PAINLESS

Nilüfer Yanya

PAINLESS

In the context of Nilüfer Yanya’s second album, the word “painless” has a few different meanings. “I was enjoying the process of making the record, and thinking, ‘Why do you have to beat yourself up in order to make something?’” the London singer/guitarist tells Apple Music. “Obviously, you have to work hard, but often the idea of really struggling is something that people inflict on others, just because it's the idea they sell to them, like, ‘Oh, you need to go through this.’” Yanya felt that she hadn't given herself enough time and space to make her 2019 debut, Miss Universe—a record based loosely, and playfully, around the concept of self-help and wellness, and what happens when you get too in your head about things. So, in the thick of the pandemic, she eased into making PAINLESS, writing the songs more collaboratively—mostly with producer Will Archer—than she had been used to. “I kind of felt a bit like, ‘Am I cheating?’ Because you're sharing the work, it feels lighter,” she says. "But then because of that, I kind of delved in deeper and it got a bit darker.” (The album title actually comes from the “shameless” lyric “Until you fall, it's painless.”) Those depths can be felt both in Yanya's vocal dynamics and the sense of urgency that underpins much of the album, particularly on opener “the dealer” and “stabilise,” the first single. “I think the rhythm plays a big part in these songs,” Yanya says. “You feel like there needs to be an escape somewhere.” Here Yanya talks through PAINLESS, track by track. “the dealer” “It's like when someone's hiding behind their layers, or not being honest, but then also you're not being honest with yourself. My favorite lyric is 'I hope it's just the summertime you grew attached to,' because it's like you're lying to yourself. You’re not saying, 'Oh, it was this person that made the difference, or it was this person that I miss.' You're just saying, 'I had a great time,' and you're not being honest about why.” “L/R” “[Producer] Bullion played me this beat, and it had this pitched drum in it. It just made me feel really happy and warm. It had this kind of marching feeling to it, which I really liked. It took us like a year to finish it, but the initial idea came really quickly. I like the almost spoken element to it, because it sounds like you're speaking rather than singing, but then the chorus is very much singing—and it took a while to get that right. It's kind of about so many things. In my notebook at the time, I'd written, 'Do less things'—like, less is more. That was my thinking behind the song: trying to enjoy simple things and not overcomplicate things.” “shameless” “It's a really intimate song. I felt like it was about someone that's trying to run away from stuff in their life, but they kind of don't have much hope. The vocals are very celestial—not something I really experimented with in the past. At first, I was going to kind of speak the words, but it needed a lighter touch, like something even more delicate.” “stabilise” “That was the first one me and Will did together. All the others kind of grew off that song. It's about environments and the way they impact you, and not being able to escape your environment, taking it with you wherever you go. And it kind of becomes your cage or the way you view things. You know when you've been somewhere too long and then it's hard to imagine the world another way? Definitely a very lockdown song.” “chase me” “I really liked the line 'Through corridors your love will chase me,' because it was like the safe feeling you can get when you know you are loved, but you don't necessarily want it. It's almost like an ego song for me. It's very confident.” “midnight sun” “I was digging into more of an overall feeling and a mood. I feel like it's a song about confidence and finding your own voice in order to speak up, whether that's about your own feelings or bigger issues: ‘I can't keep my mouth shut this time. I can't keep my head down. I'm not going along with this anymore.’” “trouble” “That song is so sad—in a beautiful way, if I may say so. It also felt like quite a brave one for me because it's very different. When I was writing, I was like, 'Am I doing a straight-up pop song?' It's not. I think it definitely has that take on it. The vocals needed to be more intimate. Like one voice, and it just all keeps spilling out. It's quite challenging to sing. ‘Trouble’ is one of those words—I think I heard it in a Cat Stevens song—'Trouble, set me free'—and I really loved the way it was being referred to almost like a person. In the lyrics here, it's something that's quite persistent and it's not going away. Something's definitely broken that you can't fix.” “try” “This one is about getting better, and feeling the need to connect on a deeper level, finding new depths and making new connections, but becoming confused, tired, and dejected with the effort it takes.” “company” “It's about giving up and you're not in a happy place. Originally it started out as, like, you're in a relationship that you are just really not sure about and you're trying to give signs across that you're trying to get rid of someone. But I think the song now is definitely about your inner demons, and they're not really going away.” “belong with you” “I did this with Jazzi Bobbi, who's in my band. She does more electronic stuff, so that definitely comes into play. I feel like builds are always my favorite things in songs, and at the beginning we actually tried to overcomplicate the song and there was like a whole other section and it changed tempo and it just wasn't working. And I was like, 'We just need to keep building and that's it.' What it's about is like you're tied into something, but you know you're too good for it or you want to leave. I feel like these are all the songs, in a way. It’s like, escape—but you can't escape.” “the mystic” “It's about watching other people get on with their lives and feeling like you're being left behind. I spend a lot of time doing music, so that's where I put all my energy, and I was like, 'Oh, I thought we were all still doing that.' Other people have got other plans and you're like, 'Oh, you're a grown-up. You're going to move in with your boyfriend,' or, 'Oh, you can drive now.' The verse is really sad, because it's about watching that happen, and feeling very insecure and unconfident.” “anotherlife” “For me, this has a completely different energy. It's kind of like you're admitting you're lost now, but in a parallel universe or in the future, you won't always be lost. It's not always bad to be in that kind of lost, super-emotional, flung-out state. I find sometimes when something bad happens and you get really upset, it's kind of— I don't want to say cleansing, but you see things with this new kind of brilliance and clarity. And that's kind of a beautiful moment.”

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