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

Five Favourites: Noga Erez

Having first fallen in love with innovative Tel Aliv artist Noga Erez after seeing her captivating live performance at Visions Festival back in 2017, we have been mega fans of her immense sounds.

About to release her much anticipated second album, Kids, she has become known for her commanding, defiant beats and prides herself on artfully creating immersive videos to visualise the meaning behind her tracks. We caught up with Noga to find out about the five music videos that inspire her most. Read about her choices below, and make sure you check out her video for ‘You So Done’ at the end of this post!

Tyler, The Creator – ‘Yonkers’
That is for me the bible of one location, one-liner videos. The video with the cockroach. There’s so little in it, yet so much in it at the same time. I watched this video about a million times when I was trying to figure out how to make a minimalist video work.

Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar – ‘Never Catch Me’ 
This is the video I send people when I either want to talk about story-telling or colour. It’s a beautiful cinematic piece, that is a full emotional journey between deep sadness and pure joy. It’s lit and coloured beautifully.

Billie Eilish – ‘Bury A Friend’  
This is just so bold for an artist in the eyes of the mainstream to make such a video. I love the transitions between the rooms, the images of the hands, and obviously the needles in the back. So dark and so, so good.

Radiohead – ‘Daydreaming’ 
This song/video has made me cry so many times, I’m not exaggerating. Something about Tom Yorke in this video -knowing his biography, but also, regardless. There’s something so emotional about a person continuously walking and opening doors, it feels to me like a biographical video – something that is told from the point of view of a person who has experienced so much pain, and love. And in the end he gets to the top of the snowy mountain, and it’s like he dies, but is also back in the womb, and this is the type of shit that makes me shiver.

Rosalia & Travis Scott – ‘TKN’
I do love a good dance video every now and then, and this is one. It’s not just a dance video. And that’s what I love about it. Rosallia is this mother figure to a bunch of kids (who happen to be amazingly charismatic dancers), and every single move in that choreography is spot on.  

Massive thanks to Noga for sharing her five favourites with us! 

Kidsthe new album from Noga Erez, is out tomorrow 26th March via City Slang. She will also be doing a special live stream of the album on 1st and 2nd April, tickets here. Watch her video for ‘You So Done’ here:

 

Photo Credit: Shai Franco

Video Premiere: Hazel Iris – ‘Needles’

With acclaim from the likes of Lauren Laverne on BBC 6Music, and having worked with Grammy award winning Tom Biller on her album Nine Sisters, classically trained, Berlin-based, musician and songwriter Hazel Iris is known for her intricate sonic tapestries and rich lyrical storytelling. Fusing together elements of folk, indie, classical and traditional songwriting, her creations consistently remain truly unique and emotionally poignant.

Collaborating with London-based filmmaker Mona Najma, Iris has now shared a new video for her track ‘Needles’. Reflecting on the power of womanhood, and the anthropomorphic relationship between woman and nature, it’s propelled by a twinkling majesty, flowing with a sparkling uplifting splendour as the ethereal grace of Iris’ vocals captivate the ears. Accompanying the sweeping, effervescent musicality, the video features beautiful pastoral imagery as a woman makes her way through the forest. An utterly enchanting tranquil soundscape bringing a subtle message of hope, now that spring has arrived, with an equally stunning cinematic visual to match.

Of the significance of the video’s imagery, Iris explains:

Historically forests have often represented a space where “women” can roam free in folklore, which is why it stylistically takes inspiration from films such as Daughters of the Dust, The Company of Wolves, and Valerie and her Week of Wonders.

Filmed in the Berlin forest Grunewald, with archival footage of the Californian Yosemite Valley, watch the exquisite new video for ‘Needles’ here: 

Mari Lane
@marimindles

FIVE FAVOURITES: Phé

Inspired by the unpredictability of modern life and the captivating electronic sounds of La Roux and New Order, Yorkshire-born, South London-based songwriter & producer Phé has recently shared her new EP, Moodboard. Blending her lush vocals with catchy beats, she’s created a collection of alt-pop soundscapes that meander through themes of self-acceptance and personal growth.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Phé to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that have inspired the music on her new EP. Check out her choices below and scroll down to listen to her Moodboard at the end of this post.

1. The Strokes – ‘Soma’
It was difficult to pick a favourite Strokes song, most of their lyrics resonate with me, but this one stands out at the moment because I can’t seem to stop playing it. I appreciate songwriters who are aware that they are flawed, especially those who don’t sugar-coat it in their lyrics. Whether they aim to resolve their flaws or not isn’t necessarily what’s important, but it’s their desire to creatively articulate what their weaknesses are in a way that people can relate to that I find inspiring. There’s so much passion and anger in Julian Casablancas’ voice and for some reason whenever I hear it I feel so overwhelmed that I well up, no matter how many times I listen to it. It could be something to do with nostalgia because they narrated most of my childhood, or maybe it’s the fact you can tell there’s so much pain behind it, but the way Casablancas sings just feels incredibly authentic.

2. The Cure – ‘Just Like Heaven’
Love songs are wonderful things and I find it so interesting how timeless they can become through people’s personal experiences of them. This is one of my favourites of all time and I always tend to re-visit it when I’m busy romanticizing my own life in short bursts. Writing songs is such a personal experience, and it’s difficult to not recoil in despair when you listen back to what you’ve made sometimes, usually because you know you’re listening to how you actually feel rather than distracting yourself at all costs. ‘Just Like Heaven’ reminds me that it’s nothing to be ashamed of to express how you feel in your lyrics. It’s easy to get in your own head when you’re working on a project and I often forget that when someone listens to my music they’ll be having their own completely unique emotional response and I find that pretty comforting.

3. La Roux – ‘Let Me Down Gently’
It would have felt like one big whopping lie if I didn’t add La Roux as one of the main influences for this EP. Her approach to song-writing has been a real inspiration since I stopped writing songs with a guitar and moved towards a more electronic sound. I found it quite difficult to establish the kind of music I wanted to create at first and always felt like I was restricting myself, and the fact I wasn’t great at guitar probably didn’t help. Once I started using synths and making beats it pushed me in the direction that I’d been trying to go in, and it finally started to sound like my lyrics were matching the instrumentation. I find her style effortless with how she manages to be completely raw and direct in her lyrics, at times verging on cynical, alongside these really catchy synth melodies that are so simple but so effective. She manages to paint a world that is colourfully futuristic whilst staying honest with herself and the people around her, and that’s is the kind of world I want to live in.

4. Orange Juice – ‘Rip It Up’
I think anyone who makes music finds it incredibly frustrating sometimes because it’s a challenge to articulate yourself when there’s so many different ways you could do it. I didn’t really have much of an idea where I was going to go stylistically with this EP at first, but I was listening to a lot of folk and 80’s music at the time I was writing it and I guess that guided me through. As frustrating as it is, I also love the trial and error process of song-writing, and I took on the whole ripping-it-up-and-starting-again concept quite seriously because that’s what I did half-way through, and I’m glad I did because once I started re-writing it that’s when my thoughts started to come together and I had more of an idea of what I needed to say and how I wanted to say it.

5. Sudan Archives – ‘Come Meh Way’
Sometime last year I was listening to Sudan Archives on a walk round the moors in Yorkshire and I thought “God, I would kill to be able to play like that.” I ran home and dusted off my Mum’s old violin that was hibernating in the attic and started to teach myself. I’ve never heard anyone play the violin like Brittney Denise Parks, something about it is so haunting and atmospheric and adds a dimension to her songs that makes them so unique, and every time I listen to her I feel so moved. I love how her lyrics and violin seem to speak to each-other, and in this track her lyrics are rounded and gentle compared to this piercing violin arrangement – together it just produces such a mesmerizing sound and it definitely influenced elements of Moodboard.

Thanks to Phé for sharing her favourites with us!
Listen to Phé’s Moodboard EP below.

Photo Credit: Anna Rakhvalova