Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Nisa

Artwork for ‘Guilt Trip.’ Photo courtesy of Terrorbird Media.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Described as “an eclectic mix of songs rooted in emotional detachment and reticence,” Albanian New York-based indie pop/rock artist Nisa recently dropped her debut EP ‘Guilt Trip.’

The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with the musician – who has already been compared to the likes of Julien Baker and Jay Som – about ‘Guilt Trip’ and more.

Music Bugle – How would you describe New York to someone who has never been there before?

Nisa – There’s this atmosphere that I would liken to a defective egg timer, where you can’t really explain why, but you’re always in a hurry and still constantly running late. It’s practically impossible to find a private space once you step outside of your apartment and this forces you to feel a part of some collective experience, forming an unspoken camaraderie with total strangers. I would also have to admit that it’s true what they say about New Yorkers minding their own business, but don’t consider it rude – no eye contact on the subway is just a given. Bias would have me withhold that it’s home and the best place in the world.

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?

Nisa – Probably the fact that it feels little pressure to be defined. Right now, I’m most attracted to the ideas surrounding genre rigidity and fluidity, which is to say that each of my projects so far have been less about any singular characterization of sound than the overarching vision or story that’s being told. I’m also fascinated by the things that happen circumstantially, such as the accidental discoveries you can make if you try to approach something with little to no preparation, at least once.

Music Bugle – What was it like making your debut EP ‘Guilt Trip’?

Nisa – With this EP, we had a really wide array of references to pull from and it felt like everything came together really quickly. We tracked a lot of it at Studio G in Brooklyn, which was my first time in a recording studio that wasn’t my bedroom or a friend’s space, so it was also a really exciting way to see the songs take shape. I wanted to capture some of the raw energy and fun associated with surf rock, new wave power-pop and also just a more “live” feel. So much of our work came in concentrated bursts on longer summer days. Production was handled by Ronnie Di Simone of Torna, who is an actual wizard, but also a wonderful visionary, who played a large part in shaping the overall arc of the record.

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?

Nisa – Mica Levi, Yves Tumor and Bjork have been playing a lot recently for an electronic-oriented project I’m working on. I’m obsessed with Frou Frou again and am always listening to Radiohead. The new Indigo Sparke record has also been on loop.

Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?

Nisa – Off of ‘Guilt Trip,’ the toughest track to write was probably “Common Denominator” because it was so specific and biting, that I considered withholding it. The EP is a mixture of autobiography and thought experiments, but this one was a conversation with someone that was never vocalized, so it was harder because I had to commit to a transparency and frankness that the others were less dependent upon. 

Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Nisa – I just graduated college recently, but the last year has been a really weird transition period where my last few semesters as an undergraduate have felt like a gradual decline rather than a build toward some ceremonial exit. Apart from that, I’ve been able to write a lot and spend more time outdoors, just vibing. I also launched my artist project in July of 2020, so for now, I’m trying to redistribute the time I might’ve spent playing live toward writing and learning more about production.

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?

Nisa – This apt observation from Miss Alabama in 1994 – “I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were ever supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever.”

Music Bugle – What are your goals for 2021?

Nisa – Visit some National Parks, be more mindful, finish reading “One Hundred Years Of Solitude” and if it feels right, release the next project I’m working on. 

Music Bugle – Away from music, what’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

Nisa – I really love chess and I’m relieved that “The Queen’s Gambit” made it publicly cool again.

Music Bugle – If you had to pick your own theme song, what would it be?

Nisa – “Heaven” or “Las Vegas” by The Cocteau Twins. 

*Photo Credit – Sara Laufer*

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