NYIKO's Coming of Age Film: "Like The Movies" and "Keeping Me Alive"
NYIKO is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, label owner, visual artist, and actor based out of Los Angeles, California. They have released synth-pop, new wave, post-punk, and hip-hop projects with Disney, Amazon, Sony/ATV, Heard Well, Trailing Twelve, and more.
Back in August 2019, NYIKO dropped their collaborative EP with The White Electric. The 6-track Crush boasted early singles like the online-dating anthem “9x16” and the late-night slow jam “Go To Bed.” Today, NYIKO is back with two new singles, “Like The Movies” and “Keeping Me Alive.”
NYIKO is clearly a dedicated songwriter and producer who has been making music since middle school. They have a wide range of influences including: Coolio, A Tribe Called Quest, Tegan and Sara, The Postal Service, Ben Folds, and The Smiths. We caught up with NYIKO over zoom to talk about Like The Movies and the inspiration behind this coming of age film. Check out an excerpt from our interview below and listen to the full interview on our podcast PopRocks Interviews.
PopRocks: I want to talk about your 2019 collab EP Crush with The White Electric. How did that collaboration come about?
NYIKO: The White Electric, aka Daniel O’Rourke, is one of my longtime childhood friends. We were really close when we were younger and drifted apart in college and after. He was in a few bands with friends of mine and then got into production. He was making these new disco future-house types of beats and posting them on his Instagram. There was one in particular that he posted that I DMed him about and I told him it was awesome and asked what he was planning on doing with it. He said, “Hey, I was actually wondering if you’d wanna sing on it. I kind of made it with you in mind.” He sent me the beat, I wrote the melodies and vocals for it, and it ended up being what is now In The Middle. That song ended up being signed to a publishing deal with Heard Well and Sony/ATV. We were like... I think we have something here that we should explore more. We decided to do a bunch more songs with him essentially producing, sending it over email, with me writing vocal and melody and restructuring it, and him polishing it off. Very similar to The Postal Service! That was one of the first times that I have released anything in the past ten years that wasn’t produced by me, so that was a cool challenge and a fun collaboration.
PopRocks: The song 9x16 seemed to do really well! Can you tell me about it?
NYIKO: Dan sent the track over one Sunday morning, I was making breakfast and I just started singing “Yeah, I’m looking at you / Do you see me? / 9x16.” Then, I just sang the rest of the verse and I just went to my room and wrote the rest of the song that day. The chorus instrumentation was a lot busier at the time, so my vocal and the synth line was competing. I sent it over to The White Electric and he made that hooky synth line. When he sent it back, I was like, this is done. Most of the track was 85% done within those first few days.
PopRocks: I want to talk about your brand new song, Like The Movies. I love this song! It’s different from Crush! What are some of the sonic influences for it?
NYIKO: First of all, thank you for liking the song! I really appreciate it. It’s super different from Crush and pretty different than some of the earlier stuff that I released that I produced. I would say the most direct influences genre-wise is British post-punk from the late 70’s and 80’s. Just the drums alone are treated like a big room 80’s sound. There’s some new wave with the synth work. In terms of direct band influences, ever since I started listening to The Cure and The Smiths in college I have never stopped. I was also listening to Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing as well, more current bands. What I noticed in those bands is that the drums are all program drums, even if they sound live. All of the demos sound like that from this batch of songs.
PopRocks: I read that you had about thirty demos or so. Was it hard for you to narrow down what kind of sound you wanted for this project since you have so many influences?
NYIKO: Yes, it was hard, but fortunately I had help. There’s a point when you’re working on a set of songs for so long that you kind of lose sight of what’s good and what’s not, or what’s cohesive. I am lucky enough to have a great network of collaborators that I feel safe to share stuff with and get critical helpful feedback from. One of those people is Tyler Hurley, who helped with some of the production. I sent this and some of those demos, and this was the standout track. He was like, you have to move forward with this one.
PopRocks: So this song is what changed the course for what’s coming?
NYIKO: It set the stage for what the sonic expectation is for the demos that I chose to move forward with.
PopRocks: Can you explain what Like The Movies is about?
NYIKO: At the time of writing this song, I recently got out of a short-term relationship, just a few months, but still long enough to care for someone and create memories. It just wasn’t really working, as relationships do. It was probably a month after that had ended and I was reflecting on what was missing from that and what I’m looking for. I realized that so much of my expectations in a relationship and the type of person I look for have been influenced by the movies or shows I watched growing up or even the music I listen to. I realized that a lot of those movies and shows set unrealistic expectations. Any movie has this Hollywood veneer that is put over it and it’s condensed and consolidated and refined to just highlights and lowlights, but it never shows the minutiae of it all. I wanted to write a song that was essentially a song to myself, but as the listener you can hear it as a song to you. The idea is that the verses are cinematic moments or scenes, and the chorus is asking, you want love like the movies, but will you still be happy in the relationship you have even if it doesn’t mimic what you’ve seen growing up in all of these movies or TV shows?
PopRocks: What can we expect to hear in the future from you?
NYIKO: So if you like Like The Movies, that’s good, because there are many more coming in that similar sound. There is an album on the way. I don’t want to tell you any more details yet but there will be an album!
PopRocks: I also saw that you are a founder of Defydentity, can you tell me a little bit more about that? I thought that was really cool.
NYIKO: Thank you!! Defydentity is essentially a combination of the words defiance and identity. It’s really about standing for how eclectic and beautiful all different identities are. The way that we made that a physical thing is that we made a two night event where we had 18 artists from all different types of art forms: dance, music, comedy, spoken word, that all came together to represent themselves and their artforms. We raised funds for Planned Parenthood and Alexandria House which is a local LA-based shelter for homeless womxn. It was a beautiful experience, and in the digital sense it’s a space where people can be themselves and feel safe and welcome to express themselves truly, fully, and genuinely. It’s been on a hiatus just with everything else, but it’s something I feel passionate about. Hopefully when we are able to do live stuff again, we can do another one!
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