at “Midnight street lights”; a place where there is haunt and (lack of) forgiveness- a cold and shallow countenance. The opening (electronic beats) remind me a little of Erasure. Matching their Wonderland-era climb, the introduction pulses and smashes; it is a lot harder and more sexual (than NINA’s peeps’ music) and makes its declarations know. The percussive beats are both dramatic and scenic- you get a sense of city streets and harsh sounds; cold and dark avenues; juxtaposed by star-crossed lovers and (the lights emanating from) local bars. In fact, the entire introduction has that ‘80s-Synth-Pop sounds- the likes of Erasure, Gary Numan and The Human League. NINA concocts her own (swelling and catchy) blend of beats and electronics; hard to tie them with anyone else- that distinction and originality shines through. Eliciting so much potential (in the opening exchanges) you wait for the voice to come in; what tone it will take- how it will melt with the composition. NINA’s voice- on the wave of ghostly Synth.-Pop beats- is light and emotive; not too heavy-handed, the vocal dispenses its words with careful economy- ensuring the listener understands each idea and image. It seems our heroine is waiting for a man- her wannabe star-crossed lover- as she tangles within the shoulders of a London night- knowing some (of their) hearts will break. Right from the start, the lyrics aim for philosophy and life truths- life is shorter than we’d care for; we have to do all our living soon- that urgency and sense of determination shouts its name. Wanting to- in the name of her man- “stretch across the highways”; “Until our voices echo through the dunes”; you get a sense of the romance and bond- that hungry desire to be rekindled and united. After initial proclamation, an air of defeatism creeps in: as (the two) are the wild ones; the lost souls- maybe there is no hope for them. It seems those more ‘ordinary’ and predictable find happiness- they do not have ambitions and those desires- whereas the young and restless do not get what they seek. That air of pessimism is never heavy and mordent: the electronics crackles and sizzle; the beat remains static and insatiable- giving the song a king-size sense of atmosphere. As our heroine’s voice endeavours and promises- she has a “full tank” of gas; a heart full of dreams- you root for her (and her man). Dreamy and nuanced, the electronics-cum-beats-fusions back up the mood and momentum: the voice is perfectly complimented; allowed to nestle in the sonics- and let (her words) do their work. The chorus underlines and emphasises the song’s core: the lovers and wild and free; outsiders of sorts- maybe this world cannot accommodate their lust and ambitions. Riding that wave of emotion, NINA lets her voice glide and break; there is an underlying sadness and acceptance- maybe the lovers will remain distant and parted. Towards the final stages- and as the chorus completes its work- the dizzying, hypnotic electronics comes back around; sparkle with multi-coloured grace.
We Are the Wild Ones is an anthem for young love: those that do not fit within societal boundaries; sit outside the borders- and yearn for something special and different. The gorgeous German has clearly witnessed frustration and heartache; short-lived desires and a lot of what-if- I hope she is in a happier place now (the song was released two years ago). The entire track bristles and campaigns with alacrity and underlying twilight. Perhaps in London- and her beau being in Berlin or elsewhere- you picture the scenes and conversations; that sense of alienation- all vivid and real. The percussion bonds beautifully with the electronics; the former is a racing heartbeat; a granite-tasting kick- paradoxically, the electronics mutate between swooning romance and razor-edge anxiety. Having fallen for the E.P. We Are the Wild Ones– and its motifs of frustrated love and wild hearts-NINA continued her noble quest; producing even-more engrossing and staggering music- it bodes well for the future. With a third E.P. on the production line, I am curious where she goes next: more tales of near-miss desire; talents of happier romance (she may be in a committed relationship) – or something more oblique. Given (NINA’s)