"I don't expect fandom" Bahasa Malay

Perth-based artist Nora Karailieva (aka. Bahasa Malay) is one of Australia’s busiest and most innovative electronic musicians. We had a chat to her about her latest record Vows, Destiny’s Child and sacrifices.

Can you tell us a little bit about your new record?

In a way Vows is just another compilation of songs which I was eager to release in order to be able to continue writing new songs. I usually don’t aspire for a specific theme or sound, except maybe in remixes. However, for this album, I had decided to try and be a bit more vocal and express ideas I couldn’t in real life situations because of their consequences. The name Vows reflects a major life event this year.

One of the things I adore about Vows is the uniqueness in form, with many of the tracks offering little in the way of repetition. Is this a conscious choice for you? 

I am happy you noticed that because that was intentional. Repetition sometimes upsets and bores me and I feel like the audible space repetition occupies has potential to host something new already. That being said, repetition can be very relaxing depending on the melody, and I guess it builds excitement for what is to come. I try to create confusion and lack of fluidity and sometimes the only way to understand what’s happening is direct engagement with the sound. Also, I’m just incapable of making anything else. That is why I don’t expect fandom or integrity. To me, each segment in a song conveys a particular mood or a different page in a pamphlet.

There’s a really nice mix of industrial styled electronics and more organic sounds produced by your voice in Vows. What’s your relationship with technology like? 

I am a bit in denial when it comes to technology because I always feel in a sort of a hurry which makes me concentrate on what I know at the moment. That obviously blocks me from evolving in a way, but I can handle that. The industrial sounds are very appealing to me as they cannot always be connected to a specific instrument, which I would’ve played if I could. In terms of vocals, I have tried recording at studios in the past and I realised I get really uncomfortable recording with someone else by my side. So all vocal recordings happen either in my room, on a computer mic (preferably outside peak hours because the street gets noisy) or somewhere else in the house where there isn’t much noise. Then, whatever happens on the first or second recording goes into the song. I’ve been told to invest in equipment but I just don’t think it’s a priority at the moment as I don’t have a clear idea of what I want as an outcome of these songs except soul purification.

In the last year or so, you’ve covered some incredible artists such as Beyonce, Lumidee, Aaliyah, Rihanna and Nancy Ajram (plus a heap of others). Did you grow up with pop music? How does it influence the kind of music you make? 

I grew up listening to Bulgarian, Serbian, Greek and Turkish folk and RNB mainly. I guess pop is whichever of them got popular. The only real obsession for an artist I’ve ever had was Destiny’s Child and this is how I actually learned English, by looking up the lyrics, checking vocabulary and singing along. And that style eventually got imprinted as a default impulse in terms of vocal melody and production. All songs I’ve covered or remixed have been at some point on repeat in my mind and reworking them has allowed me to get them out of my mind as well. And this is the case with Eastern artists such as Nancy Ajram or Bulgarian choirs. I used to spend a lot of time alone as a child back in Bulgaria, especially during the summer break. My parents had a compiliation of Serbian folk cassettes which I would listen to and sing along with all the time. And it’s the same for everyone. The way one understands sound comes from somewhere.

From the looks of your bandcamp and soundcloud, 2016 has been incredibly busy for Bahasa Malay. How do you manage your time? What can we expect in 2017?

I think 2016 has been the busiest and most stressful year so far. On another hand, the most amazing and real things have happened. Yet, I’ve had to give away my free time and make sacrifices. This is why I decided that music will not be affected by this, as it is basically the only thing I have control of at the moment. I don’t really go out and have the smallest social circle but I think that suffices and it’s as much as I can handle at the moment. I think the busier you are, the more you get done and even if sometimes I feel desperate in terms of time management and stress, I feel lucky and blessed I have such duties and responsibilities to feel proud of. 

That being said, 2017 seems like a year when I’ll have even more free time to invest in music than this year.

Download Vows for free at Bahasa Malay’s bandcamp.

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