Editors’ Notes Nick Hakim may be a formally trained musician—he attended Berklee College of Music—but his songs are the product of someone who finds comfort in a looser approach. Though he admits that balance is key, the multi-instrumentalist tends toward the unconstrained, preferring to let go and let be where others may be prone to overthinking and overanalyzing. “Despite how long I went [to Berklee], right when I left, I feel like I went back into this childlike state of thinking about music and relearning how to do a lot of stuff and picking up new interests within the process of making music,” he tells Apple Music. "I want to keep that kind of mentality. I have some of the language to communicate in a certain way and articulate some of the really technical things around theory, but I don't think like that unless I have to.”

Green Twins, his 2017 debut album, is maximalist in many ways and blows out his experimental inclinations. WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is comparatively scaled back in sound but even more freewheeling in structure. The arrangements unfurl, sometimes haphazardly, often forgoing traditional song setups in favor of a mood more akin to tinkering around or an impromptu jam session; this is, in effect, music for—and of—just figuring it out. Hakim's aim was to create without the boundaries of expectations or consumerism, and the sentiment spilled over into every facet of the process, including editing. “For the most part, if there's any live musicians or any live takes, it's 'If you played that, that's what stays on the record,'” he says. “There needs to be a kind of energy. There's so much stuff that's super polished in a way that's just like—it's okay to just be. It doesn't have to be perfect.”WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is a portrait of a person trying to navigate this life and what comes with it—from grief and self-destruction to love and redemption. “All these songs kind of represent a feeling, rather than them having like a literal definition behind them,” Hakim says. “And for me, my job is to just do my best to articulate that.” Below, he articulates the stories behind each song on his second album.

“Just musically, I think it's one of the best melodies that I've written. I just feel like the melody is really strong—the string melody and the verse melody and the vocal melody. That's a song that reflects a lot of the changes that we feel and see in Mother Earth and global warming. One of the lyrics is 'All the limbs in her are changing/Growing pains, the hope is fading/Can we bring her love back to health?/We've been guests here for a while.' It's kind of like a reflection of just like the Earth reacting to us, and it's pretty cinematic and kind of has a lot of different layers.”

“There's probably like 30 vocal tracks on that song, and there's groups of personalities that I did, and this was very intentional. There's one where I'm literally screaming at the top of my lungs, and then there's one where I kind of imitate Iggy Pop, and then there's just my natural kind of breathy voice, and then there's affected vocals where I'm running my voice through tape and I'm just fucking with the tape reel and it sounds all bubbly. There's all these weird layers of vocals and a lot of dynamics with the personalities of the characters that are singing on that song. The chorus is pretty stripped back, and then the second verse is very clean. There's all this weaving of characters, and it's all kind of manic because it's about a system that overmedicates their youth to control them.”

“That song is just about feeling uneasy and feeling restless, and it's really just a meditation. And Kyle Miles, he's been playing bass with me since like 2010—he's my go-to guy. Him and I just did a whole take to the drums with me on guitar and him on bass, and I didn't edit anything. I also recorded piano and organ at Richard Swift's house. I was with him like two months before he passed away. He gave me the keys to the studio and just let me record for a couple days by myself. I really miss him. We were becoming really close.”

“That track was a moment for me, I think, with the whole process of writing lyrics. It almost set a tone for me in a lot of ways when I wrote the record, because it’s just one lyric, ‘Let it out.’ I made the track really quickly, probably in 15 minutes, and there's not really any edit. It's like a loop of something, and then me playing keys on top of it, and then me singing it. I remember recording those vocals, and it was such a specific kind of energy—I could feel myself start to kind of tap in. It was like a certain kind of gluing moment for the whole project.”

“After I heard about [my friend] Qadir passing in February 2018, I became really affected by it and just started writing. I had pages in my notebook, and I was just writing like free thoughts about just about everything—about him, about his family, his mom, and how I wish that I could've been there for him a little more. He was really struggling with some hurdles and some mental health issues and stuff. So I started making music, and I had this music for a long time, and I went to the studio, and we recorded an 11-minute version of what you hear on the record except it's cut down a little bit. I think it's my proudest song I've ever written. Obviously it's a dedication to Qadir and to the family, to his mother, to his family, to his siblings and everybody that we grew up with that knew him. It's also about all the little details behind the mentality of having loved ones around you and you never know what people are going through. A lot of people wear these metaphorical masks and use masks as a metaphor for how to protect yourself or hide yourself in certain ways, and it's also about how this system, the society that we live in makes us believe in all of these false projections of what beauty is, what real love is. It's all these different things about how his passing made me feel and a reflection of a lot of different things.”

“It's literally like, let's get the fuck out of here and go somewhere away from here. Let's go down south—and when I say 'down south,' I'm talking about South America, because I really want to go back at some point and just spend time consistently and have a routine or an annual ritual of going down there and being with my family, but also just fantasizing about living down there, like in the countryside of Chile. My younger brother wrote that music. When I was 17, he was like my only writing partner; it was just him and I. It's kind of a more mature version of the shit we were doing.”

“‘DRUM THING’ is cool because, first of all, it's all improvised. I made the drums, and then I played piano, and so the track started with just drums, piano, and vocal. And then I got Kyle Miles to come play bass on it a little afterwards. Literally everything—the drums are a loop that I slammed through a tape machine, and it was distorting and sounded amazing. I wanted to make a drumbeat that sounded like it was a living organism. It also kinda ties into supporting my family, but the vocals are completely improvised. I did one take and it was the only take I ever did.”

“I wrote this song when it was hard for me to write in general, and it was around the same time that I was like piecing together songs like ‘QADIR’ and ‘WHOO’ or songs like ‘DRUM THING’ or ‘CRUMPY.’ Vincent Tyler is someone that we found in my godmother's alley—he was shot up, and it's a story about that day and the steps to finding his body. And you know what's really crazy is his younger brother sent me a message on Instagram and was like, 'Thank you so much.' He was like eight years old when it happened.”

“I love that song. It's like there's a sweetness to it and a lot of different energy in it. There's this kind of manic person—I mean, there's definitely me living in New York. It uses all these metaphors about the subway and the concrete. I wrote the song during a time when I was pretty vulnerable, because I was just reflecting on when I was almost evicted from the place I was living because I hadn't paid rent in like five or six months. I'd got into a bike accident where I lost my tooth, and I could barely move my shoulder for a long time. It was because I was working and also doing dumb shit on my bike. That's how I made money for a long time, like food delivery and all kinds of delivery services and shit.”

“It's cool that it comes after 'CRUMPY' because—I feel like ‘CRUMPY,’ ‘GODS DIRTY WORK,’ and ‘SEEING DOUBLE’ are all in position on the album. They're like a very specific kind of—same drummer, different bass player, but same band. I wrote those chords also around the same time that I was writing 'VINCENT TYLER,' and I was working on 'QADIR,' and I had all this music. It's also kind of lyrically an extension of 'CRUMPY' because it talks about a character that's riding their bike around in New York and working for a delivery service that goes into people's homes and gives them a substance that makes them laugh and eyes bleed.”

“It's simply just about kind of deconstructing yourself and trying to find self-love and doing that kind of tough work. But it's also a reflection of being easy on yourself and trying to forgive yourself in the process of doing that, and about how to love yourself and how to manage your mind. I guess, for me, it's really just about me. The 'seeing double' part is—I've controlled it a lot better, but I had some kind of bad tendencies with alcohol. I would always get to this point where I would see double. That moment in the song when I start saying that is kind of like the shit that I'm trying to work against.”

“It's kind of warm and leaves on a very kind of beautiful note. 'I stopped abusing myself around you, I started using myself around you'—you can interpret that however you want, but it's pretty straightforward in my opinion. It's somebody that just brings the best out of you and makes you feel good. I think it's hopeful, and it just felt right. A common theme here on this record is self-love and finding ways to deal with the strange, confusing world that can really test you, and I think this song is kind of a pledge of what I want to be with someone, or it could be even talking to yourself, you know?”


Music Videos

    Nick Hakim
    Nick Hakim

More by Nick Hakim

Featured On