The unlikely pairing of hip hop producer Haz Beats (real name Harry Huavi) and electropop singer-songwriter Miloux (Rebecca Melrose) has already found commercial success, with their 2019 debut EP ‘Blonde’ even winning an Aotearoa Music Award in 2020. Their latest single, March 12, is a meditative and reflective piece of RnB, tastefully garnished with lush vocal harmonies and a touch of jazz. Nur Lajunen-Tal caught up with the duo. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.
“It was just one of the random beats that I’ve got in my archives that she heard, and she was like, ‘What’s that?’” he recalls. “I pulled it up and then she just started writing to it, and then we got some friends on to play. It’s kind of airy to me, kind of a dark, airy type of beat. I sampled from a movie. It was like a 5-second airy vocal that I took and layered some stuff over the top. She pretty much just came in with her story, and it gave it that feel.”
Upon hearing Huavi’s beat, Melrose was inspired to write something intensely personal.
“It’s probably the most personal song I’ve written,” she says. “It’s a song that I wrote to myself at the age of 15 or 16, and all the words that I wish someone had said to me at that age that I didn’t have. So it’s kind of a reassuring letter of love to myself that things do get better, and there are people in the world that you can trust, and there are people in the world that love you.
“I used to write very ambiguous lyrics. A lot of my songs do have very deep personal meaning to me, but maybe were written in a way that the listener couldn’t pick up on that as much. So I feel like this one is just a bit more open and a bit more honest in that way, and I feel that is because I wrote it with Haz. We’ve got to a point now where I feel so comfortable writing with him. The vibe and the ambience of the beat that he’d written, and the sample he’d used, I knew that’s what the song was about. I felt like I had to just sit down, right then and there, and write a letter to myself – and it was very cathartic. Doing the recording process for this, I think vocally as well, is the most vulnerable I’ve been. I think I pushed myself vocally a lot further than I have before.”
As a jazz school alumna, Melrose also enjoyed incorporating those influences into the song.
“Genre-wise, this is probably my favourite one on the EP,” she says. “It’s a lot more rooted in mine and Haz’s more early musical influences. It’s got a lot more of a soul RnB and definitely heavier into jazz. It’s got a lot of jazz runs and jazz scales in there, that it felt fun to dip back into for me. I think it kind of represents both of us musically feeling a lot more comfortable with each other, and being able to dip into what we really love, and explore that a bit further. In the first EP, we thought, ‘We don’t wanna get too jazzy, cos it might frighten people off.’”
An artful and colourful music video accompanies the song. Mona Sanei, better known as Kiwi-Iranian pop-rap artist Chaii, directed the video.
“I really wanted to work with a female director for this video, cos again, it’s quite a personal subject for me,” Melrose explains of the choice. “She luckily had some time free before she went to LA earlier this year to do her own music, and was really keen. Also, her husband, Frank [Eliesa, Yoko-Zuna], did a lot of keys on our EP. Frank Keys, he’s brilliant! So she’d heard the song a bit, and she immediately put together this beautiful storyboard, which essentially is exactly what the video ended up being. Lots of clifftops, the big orange gown she’d picked out. All the colours in the video are very specific to different emotions, and she picked all of those. I basically just handed the reins over. I loved what she storyboarded, and I loved the sense of isolation and beauty that she had captured in her concept.
“We brought in Taine Noble to do the cinematography, and Brooke Tyson, I work with her a lot. She’s an amazing fashion designer. She actually custom-made all the clothes in the video, all the gowns and the dancers’ gowns, again using that colour palette that Mona had picked. And my amazing makeup artist Chanelle Alridge, who I’d worked with before. So it was all my favourite people to work with. Me and Haz are obsessed with the video. We just love it so much!”
“To me the song is pretty dark and airy,” adds Huavi. “But when we sat down with Mona to see what she had storyboarded for the video, she actually made it a bit brighter. It’s not as dark as I thought it was before. We got them on board, she kind of brightened it up and put some colours in there.”
The video, which features Donald Ross as lead actor, was a three-day shoot that includes the cinematic landscapes of Piha and Waiheke Island.
“Piha is all the clifftop scenes, and it was so stormy, and so cold the whole time,” Melrose reminisces. “Our ferry over to Waiheke was smashing on the waves, and everyone was freaking out. It was quite an experience, but we’re really happy with it. It’s probably the most epic music video I’ve done to date. We had the car, and the flowers, and the clifftop and all of that. I feel like it was a tiny piece of what it feels like to shoot a short film or something.
“Donald is meant to represent any person who feels isolated or alone in their own thoughts and their own emotion. A lot of the video is him driving around on his own, maybe a bit lost, and maybe putting on a front a little bit of knowing where he’s going and knowing what he wants to do. Which is kind of what the song is about – putting on a front and trying to appear okay, when actually you’re feeling quite adrift and quite alone.
“It doesn’t really have a storyline. I really like in my videos that the visual element is more just really beautiful and more of a representation of a feeling rather than a plot line, if that makes sense? The dancers are very emotive, I am emotive, and then there’s just Don driving around, and there’s some shots of him just kind of flying through the air just completely lost.”
It’s evident that Huavi and Melrose have no plans to stop collaborating anytime soon.
“I like what she’s doing, and she fits on top of my beats,” says Huavi. “I just kind’a like how she picks these beats that no one else picks! I work with a lot of rappers, and she tends to pick the different type of beats that I make, which I sometimes hate. When she sings over it, it gives me a new feeling. She just knows what she likes, and I know what I like, so we just kind of meet in the middle. So if I play her something and she doesn’t like it, we just move on.”
“I think that sometimes you take a concept to someone, and you know what you want in your head, but without that vocabulary or that knowledge, it can warp into something very different from what you wanted in the first place,” Melrose continues. “I had a couple of experiences of that during uni and coming out of uni, so I thought, ‘I’m gonna learn how to do it myself, and I wanna be in control of the entire process, and I want it to sound exactly how I like.’
“So working with Haz was quite interesting, ‘cos I was quite stubborn at that point. I was like, ‘I don’t need to work with another producer! I know what I’m doing!’ And also, he’s a hip hop producer, so we have quite different musical backgrounds, but it just somehow worked. He’s very respectful of what you’re trying to say, and what kind of sound you like or don’t like, so that’s pretty cool. Even if it doesn’t necessarily relate to him or his journey or anything to do with him, he just provides that base for me to do it on top of, which is really cool. I’ve definitely relaxed a bit more, in the last two years I have worked a lot more with other producers and other writers.”