Nico Turner is ‘LIGHTER’ than ever

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Nico Turner is already a well-known face in the experimental music scene of Los Angeles, the multi-instrumentalist first gained recognition in the underground side with her band VOICEsVOICEs. She has since played with acts such as Brightblack Morning Light, Prefuse 73, Vincent Gallo, Austra, and, most recently, Cat Power.


Nico’s solo debut album, Forever, is a powerful and atmospheric collection of songs. With her haunting vocals and ethereal soundscapes, Nico stands out among a new generation of singer-songwriters, such as Feist, Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten, and Phoebe Bridgers. Forever is a bold and ambitious album that showcases Nico’s unique talent. She has a knack for creating atmosphere and tension in her songs, and her lyrics are often personal and introspective.


Nico’s latest offering is titled “LIGHTER”, a powerful and evocative exploration of the emotional pain of a failed relationship. Her raw and honest lyrics perfectly capture the complex emotions of heartbreak, from the initial shock and disbelief to the gradual acceptance of loss. The song’s atmospheric soundscape, which is grounded in driving drums and a steady bassline, creates a visceral and unforgettable listening experience that stands somewhere between agony and even excitement.


“LIGHTER is the sound your heart makes while moving through a relationship that’s wrong for all the right reasons. It’s the sudden wave of breaking that hits when you realize the connection you once had with someone is severed. It’s the slow but surprising build of a reckoning.”

Awesome Song, Nico! It’s complex and feels rather personal. Please tell us a bit about the writing process.


Thank you! This song was really the beginning of a new chapter in my song-writing journey. I used to lock myself in a room for a few hours and just make sounds and sing melodies or words and see what stuck or made sense. For LIGHTER, it was personal and complex. I had just woken up a few hours the morning after breaking up with someone. I could hear the melody and words floating around in my mind and couldn’t sleep. So I sat up in bed and wrote the lyrics in maybe 5-7 minutes and then whisper-sang them into my phone (so as not to wake up my roommates in our tiny Brooklyn apartment). I wish all songs were that immediate! From emotion to melody and lyrics. 


The same thing happened when I went into the studio to demo it out with my long time friend and collaborator, Kenneth Storz. He had just gotten these two tiny Korg synths and was excited to use them. He plugged them in and just let me play around with them. I created the bass line and drum beat pretty immediately and then we just kept building and building. When I took it to The Market (in Echo Park) to do the final recording, I had already spent a bit of time with the demo! I had attempted recording it with other producers (including Tony Shanahan from Patti Smith’s band) but it never quite panned out exactly right. The “It all happens for a reason” ethos I sing about in the song really applies here because by the time I recorded this version, I had had a lot of space to understand how to describe how I wanted the song to sound. Plus The

Market studio didn’t even exist yet when I wrote the song! Pete and Kyle really understood the vision and they’re also excellent musicians. We talked a bit about how I wanted it to sound. I described Jon Brion as one of my favorite drummers, and that I had actually briefly spoken to him before the pandemic about working on this. I am a drummer first and I always have these complex drum beats in my head. They brought in this excellent drummer, Eric Downs, and Eric just knew exactly how to mimic and riff on the drum pattern I had created, and added so much energy and life to the recording. I didn’t have to explain much to them to get the desired result. 


Just to wrap up this kismet scenario, on the final day of recording, the aforementioned person that I had broken up with, who inspired the song to begin with, and who lives on the other side of the country, just happened to be at the coffee shop across the street from the Studio. When we stopped by to pick up some coffee before recording that day, there she was! It really felt like a full circle moment.  

The sound is incredibly intense, yet it doesn’t go all melodramatic, this is something of a commonality in a lot of your work, but it feels more refined here. How do you ride this line so well? Is this kind of tension what you’re striving for?

Thank you again! What a compliment! I think life is full of dualities. I know I am definitely full of dualities (Gemini here). I don’t think I strive for the tension in my music, but that it just sort of exists and I hone in on it in a way that feels meaningful to me. Everything is all at once beautiful and ugly and strange and ordinary. I think the thing that I strive for is mostly to speak to the connection in all these things. In this song, there’s a lot of upside / downside happening. I’m saying “yeah, we broke up, but maybe it all happens for a reason.” I sing “I was born, then I died” two things exist in the same space and it does create this tension that feels right to the emotion I’m trying to convey – like I am sad, but I am also hopeful. Life is intense and I think I’m trying to hone in on the beautiful parts minus all the melodrama, because we all have enough of that anyway. 

The word “Experimental” comes up often next to your name, but what does “experimental music” mean to you?

Experimental music can mean a lot of things, I think! What it means to me is that there is no formula. A lot of my earlier work was based on the idea of creating music in front of people with no plan, letting the natural chemistry between musicians craft and shape the sounds. Similar to what we did in RRIICCEE (Vincent Gallo’s band), wherein we created “spontaneous compositions.” I always look to musicians who seem to be experimenting in ways that are new to them, or who create in a new way every time they set out to record or make new things. I feel like PJ Harvey does this, or Cat Power, or Feist in a way. Patti Smith created a whole genre by doing this! I think it’s really about not limiting one’s expression. I feel like I’m experimenting with life most of the time. 

Now in In your solo songwriting phase, how would you define the work you’re producing at the moment? What do you feel you want to get across the most with your songs?

These songs were an exercise in moving away from what I was comfortable with. The easy route would be only producing long, soundscape-y, drone-based music, with far-off barely audible vocals (which I adore). I decidedly wanted to write songs that had distinguishable parts, a story and a vision, because it felt like a challenge and also like what I needed to do to express myself. I had an intention of being more direct and clear with the emotion. 

In this sense, it feels experimental – like I’m an experimental singer-songwriter. I think that I take this same boundless sense of discovery with me into my solo work. I don’t sit down and think “I’m going to write a song” because I might be disappointed – I just try to play and see what comes and what feels close to the emotion I am trying to convey. The message is always there’s no box, there’s no door or ceiling that you cannot move past. If it is genuine, I think that will come across.

Is there any music you’ve been listening to lately that you feel has influenced what and how you’re working on right now? If so, how does that influence manifest?

When I wrote this song I was listening to Feist’s Pleasure and Haim’s Something to tell you which was decidedly more pop than I typically listen to. I really think those two records meshed together in my brain. Then there was an entire year when I only listened to Sharon Van Etten’s Jupiter 4 and Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors. Those four really got into my Psyche and swirled around a bit. They’re all really incredible song writers. Oh, and Billie Eilish, what can I even say? She makes the music I had always hoped would be popular when I was a kid listening to Portishead, Bjork, Aaliyah, Fiona Apple etc. I just feel like she’s a natural progression of all that. Then of course, I’m never not listening to Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, and Jeff Buckley, and my dear friends, Rituals of Mine.

I definitely feel like the influence manifests in my drum patterns and lifts in the songs, or parts of my songs that feel emotional but not sappy. All of the above musicians really do that well. 

Your career spans over a decade, so you not only know a lot, but you’ve also ‘tasted’ what works for you and an audience. That said, do you feel at all anxious about your solo debut? Does it feel “new” again somehow?

The only anxiety I have is that perhaps the audience is different now. I wonder if there’s space for truly introspective and hopeful work. It feels like there’s a lot of anxiety in the music industry in general, as though if you’re not over-the-top somehow with close to a million followers, your music isn’t relevant. I still haven’t wrapped my head around that – around how people consume music currently. So in that sense, it does all feel new. It is new! I often wonder if anyone will even hear my solo debut. Will it make enough of a splash in the deluge for anyone to notice? Maybe – maybe not. I think the thing I keep trying to focus on is that I’m so proud of this work and it is exactly how I wanted it to sound. It’s genuine and I think that comes through. 

What’s Nico Turner up to when not working on music?

When I am not making music, I paint. I went to school for painting and photography so I’m not taking photos or thinking about how I’d paint something. I also throw a queer dance party in L.A. called Gay Astrology. I co-host the party with a friend who I actually met through a former bandmate and ex-gf 15 years ago (and in true lesbian-fashion, we have that same ex-gf in common). 

What’s on the Horizon for Nico Turner?

I have a few more songs to release soon, so keep an ear out for those. I’m going back into the studio in a few months at The Market to record more music. Hopefully more shows, a tour, more fun and more connectedness with people! 





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