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Coup De Main x NZ On Air | Nikolai

Coup De Main x NZ On Air | Nikolai

[Photo credit: Frances Carter Photography]

Ahead of playing Laneway Festival in January next year, Nikolai has got a busy time ahead - with new music on the horizon from the local talent whose voice is enchanting from the outset, reminiscent of The Internet's Syd Tha Kyd, but with its own special charm to it.

We’re also excited to be premiering their new video for ‘Chess’ - check it out below before you read our full interview - during which we chatted about the importance of non-binary artists, their songwriting process, and collaborations…

COUP DE MAIN: You were previously a musician under the name of Rayne, before becoming Nikolai - what led to the decision to change your name as an artist?
NIKOLAI: Rayne was just an extension of the name given to me at birth (Nakita-Rayne), so I just used it because I couldn't come up with anything else! I became Nikolai when a Russian girl I met who was really drunk kept getting my given name mixed up with Nikolai, and it really stuck. Rayne just wasn't who I was anymore, and it was so personal because it was so close to my given name, and just didn't fit who I am – which is Nikolai! Even though I haven't had my name legally changed yet.

CDM: What other acts are you excited to see on the Laneway line-up?
NIKOLAI: Definitely NAO. Also definitely excited for local acts Fazerdaze and k2k, I love those guys a lot.

CDM: For people who haven’t already seen you live, what can be expected from your live set?
NIKOLAI: I'm shorter than my pictures lol. And hopefully I'm looking really good on stage! But in all seriousness, I have an awesome awesome band filled with lots of amazing local talent.

[Photo credit: Frances Carter Photography]

CDM: I think it’s really rad that artists such as Shamir and Angel Haze are challenging binary and gender norms within the music industry - as a non-binary artist yourself, is it important for you to see these identities represented within this space?
NIKOLAI: Yes! Very important. Being comfortable with yourself is important. If you identify as a minority gender identity, it's very important for that to be comfortable, and not just within music. It's important for people to understand you within what you're doing musically, but it's also extremely important for it to be respected and understood within a wider community.

CDM: You’ve also collaborated with producers on songs like ‘Remind Me’ with K*T. How do those processes differ to your regular musical process?
NIKOLAI: 'Remind Me' is a funny story, because K*T came over to my house in the middle of the night with a microphone and midi keyboard and said, "Hey, record this!" She had so many ideas that we just had to get it done. With other producers I've never had them come to my house with the whole set-up! Not much is different with my regular musical process, I just definitely never have people turn up to my house with heaps of equipment, which is funny! And love her for doing so!

YOU WILL LIKE MY MUSIC, IF YOU LIKE... The Internet.

IF YOU ONLY LISTEN TO ONE OF MY SONGS, YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO... 'OK'.

WATCH THIS VIDEO, BECAUSE... I feel cute. I'm not wearing make-up lol.

MY TOP FIVE MUSICAL CRUSHES ARE... Nai Palm, Siobhan Leilani, Reem from Heavy, Erykah Badu, Sevdaliza.

YOU KNOW YOU'VE MADE IT WHEN... When your Nana actually likes your music and comes to your shows! Very tough critic there.

CDM: At what age did you develop an interest in music? When did that interest turn into music creation?
NIKOLAI: Very small. I grew up around a lot of American rap and UK garage, which my parents listened to, so I was into a lot of cool stuff when I was little. At a young age the first time I picked up a guitar at my grandparent's house, but it was out of tune and it only had four strings, and I desperately wanted it to sound like the theme song of 'Malcolm In The Middle'. Properly, I started making music when I was in high school and I used to sneak into the senior's producer's suite and sit with a midi keyboard and Logic Pro and muck around for a couple hours and wag class.

CDM: If you were to curate your own music festival, who would you want to play and what would the festival be called?
NIKOLAI: It would be called 'Please Respect My Space!', and The Roots, Willow Smith, A Libra Baby, Moses Sumney, and Ladi6 would play.

CDM: What's the most despicable thing you've ever done?
NIKOLAI: Depends, I've done some pretty bad stuff! One time I took my Mum's eftpos card which I was supposed to spend $20 on and then I ended up having it for a week and I spent like $150! :/ Still sorry, Mum, if you read this.

CDM: If you could pick any five people (living or dead) to be in your entourage, who would you choose?
NIKOLAI: I'd pick Sade, Santigold, Cardi B, Anderson.Paak, and Solange.

CDM: Who is your most famous fan?
NIKOLAI: Dave Dobbyn. I hope!!

[Photo credit: Frances Carter Photography]

CDM: Do you believe in magic?
NIKOLAI: Like kid's birthday clown magic? Nah I don't fuck with that shit.

CDM: What is your spirit animal?
NIKOLAI: I love cats, so hopefully that's my spirit animal.

CDM: How long could you go without talking?
NIKOLAI: I've done it with an ex, but completely not talking... probably an hour or two haha.

CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
NIKOLAI: All of the stolen indigenous art-work from museums... stolen land... I could keep going!

CDM: What is the most heroic thing that you've ever done?
NIKOLAI: It's hard to define heroic... if you did something heroic and no-one saw it, is it still heroic? It's hard to know what heroic things are?!

CDM: Have you ever written a love letter?
NIKOLAI: Yes, and it was to the worst person ever. I wrote my first love letter to a girl who laughed in my face when she read it and said I was weird lol.

CDM: What is your first proper memory, ever?
NIKOLAI: The floor of my grandparent's house and my aunty when she stood on a kitten and we had a funeral for it...

CDM: If you were a country, what would be your national anthem?
NIKOLAI: 'International Player's Anthem' - UGK and Outkast.

CDM: Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? If so, tell us about it.
NIKOLAI: Yeah all the time! Sometimes I'll picture myself as a celebrity or some random person and can look down at my hands and body and stuff and they'll be theirs.

CDM: Stretch your right arm out as far as you can reach, what can you touch?
NIKOLAI: Cat litter. Ew.

For more Nikolai, check out:
facebook.com/nikolailovesyou
soundcloud.com/nikolailovesyou

Listen to 'Remind Me' below…

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