From Her Bedroom to the World: In conversation with Ninajirachi
It’s Ninajirachi’s world, and we’re all just living in it. Following her meteoric rise as a Central Coast high schooler releasing ‘Pure Luck’ in 2017, Nina’s delivered release after release not only flexing her production excellence but forging an immersive, innovative sonic experience. Her latest release, ‘Blumiere’, on NLV Records, isn’t just another notch on her belt — it’s an affirmation of an artist excelling at the forefront of our underground dance scene. Genre defiant, ‘Blumiere’ flips between Ninajirachi’s trademark idiosyncratic club beats, with expansive yet intricate melodic construction, and intimate cuts solidified with the producer’s own vocals.
In conversation, there’s a real feeling that Nina is much like the music she creates: thoughtful, self-assured, and not afraid to do things differently, not just when it comes to producing, but also interpreting her own work and inspirations. Not only this, but she’s got a socially conscious head on her shoulders, donating her ‘Blumiere’ launch day proceeds to a number of Aboriginal legal services across the country. It’s this maturity that holds Nina and her work in good stead as she builds upon an already exciting and forward thinking discography with ‘Blumiere’.
The titular track had been a work in progress since 2018, with Nina describing it as a “puzzle”, and rightly so – ‘Blumiere’ builds from warm, twinkling lyricism through to a hefty synthetic, staccato-like stomper. It’s this juxtaposition that entices you and binds the EP together: uplifting yet driven, purposeful yet whimsical.
“I knew that when I finished it [the puzzle] would be really pretty, but it was a really hard one to solve – I just had to figure out where all the parts went.” It’s this tenacity that allows for Ninajirachi releases to have such precise energy and concepts behind them, alongside Nina’s dedication to only making music that she likes and is proud of.
When asked about including her own vocals on a release for the first time, Nina credits undertaking vocal training for helping her ‘get over’ herself and her own voice.
“The first five or so years that I was producing it was just me doing it on my own – but I started working with people actually in the studio in 2018, so I did some vocal training so I could know their terminology, and know how to direct them. Doing that vocal training I realised it’s not that deep, this is just like a sport and I just have to train these muscles. The other part of it was just getting over myself.”
You’d be forgiven for assuming that Nina’s inclusion of her own vocals helped her be more emotionally open in her work – case in point being the EP’s second track ‘Alight’, where dense percussion allows for Nina’s vocals to float, the clever lyricism leaning into emotive, pop-centric territory. Instead, she thinks the two steps forward in her musical vision unfolding happened independently of each other.
“I had a few songs that I’d done before ‘Alight’ where the lyrics weren’t personal at all, or if they were, they were really abstract and metaphorical versions of something happening in my life. I was really ready to put that music out, and I was already at a stage where I didn’t mind singing on a track. In the past when I was writing top lines, the words just sounded good phonetically and went with the melody really well. It wasn’t so much about what the song was about. ‘Alight’ was a different thing altogether.”
Also don’t expect to be crying to ‘Alight’ at the club at Ninajirachi’s next gig (whenever that may be).
“If I’m at a festival or at the club I’m not there to have an emotional breakdown – I’m there to party! I just like all different music for all different settings. That’s why there’s some club music on my EP and more ‘sitting down and listening’ music – but for ‘Alight’, I’m working on a DJ version that I can play, ‘cause I feel like if I play it how it is at the moment, in my sets, the energy wouldn’t be right. It could be a bit too like, cryin’ in the club type thing, and we don’t want that!
“For this particular EP, these are the songs I’ve got finished that I’m really proud of. Initially I had a list of eight or nine tracks. I would just show Nina [Las Vegas] and show my friends and other collaborators and ask them which they thought sounded the strongest and which ones they liked the most. I liked them all – I didn’t know which ones of these should be on here, but nine [songs] is an album! I’m not ready to do that! Eventually I cut it down to the ones a lot of people seemed to like and the ones I liked as well. I also wanted to make sure that there was variety on there as well, so there were no two songs on there that were too similar.”
Nina’s meticulous attention to detail extends beyond her musical prowess to the visual environments she envisions for each song. Previously described as ‘dance music made in an ice cave’, we now get to lay eyes on arguably what would be Ninajirachi’s home on the ‘Blumiere’ EP art – a fantasy palace fit for crystalline, spacious, precision-made music.
“Weirdly, I didn’t really think about this art until after the music was done. Usually I know, and I already knew what each song looked like individually when I was working on it. I like the idea that that’s my palace, I’d definitely chill up in there, that would be sick! I was working with the artist, Adam, who created it, and I basically had a mood board for every song and then I just needed to make it into one. We ended up basing it off this picture of a castle from Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus, which was the big inspiration, crossed with a Gilbert Williams painting of some rivers. Sometimes it’s more like I see stuff that already exists and I’m like, that song is there. I’ll see a cover of a fantasy novel – there was this one particular book cover for the last song on the EP, ‘Tethered to the Body’, where I was like that’s that song! It was The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Ardern. There’s this girl standing in front of a phoenix, and I thought it was so beautiful.”
When asked whether her music acts as a form of escapism, Nina’s response seemed fitting considering her time working as a musician from a very young age – blending their name with a rare Pokemon and producing captivating, textural songs that defy expectation or convention.
“It’s not like I’m trying to escape where I’m at, ‘cause I really like where I am and what I’m doing. I love novelty and exciting stuff and fantasy. I’ve always, from a very young age, been obsessed with game and movie franchises and TV shows, things that you can really immerse yourself in. I think maybe music is the same thing in a way – I want it to be a world.”
“Ninajirachi is just the name that I use to release music so I don’t have to use my boring birth name! I don’t feel like it’s my brand or that I have to look a particular way, or that my music has to sound similar. When I was younger I thought it all had to sound consistent, but then I just thought, ‘Ahh fuck it!’ I’ll just make whatever I like and that way if people like it, that’s awesome, but if they don’t, what can you do?! I think that’s why I don’t get bored of it. I don’t feel like I have to make the same thing all the time.”
For someone whose work has never quite fit neatly into generic expectations, Nina’s reluctance to write off genre in her view of what artistry means is a bold approach in a time where more and more musicians are choosing to do so.
“Genres are still a little bit important for categorisation, they’re good reference points and I think they’re still cool descriptive ways to describe and reference music. I think part of it is that my favourite artist ever is Porter Robinson, and he’s been through so many phases of his career under the same name where he’s gone from super EDM-bro-electro house guy to like, anime, and nerdy worlds in the complete other direction. Now he’s being a pop guy and singing on his tracks, and using more live drums and things like that. I think because he’s always been the artist I look up to and the artist where I’ve been like ‘I want to be like him one day’, I’ve never felt like I had to stick to one thing ‘cause he never has, and he’s who I’ve been watching.”
The Porter Robinson influence traverses throughout ‘Blumiere’, from the digitised EDM-experimentalism on ‘Rainbow Train’ (a collaborative effort with Norwegian producer Coucheron), ‘Cut The Rope’’s anthemic glitch-pop blend, and the electric guitar line running through the closer, ‘Tethered to the Body’. Soaring amongst frenetic, rubbery synths, you get the impression that this is Ninajirachi teasing the possibilities of her sonic capabilities, on a direct trajectory to meet her role models at the top.
Despite 2020 feeling slightly anti-climactic in light of COVID-19 halting all plans, including a run of shows and EP launch, Ninajirachi conversely expressed how it has felt “like it’s almost a return to my roots, in a way!”
“I remember hearing someone say when it all first kicked in, hopefully there’s still a place for pure dance music that’s made for the dance floor, and at first I was like, ‘Yeah true, hopefully!’. But then I thought about it and I was way into dance music when I was like, thirteen. I’d never even been near a club and I didn’t know anything about DJing and reading a room and any of that shit. I just loved dance music! It’s the same thing – I’m listening to the same music I was DJing but at home, and it’s still just as fun and the music is just as good. I think I’m really lucky being a producer. I don’t have to rely on being with anyone else to make music, so it hasn’t impacted me that much in terms of what I can create. I just use a laptop, really – I mean recently I’ve started using a microphone as well, but if I’ve got a computer I’m generally pretty sweet. Obviously there’s downsides – I miss my friends, I miss living in Sydney, and I miss playing shows so much. But in terms of making music I feel like it’s been very peaceful.”
“What I’ve been making hasn’t really changed. Maybe I was a bit more focused on making club music at the very start of the year because I knew that I had a lot of shows coming up and I was playing a lot of shows, so I was very much in that headspace. But it’s not like because of the pandemic and I haven’t been to shows that I’ve stopped caring about dance music and stopped making it. It’s still very much in my ears all the time!”
In light of this positive take, isolation “definitely hasn’t been that helpful” to Nina’s collaborative efforts, where in the past it has helped much of her output and artistic identity.
“I don’t really like collaborating online and on Zoom. I’ve definitely worked on music for other people but it’s been more where I work on the session and email it back to them. It’s not so much like we’re on a call when we’re working. I find it so hard and stressful! I feel like unless I’m in a room with someone, it just doesn’t suit me. I’ve only had one friend who I’ve been able to see semi-regularly and we’ve made a few tracks over the last couple of months. I almost feel like my collaborating knife is going a bit blunt! When everything’s open and I’m working with people regularly again I’m going to have to up those skills a little bit more because I’ve been working by myself so much.”
“I definitely want to do (and I have a few of these in the works) new collaborative projects under different names. I have a couple of things – I don’t know if any of them will see the light of day – where me and a friend have worked on more than a few songs together, so maybe we should do this as a little EP and put it out under a different name, ‘cause it does sound really cohesive and a bit different to what both of us normally do.”
Having celebrated her online EP release with Club Immaterial, Ninajirachi is acutely aware of the challenges presented to working DJ’s with the rise of online clubbing.
“It definitely puts the pressure on to make my sets more unique. When you’re playing in the club, you can afford to make the odd mistake and you can afford to play a similar set within the same month or so, but online I’ve had to work harder because I’m worried that I don’t want to play the same set every time! If I was playing shows over a couple of months in person, you could sort of get away with that a little more, and especially if they’re in different cities so different people are hearing it. When it’s online, it’s generally the same audience, so it’s like ‘oh okay, I need to dig for more music and find new blends and make new edits’ – and especially because everyone’s playing online as well – I feel like I’ve had to work harder, which is good! It means I can’t be lazy – not that I think I’m lazy!”
I don’t think anyone would be caught dead thinking Ninajirachi was lazy. Instead, her commitment to being honest with herself and her audience, and continually releasing forward thinking music sets her aside from her peers – solidifying her creative vision whether she’s conscious of it or not. ‘Blumiere’ is a manifestation of this, a thrilling timestamp for an artist who not only has already achieved so much, but has so much more to give.
‘Blumiere’ is available to stream and buy here.
Interview by JESSICA NEGUS
Photo by Tiff Williams