Super World Interview Time: Lisa Elstad of Nikki Oniyome

SWIT featured Nikki Oniyome’s new EP “Mizu/Sui 水”  not so long. I said

I’ve listened many times to the four excellent electro-acoustic folktronic tracks and some impressions occur – installation pop, minimal, intelligent, cooly emotional, thoughtful, surprising, playful, unexpected, delightful. Each song is a different take on water music, from the cinematic “Drown”, the sombre and poetic “Eddy”, the intoxicatingly upbeat Dance and the hypnotic and slightly sinister “Swim”.

It’s worth re-stating as it’s a really beautiful record.  Nikki Oniyome is the love child of Lisa E. who has been working with SWIT’s favourite producer Jørgen Skjulstad (aka Center of the Universe). The EP is released on Metronomicon Audio and we were delighted when Lisa answered some questions for us recently.

As you know, we love “ Sui/ Mizu” – are you happy with the reception for the record so far?

 Absolutely! We got some fine reviews of people who really seem to «get» music and had a really delightful release party the other day, so I am quite pleased.

 When did your musical journey begin?

 My personal musical journey began when I saw Stevie Wonder playing «I just called to say I love you» on Sky TV as a kid, and I decided that I wanted to do music. But in reality, it started for real, when I discovered that, there is something else out there or at least a different type of music than I was surrounded by at the time as a teen.

 How did you end up working with Jørgen?

 The story really started 15 years ago, when Jørgen and I met in a backyard party. Jørgen was already making his experimental, Japanese Casio computer game-style music in his still on-going project, Center of The Universe. I immediately fell in love with his music, and went to all of his concerts and bought all of his CDs, tapes and what not. Over a few years, I built up the courage to ask him to do something with a demo of mine. Which he did – and it ended up to be some really crazy stuff – and then we never spoke of it again.

Until a new years eve 2014 when he and his girlfriend asked me over at a party. He suggested I would use his studio to record some singer-songwriter demos. And voilá: He couldn’t keep his midi-fingers off it, and started to put all kinds of crazy layers of synth and drums on the singer-songwriter tunes. And thus, a new band was born.

 What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?

 I think it must have been «To Bring You My Love» by PJ Harvey. For me, it was amazing to discover that something so immediately unappealing – the grotesque way she described herself with no intention to appear normal or beautiful – was extremely appealing. I loved the layers of the lyrics and the way she played with darkness and made extreme feelings into something beautiful.

What is your favourite song that you’ve written and why?

 I really enjoy the way Drown turned out in cooperation with Jørgen. I love the way we tease and let impatient listeners wait, especially the ones that would prefer us getting to the «point» or the «hook» earlier. I also particularly love the a bit too loud bass drum that probably scares some listeners away.

We have gotten some feedback that some find this song too monotonous – or the didn’t like the bass drum – but those are the exact features I love the most!

 What artist(s) has been your biggest influence and in what way?

 I haven’t been listening for these artists for quite some time, but many people mention Beth Gibbons, Björk, and PJ Harvey when they hear me singing or in the compositions. I guess it must be because I listened to these artists a lot in what could have been formative years. It was also a time where we didn’t have the same kind of access to music as we have today. If you bought a CD, that is what you were listening to, over and over again.

 Can you tell us more about the Japanese influence on the new EP?

The Japanese influence is primarily a fascination and interest for the musical scene, literature and culture, which is both quite similar and at the same time different from our own culture, the Scandinavian. They are both keen on technocratic solutions to societal problems and have a liking for experimental culture and subcultures. There are although some differences that puzzled me.  In Scandinavia females pursuing careers, and at the same time as having an ordinary family life, has for several decades been taken for granted. Just as in Iceland this is encouraged by the government and the societal systems. In Japan, work life is renowned for being harsh for both males and female, so having a family life at the same time seems like a very tough choice. A woman pursuing a career after childbirth is therefore frowned upon, and these women are often termed ‘oniyome’, ‘devil brides’ or ‘demon brides. This fact surprised me since I thought our cultures would be more similar on this point.

The devil brides have been parodied in the popular sitcom, called 鬼嫁日記  (Oniyome Nikki).  We applied the name because we at the time (2014-2017) were working on a March 8 trilogy treating domestic violence (the single Her Heart Belongs To Daddy is part of the trilogy that ended up just becoming two singles). We like to play with words and identities, and interchanging the words in Oniyome Nikki made it sound like a female name – Nikki Oniyome. That is our connection to Japan.

 What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?

 Oh, that is a hard choice because there are so many good songs, and mainly I am just happy that they are there so that we can listen to them.

But as an example, I really enjoy the play with references in PJ Harvey’s «Yuri G.» I love how she informally sings of a «Yuri G» as if it was the nickname of someone she knows who has an access she doesn’t have to the person she is singing of (Luna). It also leaves one wondering who this Your G is. Is it  Yuri Gellar, the guy who supposedly could bend spoons and the power of telepathy/telekinesis? Or is it most probably Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut, since she is directing her desperate longings towards Luna, the moon. I love how everything is just subtly implied, leaving a lot up to the imagination of the listener.

 What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you recently?

 Jørgen and I just took the Yanny/Laurel-test. Jørgen constantly hears Laurel, while I constantly hear Yanny. Wonder how that affects our music creations when we literally are hearing different frequencies!

What’s exciting you on the local/Norwegian music scene?

 There is just so much! The underground scene has just blown up the recent years, with so many excellent artists. Of course, I can’t help being biased here, but I find that Metronomicon Audio always releases new and interesting music, totally uncompromising.

 What’s the best phrase you’ve picked up in another language?

 Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (broken heart syndrome) which literally means to die of a broken heart. It describes a syndrome with acute heart failure caused by emotional stress,  the death of a loved one, a break-up, or rejection from a partner. Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, allegedly died of this syndrome after her daughter passed away. That is how much we people mean to each other!

What’s your idea of success?

 Living the life I am living right now feels like what Diesel jeans would call successful living. I’m happy.

 Which of these activities are you most likely to be found doing: (a) making a soufflé, (b) tinkering with a motorbike, (c) doing the ironing, (d) putting up shelves?

 Oh my gosh, not any of those. I am a totally unpractical human being!

What question would you like to be asked that you never are and what would your answer be?

 I think you asked me several of the questions I always ask myself when I interview myself in the bathroom mirror. So the answers are right here in this interview!

 Does the path of excess lead to the palace of wisdom?

 Haha, I love that question! I do love maximalism and I do love minimalism. When Jørgen and I make music we put on our green hats and use every idea all at once on the same track. Then we move through the process of peeling off element by element and kill our darlings. So I guess the answer is: Yes.

 Finally, we ask people to do a picture/sketch/ drawing for us for our gallery–

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