Interview: Naz & Ella

Having been charming our ears for some time now with their beautifully poignant creations, and having been guests on the radio show back in 2019, alt-folk duo Naz & Ella have now announced a new EP set for release this Spring.

Taken from the new EP, latest single ‘No (Doesn’t Mean Convince Me)’ reflects on the all-too resonant theme of sexual harassment whilst oozing a gritty, grunge-infused aura alongside the duo’s traditional folk-inspired musicality. Tinged with an eerie majesty with shades of grunge pioneers Alice In Chains, it’s a beautifully stirring offering, exuding a subtle, stark power.

We spoke to Naz and Ella to find out more about the song, their songwriting and inspirations, and what plans they have for the rest of the year…

Hi Naz & Ella, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and what you do?
Hi Get In Her Ears! We are an alt-folk duo from north London and are currently in the process of releasing our second EP. Naz is the lead vocalist and Ella is lead guitarist, but we both sing and play guitar. Our music is sociopolitically focused and we’re currently transitioning from a more acoustic folky sound to something more post-punk and grunge influenced, whilst retaining some of the folk influence. Our sound is like The Cranberries meets Nirvana, with a dash of Simon & Garfunkel.

How did you both initially decide to start creating music together?
Naz: We met in our English class after our teacher made a new seating plan. We were 15 and I was starting a band and asked if Ella wanted to join – she said yes! We played together in a band for a few years but disbanded when everyone went off to uni, but Ella and I stayed in touch and continued making music as a duo. 

We love your gritty, folk-strewn sounds, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
We are inspired by all types of music, from traditional English folk to metal, but some of our current influences which have inspired our upcoming EP include The Cranberries, Nirvana, PJ Harvey, The Raveonettes, Marika Hackman and Big Thief.

You’ve just released your poignant new single ‘No (Doesn’t Mean Convince Me)’. Dealing with themes of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, it seems especially resonant right now. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to focus on this theme? 
Naz: It is especially resonant at the moment which is interesting. We’re glad people are talking more about this stuff because these conversations need to be had and we really need to start working together to make the world safer for everyone. In terms of this song specifically, the violation of women’s bodies and that of marginalised genders at the hands of cis-men is so normalised within society that we tend to just brush it under the carpet. I wanted to write something that addressed this bluntly. As a queer woman, I’ve had countless experiences on nights out – and I didn’t even go out much before COVID – where straight men would harass me. Telling them I’ve got a girlfriend made it worse because queer women are both fetishised and seen as a fun challenge or game because we “just haven’t met the right guy yet”, apparently. That’s where the initial inspiration came from for the song.

The powerful sound of the track seems a slight step away from some of your other material –  was this heavier sound intended to fit with the track’s subject matter? 
We’ve been experimenting with our sound for a while now, veering towards a grittier and slightly heavier sound. It was particularly fitting to go with a dark grungy feel for this track as we wanted to convey the intensity of the atmosphere in those situations, whilst through the melody and lyrics we wanted to get across holding onto or taking your power back.

The track is taken from your upcoming EP (DE)HUMANISE – are similarly poignant themes running throughout the collection? 
Absolutely – we have more personal songs about identity and autonomy on the EP: ‘Exotica’, which is a song about the exotification of women of colour, ‘Internalised’ which we released in February about overcoming internalised queerphobia and ‘We Are The Enemy’ which highlights the hypocrisy of speciesism. One of the messages we intend to convey in this EP is that for anyone who feels dehumanised, that they don’t have to tolerate it or participate in their own dehumanisation to comply with social norms.

As you know, we’re extremely dedicated to and in support of creating safe spaces for women and gender non conforming people at gigs. What more do you think can be done to help ensure safe environments and prevent the all-too-common instances of sexual harassment at events? 
The main way to prevent this type of behaviour is education from a young age. We hate to say it as we’d like to think it’s obvious, but unfortunately there are many instances where people don’t realise that their behaviour is threatening or considered sexual harassment or assault. However, this does not absolve people from taking responsibility for their behaviour. Perpetrators of this behaviour are usually men and we need more men willing to call out this behaviour and explain why it’s not okay, especially if it’s one of their own friends. Once this is normalised, perhaps gigs and clubs will be safer.

How have you been connecting with your audience and other musicians during the pandemic?
The main way we’ve been connecting with our audience is through social media. We’re kinda shy when it comes to social media, but we started using Instagram a bit more and recently decided to make use of the ‘Close Stories’ function to connect with people who want to see what we get up to behind the scenes, that we wouldn’t usually share on our main stories – that’s been quite fun! We’ve also been attending online talks and networking with other musicians in chats and groups – it’s been reassuring to hear about other peoples’ experiences during this time and learn from each other.

And has there been anything/anyone specific that has been inspiring you, or helping to motivate you, throughout these strange times?
Naz: One thing that really inspires me is discovering a song that makes me feel – it’s hard to explain! I’ve discovered so many cool artists over the past year or so – mostly post-punk and goth rock – and that’s really motivated me to push myself creatively. Music documentaries have also inspired us to create music. 
Ella: Setting up our home studio last summer and figuring out how to use Logic was a huge motivator as we had never recorded ourselves before and we really learnt a lot, and it helped having more spare time to do so. I also read a lot of music books, most recently ‘Revenge Of The She Punks by Vivien Goldman and Carrie Brownstein’s autobiography, which really motivates me.

As we’re a new music-focused site, are there any other upcoming artists that you’d recommend we check out?
Naz: So many! Los Angeles-based band Aurat who are darkwave/goth-influenced and sing in Urdu, grunge/pop-punk band Pinkshift from Baltimore, grunge band Passionless Pointless from Berlin and UK-based post-punk band Ghum.
Ella: We created a playlist which we update regularly with new artists we’ve discovered! Some recent additions include Belfast-based politically-minded rock band New Pagans, Leicester “sad punks” Kermes, London Dreamy grunge-pop Gold Baby, and Faultress whose music includes lots of layered harmonies and intricate sounds.

Finally, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for Naz & Ella?
Our EP (DE)HUMANISE is out on 7th May which we’re looking forward to! And we’re hoping to do a few gigs, so we can share the songs in real life. We have one gig booked so far this year which was rescheduled from last year for Colchester Pride on 28th August! A lot of our time is actually going to be spent rehearsing as our setup has totally changed – we have so much to learn with pedals and samples which is both a bit daunting, and also very exciting…

Massive thanks to Naz and Ella for answering our questions!

(DE)HUMANISE, the upcoming EP from Naz & Ella, is out 7th May.

Photo Credit: Poppy Marriott

Published by

mariangelicalane

Managing Editor/Co-Founder

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