Naaz is in her bedroom making music. This is no surprise: for as long as she can remember, the 19-year-old has spent every available moment between those walls, with only music for company. A snapshot of this musical nerve centre adorns the cover of the Rotterdam-based singer and producer’s debut EP, Bits Of Naaz. Its eight tracks flicker, meander and, every so often, combust into neon pop explosions. Stream of consciousness lyrics make each track feel like a diary entry, natural and uninhibited.
Isolation, it seems, feeds an atmosphere of excitement and childlike wonder. These are pop songs in the vein of Lorde, Tove Lo and Mø. “When I write music it’s like I’m having a conversation with myself,” Naaz explains. “If I want to tell you literally how my ginger tea tastes good, I will say that in a song. It doesn’t have to be deep to be deep…” But Naaz’s songs frequently go deep, too. Growing up obsessed with Oasis and Linkin Park in a strict Kurdish family, she was discouraged from pursuing a career in music at home, and encountered unkindness at school. Naaz targets these issues on Pretty, singing, “Sometimes I’m insecure/At least I’m sure ‘bout that,” over bassy, minimal backing. “That line kind of sums up my mood every day,” she says, breaking into laughter. “It’s a general way of making bad things feel a little less dramatic.”
At the same time, Naaz is here to empower, to show that there is a way to follow your dreams, even if the route may be unconventional. “I want to be a pioneer for my generation,” she says. “Girls and boys like me who had a lot at stake to get to do what they believe in. The dreamers who didn’t have believers. [I want to] build that road so the rest can drive and thrive with a little less drama.”
And what of Naaz’s own journey so far? Signed to Island in the UK, she plays The Great Escape this month and returns for a London headline show in July. “I feel like music and the music industry are two completely different things,” she says. “It’s only when I’m creating music or performing it that I feel I’m becoming my better self… The rest is all a bit odd and unnatural. Then again, we all look for a little danger in our lives, and I feel like the music industry is the most dangerous place for a mind to be in.” But Naaz has no plans to let the merry-go-round affect her – drive, autonomy and creative control will see to that. “It’s important to use your drive for the right things, do it all passionately,” she finishes. With that, it’s back to the bedroom. Those songs won’t write themselves.