It was not long after Nilüfer Yanya uploaded a few demos to SoundCloud that her guitar-driven bedroom pop caught the attention of London indie label Blue Flowers, where she went on to release three EPs. Yanya’s dreamy lyrics, jazzy vocals and soulful melodies struck a chord with audiences and critics alike, earning her a spot in the BBC Sound of 2018 longlist and supporting slots for the likes of The xx, Interpol and Fleet Foxes. With her debut album ‘Miss Universe’ in the pipeline and an upcoming Istanbul gig in March, we caught up with Yanya during her North American tour to chat about playing the big stages and life on the road.
You’re coming back to Istanbul to play in Babylon soon. Do you get a chance to spend time in the city while you’re here? Do you have a favourite place to hang?
Sadly this time I won’t because it’s part of a whole tour. But when I do go, I just like to hang by the Bosphorus and drink çay. And spend time with my family of course.
Your father is Turkish and you’ve mentioned he used to play Turkish classical music around house while you were growing up. How are you versed in music from around here?
I’m not very well versed, but I’m hoping that will change with a little time.
You’re currently on tour in North America. How is life on the road? Does traveling inspire you musically?
It’s interesting being on tour because in order to enjoy it, you have to be very present all the time and make the best out of everything. I find it hard to be creative musically, but my mind does get to do a lot of thinking and reflecting. So far it’s going pretty well – although we have just arrived in Toronto amidst a snowstorm.
How do you find playing a big festival stage compares to an intimate gig? Do you prefer one over the other?
I definitely prefer smaller intimate gigs in venues but if they’re too small, that can be equally unnerving because they’re too intimate. Then if they’re too big, I feel like I lose perception of what I’m doing. It also depends on the crowd and the event and the kind of mood I’m in.
‘I’m trying to push my music in different areas of sound’
The new single ‘In Your Head’ from your upcoming debut album ‘Miss Universe’ hints at a punkier sound. Is this a direction your music is evolving towards?
Yeah a little bit! But I think I’m trying to push my music in different areas of sound in general. So hopefully it evolves to include a variety of sounds.
Were most of the songs in ‘Miss Universe’ written for the album or do you also have older, unreleased stuff in there?
There is one song that is really old! I wrote ‘Monsters Under The Bed’ when I was 14 or 15. I never ever once thought it would be on any album. But the rest were written for the album.
Your music videos are consistently great and the latest one for ‘In Your Head’ is no exception. What inspired its Americana vibe?
Thanks! I think it was the songs themselves, they have that American vibe. Also it was just really fun to shoot a video in the US, especially in LA and Vegas because they both have that element of fantasy and escape, which was the vibe we needed for the videos. You couldn’t get that in London.
Are there any songs you’re listening to on repeat these days?
Not really no. That’s bad isn’t it?
Catch Nilüfer Yanya at Babylon on March 28. Her 17-track debut album ‘Miss Universe’ is out on March 22 in collaboration with ATO Records/PIAS and GRGDN Music.