In conversation with Wafia

Whether you first heard her voice from elegant renditions of already existing songs, or through the metallic sounds of her debut EP XXIX, Brisbane artist Wafia has no doubt been on everybody’s radar at one point or another over the past two years.

Ahead of her new joint EP titled (m)edian, the time had arrived for Wafia to travel over to join us at London’s Village Underground for a sold out show with music partner Ta-ku.

In the midst of their very first joint European tour, we sit in the lobby of a fancy Shoreditch hotel to chat everything from touring to music making with the lady herself.

This is your first time visiting London… Does it live up to the hype?

Everything makes me feel like I’m in Harry Potter World, like I’m in one of the movies all the time. Or if I see one of those Royal Mail post boxes they make me feel like I’m in Postman Pat, two very good things!

What’s the first thing you done upon arrival?

Slept! We had just driven 24 hours from Poland through 6 countries.

When artists perform for the first time in a new country it’s usually in front of a room full of press, whereas you’ve just gone “fuck it” and opted for the near 1,000 capacity crowds right away… Do nerves kick in when you start to think about how many people are watching you?

I think I get more nervous in front of showcases where it’s just press and stuff like that; I don’t enjoy playing to just press because they’re all there being quite critical. I’ve ruled out showcases completely, I’d rather be playing to people who either know my music or are more acceptable towards listening to it for the first time, and playing with Ta-ku allows me to do these kinds of shows.

You’re here to play Village Underground with Ta-Ku, tell us all about your new single with him…

Meet in the Middle; we wrote it a couple of months ago and it was the second song we wrote, we actually wrote the songs in the order they’ll be appearing on the (m)edian EP. We both knew we wanted to write something that related to our families that are similar but also different, the song was just about finding middle ground and communicating to someone how you feel. Though the songs are about our families I write in a way where I like to keep things open ended and so does Ta-ku, so even though Meet in the Middle could sound like some seductive love song from our perspective it’s not that and I think that it’s cool to have your own little interpretation to your songs and have other people make of them what they will. Once you put something out in the world you can’t control how people take it.

How did the (m)edian EP come about? Was it something natural or did you both sit down saying, “We’re going to make this EP and it’s going to be excellent”?

The build-up of it happened quite naturally, back when we went to the U.S. around September/October Reggie brought it up, he’s like “Do you wanna do an EP?” and I was like “Yeah I would!” but then we both got busy and life happened and I was going through a lot of family stuff about the same time he was. It wasn’t until afterwards that we reconnected on it, he said “We’re doing all this touring, let’s actually do this EP now” and it was at such a perfect time because this is what I wanted the EP to be about. We actually had a bunch of other songs we had written in New York but once we were in the studio we realised all we wanted to write about was our families in that moment. The process happened quite naturally, even the songs. We wrote them in just under a week, every day a new song and I never thought I’d be able to work that quickly. We were just so inspired.

You’ve worked with Ta-ku on numerous projects before; the American Girl cover being a more recent example, we have a feeling this EP won’t be the last?

I don’t think so, I think once you find someone you have really great musical chemistry with they’re worth latching onto, because the more you do in this industry and the more people you meet you find that that’s incredibly rare and I’m very fortunate to have found someone like Reggie so early on in my career where we’re totally in sync and on the same page. We both really respect each other’s musicality, so I don’t plan on letting him go anytime soon.

We’ve heard a few covers from yourself, but if you could have any artist cover one of your songs who would it be and what song of yours would you choose?

Oh my god, I’ve never thought about this! I would really like to see Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords cover Heartburn and just turn it into an advert type song for some sort of heartburn medication, like a parody, that’s the cover I want to see!

Talk to us about Kylie Jenner, the ultimate promo lady for Heartburn. Has she ever reached out?

She hasn’t! She just plays my songs on her Snapchat. I’ve become friends with a few of her friends since she’s played my music, I haven’t met them in person but they’ve reached out and spoken to me.

Some say it’s not cool to ‘fangirl’, have you ever been guilty of doing so?

YES. I used to fangirl so hard over the Jonas Brothers. I think I called myself, and this is so bad for my credibility: ‘Mrs. Nick Jonas’.

You come from the Aussie music scene, where everyone pretty much knows each other… Could you recommend us one local artist you think has the potential to hit the big time?

Ben Abraham, I co-write a lot of songs with him; he co-wrote Heartburn as well as a song on the upcoming EP with Ta-ku and he’s possibly my favourite songwriter in the world and I made that decision before I even met him. I really see a big future for him, he makes cinematic folk type music but writes incredible pop songs and people don’t know it yet and I’m so excited for the world to start realising.

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Album releases this year, who are you anticipating the most?

Nao, don’t have to think about it twice. Nao’s album I’m the most excited for, also Frank Ocean but I don’t believe that guy… I have so many trust issues because of him.

Touring involves a fuck load of travelling, what’s the average day like on the tour bus?

Depends on the day, most of the time I literally just stay in my cocoon of a bed and FaceTime my friends back home cause I miss them. This tour particularly has been so many boys on the bus and I’m the only girl, they’re all so comfortable getting undressed and changed in front of each other. Playing the shows is fun but with travelling after the second or third day the novelty begins to ware off. I miss home but I’m so much more excited about all the people I’m gonna meet on this trip.

The European tour is almost at a close, how different have the countries you’ve visited been compared to Australia?

For a country that says it’s multi-cultural, I don’t think Australia is as multi-cultural as other places and you realise that when you step out. My favourite country on this tour has probably been the Netherlands, everything seems to line up there; the food, the people, the environment and it’s just so clean, I like a good clean city. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I’m born there but it felt familiar to me compared to all the other cities. I also really enjoyed Poland I was quite surprised by it, the people there were so lovely and we had such a wonderful crowd.

What can someone who’s never experienced a Wafia live show before expect to see?

Well currently I’m working on whole new live visuals and they work in real time so the landscapes that are being used are all created by putting the music through different programs to create the landscapes. The person that I’m making it with is my band mate Hans and we’re creating them in a gaming platform, which is not usually where you might create live visuals, but it’s what he’s best at. It’s different forms of copper that go from an electron shell to eventually zooming out into different stages. We have copper blood cells invading veins and stuff like that, but the reason why we also created it in this gaming platform is because we could essentially put it into a virtual reality headset so you could literally walk through my visuals as the music plays and that’s something I’d really like to do in the future. I think virtual reality is something so incredible and I’ve been so fortunate to be surrounded by people that are so into that world, so I’m really excited about the possibility of bringing that stuff into what I do.

What does the rest of 2016 have in store for Wafia?

Well there’s the (m)edian EP that’s coming out and we’re touring Asia and the U.S., we just announced the U.S. tour and I’m really excited about that. I’m working on my own stuff just sort of figuring out where I want the songs to go, I just want to do it right, I mean the last EP took me two years. With this Ta-ku EP I didn’t have much time to sit with it, I feel like it all happened so quickly so I need to be sure of the music and make my decisions in my time so we’ll see… I feel like the songs are there for the next record and I already got the next concept figured out, it’s just a matter of time.

If we were to see you again in exactly a year’s time, what would you have liked to achieve?

So July next year… I’d really like to have my second EP out and working towards releasing my album, then just touring a bunch and working on more visuals, I’ve been really engrossed in that world of technology.

And to round it up, how would you describe your music in three words?

I couldn’t even tell you how to explain my music in an unlimited amount of words, so to even simplify it down to three is impossible!

Gives you heartburn.

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Ta-ku & Wafia’s (m)edian EP is out on August 5th.

Words by Jordan White