Meet the alt-folk musical duo with a powerful message

BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGES BY POPPY MARRIOTT

Hailing from north London, Naz and Ella are taking the folk music scene by storm. Not only do they combine stunning harmonies that create a unique sound, they use their lyrics to sing about socio-political issues that are having an impact on people around the world. 

The duo channel their anger and frustration through tightly wound harmonies and intricate guitar riffs, showing that there’s power in vulnerability and we can’t wait to get a listen of their upcoming EP (DE)HUMANISE, expected in May. 

Get to know them a bit better with this brand new interview. 

DIVA: Nice to meet you both! How would you describe your sound for people who haven’t listened before?

Naz: We’re currently describing our sound as alternative folk, but some of the songs we’re releasing this year are more alternative than folk and vice versa. We’ve been really inspired by a lot of 90s bands, so our sound is The Cranberries meets Nirvana and a bit of Simon & Garfunkel. 

Ella: Our sound has evolved over time, but now I would say it’s a mixture of alternative rock, folk, and grunge. Think dreamy interweaving guitar parts and vocal harmonies. 

How did you both meet? 

Naz: I wish we had a really cool story behind how we met, but we met at school after our GCSE English teacher changed our seating plan. We knew of each other as we were in the same music class, but we’d never really spoken until then.

Ella: It was around 10 years ago now – Naz was starting a band and needed a guitarist. She knew I played and asked me if I wanted to join. And we’ve been making music together ever since!

Who are your musical inspirations?

Naz: I’m inspired by so many artists and styles of music, but at the moment I’m really inspired by The Cranberries, PJ Harvey, Kate Bush, Nadine Shah, The Raveonettes and Metric.

Ella: Mine are Marika Hackman, Skunk Anansie, The Cranberries, Nirvana, and Amy Winehouse.

What topics do you like to focus on in your songwriting? 

Ella: Most of our songs are sociopolitical and we’ve written on many different topics such as animal rights, environmental issues, homophobia, racism, and Brexit. Our upcoming EP focuses a lot on identity and humanity, especially around rejecting dehumanisation.

How do you find inspiration? 

Naz: Anywhere and everywhere! Sometimes an idea just comes to me and I have to quickly write it down before I forget or other times I could be reading or watching something and that’ll inspire me to write.

Ella: All sorts of places. Some lyrics come from a personal place, whereas others are inspired by things I’ve read, watched or something that is going on in the world that I feel angry about. 

What has motivated you to keep making music in the past year? 

Naz: Listening to music that makes me feel – it’s hard to explain. I’ve discovered so many cool artists over the past year or so – mostly post-punk and goth rock – and that’s really motivated me to push myself creatively. Our relationship as musicians has grown even stronger and I’m excited to see where we take things next, so that’s really kept me going.

Ella: Well, we both had songs we wanted to record but without access to a studio, we decided to create a home setup and record ourselves! This was a new thing for us but the aim of recording five tracks for an EP really motivated us to push ourselves and learn as much as possible. I think suddenly having more time to work on music was a real motivator. 

What message do you want people to take away from your music? 

Naz: Each song is about something different, so I think it depends, but when I think of some of the recurring themes, especially in our upcoming EP, I hope that people feel seen. Although a lot of our lyrics are self-explanatory, I also want people to interpret our music in their own way. If our music makes people feel something or if it makes them think, then that’s really cool.

Ella: There is no one particular message, but we certainly hope it makes people think about the topic/ issue at hand, as a lot of our songs are sociopolitical. 

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

Naz: I feel like this is a random choice, but Shake It Out by Florence + The Machine. As much as I love Florence, I’m not so keen on the song musically/melodically, but I absolutely love the lyrics and they describe feelings I haven’t previously been able to put into words.

Ella: Musically,Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush – what a perfect song. All the parts work so well together and the melody is so original. Lyrically, Dust In The Wind by Kansas is beautifully written.

What do you think of queer representation in music?

Naz: When I think about queer representation in music or in general I’m often looking out for queer POC representation. I like to think it’s getting better, but still, I can only think of a handful really well-known artists off the top of my head like Skin from Skunk Anansie, MNEK, Raveena and Lil Nas X.

Ella: Well, most of my favourite artists/bands are or feature queer women such as Skunk Anansie, Marika Hackman, and Japanese House. I’m not sure whether I consciously seek out queer artists or whether that’s by chance! We are also part of the DIY punk scene in London which has a lot of queer-centred events and collectives, so from where we’re standing it’s pretty good.  

Who is the first person you wanna see live after 21 June (fingers crossed)? 

We have tickets for Slam Dunk Festival mostly because we wanted to see Billy Talent who were and still are one of our favourite bands growing up. It was meant to be for last year but is now scheduled for September this year – fingers crossed! We also have tickets for My Chemical Romance, but we’re still waiting for that to be rescheduled as it’s currently supposed to be just before the 21st. Generally though, we can’t wait to go to gigs on the London DIY scene.

What’s the goal for 2021?

We’re releasing our five-track EP DE(HUMANISE) in May which is really exciting! We just released the first single and have another coming up this month. Hopefully a few gigs later on this year too – we’ve really missed performing live.

You can keep up to date with Naz & Ella over on their website.

Only reading DIVA online? You’re missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It’s pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.

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