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NOLA DARLING: Girl Power

Nola Darling’s Jaq and Alex are a fearless, awesome duo that dare to push the envelope with their cheeky blend of R&B/Hip-Hop meets World Music riddims. But just because they’re funny doesn’t mean you should ever underestimate them. Listen in, they may just teach you something.

Words & Interview: Aimstar
Images: Ashley Posey

When the ladies of Nola Darling decided to share their journey making music together, members Jaq and Alex had few reservations about the industry. Like many, bright-eyed newcomers who come into the game with big dreams and open hearts, they wanted to do things their way. Different than most, Nola Darling never lost their way, keeping their style, approach and sound ultra unique, experimental and fun for those fans who want something a little more cultured. Influenced by artists like N.E.R.D and MC Lyte, and while it has taken them some years to get their groove rolling, Jaq and Alex talk shop, and how these days, it’s all about their girl power and golden eras.

You’ve been out for a minute, but at first people weren’t too sure what your direction was going to be, or how to even embrace Nola Darling. It seems like your lane is opening up now, why do you think that is? Is it just the industry temperature changing or cultural awareness in general?

Jaq: You know what, I think you hit it on the nail with both of those things. It’s kind of two-pronged in that sense that first of all the industry has changed immensely in the last five years, even in the last two-three years, so people aren’t really looking to labels to dictate what’s going to be hot, what the next sound is going to be or what’s going to be the next trend. On the other hand, I think culturally people are really just sick of the same old same old, and they’re looking for different things. It’s about having more than just Hip-Hop, R&B and Dance and that. People want something that’s a little more organic, I think.

And you guys have a million and one influences [Laughs]…

Jaq: A million and two actually…. [Laughs]

Who are some of them?

Jaq: We definitely pay homage to the ladies in the game like MC Lyte, [Queen] Latifah, Da Brat, YoYo—we grew up on all of them and at the same time, we absolutely adore N.E.R.D. Like we LOVE N.E.R.D. and we adore Kanye. Our music now, in terms of where we are going, is Hip-Hop with a very strong diasporic influence. So we’re looking to the sounds of Haiti, the Caribbean, Africa, in terms of pushing forth our own sound.

Why the specification?

Alex: For us, it’s always been the heart and what we were doing with our first mixtape, The Pretty Gritty Mini Mixtape. If you listen to it, we already have those sounds. What we’ve done now is we’ve gone deeper. We’ve gone more honest; we’ve gone more towards what speaks to our hearts.

Essentially just honing in on that…

Alex: Well, yeah, basically our new material is an extension of our original Mini mixtape. It was a specific sound that we had, just a big vision of what we wanted for this work. We tried creating with some different producers, and we found the most success when we collaborated with Kwamé. What was refreshing about him was that a lot of the producers we worked with, you know, they have a particular sound that they were working on at the time and they want you to sort of come into their world, and work in that space. Kwamé really came into our world, understood our vision and helped us flesh that out. So we’re really excited and we can’t wait to share this music with the world. And I think it’s timely….

Kwamé seems to be working with a lot of young talent right now and it’s phenomenal. One would think that he’s kind of disconnected from the movement of the current generation because of his age and the time he was super, super relevant. That’s not an issue for you guys at all it seems…

Alex: No. Kwamé is a quality musician above all. He’s a professional; he’s got a great ear. He was producing his own material from his own stuff when he came out at like 17 years old. So he’s a very talented guy and he’s a big kid himself [Laughs]. I think it was a natural fit being that his time and his era was the thing that inspired us, so we kind of met halfway, and I think there are parallels between his golden era and what we’re claiming as ours now.

Talk to me about “STFU (Start the Riot)”, what sparked the angst? It’s definitely a girl power anthem, but it feels like there are some jabs thrown in there too…

Alex: It’s our quote to the return of goddess rule, which will be back in 2012, right around the corner. Basically to follow up those thoughts, we’ve been under a patriarchal sort of society for the past two-thousand, three-thousand years and that energy has reeked havoc on us [Laughs]. We’re ready for a cleansing and a return to that goddess power. You can see it how we interpret Mother Nature reacting all over the world with the Arab Spring and all of the uprisings and Occupy Wall Street everywhere—it’s moving from the ground all the way up. So this is our take on this revolution that’s happening now.

So what have you been doing to prepare?

Alex: This year has been amazing. The work that has been done, everything that is on the EP, has basically been done now for a couple of months. We’ve been getting together all of our supporting materials like the video we released for “[STFU] Start the Riot” and more to come. Really we’ve been in a planning stage, coming up with a new creative model of how to launch ourselves without falling into the typical trappings of 360 deals of wackness. [Laughs] So we’re just reading through our best options and just trying to set things up for this upcoming year. This movement is all funded by us, it’s grassroots and we’re almost starving artists. We’re pressing our luck and we’re ready.

Does getting signed even matter to you anymore? You have a following and you’ve been touring, opening up for Elle Varner and performing among the likes of The Wellington Papers…

Alex: I’ll say this; getting signed is definitely not the light at the end of the tunnel or anything like that. For us, it’s really about creating art that we feel good about, that we want to listen to and want to perform every time. We want to be able to connect with our fans, strengthen that fan base and give them access to what they want to hear from us. So we’re just trying to find ways to do that and survive. If we can stay away from any latch on to that, that might compromise our art or vision in any way, then that’s great. But getting signed is not what we’re praying for or focused on, it’s about doing us and making it work, and that’s possible now in this current industry climate.

Why is humor such a big component to what you do?

Jaq: Just cause that’s who we are as people, we’re really silly. I mean if people could be a fly on the wall and see what goes on behind the scenes, they really might think that we’re crazy. We read something recently, someone was talking about our show and they were like, “You know, they’re really weird…but it works.” We are who we are. We like to have fun, we don’t take ourselves too seriously because really what’s the fun in that? We’re not going to be out there primping and smiling, like all serious, for what? That would make us super one-dimensional and we’re way more than that. It’s just music, it’s still fun.

So why I haven’t seen a Rude Gal’s Guide to in a minute? [Laughs]

Jaq: We kind of took a break on that to kind of focus on finishing the album and now that it’s done, you’re going to be seeing more of those in the near future. And it’s only going to get bigger and awesomer. [Laughs]

What’s something that we don’t know about Nola Darling that we should know about?

Jaq: I’m going to give that to Alex. [Laughs] Take the pressure off! [Laughs]

Alex: Oh so I get to answer it…[Laughs] We have beards!!

[Laughs]

Alex: [Laughs] No, really…

Jaq: Well, Alex is like a super awesome Sous chef, who doesn’t have a degree or anything like that, but still is dope.

Alex: So in case this Rap shit don’t work out, so ….[Laughs] But Jaq is a dinosaur expert. She was a scientist, and she works at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles sometimes. I just blew up her spot. She performs there sometimes.

Jaq: [Laughs]

Alex: She’s a scientist rapper. Holla at your girl, okay.

[Everybody laughs]

Okay, final question: how are you most like Spike Lee’s character Nola Darling?

Alex:We share her unwillingness to allow society to dictate to her what she should and shouldn’t be or her to choice to be free no matter what. We like to think of ourselves as writing the next chapter of writing Nola Darling’s [the character’s] life. Her story is really told through the eyes of her suitors and not through her own. For us, it’s about telling the next part of her life from the female perspective.

Look for Nola Darling’s new EP out in Spring 2012.

Follow Nola Darling on Twitter, @NolaDarling

Download their mixtape, The Pretty Gritty Mini Mixtape, HERE.

Images of Nola Darling by Ashley Posey exclusively for STARK

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