Sunday, 16 June 2019

The Nika Leeflang Project "The Night Call"

I first became aware of Nika Leeflang when I saw her singing with The Limiñanas at their superb show at London's legendary 100 Club earlier this year. I was inspired to find out more about the band's influences and history which led me on a voyage of discovery into the vibrant music scene of the band's Perpignan hometown. I found out about the pre-Limiñanas bands such as Beach Bitches and Les Bellas and then I checked out the work of the other various band members which would lead me onto Crank, Hair & The Iotas, The Toxic Farmers and then Nika's own music too. I caught up with Nika and asked how she got to know and work with The Limiñanas. "They called me up when they needed a new singer for their promotional tour when they were searching for a label to sign them. I always used to accompany artists on tour and a fellow called Raph Dumas, who was working with Renaud Papillon Paravel, gave them my phone number. I was happy to travel so much and to live the ‘musician’s dream’ - that is to play big stages in many places and to meet people and sweat on stage." I think most people in the U.K. would, like me, have first discovered Nika's own music through her association with The Limiñanas and I was intrigued to find out more about her own background. "My family was based in the Netherlands and my father and mother, thinking they couldn’t have children, began to travel around the Mediterranean coast. One day, they were in the South of France and that’s where I was born so they decided to stay at that place, the place where I still live, Clermont L’Herault. My life is made of many kilometres of travel, but I like my birthplace."

Nika with The Limiñanas at The 100 Club - Photo Retro Man Blog
I asked if music had always been in Nika's blood from an early age. "I remember dancing in my parents room to "One Love" by Bob Marley when I was just five or six years old. I remember some French songs by Jacques Dutronc and also Ray Charles who gave me intense happiness as a child. Then when I was around eleven or twelve I was a big fan of Michael Jackson and James Brown, who taught me how to shake my body to Pop rhythms everywhere and all the time. I made my mom crazy because of the noises on the floor from dancing!" But luckily it seemed as though her parents didn't discourage this interest in music. "When I was a child, my parents took me to local events where I was always dancing and watching the musicians, very close to the stage. I was a little one, but already in love with musicians, and still musicians are people that really impress me. Every story is so different, it’s endless, and for me musicians are like bibles, very precious, enriching and stimulating". So I wondered when did this love of music move Nika enough to start writing her own songs. "My mom was an English teacher in a bilingual school, and for a year, she took me with her, so we had these one hour journeys from home to school and back again. As I was eight years old, these travels seemed so boring that I started to write down my poems, my little stories and then one day, a song. So, I continued that way, to write down my impressions of life, of my feelings and emotions and then the day I held a guitar for the first time, I was already so inspired and naturally started to sing and play the guitar." I asked if there was a particular band or artist that had inspired her. "A few years later, I sat alone in a comfortable chair, listening to the album "Is This Desire" by PJ Harvey and I remember I said to myself, "I wanna be like that girl!" I’m a big big fan of PJ Harvey’s music and career as an artist, she is unstoppable and always amazed me with her classy voice, always changing and evolving and just the way she is and the way she represents herself."

Nika's latest song "The Night Call" is very textured and atmopheric, almost cinematic in it's feel and I could imagine her easily moving into movie soundtrack music. I wondered if was this something that she would consider in the future. "I am actually a very emotional person, and if I get the space I’m very imaginative and creative and my way of inventing my world is just as it seems to have enough rhythm. I really like independent movies, Directors such as Quentin Dupieux and others like David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch. I often discover weird films on French TV channels such as Arte or 5 but generally I still have a lot to discover and rare are the films that don’t bore me. I need action, drama, tears or fun but it has also to be fast-moving or just be weird. I’m also a real lover of short films, court métrages and I like humorous actors." I asked if Nika had any preference between working in the studio or performing live? "I adore recording at my studio, which I share with my guy, we are always exchanging ideas, guitar riffs and stuff. I always take these moments as kind of magic because I can create when I feel like it and not when I have to. But my favorite place is on stage".

I was interested to find out about her songwriting process too. "I always note my thoughts and my little stories since a very long time ago. Sometimes I take my guitar and there it goes, an indescribable flow of automatisms and I let it go, it’s kind of liberating! I used to write for friends and help them to get their experiences into words. I adore giving strength to others. My friend Souflette, a poet, very dear to my heart (M. Rico) wrote me a song years ago called "Horses" which was released on my second E.P. "7 songs". We played some shows together when I was touring my solo set, and we alternated songs and poetry. It was a super cool tour." Nika is currently working on a new LP and I wondered what should we expect? "As my personality is like a kind of chameleon, I will perform and sing up and down, French and English, Pop and Shoe-gazing, Grunge and Glitter! I won’t dare to give just one shade of me, because I waited for too long with my ‘being shy thing’ you know, thinking too much but doing nothing. I think the 8-trax release will be a part of me and then the L.P. will be another part of me. I’m currently looking for partners and labels for promoting and distribution, because although I can do a lot just not as far to have enough contacts to play in Japan, in the U.K. or around Europe. But well, I think every musician is looking for that. As soon as possible I’ll share on Soundcloud, Bandcamp or YouTube and hopefully vinyl and CD will follow".

With sincere thanks to Nika. There's a feature on The Limiñanas stunning show at The 100 Club with photos and videos in the Retro Man Blog archive here. You can find out more about The Nika Leeflang Project at her web-site here or at the official Facebook page here. Then, we also play a great track from the "Hey! Right" EP in the latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast which you can listen to/download below or subscribe at iTunes.

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