“With the EPs I’ve released, the music has been more related to a concept or a theme and not a sound,” says Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Nisa Lumaj, better known simply as Nisa, who describes her songs as, “genre-less music, leaning on pop, but not being tied to a genre.” (She does, however, note an electropop influence on her latest works.) Nisa is currently on her very first tour, which wraps this coming Wednesday, February 15th, with a double-headlining show with Philly’s nonfiction at MilkBoy, a show which she tells me during our recent phone chat she is especially excited to play: “It’s my first tour, and I’m really excited to play for audiences, especially Philly.”
Despite not yet being a household name, Nisa tells me that her musical career has certainly had a number of highlights: “Being new to this, I’ve been playing around New York for a while, busking and playing open mics, but it took me a while to find my friends that I’m playing with now, so the highlight has been the last two or three years, playing with my friends, sharing with them and writing with them… Our EP release show was at Baby’s All Right, which I grew up going to in high school, and last year I got to go out to LA and play out there for the first time.”
Although Nisa is yet to release a full-length, she’s been putting out EPs (most recently Exaggerate, which dropped in September of last year) and singles (most recently “Inrush,” which dropped just a few weeks ago) since 2020. Additionally, she’s released a number of exceptionally well-crafted music videos, for which she tells me she has just as much passion as the music she makes, “I’m really attached to film and studied it a bit in college… I really like the way music videos can change the way people perceive a song.” She tells me, for her, the process of making music videos is about, “Starting somewhere and landing somewhere else, but being okay with the meeting ground, the in-between.”
Perhaps most notable is her 2021 clip for “Cold,” directed and edited by Ben Klein, which plays out as a three-minute homage to classic teens-in-a-cabin horror films, which she describes as, “A slasher that starts with elements of the song, and then we just let the day play out.” However, my favorite music video of Nisa’s is for “Ferris Wheel,” an early single, whose video resembles a charmingly simplistic and DIY effort that looks and sounds remarkably like something that would’ve found its way into MTV’s Buzz Bin in 1991. “I was in London, with some film major friends, and we had a concept, but the weather didn’t agree with us,” she tells me of how that video actually came about.
In addition to the role that moving images can play in relation to her music, Nisa tells me that her time in college also helped her gain an appreciation for classic cinema itself, which she tells me is something that she’s continuing to actively explore: “I got a Criterion subscription for my birthday, and I’ve just been checking off a lot of things, but – and maybe I shouldn’t say this — it’s been a lot of French stuff so far [laughs].” She goes on to cite the work of Agnes Varda, Eric Rohmer, and Krzysztof Kieslowski as particular favorites. And when I ask some of her favorite albums, she has a list of classics that are certainly on par with Varda, Rohmr, and Kieslowski in the world of music: Joni Mitchell’s Hejira, Bjork’s Post (“I grew up loving Bjork’s discography, but with Post, that’s the one that I’ve gone back to for production, and all the layers.”), and The Cure’s Disintegration (“I had this tradition where I would listen to it every year on my birthday.”)
After this run of dates, Nisa’s going to be playing SXSW for the first time this March. She also tells me that her live shows will gradually feature more and more songs from an upcoming album that she hopes to release in the near future. And when I ask what she hopes to achieve with her live show, she says that she hopes they’ll embody the kinds of things that made the greatest performers of alt-rock so memorable: “I would love to have people mosh or jump around. My goal live is just to keep the energy moving.”
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