nudista: Small Rays of Sun

Boasting a relaxing sound and honest lyrics, impressive London-based duo nudista released their first EP Halfway Here this year via Sad Club Records. A charmingly hopeful and warming EP, Halfway Here talks directly to the listener and has a mellow folk-pop sound that is down to earth, calming and upbeat. To talk more about it, I sat down with one half of nudista, Pilar, to discuss their beginnings, the inspirations behind the new EP and their hopes for the future.

Robbie Carman and Pilar Matji Cabello met back in their university days through mutual friends and, finding that they had common tastes in music, started to have informal jam sessions with each other. As Pilar explains, “[we weren’t] taking it seriously or anything, and at the time I was more of a singer-songwriter, just doing little shows of my own, and then Robbie I think was just in various bands and different things, and then it was after uni once we finished that I was more like, ‘I kind of want to be in a band.’ I was just a bit tired of being on my own to be honest!”

Since their official formation in 2018, nudista has, at its core, been a duo, with Pilar and Robbie easily creating music together as their musical tastes and processes have always mixed well, ever since their early jam sessions. Throughout the years they have had different people come and go to add to their sound, but as it now stands there are five members in the band, allowing for an even bigger flow of creativity and musical collaboration.

I ask Pilar what the collaborative process was like for Halfway Here, as it is the first time both her and Robbie organically worked on songs together, rather than using Pilar’s music that she used to perform as a solo artist. This EP “was born out of collaboration mainly [between] Robbie and I, but once we went into the studio there was other added bits that were done by the band, but in a sense of writing the songs it was mainly during the pandemic, Robbie and I.”

The global pandemic and the effects that it had on society undoubtedly comes through in this gorgeous EP. nudista cleverly and honestly explore themes of depression, being in a dreamlike state and hopefulness, as they sing about serious issues and dark thoughts, whilst providing a therapeutic backdrop through relaxing and dreamy music. Listening to it, I felt heard, understood and not alone.

“In general, I love indulging in sadness, whenever I’m sad I’m like ‘I’m going to write and listen to the most depressive song I can ever listen to’ but at the same time [we] want to make songs therapeutic to make you feel better, so [the listener] is like “oh I understand, I connect to these lyrics and I understand what these lyrics are telling me but also the music makes me feel better, the music, the melody makes me feel like ok, there’s hope, I’m fine. Also because of the nature of when it was written, during the pandemic everyone was feeling heavy, so I was like ‘ok let’s take the seriousness out of this situation and just try to make dreamy and calm music to listen to.’”

The EP features four stunning tracks, ‘confess’, ‘inasmuch’, ‘window’ and ‘morning’, with each one shedding light on different mental health issues and mental states. I found the music to be a beautiful combination of vintage style and modern technique, resembling Simon & Garfunkel with a current twist. This combination of two distinct yet cohesive sounds seems to be a reflection of both Pilar’s and Robbie’s musical influences. As Pilar talks about their musical process for each song, what is apparent is the solid collaboration between the two musicians, as they bring fresh musical ideas to each other and understand each other’s musical language and process.

“I tend to do things more stripped back, more acoustic [as that’s] the nature of how I write things, so it’s good for me to get the input as well from the side of like ‘ok it’s good to layer and add things into the song” [and I’m] like “oh but I want things to sounds less busy’, so it [ends up] that middle ground which is quite good. Then Robbie – his whole thing is like 60s and 70s music and that’s mostly the type of music he listens to so there is a heavy influence on that as well from his side and style of playing. I also get super inspired by – this is another thing about me – I also love pop, Robbie maybe listens to less pop but from me he gets influenced from pop as well, because I love listening to it and I think there is amazing pop out there”.

Robbie’s love for 60s and 70s music and Pilar’s inspiration from pop is so evident in their EP as they combine soft folk melodies with smooth synth pop sounds for a healing and otherworldly experience. Talking to Pilar is also so refreshing and down to earth as her enthusiasm and passion for different types of music and the music she creates is infectious.

I tell her that I wondered if her or Robbie have ever once thought about what a listener would feel in response to their EP, especially as they write about such personal things and hard situations.

“I think, first of all, if I know someone is listening to it then whatever they take from it, that’s enough for me. Knowing they are listening to my music, which is amazing, I’m like ‘take whatever you want from it’ – even if they hate it, it’s nice that they are listening to it, so that’s a lot for me already for me to process. But in general, people feel these ups and lows all the time [we are saying] that you are not alone, it’s normal to feel this way, everyone passes through moments where you don’t know what you’re doing. You can feel isolated, lonely, in your own sadness, which I’ve experienced, Rob experienced, you know many friends have experienced, so that’s also kind of what I wanted people to understand, that you’re not alone in a way that makes them feel reassured and makes them feel better in a weird way, that is the message we are trying to bring.”

I ask Pilar what their plans are for the future and if she thinks they will write more music centred around these themes of mental health and not feeling alone seeing as they wrote in a very specific and tumultuous time.

“At the time we were all feeling things more intensely than we feel in our normal daily life but I think as long as we are still living in London – Robbie and I talk about this all the time – we are very aware of living in London, how hard it can get to balance things out: be ok mental health wise, being able to make music, worrying about things too much. So I feel like that’s just kind of going to continue with us as long as we are living in the city, which is great. I love it sometimes and sometimes I find it can get tough, so I think the theme is just going to continue. Maybe in another period of our lives that will change, but for now I feel like we are still trying to explore these challenges and kind of survive creatively as well in a big city.  I’m thinking about the songs I am writing right now and I think everything is still exploring those themes.”

The raw emotions and everyday feelings that both Pilar and Robbie have, are poured into their creative output, being a type of healing process, which can also be used for others. Their music is thoroughly truthful and heart-warming, wanting to reach out to people and reflect the lives of its creators.

After such a wonderful and sincere conversation, I decide to finish the interview with a seemingly absurd question that I ask everyone: what is your favourite colour? I always find this question is a good window for the soul.

“That’s a really good question, and also funnily enough, Robbie and I have the same favourite colour, which is amazing and it is yellow. We love the sun, I feel like there is something about the sun that makes you feel like refreshed and when you have a bad day you go for a walk, you get a bit of sun, maybe it’s because I’m Spanish I don’t know. Yellow just feels bright, since always I have loved the colour yellow.”

I tell Pilar that yellow makes a lot of sense as both her and Robbie are putting out a positive thing into the world with their EP: it is a little ray of sunshine that will help any listener feel understood and like things can get better in a world that seems upside down right now.

Words: Ruth Alexander // Photos: Maite de Orbe

‘Halfway Here’ is out now via Sad Club Records. Stream and purchase the EP via Bandcamp.

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