It’s pretty tough reaching consensus on anything these days, but one thing we can probably all agree on: there have been better years… As a result I’m sure I’m not alone in finding myself leaning heavily on music for support and escape in, and from, the current worldwide weirdness and, I don’t know about you, but what I need right now is a kaleidoscopic indie pop record to lift me up and out if it. Enter Nah…
Meeting online, pretty much by chance, Estella and Sebastian have managed to create their own world where influences ranging from 60s pop to Postcard Records jangle via a hefty dose of sophisti-pop with faintly jazzy tinges, blend seamlessly together. This is a record made with love, that acknowledges its influences via a shrug and just gets on with bringing you a bit of joy, transcending those influences along the way.
The needle hits the plastic and we’re dropped straight into the frenetic “Perfect Game“, urgent strumming propels Sebastian‘s Edwyn Collins-like croon aided and abetted by Estella‘s cool breeze backing vocals. “Apple Blossoms” takes things down just a fraction, adds harmonica to the mix and transports us to Paris in springtime, and who wouldn’t want to go on that trip? The only rule here seems to have been that there are no rules and if it feels good, do it. Songs rush by in a cloud of sun-kissed jangle, strum and shimmer, pausing just long enough to lodge in your cranium.
My second encounter with Nah… was “Tumbledown Weekend“, their contribution to Somewhere in England, the ridiculously enjoyable Sunday Records, They Go Boom!! tribute album. It was a highlight there and fits right in here, Estella’s caramel coated vocal teasing out it’s melancholy, seaside town out of season, heart. “Summer’s Failing“, the song that started it all, already sounds like a classic. Sebastian, Kenji Kenji and Estella trade vocal lines amidst a lost in time reverie on summers past, the Dino J-like guitar that kicks in for the coda seals the deal. It’s the perfect soundtrack to watching the first leaves fall. Someone once claimed that there’s an infinite supply of hope in the universe but as the invigorating, “Finger on the Map” advises, before racing to a trumpet versus guitar face-off, it’s good to be reminded we should, “not be afraid to fuck it up, remember that a cat lands on it’s feet…”
I noticed in an interview that Estella described success as, ‘doing what you love‘, that certainly seems to be the driving force behind Nah… and makes this album a success on it’s own terms. This is a record that carries its sense of fun with style and ease and ends up being anything but throwaway – like all the best pop music. Lose yourself in this one while you can. (Simon Heavisides)
Interview by Riccardo Cavrioli (Indie For Bunnies, Italy):
- Hi Estella! Thanks so much for being up for this interview! How are you?
Stella: Of course Riccardo! Not too bad… not too bad…
- Few days left till Nah album is out: can you describe us your current feelings?
Stella: Well, It’s not really like I am jumping around here tbh, the album has been finished since January and we were about to release it ourselves. Then Shelflife suddenly “proposed” which was the best, but it had to fit their schedule and then Corona happened…..so yes, it would be nice to get it out! hahaha….
- In your activity as a blogger you have listened to and judged many bands. Doesn’t it seem strange to you, this time, that you will be “judged” for your work?
Stella: Actually, it makes it easier, and I don’t take it that personally if someone doesn’t dig it…or whatever. I totally get it! As a blogger you have to be ruthless in making choices, otherwise it would be crazy. It’s a labour of love as it should be.
- Can we say that your record is a real ray of sunshine in this year 2020 which, on the other hand, has been very difficult? How did you live these challenging months?
Stella: Thank you so much! Yeah I guess Seb and I like making happy stuff. There’s enough bad stuff out there, so no need to go over it again! Music is not my catharsis in that sense, I don’t really like sad or angry songs. I want to forget about the world when I listen to music. In regards to Covid: I didn’t mind having a break at the start of it all, but right now it is starting to feel like the world is losing its magic. The magic of being spontaneous, free, going to see bands, taking trips without masks etc.
- Your musical adventure with Sebastian began in 2017, with a first EP. Did you ever think that two years later you’d come to release a record with the legendary Shelflife?
Stella: Noooo, but I don’t really think like that anyway. I am way to much of a DIY person.We had contact with a few labels about the album, but decided that we were better off doing it ourselves. The Shelflife offer was incredibly flattering, but at the same time I almost felt guilty. Like, you know, “how in the hell can we live up to all the others on that roster?! What if we don’t sell enough etc…” I always half expect Ed to regret it or something….haha
- How does the process of creating and writing songs between you and Sebastian work?
Stella: Ah, mostly it’s Seb that comes up with the music, and it depends on how clear he is on what it should be like. Usually, I help out with melodies, harmonies, words, themes and edits. I am pretty much a perfectionist. Not like some people, but at least more than Seb, who is easily happy. I can get really worked up over details…haha… With some songs like for instance “Finger On The Map”, he has nearly done everything already, and I just add backings. But with a song like “Everything” or “Torn” I had this clear vision in my head of exactly what I wanted with it. Amazingly, it even worked out! Of course, I could never do this without Sebastian’s multi-instrumental skills and his intuitive sense of things.
- The 60s and 80s, the emotions of labels like Sarah Records or Siesta Records. In your opinion, is this a record that we could really call “for nostalgics”?
Stella: I can see why you would think that, but I don’t think it’s a conscious decision. We just make what we like I guess, and also what we were influenced by in the past. Siesta certainly was a huge source of inspiration for me.
- Would you get angry if I told you that the freshness and irresistible melody of “Finger On The Map” reminded me of Britpop and some super melodic songs from that period?
Stella: ooh extremely angry… nah… I get it. I think Seb always tries to sneak some Teenage Fanclub in… haha… not my thing, he knows that.
- It’s nice to see how many friends and musicians you have involved in the creation of this record. Was it difficult to find all these collaborations?
Stella: Not at all, as almost all of them are friends. Both of us connect easily to people. Not sure where Seb found the trumpet player for “Primavera” to be honest… mm…
- Every time I listen to the record, my favourite song always changes. Lately I’ve been obsessed with “Tumbledown Weekend” because it reminds me of Brighter. Do you have a favourite song? What about Sebastian?
Stella: “Tumbledown Weekend” is a cover of a “They Go Boom!!” song that we did for a Sunday Records comp with TGB covers. I instantly picked “Tumbledown Weekend” as a choice, because I thought “that’s us”! Sebastian swiftly turned it into this beautiful thing that probably surpasses the original (which is fab, don’t get me wrong), I recorded it, and it was done in a week or so. I absolutely love the result, also because my daughter Nina sings on it. Sebastian and I both also love Annie, a song about his little girl. We revamped the old version for the album. But I also still adore “Road Trip“: that was amongst the first songs we did, and we felt so exhilarated with the whole thing! We made songs really, really fast… and people were liking them!
- Do you have an example from the record of something popping up that you weren’t expecting? I personally didn’t expect that noisy super guitar in the finale of “Summers Failing”, I love that guitar!!!
Stella: Yep I know exactly what you mean! That was the part that drew me over the line when Seb first asked me if I wanted to have a go on a song of his in 2017. It made me happy! I had that feeling about nearly all songs we did. It’s a good sign that, I think.
- Those who know you well also know about your passion for Adorable. I love your cover of “Vendetta”. You have made sweet and welcoming a song that, in the original, is very gritty. Why did you choose “Vendetta”?
Stella: I didn’t ! Seb did! I wanted to do “Everything’s Fine” or “Feed Me”, but it’s not just a question for me to say, “Hey play this!” Seb chose what he thought he could render well and also liked.
- Last question. Thanks again for your kindness. Can you give us 2 pieces of advice? Two bands that you’ve been listening to a lot during this period and giving advice to our readers…
Stella: Two? that’s hard! That’d be Men I Trust and King Krule… but but but…Willow and Mac Miller... and Emmett Kai and Melody’s Echo Chamber and The Hepburns and and…There’s so much good stuff out there. Keep your eyes open for Sapphire and Steel, I heard they’re good 😉