The Central Coast, an hour north of Sydney, has always been a hotbed of talent. But it’s traditionally been talent that involves an acoustic guitar. White kids with dreadlocks, a lot of the time, too.
But there’s one twenty year old producer who’s flipping the script on what music from a sleepy Coastal region should sound like.
Ninajirachi was first thrust into your ears as a finalist in triple j’s Unearthed High in both 2016 and 2017, before her debut single Pure Luck, featuring her childhood mate Freya Staer, topped the Spotify Australian Viral 50, and was a high rotation hit on the j’s before Nina had even done her HSC.
She’s played every Australian festival you could expect, supported Mallrat, What So Not and a stack of others nationally, and signed to Nina Las Vegas’ trailblazing NLV Records where she still releases records now.
Blumiere – her second EP – is less of a concept, and more of a moment. It’s the best work Ninajirachi’s built in her recent past, and it goes from mellow production that finds Nina’s voice at the front for the first time, to Mario-ready chaos like Rainbow Train, a song built with the excellent Norwegian producer Coucheron.
To dive into it – Nic Kelly’s in bold, Nina’s in not-bold.
How does someone from the Cenny Coast end up making super forward-thinking, futuristic, club music?
Honestly, the internet. That’s it. If I wasn’t born in this time, I have no idea what I’d be interested in. Like, my only access to all of that stuff was the internet. I started making music when I was in early high school and I started loving all that music in early high school and I cannot even imagine living up here, even knowing that that existed, without the internet. I feel so lucky to be born in this era where I can find all this cool stuff. I didn’t even have any friends who made music or who liked the same music as me, this ‘internet club music,’ until I was playing shows and releasing music! It wasn’t until I actually started doing that stuff that I found people who liked the same things. I owe it all to the ‘net.
What do you think gravitated you towards this kind of music? The internet probably introduced you to it, but how do you end up down that rabbit hole, of finding the music that inspired you initially?
I don’t know! My parents were like, big ravers, in the 90s. They both love music so they were always playing it. I wasn’t into these these acts, but from early on, I got to hear a lot of The Prodigy and Jamiroquai and Daft Punk and all those kinds of artists that my parents like, so that was the first time I kind of heard dance music. The other thing growing up, is I was just so into pop, like electronic pop. My favourite artists growing up were Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. You know that era of like, 2010 dance-pop, with Kesha and all those types, that was my favourite music. I think then when I got to high school, and I started using YouTube – because I wasn’t really allowed to use YouTube when I was in primary school, my parents were super protective – I started finding all of this crazy electro-house music and I was just like, “WHAT?!” I think it was the novelty that really attracted me to it, because it was similar to what I had been listening to growing up, but it was also crazy new as well. It was like, another level of what I already liked.
From Ninajirachi: FOMO Festival early this year when most of the tracks were in infant stages
I know that feeling you’re talking about, when you realise “this exists?!” This type of music actually exists? Someone’s making it? I still remember the first time I found Madeon, when I found The City.
STOP. Same. Oh my God.
It was like OH, you can make pop music, but you can make it with this French electro coating… it’s a moment, right?!
Madeon was the artist for me as well, like, the first artist that I really started stanning hard. I’d kind of listen to music on YouTube suggestions and found a few cool artists, but I think I was watching a video on like how to tie dye denim shorts or something? I was in year seven, watching this video and Pop Culture, the Madeon mashup was in the background and I remember looking through the comments trying to find someone who had said what the song was called. Then I found it and I was like, “no way, this is so crazy.” It just was exponential from there. I was finding artists like Madeon and all of his remixes. I was just obsessed.
I love that this is the second interview in like, a month, where I’ve spent a significant portion of the time stanning Madeon.
And he was so young. He was making that shit when he was his teens. Knowing that he was super young and making things like that mashup and then making those really iconic, big singles, it was just so exciting to know that you could be young and make music like that.
Yeah, totally. I think that was what was so cool for me as well is because even though he was so young, he was still a little bit older than me. You know when you’re in Year 7, a person in like, Year 10 looks SO old? So I thought like, “oh, he’s that age,” so even though he was super young, I still felt like I was really looking up to him. I would read interviews and be like, “oh, he’s in his late teens and doing this, and I’d be like, “woah, I hope I’m that good when I’m that age…”
When did you realise that you’re good? When did you realise that you had a bit of a talent going on?
I don’t know. I still don’t know if I’d say I have a bit of a talent, I think I’m good at what I do, but I just practice a lot. I think when I was getting later into high school and I started making music that I really liked. That’s when I was like, “oh, I actually know what I’m doing with this now.”
Was it weird doing music in high school? I still have distinct memories of those music rooms at Gosford High. It was always cold up there. At school you don’t really get encouraged to make the kind of music you’re making, right? How do you kind of cut through that and go, “this is actually what I feel like making, this is my identity.”
I didn’t do music in Year 11 and 12, because I knew that was how it would be. I did music in Year 9 and 10 and I really liked it. I learned stuff and we did fun stuff, some stuff that was kind of up my alley. Like, there was this one thing we did where we got a bunch of samples and we had to make foley for like, a short cartoon, so that was cool. I got to direct the class musical, so like, I don’t regret it because it was actually really fun stuff. Towards the end of Year 10, I realised “I know this is gonna fuck with me and what I’m trying to do if I keep doing this in Year 11 and 12,” and I also didn’t want it to ruin me enjoying music and making it. It was gonna be too much music if I do this, so I think that was a good call.
From Ninajirachi: My cat sitting at my desk at my parents house where I’ve mostly been working for the last little while
I’ll now do one of the great fast forwards. Everything’s gone well for you, Pure Luck is a bop, music comes out, you tour everywhere, you’re now a star. And now you have an EP! What does Blumiere mean?
It’s the name of a character from one of my favorite games of all time ever, which is Super Paper Mario.
Which is kind of relevant to your artist name as well, because obviously it’s Jirachi from Pokemon.
It’s consistent. It’s a wild EP. It’s very fucking good. But I love that it starts with this mad production flex, and then it gets super delicate. Let’s start with the production side of things. What did you want to show people that you could do on this record?
I think between my first EP and this one, I’ve just gotten so much better. Obviously, you’re always getting better over time but this was such a big jump, like, I can’t even explain how much better I’ve gotten at producing since my first EP! That’s definitely the biggest gap. There’s not some kind of big concept behind this thing. It’s just, these are a bunch of songs I’ve made in the last six months. I mean, I’ve made a lot of songs in the last six months, but these are the ones that I like the most and am the most proud of. It just kind of feels like a timestamp. So that in a year’s time, I can look back and go, “oh, okay, that’s where my songwriting was at, in late 2019, and that’s where my production and my mixing was at.”
Sometimes it doesn’t have to be this like big concept for an EP. Sometimes it can just be a collection of songs, that timestamp, as you said, a moment. They’re a snapshot of where you were at, right?
That’s what it feels like for sure.
I love this for you. Let’s talk about Rainbow Train. How did you end up linking up with Coucheron and why is that the only collab on the record?
I wasn’t intentionally thinking about like, “who’s going to be on it?” I met him in America last year, I did a trip in August in September, I didn’t know anything. I just wanted to learn and meet people and make music, that was like, all I wanted to do. I was at a house party with some people I was working with and I met someone and he was like, “oh, are you looking for people to write with, I know Coucheron, this Norwegian producer, you should meet him and write with him,” and I was like, “yeah, cool!” I was honestly just saying yes to everything. I wanted to meet everyone and absorb as much as I could. A week or two later, I went to his place and it was so productive. We just clicked. He was so about the music that I was trying to make. We made, like, five or six demos that day. Legit. They’re all just little clubby, funny ideas, but I’d started Rainbow Train the week before, but I only had that like first kind of 30 seconds of it. I just brought it up in the session and I was like, “do you want to work on this?” And he was like, “yeah, sure!” He made that laser sound on his hardware synth. I don’t use hardware, but he had some synth and he made that. And I was like, “sick.” I took it away and sat with it, didn’t really touch it for like, a couple of months, then I think in like, December or January, I started working on it again. I sent it to him in like, and he really liked it and asked if he could be on it, and that was the story.
Let’s talk about the ones with your voice on them. I know Cut The Rope was new territory for you. I know that can be a very scary thing to do, put your voice on a record for the first time.
It was so scary.
But you have a very good voice!
It’s not actually as good as it sounds in that song. I’ve just become really good at producing vocals so I can make things sound better now!
From Ninajirachi: In Tasmania at my Mum’s friend’s farm where I did a bulk of the work on Cut The Rope
Alight is an even more delicate kind of thing and I feel like we really get new territory from you with that song. What’s the story?
I’m really scared to put that out! Alight was just so crazy to write. Cut The Rope was the first song I put out with vocals, but it wasn’t the first song I wrote with vocals. I’d been kind of doing it for a bit. Then eventually I had one where I was like, “oh, this is good enough to put out.” I’ve always written about, like, made-up stuff or really abstract versions of things happening around me and made it all a bit obscure, but then in December last year, I went through this period of just having this like, hard and fast crush on this guy. So it was short lived, but I was like, really obsessed for an amount of time. It was a really late night and I was just like, thinkin’ about it. I was like, “oh, I’m gonna try and write a song about this,” so I just freestyled over some chords, and I’m not kidding you, it sounds the exact same. The melody is the exact same as the first voice memo. I was expecting to just voice memo a bit and then go to bed. But then I was like, “oh, this is so cool, I’m gonna write this right now.” I was on my bedroom floor in my old share house in Sydney. I had this microphone, actually, that I’m talking into now, which is just like a little USB mic. I was singing so quietly because it was like, 1am and I didn’t want to wake my housemates who were right next door. And I also didn’t want them to hear me singing! I wrote the first half of the song and it was just so fast. I can’t even explain how fast that I made that song. Obviously over the next couple of months, I had to refine production and stuff like that. But in terms of the actual song, it was like an hour, it was nuts. I mean, for some people who write songs all the time, maybe they’re like, “pffft,” but for me, that was really crazy.
From Ninajirachi: My dog jumping in while I was shooting the Alight video at home
For someone who’s not necessarily a natural top liner. That’s a pretty quick process to kind of trust yourself and go, “yep, this is right.” Do you reckon you’re gonna go down that vocal & toplining path a little bit more, now you’ve broken that barrier?
I don’t know. I’ve always written songs. I was writing songs for like, many years before I was learning to produce. but I’ve never been like, a singer. I don’t really have a singing voice. I think I forgot about songwriting when I started learning about production, because I was like, “oh, this is way cooler.” I think it was like, 2018, my first year out of school, I decided to upskill and learn about vocals and stuff. So yeah, I’ve just been doing it more and more since then. I feel like I’ll definitely keep using it in my music, but I still feel like a producer more than anything. I definitely don’t want to be like, a pop girl, if that makes sense. I just love being a beats guy.