New Zealand’s thrilling indie pop darling Isla Noon has released her sparkling new single Talk About Us, an infectious, layered track about trying to reach a partner who has closed themselves off, out now. The exciting new artist has also released a visually stunning video to accompany the song, directed by NZ music industry legend Mareea Vegas (bass player for Veruca Salt and Tim Finn, behind the lens for Shapeshifter, Julia Deans (Fur Patrol), Anna Coddington). Talk About Us is the second single from Isla Noon, following her breath taking debut Summer In August, released last year.
Talk About Us is the result of a wonderfully vast array of influences – Isla Noon credits her Dad’s love of 60s/70s folk songwriters, her Mum’s passion for the pop and disco of the 70s and 80s, as well as modern icons Robyn, Troye Sivan and MUNA for the brilliant cocktail of inspiration sparking the new single. This is a thrilling follow up single from this newcomer, and if it’s any indication of what’s to come, pop enthusiasts around the globe should be keeping a very close eye on Isla Noon. Isla tells Hi Fi Way more about the single.
How has the build-up been leading up to the release of your single Talk About Us?
I knew Talk About Us would come as a bit of a surprise after my more dreamy debut single Summer In August, and I was really excited to showcase a different side of Isla Noon, to broaden the outlook on what people can expect from me as an artist. Filming the music video for this track was such a unique experience in that we shot it in one room, in the same studio where producer / engineer Maude Minnie Morris and I had finished the track. I was fortunate enough to work with music industry legend Mareea Vegas who directed the video, so not telling people about it in the lead up to the release was pretty difficult! I was so pumped to share it and feel a sense of peace now that it’s finally out.
Was the process of making your single as challenging as you thought?
In some ways yes, but in most ways, not at all! I started writing the song at home and went into one of those mysterious creative flow states where your ‘creator’ and ‘listener’ selves are well aligned and being kind to one another, allowing me to create fairly freely without judgement. It’s rare but it happens! And it’s almost a skill you have to practice. I brought the majority of the song into the studio to work with Maude, where we made a start on the production. We just had fun with it, putting in whatever we wanted, getting really excited about it and putting it down for a bit when we needed a break. We were fortunate to not be under any pressure time-wise, so it was born from a really relaxed, joyous creative place.
Sonically, how would you describe your music?
I love sinking into expansive texture in my music, but also love the challenge of fence-posting it with a degree of pop sensibility to give it structure. It’s sparkly, yet deeply grounded in emotion and I try to present that as truthfully as I can. Everything I put into the track sonically has to align to the overall emotional intent. The production is often larger than life, airy synthesizers and stadium-sized snare drums, allowing catchy melodies to weave in and out as the vocal sits at the fore with personal, gritty lyrics.
Who would you consider to be the biggest influence on your music and why?
This is tricky as I take inspiration from all over the place! There’s one artist that I can really pinpoint having an “a-ha” moment with, that propelled me forward in my music journey. When I was around 13, I came across Taylor Swift’s Fearless. I had been writing songs and learning to play guitar for a few years at that point. I also had some pretty wild curly hair like Taylor’s at the time which in the late 00’s was the opposite of the cool, sleek straight hair that was in fashion. Something about the way she was taking her own teenage experience seriously enough to write about it and confidently broadcast it was both inspiring and aspirational to a young me. The music itself was initially very influential as I took song writing cues from that album and those that followed it, but predominantly it was the confidence in her own song writing and radical honesty that resonated with me as a young songwriter. She lit the way for many young female songwriters, and is continuing to do so today with the discussions she is sparking around ownership of music in the industry.
Best piece of advice you have been given?
I always wanted to go to University, but at age 17 I had a bit of a crisis of self-doubt, thinking maybe all my school career counsellors were right in saying I would “never make money” if I pursued music. I was pushed heavily into exploring other options, and I was a pretty academic kid so it seemed natural to go in another direction, but I knew deep down all I wanted to do was be a musician. I remember sitting with my Dad one night, opening up to him about my confusion and thinking maybe I should take a different path when it came to study. It sounds cheesy now but at the time, hearing this piece of advice from my Dad was exactly what I needed to be reminded of. He held his hand to his chest and said “you go with your heart, and that’s how you know”. So simple, but it allowed me to make the choice I knew I wanted to make, which was to apply to study music at the University of Auckland. I ended up completing my Bachelor Degree in Music in 2016, and am so thankful to my Dad for that moment.
How did you get into music?
I’ve always had an interest in music, ever since I was a child. I enjoyed writing little songs as a kid, and soon enough started learning to play guitar, but it was only after auditioning for a school musical at age 11 that someone told me I could sing. Until that point I had enjoyed singing on my own, but hadn’t sung much in front of others and hadn’t yet considered whether I was “good” at it. Doing that musical opened up the door to thinking of myself as someone that could be a songwriter that played and sung her own music. I think of that as quite a pivotal time in my music journey, and the beginning of taking myself seriously in my pursuit of a career in music. 11 year old me meant business!
What’s the music scene like in NZ?
The music scene in NZ is booming at the moment! With more and more people taking the DIY approach, making music has become so much more accessible and it feels like there are artists and producers popping up all over. The result is an industry with an increasingly diverse and innovative array of acts, which feels healthy and inspiring to be a part of. We have a fairly unique, tight-knit scene here that allows for a lot of collaboration with only a few degrees of separation between most of us. It’s small but mighty, and the talent coming out of NZ is unreal.
Are you looking to tour more broadly and come over to Australia?
Absolutely! That’s the goal. For now I’ll continue to connect online as much as I can, and when we’ve got the all-clear to put on some gigs in the future then I’ll be there! I’ve been so overwhelmed by the amount of love and support I’ve had from Australia on the two songs I currently have out, and I get the sense we could have some seriously fun live shows over there. I’d also love to tour more broadly, eventually making my way to the US and Europe! That’s the dream right there.
What’s next for Isla Noon?
I’ve got a few things up my sleeve before the year rounds out, so make sure to follow my social media (@isla.noon on Instagram, islanoonmusic on Facebook) to keep up to date with any new releases! My band and I are currently preparing the live set, and I can’t wait to get out and play this music. In many ways it’s designed for a live setting, so I’m really looking forward to bringing that side of it to life. Otherwise I’m always writing, so will definitely be in and out of the studio creating as much as I can. The song writing is really my favourite part of being an artist, so I work hard to keep in touch with that as much as I possibly can. It’s pretty magical.
Interview By Rob Lyon