Nilüfer Yanya is West Londoner in her early twenties who’s wise beyond her years. She attended school at Pimlico (with noted Jessie Ware collaborator Dave Okumu acting as her guitar teacher), meeting classmates that are now her bandmates with whom she travels the world with, performing her unique blend of Amy Winehouse-esque jazzy soul-infused pop tunes.
Her new EP, titled Do You Like Pain is her third, following her 2016 debut Small Crimes & 2017’s Plant Feed. While Nilüfer Yanya has yet to release her debut album, she’s already played critic fav festivals such as Pitchfork Fest and FORM. Indeed, one should believe the hype of this on the rise act who’s been touring with Fleet Foxes, so we caught up with Yanya before their Toronto date at the Sony Center where she was opening this past July. Check out Nilüfer Yanya’s music + Our photos and interview with her below…
Sidewalk Hustle: You’ve been doing this for a while. People are highly anticipating your debut album. You’ve been around the block but you’re still new. What have you soaked in & learned to tour with a big band like Fleet Foxes?
Nilüfer Yanya: Their shows, the production is huge and everything but there’s still a lot of hard work that they put into it. It doesn’t really matter how far you’ve made it…you’re still like, grafting the whole time.*laughs* Which is nice. It’s kind of comforting to know that they might be at this “big step” but we’re all kind of at the same place, at the same feels. But it’s kind of weird at the same time, seeing someone playing their massive 2-hour show and then they’re coming outside and they’ve just got a towel on their head doing a decompress.
And you’re just like, same.
You’ve been working with your music video collaborator/sister’s nonprofit Artists in Transit for a while now.
October 2016, so it’s like 2 and a half years.
Do you find that your nonprofit work and your work as an artist intersect?
I want to keep them separate things. I don’t want to ever like …I don’t want it to make me look like a “better person” or like feed into that whole you know…I’m doing it for a different reason, but it’s good that people want to talk about it when I do interviews because ultimately it just shines light to the cause.
How has your approach between making your past EPs and your debut album differed? Or do you find it’s the same?
It’s the same thing, cause I was writing before I made the EPs anyway. I was making music before I released it. But now it’s kind of changed a bit – having deadlines and it becoming your job, whereas before I was just writing whenever I wanted. Now it’s making something more conscious which makes it harder to do. And you want to still be yourself.
In the past, you’ve said that you’re inspired by “the inequality in the justice system” – what sort of themes are really driving you now?
I’d say I’m trying to be more confrontational with the things I come across whereas before I was a bit more “it could mean this, it could mean that” – whereas now I’m like, “this song is more about this and this song is more about that.” Yeah… being more expressive.
Do you find that is translating sonically as well?
Yeah definitely some of the music is becoming louder and bigger, and some it’s becoming smaller.
Finding different spaces in your different voices. You’ve also said that in the past you’ve written as characters. Are you still in character or writing more as the character of yourself?
Well, I had like a realization the other day. I’ve always found it interesting to wonder what it’s like being someone else, so I think the evolution of that comes out in my writing. It’s not like I’m writing a book about “them”, it’s more just wondering what it would be like…like trying on different shoes – kind of like that.
How do you stay Vogue level cute while you’re massively busy & on tour? Thanks! I don’t feel cute on the road, you feel like a potato. I work with my friend as my stylist as well so she can get me cool stuff to borrow. But most of it is vintage second hand…It’s hard cause, you just think “I should just wear what I normally wear” but it’s kind of important in a way, what you’re wearing. But you don’t want it to be important. I don’t want it to be the most important thing.
What’s else has been influencing your fashion taste lately, aside from your stylist?
Films, TV shows. A lot of TV shows that we used to watch from when we were younger, like Mary-Kate and Ashley and um what’s that show – Hilary Duff? Lizzie McGuire! Big inspo! Nostalgic. It keeps coming back… all the playful things that you couldn’t wear when you were younger.
We must mention your sweet merch! Pens! Shoelaces! Pins! We love! Who did you collaborate with to make these more unique pieces?
I designed it myself. I took things from the artwork that we’d already done for the EPs and tied everything together.
Yeah, I liked the idea of lyric shoelaces. I thought that was cool and I’ve seen so many badges so that looked cute.
Lastly! Any advice?
Advice about anything for anyone.
Do You Like Pain is out now on ATO Records.