NewTracks New Artist: Aura

NewTracks New Artist: Aura

Lower Hutt’s Albert Mikołaj has been creating intricate lo-fi masterpieces of well-written shimmering folk under the name Aura for the last few years, consistent radio airplay or general media coverage so far eluding him. His Bandcamp shows a back catalogue of two EPs and one album since 2013, with another due to be released internationally via US label Cosmic Dreamer in the next few months. After receiving NZ On Air funding last November, Aura is featured on NZ On Air’s NewTracks compilation for the month of April with his single GI Wonder, for which he has evidently moved into a more polished and poppy realm, maybe thanks to the collaboration with one Ben Lemi (Trinity Roots, French For Rabbits, Dawn Diver).

Where are you from and what’s your musical background?

My mother is an amazing singer and piano player. I grew up with her singing Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin style, every New Years. The folks had two LPs I played on repeat as a child. They were, ‘Chalkmark In A Rainstorm‘ by Joni Mitchell and Tracy Chapman’s first record. I learned piano and guitar – I’ve always been in love with music.

What’s the background story of how Aura came to be? Who is part of the band?

I actually released my first record at 16 called ‘The Letter Red’. There is a song on there about my grandmother. Aura was always recessed. I was always mining it into existence one way or another.
The band now is myself (gat and vox), Ben Lemi (gat and vox), Holly Beals (ex-Family Cactus, bass and vox) and Samuel Austin (Vera Ellen, drums and vox).

How did you come up with the name for the project?

That’s a mystery. I love how no-one believes in the aura, how it’s almost a joke. I’ve always loved how dismissive people are of seeing something beyond what’s generally accepted.

What made GI Wonder stand out for you as a single?

I feel it has a healthy amount of drama to it. It’s funny, fun and ultimately a little dark.

What is the story behind GI Wonder?

The tune was written to cheer me up actually, the lyrics speak to some of the heart’s vicissitudes. I wrote the song, it was produced by Ben Lemi. We recorded this track at Ben’s place. I remember I kept telling him, “Let’s make it darker, make it darker,” haha. We actually found this track the most phonically and aesthetically challenging. In the end, though, I was happy with it.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

I love the line, “Doin just a little, Eliza”…because I still can’t believe I played that dive… and somehow made it work!

In general, how do you work out what song would make a good single?

Honestly, I don’t know. Sometimes it’s just a feeling. Trust.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

My amigo Kiro Laslas has released a new record, which I feature on a bit. I will eventually be working with my sister Vera Ellen on a project.

Can you think of three other local tunes that should be on a playlist alongside your song.

Have you made previous applications that didn’t get funding or included on NewTracks? Got any advice for people out there?

I didn’t get funding twice for my next single Immensely I… yet hehe. My advice would be something like, dust yourself off and try again.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in this application? 

The whole thing is a challenge really. In my case, I refused to get a Facebook or Instagram until late December 2017. It was a hard choice for me to make, but it’s helped me a lot since getting ‘on the line’ as they say.

How can we find you on social media?

Haha, perfect timing!

Is there a music video, or going to be one?

We are premiering the official G.I Wonder video next week. It’s well worth the watch. Andy Byers (the director) has just finished a spell working with Isabella Rossellini and no kidding, she emailed us this morning to say she loved the video #humblebrag 🙂 The video also features animation by some amazing animators in Buenos Aires.

Andy’s direction is very Wes Anderson in spirit, very beautifully shot. Do keep a close eye out.

Any last words?

Find time.