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Los Angeles Singer-Songwriter Niia Collaborates with Khruangbin’s Laura Lee On Lush Single ‘Not Up For Discussion’

The song is off Niia’s forthcoming EP ‘If I Should Die’

David Britto Apr 21, 2021

U.S.-based artists Laura Lee (left) and Niia. Photo: Jade Mainade

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Hailing from an Italian background, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Niia has been fine-tuning her brand of jazz, R&B and soul music over the last 10 years. Last year, the artist released her 13-track sophomore album titled II: La Bella Vita and is now readying her six-track EP If I Should Die, due to be released next month.

Ahead of the new record coming out, Niia recently dropped the EP’s lead single, the angelic and groove-based luxurious track titled “Not Up For Discussion.” The singer-songwriter also enlisted Texas alternative/psychedelic band Khruangbin’s Laura Lee to jump in on the song.

In this interview with Rolling Stone India, both artists talk to us about their collaboration, Niia opens up more about the EP, Lee recalls her visit to India and more.

When did work on your upcoming EP If I Should Die begin? What can you tell me about the record and also what people can expect from it?

Niia: I started this EP a while back, even before my last album. I’m always trying to be working on music when I’m in a groove and finding inspiration cause sometimes that’s not the case. Finishing this EP was a bigger challenge during the pandemic. I also finished this EP without the usual crew I’ve worked with for so long. It was important for me to take the reigns and lead. I wanted this EP to reflect how I was feeling, exhausted, a little less polished, less about heartaches, and more about the questions I’ve been asking myself about my own existence, time, and future.

How did the collaboration with Laura come about? And what was it like working with her?

Niia: I’m a huge fan of Laura and Khruangbin. I met her for lunch one afternoon a few years ago and she was just magnetic. When I was listening back to my song, I knew it needed a breath of fresh air, something to keep it from feeling too heavy and I thought of Laura. I also think there should be more featured instrumentalists out there! We had to work remotely but it felt like a fun camp sleepover where we’d walkie-talkie back and forth. She’d send what she was thinking, I’d send what I thought back, it was actually exciting to open my email! With Laura everything is breezy!

Coming to the record’s lead single, “Not up for Discussion,” what can you tell me about this song itself?

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Niia: I realized the life that I live is a conflict and a contradiction at times. I can worry a lot, I am very emotional. But knowing myself more makes it easier to continue to try to be more fluid and centered. Lyrically I felt exhausted, sad for the state of the world, and honestly questioning why I should even finish the song. But, the irony of course is I did finish it. There’s always a reason to keep going especially if it’s just for yourself.  

Sonically I wanted the track to reflect how I felt, lazy, relaxed, and a little undone.  I knew I needed the help of Laura’s bass line to carry the song home and remind me it’s always worth it to keep going.

You guys also dropped the music video, what was it like putting it together?

Niia: It was really beautiful. It was my directorial debut and I’m hooked. I feel really lucky and grateful I got to shoot in a safe way and really make my vision come to life. I realized I prefer to be behind the camera but I’ll be in a few more of my videos for now. There’s more to come.  

Laura when did you first hear of Niia and what was it like for you jumping in on the song?

Lee: Niia reached out to us a few years ago, when I’d been living in L.A. DJ, our drummer, said he’d been following her for quite sometime and was a big fan. So that led me on my deep dive of finding every Niia performance on the internet — in studio or live. She’s an incredible talent, not to mention she has such a strong sense of visual identity. I was instantly drawn to her.

To be honest, it was the first time I’d ever played bass on something that wasn’t Khruangbin related. It was exciting, then scary, and then freeing. It was a chance to explore playing in a way that isn’t necessarily connected to the role I play in my own band. I feel very lucky that Niia asked me to play and to stand next to each other as two strong integrous women in the music industry.

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Khruangbin graced our shores when you guys played Magnetic Fields in Rajasthan in 2017 – what do you recall from that time and also what’s the band currently up to?

Lee: That festival is in my top five festival experiences of all time. One of my dreams for Khruangbin was for it to be a band that toured the entire world, and this really brought that to life. I remember the six-hour drive to the festival site from Delhi, with all of our gear magically in place in stacks on top of tiny cars, stopping for parades of cows along the way…my entire face was pushed into the window. Then to arrive at a palace where the festival was held, in the desert… It was an incredibly beautiful and unique experience.  It was the last show we played in 2017, which gave me so much hope for the years to come.

As far as Khruangbin now, we are writing, rehearsing, and hoping that shows will resume very soon.

Once things get better with the pandemic – could we expect you guys to tour India?

Niia: Yes, 100 percent! I think something might be in the works for the near future.

Lee: Count me in! I cannot wait to go back.

Watch the music video for “Not Up For Discussion” below:

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