Premiere: Kaia Vieira – ‘The Care Giver’

Having been writing music since the age of fourteen, Kaia Vieira is now set to release her debut EP later this month. Ahead of its release she has now shared her brand new single.

Oozing a soulful, impassioned lyricism over gritty trip-hop beats, ‘The Care Giver’ builds to an anthemic ballad, fusing together an eclectic range of sounds with a sweeping ethereal musicality. A truly innovative, and evocative, soundscape, Vieira has created a poignant and reflective slice of genre-defying neo-soul. Of the track, she explains:

The actual title of ‘The Care Giver’ refers to a guardian figure abusing their position of trust. The figure is seen as this virtuous custodian from the outside but in reality, is ‘plagiarising’ the role of the absent parents. There’s a loss of childhood but there’s also survival, and even hope. It was my first attempt to ‘rap’ and I still wouldn’t call it necessarily rapping – I just wanted to tell a story more directly and it served the song to do it.”

We spoke to Kaia Vieira to find out more about her and her new release. Read the interview, and listen to the new single – for the first time – below:

Hi Kaia Vieira, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
What a welcome! Hmm, these are always the toughest to start with, aren’t they? So, I guess to sum up the vibe of my music I’d have to say, dark, beat-driven tunes that gives an ode to classic trip hop and dnb, particularly from a ’90s background. I love odd harmony – especially Eastern-derived – I love all things bass, I love gnarly top-end filters and I love… manic breaks. Oh, and of course I love the piano. I’m a singer/songwriter/producer originally from Bournemouth and now living in London. I can be perfectly content cooped up in a room for days just writing as much as I can, skanking with my full band mid gig. And to add a little about myself… I’m naturally quite introverted and private, so learning how to articulate myself between songs on stage and in interviews is always a bit uncomfortable, but I do find some comfort knowing that about a billion awkward artists before me have worn and outworn these shoes. In the rest of my non-musical existence, I love yoga, dancing, reading, just being with my closest mates and wandering about green spaces. 

How did you initially start creating music?
I actually began playing very acoustic, rootsy folk music when I first picked up the guitar and ukulele at 13 – so a bit of a world away! But I believe every kind of genre you touch upon in your journey as a musician has its place in crafting the sound you’ll become identified for later on, so I don’t want to disregard it. I was obsessed with folk, blues and country artists. From some of the classics like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Howlin’ Wolf to the more contemporary (at the time), Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn and my absolute favourite, The Tallest Man on Earth. I started out playing at my local open mic night in Wimborne (a small town near Bournemouth) at 14, first by myself and then in an acoustic trio playing covers, and soon I started playing gigs at local venues/mini festivals from 15. It was only when I was 16 going on 17 that I began to explore more electronic styles when I began playing with my first electronic band, experimenting with mixes of hip hop, alternative soul and drum and bass. I started writing music not long after I began playing the guitar around 14/15 and had a number of songs by the time I started performing with the band – it was my first experience then however to begin writing collaboratively and learning how to improvise top lines over the keys, bass and drums.

Your debut EP Vikāra is out 29th May 2020 – can you tell us what it’s all about? Are there any themes running throughout the EP?
I actually formed the idea for the EP, found the name and decided I still needed to write the main single, which ended up being ‘Where Did You Go?’, all during a mini no-tech hiatus at the beginning of 2019. I’d already begun writing for it, but I knew I needed to finalise the name/concept and write a stronger single and I’d always romanticised the idea of the solitude retreat after hearing about Bon Iver’s experience writing Emma, Forever Ago. I went to stay in this tiny little wooden surfer cabin I found in West Wales for a few days cutting off from my phone. Turns out, a bit of solitude, intention and pressure to use a small bit of time can work wonders for indecision. The whole of the EP was written across a period of intense shifting in my life, pretty much moving from one older world to the next, and so all the tunes reflect this in a very cathartic way. It was when I came across the word Vikāra looking up different Sanskrit terms during this stay that the definition of the transformation through the wound really summed up the concept of the EP and did a lovely job just putting some kind of metaphorical casing around it, pulling the songs together. 

You’ve been compared to the likes of Portishead and Little Dragon, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
My queen is Miss Badhu. I properly got into her at about 17 when I was in the early stages of crafting my individual sound and she was really the first female artist that completely made sense to me. Other massive influences have got to be Prince and David Bowie, for just being revolutionary and timeless, never failing to inspire and re-inspire me at every age. In more recent years, I think Thom Yorke’s completely harrowing yet liberatingly serene soundscapes are seeping into me and my music, and my interests in the more sound-design and instrumental world of film scoring is growing.

How is your local music scene? Do you go to see lots of live music?
Well, I live in London nowadays and so (pre-pandemic and lockdown) there’s hardly a shortage of live music. The tough bit I’ve always found is actually making the time to explore new music enough when you’re so intensely immersed in your own little music bubble of gigging, recording, promoting. I’m Brixton-based though and loved going to Hootananny for hip-hop/dub nights and the local record store ‘Pure Vinyl’ for their weekly ‘Straight Pocket’ jazz/neo-soul jam sessions. I actually love Bristol for the filthiest dnb clubs though – The Black Swan was always a favourite to drive up for, especially pre-London days, when the Bournemouth music scene just wasn’t cutting it (which was pretty much always – although I will shout out to Chaplin’s and the Cellar Bar for being the only venue to continue striving to keep the Bournemouth music scene alive)! Nothing really touches on the grimeyness and satisfying bass-drops of The Black Swan – I haven’t actually found anything that quite compares yet, even in London. So yeah, dnb/jungle nights are one of my favourites, and classic 60s/70s funk, soul and disco events – just the both ends of dance music that provide the sweatiest nights – half or double time!

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
I love mixing live and electronics as much as possible – recreating electronic sounds with live instruments where we can and then filling in samples in between. I’m a bit obsessed with live dnb and jungle break drops as my drummer Tomas knows all too well. I have to keep switching up the beat ideas though as if I got too carried away, we’d just be raving to a continual stream of an emulated amen break! The live shows also consist of lots of sub bass played by my live bassist Dan, and then lots of piano-based often discordant harmony and eerie synth work that my keyboardist Clem soundscapes. I actually had a ‘no-guitar’ rule for a while as I got very bored of almost all guitar-based music for a long time, but I’m happy to say that pretty much got thrown on it’s head recently. Our newest member of the band, our guitarist Ze, introduced me to the world of the pedal board and we’ve since been messing around and realised how much you really can do with live instruments and a couple synth emulators. It’s cool as well because the keyboard synth/samples have a their own realm of very solid, flat signals that create that static wall of sound that’s essential when you need as much fatness as possible, but then the pedals that play around with the more natural waveform of an acoustic instrument provide a different world of more unpredictable and organic effects. So yeah, we’re trying to bring them all together and just so looking forward to when we can finally be back in a room again getting ready for new live shows!

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
I’ve got to admit I’m very guilty of being a total self-consumed artist at times, existing in a bubble of my own writing/playing and forgetting to hunt out for new artists! But when I do find new music I’m totally excited about, I could be a walking advertisement. My latest new artist discovery has got to be James Holt. We met at a new music discovery night that we were both on the same bill for, and his style is definitely not one I normally listen to or find new acts pushing boundaries in, but I was completely won over. He’s like this time capsule that stepped out of the 60s and brought with him the qualities of the proper classic songwriters – his writing is just so wholesome. So much so that I had to buy his CD (and I’ve got to admit that rarely happens that I feel that compelled when stumbling on new live acts), especially as his song ‘Burning Moon’ just broke me and I listened to it on repeat in my car for a good couple of weeks. So yeah, check him out.

And how do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
It’s definitely tough. The white noise of the masses is more so than ever with the internet and virtual platforms giving the opportunity for anybody and everybody to put out their music. So, there’s a lot more noise to break through, which is the more difficult part, but equally there’s so much more opportunity in another sense because anyone can use these platforms to empower themselves and push their creations as an independent artist. Maybe I’m the eternal optimist, but I strongly believe that at the end of the day true quality has the potential to cut through and be recognised despite any noise, and the most important thing is to focus on your individuality as an artist as that will only ever and always be your only unique selling point. I think pushing boundaries and risking creating a newer, not as easily definable sound is worth it for the long run even if it’s a slower burner.

Finally, what does the rest of 2020 have in store for Kaia Vieira?
We’re mid-campaign now with the EP, so we have another single ‘The Care Giver’ on the way before the final EP drops too. This one’s more trip hop and down tempo than the first single ‘Where Did You Go?’ – best described by my PR company ‘A Badge of Friendship’ as a “celestial groover”. Disclaimer: I had nothing to do with that phrase but absolutely love it! Aside from the EP, I’m currently already so excited about all my new material – like a little kid really, the delay of releasing is definitely a tester for cultivating serious adult levels of patience. But I’m just going to focus on building the catalogue during these times that have offered us some extra space at least, getting ready for the latter of 2020/going into 2021. Oh and, I may be venturing further into the dnb world with a collab or two post EP – that’s all I can say!

Huge thanks to Kaia for answering our questions! Listen to ‘The Care Giver’ for the first time below:

Vikāra, the upcoming new EP from Kaia Vieira is out 29th May via These Furious Recordings.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Introducing Interview: Monks In The Wood

Having spent the last year changing their line-up and writing new songs, South London band Monks In The Wood create lyrically poignant offerings oozing a twinkling musicality and heartfelt raw emotion.

Reflecting on human behaviour and “all the sorts of crazy things human beings believe, prioritise and do”, new single ‘Patterns’ showcases the band’s majestic shimmering charm and powerful storytelling abilities.

We caught up with Charlotte Nordin, who has recently joined the band on keys and vocals, to find out more…

Hi Charlotte, welcome to Get In Her Ears! For those who don’t know, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Hi Mari! Thank you for having me! I’m a Stockholm-born musician and DJ living in London since 2016. I’ve been working full time in the music since I moved here and I love it! I recently started teaching music and art as well in schools around London, which is definitely an extension of my passion. Teaching is what I studied when I was in Stockholm. 

How did you initially decide to start creating music?
I learned very early on that I loved making music and writing songs. I used to tell my friends I couldn’t see them and instead stood by the stereo in my room, pressing record and play, and singing over tracks, haha! My dad was really into music as well and got me these eJay studio music sample PC games that I started to play around with in the late ’90s. It quickly evolved to getting Cubase, microphones and teaching myself how to play the keyboard and guitar. As an angry angst-ridden teenager I realised quickly that singing and making music was the only non-destructive thing that could make me feel better. And it has continued throughout my entire life. 

And how did you first get involved with Monks In The Wood?
After a couple years being a one woman musician in London I finally signed up to find other musicians online. Monks In The Wood popped up and they needed someone for keys and vocals, and I really liked their image and sound. After meeting them to jam a couple times in Peckham, I’ve been 100% on the Monks In The Wood train, haha. 

The band have been compared to the likes of The Shins and Local Natives, and we love the band’s twinkling dreamy vibes, but who would you personally cite as your main musical influences?
Well, we are five band members with pretty different musical influences to bring to the pot. My personal thought listening to the music when I joined was that it has major Kent-vibes. Kent is a famous Swedish alt-rock band with some shoegaze influences and that dreamy sound that Monks In The Wood also has. Since Kent is one of my own biggest music influences, it’s not strange that I felt at home in the Monks sound straight away. 

How do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
Well, I don’t really know… It’s definitely both good and bad that social media and the online world provides easy access to be seen and also finding new music. I feel like it’s a big ocean of amazing talent out there and if you don’t stick your elbows out, be unique and keep on people’s radar, you drown in the noise of others. As a new upcoming band, it can be quite draining, but also exciting, since it’s easy to connect with new contacts. 

It’s that time of year when normally we’d be getting excited about the upcoming summer festivals… Sadly of course things are all a bit on hold at the moment. But what festivals would you normally be looking forward to?
Oh I love festivals! One of the best ones I’ve been to is Rock Werchter in Belgium. It’s well-structured, audience is mixed and it has a mix of music genres as well. I saw bands like Placebo, The Prodigy and Dave Matthews Band. The worst festival I’ve been to is Openair Frauenfeld, a hip hop festival in Switzerland. I came for Snoop Dogg and Cypress Hill, but the festival goers were all under 16 years old and quite rude – it was a very weird vibe! I ended up barely going into the festival grounds at all. My all-time favourite festival is Open’er Festival in Gdynia, Poland. Such a friendly, well-arranged and mixed festival. I’ve been going five years in a row and am so sad I’m missing this year

And who will be the first band/artist you hope to see live when this is all over?
I’ve ticked off a lot of my favourites already, but I’m yet to see Bon Iver! I also want to see Danger Incorporated, Airiel, The Japanese House, Che Ecru, Dej Loaf and Roy Woods.

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming new bands that you’d recommend we check out?
Definitely all of the bands and artists I name dropped in the previous question!

And what else does 2020 have in store for Monks In The Wood?
We are currently working on lots of new songs and are looking forward to recording them and doing lots of live gigs when bars and clubs re-open again!

Massive thanks to Charlotte for answering our questions!

 

‘Patterns’ is out now via Spinnup.

Photo Credit: Seb Higgins

INTERVIEW: New Pagans

Filled with urgent, considered, intensely catchy songs that challenge the norms surrounding relationships, history, and gender; New Pagans‘ debut EP Glacial Erratic is a powerful blend of alternative sounds. The Belfast band take the best elements of post-punk, grunge, and indie rock and transform them in to abrasive, yet melodic noise.

Formed of Claire Miskimmin, Cahir O’Doherty, Conor McAuley, and Lyndsey McDougall, the band have cut their teeth playing in different outfits over the years (Girls Names, Rupture Dogs, Fighting With Wire, Jetplane Landing). Together under the New Pagans moniker, they sound louder and more confident, creating a sonic space to explore issues of frustration, defiance, and resolution. We caught up with Claire to ask about the band’s EP, their recent UK tour, and what bands she’d recommend listening to right now…

 

Hello Claire, How are you holding up at the moment?
All good, I think we are all managing to keep it together at the minute. Keeping fit and keeping our brains ticking over. Absolutely bizarre for everything to be so different yet so normal, seeing this out in our homes, familiar surroundings. Absolutely surreal. Worst sci-fi film ever.

For anyone who doesn’t know, can you explain how New Pagans came together? We know each of you played in different bands before…
The majority of us have been in bands since our teens with the exception of Lyndsey, this is her first band, unbelievably. We’ve been playing for 3 years. Cahir and Lyndsey had talked about starting to write music together for a while but I don’t think they necessarily had a band in mind. Conor was a good friend of theirs and is an unbelievable drummer, so that was a no-brainer. As for me, I was messing about on a bass set up in their kitchen one night, recorded a rough sketch and thought nothing of it again until it was sent back to me a while later fully fleshed out by Cahir and with Lyndsey’s vocals; and it blew my mind. So that was me in! Allan was the last part of the jigsaw. He came in on guitar when we started to have bigger ambitions for the songs and he rounds of the sound off perfectly.

You released your debut EP Glacial Erratic in March. What are you most proud of about this release?
I think we are most proud that it’s a physical release. We had been releasing singles digitally over the last three years and it’s amazing to be able to find a home for them and there’s nothing like holding your own record in your hand and thinking “we made that”. It’s a beautiful object. I can see why people obsess and collect them.

Many of your songs blend the personal with the political, and I think that’s especially clear on ‘Lily Yeats’ and on ‘It’s Darker’. Can you talk me through the contexts of each song, and how they transformed into these affecting, memorable tracks?
This is more a question for Lyndsey to answer as she’s our lyricist, but I would say that she mines everything around her for inspiration. Her studies for her PHD led her to discover Lily Yeats, day to day experiences like an argument at a party with a man trying to exert his dominance over a female opinion like on ‘It’s Darker’. Everyday conversations overheard on a bus strung together into a Dadaist poem as with ‘Charlie Had the Face of a Saint’.
‘Admire’ is about learning to navigate a long term relationship once the initial spark of newness has gone & appreciate what you have. Politics, history, nature, human fragility, forgotten female voices told from an Irish perspective.

Do you have a favourite track on the record? If so, why?
I think my favourite track is ‘Admire’. Maybe it feels freshest. Or it’s the change of pace it brings on the record. It’s a mature track. I think it really sets a precedent for what we are doing next. Saying that, they are all bangers.

You’ve recently returned from touring the UK promoting the record. What were the highlights from your trip? Favourite venues/moments you’d like to talk about?
It was great for us to get out on the road together and actually great timing, another week and those shows would have been cancelled amid the chaos. Stand out venue would be the Flying Duck in Glasgow for me. They really looked after us and it makes such a difference to arrive at a venue and everything to be easy. Believe me this is a rarity for UK shows. Anyone reading this who has toured the UK will understand. As for the highlight, those drives to the hotel after the shows when we are all a little tipsy or running on adrenaline from the gig are the best craic. Makes you forget you are crammed in a tin box hurtling from one end of the country to the other.

We know it’s an uncertain time right now for musicians, especially in Ireland. How are you looking after yourselves? What’s the reaction from the music community in Belfast been like?
There’s always a real sense of community between bands in Belfast, it’s so small you know everyone. I’m just really loving the online presence that’s keeping us all connected right now until we can all play shows together again.

I don’t know how this goes when we come out the other side, but at the minute there’s a lot of positivity. We are using this time to try and write the album although we can’t get in a room together yet. We just need to ride it out.

Finally, what bands or artists would you recommend we listen to?
Careerist, Problem Patterns, Gross Net, Altered Hours. In fact, do yourself a favour and find an Irish music playlist on Spotify and give that a go. A lot of bands making a lot of great music on this island, as there always has been.

Thanks to Claire for answering our questions. Follow New Pagans on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

INTERVIEW: Noga Erez

When I meet Noga Erez in Clapton, East London, on a Sunday afternoon, she’s trying on suits for an upcoming photo shoot with her Stylist David Evans. There’s a vintage-looking Mulberry suit, an incredible “Beetle-juice” striped number (David’s reference) as well as a colourful pink & orange play suit. “There’s something psychological about play suits, you always need to pee when you’re wearing them” jokes Erez, and I nod enthusiastically because I know the #playsuitstruggle.

I feel at ease around her; her clothes and her comments are practical as well as cool; a great combination in an artist who has been on the rise since the release of her debut album, Off The Radar, in 2017. I ask her what she’s most proud of about this record: “Because of the many things surrounding the making of the album, and the people I partnered up with, I was able to really make it my way and keep it very authentic. That is something that I feel I had to challenge with the new album, ‘cos making a second album is always kind of a reflection on your first, and there are expectations. Whereas with the first, no-one expected anything of me. That’s the spirit that I want to maintain: something that is very authentic and not compromising in any way.”

This defiant spirit underscores her second LP, which is set for release in 2020. There has been a minor compromise though, but not in a negative way. Together Erez and her partner Ori Rousso have written “too many songs”, so they need to refine their track list: “We’re in a situation where we have a lot of songs to choose from right now. Maybe we have to say goodbye to some of them and release them separately. We’ve been writing so much music, and it’s been over a period of over more than two years, so  it kind of feels like the ones we wrote at the beginning are not the same as the ones that we write now. It’s weird, an album is a documentation of chunk of a person’s life, it’s spread over what feels to me like such a long time, it’s going to look like an album from different periods of time.”

This idea of documentation is something that fans and journalists were quick to pick up on after her debut release. In a 2017 interview with The Guardian, Erez said she had been called “brave” for speaking out about the conflicts in her hometown of Tel Aviv. I ask her if she still thinks its necessary to confront these issues alongside her music, and her response is incredibly diplomatic: “I am in no way a politician or an activist, or anything like that. I’m considered to be politically aware. During the time that I wrote Off The Radar, I was kind of obsessively connected to what was happening. I get periods of time in my life when I’m more like that, and sometimes I’m the opposite. Anything that has to do with the media especially, I feel like the more I read it, the more I get a different perspective. I’m just being flooded with information. It’s so hard for me to tell what is reality, and what is not. Being confused is one thing, but also feeling like someone wants me to be confused is another. So I just want to shut myself off and not be touched by that every now and then.”

“I still feel like I would have to handle the fact that this is where I come from, but what I gradually discovered is I never needed to talk about it as much as when it was included in the album campaign. It was weird to me. But, that story made me stand out in a way, so I feel like if I want to be very selfish, I would probably still continue to talk about it as I can’t really avoid it, I’m going to be asked about it, so I still try to maintain to some kind of connection with what is happening. But I really do feel like the best thing that I can represent right now that will be really genuine is how very confused I am about everything. The only thing I can say is that I have no idea. We look for people who tell us things, accurate things, but I cannot provide that about where I come from, or about this world, and I kind of feel like the problems of my country are minor problems. The world has bigger issues, the more the conversation becomes a global conversation, I think there’s a benefit for all of us to start talking beyond our boundaries.”

“There’s such a nationalistic kind of conversation going on about taking care of the poor people of your country, or the political problem of your country, or the surrounding countries. But the thing that we should all try to consider is our main problems, as of today, are global problems. The more we talk about the world in a global way, the better.”

Fans of Erez’s track ‘Global Fear’ will certainly resonate with her sentiments. I change the subject back to her new album, and ask what details she can share with me. “I’m not obliged to keep anything a secret, and that’s the atmosphere surrounding this whole new project. The first album, I needed to tackle more political issues. It felt to me like I had to explain to people that the fact that I come from that place, doesn’t mean that I represent what that place represents. Now that I feel like I’ve checked that box, it’s a more personal album. I feel like it’s kind of a cliché to say “it’s my most personal project yet”, but I love this new album so much that I don’t want to give up any of the songs.”

“I kind of feel like this album is going to be divided in to sections. Parts of it still deal with more global issues and things that have been going on in the world that I still have to reflect on, but there’s a personal side to things because these past two years after releasing Off The Radar were an amazing two years career-wise, but at the same time personally, we dealt with Ori’s Mum passing away. She died of cancer, and she wanted to die at home, and we saw her in the process of that. There was so much to process – so many amazing things – but so many fucked up things. It was just a mixture of all of it at once. Which is life! But sometimes you feel that everything is intense on both sides, so that is a major part of it. And also, having the perspective of being an artist that already has some music out there, and realizing what being an artist and being a persona is all about. That’s where it touches.”

Blending the personal and the political is something Erez does exceptionally well, as some of her standalone singles ‘Bad Habits’ and ‘Cash Out’ (feat. SAMMUS) have shown. I’m particularly intrigued by the video she created to accompany ‘Cash Out’. The visuals tell a story of a society without men, where women are left to fend for themselves, pitted against each other in punishing street-fights. I ask her about the creative process behind these visuals, which prompts her to talk about the development of her lyricism: “The songs take you to places. Whenever a song is done – I’m going through this process now with the second album – I realise that after writing the lyrics, I understand them so differently. Sometimes, you understand them immediately, but with other songs you leave them behind and when you read the lyrics again you’re like “what the fuck was I talking about?” This is why I love this second album so much, because I’m reading the lyrics and I’m like “I can’t believe I wrote this!”. This is a perspective that I didn’t even know that I had.”

“The thing about words, they are so deceiving. Words are the worst form of communication. I feel like music is so accurate. It captures something in a way that words could never do. But the fun thing about words, is that you meant something, but then you can forget about it, and when you come back to it, it means something so different. It feels like you are reading something that was written by someone else. That’s kind of how my videos are made. With ‘Cash Out’, I was basically writing a checklist of how to be a very strong and successful woman in today’s world. It’s the most cliché checklist: “eat breakfast / not too much / be skinny / not too much…” all those things and a lot of contradictions in between. Then, when I re-read the whole thing, I felt there was some kind of internal violence to it.”

“I feel like sometimes the voices that I have in my head are extremely violent. I am being very violent towards myself. In a way, I feel like that is a very female thing. I don’t think Ori – my partner in life and in music – struggles with the same inner conflicts or inner violence. ‘Cash Out’ was just me taking the violence that I have in my head, those voices that keep telling me to do something – it doesn’t matter how well I’m doing, they are still there – it’s never enough. So the women in this ‘Cash Out’ world are all me. And I’m taking myself in to a battle scene, a fight scene, and I put myself in front of my other self and go ahead and let them kick each other’s asses. I never thought about that when I wrote it, but that’s what happened.”

It’s strangely comforting to hear that Erez struggles with self doubt, like so many women in both the music industry and in wider society. I attempt to reassure her by saying that her persona is formidable, showing no signs of insecurity, and that both her music and her performance style translate as incredibly confident. Her reply is very diplomatic: “I’m happy that I’m able to be very frank about the fact that that’s just not the case. I think it’s hardly ever the case. There’s something very selective about the way I choose to present myself, like all of us, I deal with a lot of shit that is pure weakness, and things that I have to tackle in myself. There’s a lot of insecurity in me, but then eventually I become more aware of the fact that weaknesses are something that you have to grab on to and say okay, that’s the most valuable thing in life. Failures are the most valuable lessons in life. If you get straight A’s in tests – then good for you – but if you fail a test, then it’s the best possible scenario. Easier said than done, but that’s where I’m trying to go mentally.”

I ask about her collaborations with SAMMUS and ECHO, and if she consciously collaborates with other female rappers. As the words leave my mouth, I already feel like I have made a mistake by bringing gender in to the question. This is something I strive to leave out of the majority of my interview questions for GIHE, but today I’ve slipped up and I’ve left it in. But, as Noga has just pointed out, mistakes are valuable, and her response is authentic: “No, I don’t seek to collaborate with any musician because of their gender. Gender plays a very minor role. The one thing that I hate, is when I read about “female rappers”, that kind of gives me the cringe, even though I know it is necessary from the standpoint of people who write about music, and even from the standpoint of someone who reads it.”

“We’re still in a place where you have to add “female” to everything. It’s a language thing, it’s so weird. In Hebrew, you have a gender for every word, in English you have to add something in order for it to be gendered. That’s why words and language can be so fucked up, because it changes the atmosphere about everything. So in English, you have to make that distinction sometimes, which is sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. In Hebrew, I feel like the fact that you have a word for a female singer and a male singer, doesn’t give you the option to look at things from a non-gender perspective. I think about these things so much, but I have a collaboration with a rapper on my new album who happens to have a penis, I really truly don’t give a fuck about none of that. It just has to really feel right. Both ‘Chin Chin’ and ‘Cash Out’ are songs from a female perspective. So it made sense to work with women.”

“I find myself needing to balance the issue of gender whenever I have to curate a playlist. What I do immediately, naturally, I put a lot of men on it. My stars, a lot of them are male – Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar. Then I get conscious about that, so I add female artists in. That’s me being real with you about making a conscious decision to have some kind of positive discrimination. It’s a progress. Expecting it to be naturally what we want it to be, you have to be realistic. I feel like when I released my first album in the midst of the #MeToo movement, people were kind of putting the feminist suit on me. I’m a lot of things, a feminist is one of them for sure, but it took a place in the conversation that is larger than the role that is actually plays in my life.”

Her honesty is refreshing, and I re-frame the question, asking her what she thinks makes for a good collaboration. “That’s a good question, especially as I feel collabs have become like a marketing thing, more than they are an artistic thing. But I don’t judge, I think collaborations are great, so the most important thing is that the person that you have on your track gives a really good new perspective to the subject that you were tackling. That’s what happened to me with SAMMUS. When she sent that verse for ‘Cash Out’, Ori & I were at home listening to it, and we were both reacting the same – “Wowwww…what the fuck did she just do!?” – that is how it should be.”

“I knew her music for a while, and I knew she was an amazing lyricist. She’s a poet, and there’s something about her voice, and where she comes from, and her background; I knew it was going to be something different. The song’s concept is a list of things you have to do to be a “good woman”, a “strong and successful” woman even from a feminist world. So my list was so different to hers. In my list, you have to be skinny, but in her world as a woman of colour, that’s just not it. It was one of the things that made me realise that we’re not all in the same boat, you know? We’re in the same boat in the sense that we are being told what do to, who to be, what to wear and what to look like, but that varies depending on who you are. When we are all seen as “women” it flattens it, I feel. So a good collaboration would be having someone twist something so well that it helps you learn something new.”

I ask her what she learned from her collaboration with Israel’s esteemed Camerata Orchestra in 2018. Renowned artist Shlomi Shaban invited Erez to perform re-worked songs from her debut album at Tel Aviv’s prestigious Performing Art Center, and it was captured on film and recorded as a special release titled RaDaR Reworked. I also ask her about the practical side of rehearsing with a live band, as usually she performs solo. “It’s good that you mention rehearsals, because there weren’t many of them. I got this opportunity handed to me, funded by someone. It was perfect. They did a lot of performances, but I was the only one who brought 80 microphones to the venue and recorded and filmed the whole thing.”

“Ori mixed it and it was crazy, such hard work, but I knew that I had gold in my hands. For me it was surreal, because I always imagined myself with an orchestra, but it was something that was supposed to come so much later. We’d started preparing all of the orchestrations about a year in advance, and the reason we had to prepare it so well was because we had only one rehearsal with the orchestra. Unfortunately, that’s how it is with orchestras who don’t have a lot of money. It made it an even more stressful experience, just getting used to the atmosphere of having this whole thing behind me, I would have loved to have spent more time with it.”

“Honest to God, I had a really bad time the two weeks before that show. I wasn’t able to sleep, I wasn’t able to go to the bathroom, so when I got on stage I was a mess. It came out great, but I feel like I had to compensate for a lot of it afterwards in the process of mixing and keeping it dynamic. There’s something dynamic about an orchestra, there’s something dynamic about classical music. Sometimes it’s really soft, then it goes really loud – and I knew that because I’m coming from a background of studying composition, so the dynamic thing was so important to me. I wanted to tackle that as a performer, but that was the one thing that just did not happen. It was loud and stressed, but luckily that is something you can easily fix in mixing. Honestly, the process was a disaster” – she laughs at this comment – “but Ori was able to do such a great job with helping that sound dynamic.”

It’s mad how even when she doesn’t feel like she’s at the top of her game, Erez still creates captivating music. I ask her what artists are currently captivating her: “I’ve been coming back to the latest James Blake release in the last few days, because the first time I heard it I didn’t actually like it, but it grew on me. Also, Tkay Maidza. She’s an Australian rapper. I would love to collaborate with her. I discovered her through a collaboration that she did with a band called J-E-T-S. She’s fabulous. She also just did a song with JPEGMAFIA called ‘Awake’. I love her.”

My time with Noga Erez is now up, so I thank her profusely for her willingness to answer my questions, and for making such an addictive debut album. She hugs me goodbye, but before I leave, she asks “So, is Get In Her Ears a play on “Get In Her Pants”?” I laugh sheepishly and explain the only thing I’m trying to “get into” are good records, and interesting interviews with artists I admire. With Noga Erez, I’ve accomplished exactly that.

Follow Noga Erez on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram for more updates.

Photo Credit: Timo Kerber 

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut