NewTracks New Artist: Kita

NewTracks New Artist: Kita

Multi-instrumentalist and singer Nikita Tu-Bryant‘s new track Private Lives for her band project Kita is a roaring song full of wide-ranging styles set to some dreamy production. Private Lives features as part of NZ On Air Music’s NewTracks compilation this April.

What’s your full name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant, made (and born) in Taiwan, grew up in Tāmaki Makaurau. I play the violin, guitar, ukulele, ghuzhen, san-sheng, piano, and my voice.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

Two of the most influential people in my education growing up were Robyn Restieaux, my English teacher from Year 10; and my singing coach from when I was 17, Caitlin Smith. Not just for English and singing, but for their philosophies and their way of communicating their ideas.

Any other previous projects we might know you from?

My folk band Nikita the Spooky and a Circus of Men. Back in 2016 NZ Musician did a feature on my album that I recorded in the back of my van about a breakup with a LA filmmaker I met on an aeroplane in Phoenix, USA (‘Before, and After) Joshua’. Also, my play Tide Waits for No Man, a non-verbal piece told through object and shadow puppetry, calligraphy and movement.

What’s the background story to how Kita came to be? 

Kita is me, Ed Zuccollo (Zuke, Rhian Sheehan) and Rick Cranson (Little Bushman, The Woods). For this album and our EP released last year the team around me also includes our producer in Italy Tommaso Colliva (Muse, Razorlight), and our amazing manager who has really been the force behind making the recording possible, Seamus Morely (Above and Beyond, Leftfield).

How has your writing evolved?

When Kita first started I (Nikita) wrote most of the songs, and we would jam the sections out into something psychedelic. This album however was mostly written in isolation during the lockdown, and the pieces came together when Level 4 was lifted in Aotearoa. It has been the most collaborative way (from inception) we as a band have written our songs. 

How and when did you come up with the name for the new project?

Before Covid hit Aotearoa we were signed to our new (UK-based) manager Seamus Morely, and we were excited to go overseas. Our old name was already taken in LA so we were gently swayed to change the name. It was a bit of a process, and we went through every possible name under the sun that resonated with us (or so it felt!) and many were already taken. Initially, I felt uncomfortable when the idea of KITA came up, being derived from my own name – I didn’t want people to lose the feel of us as a band. That being said, sometimes people have met me and not made the connection that KITA is derived from my name. Ed and Rick are such powerhouses and play such a pivotal role in our music that I think people overlook the name thing! Which is great. Because we are a band.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date? 

To be honest, writing these songs in isolation and creating the music videos has been one of the most creatively fulfilling experiences. During the lockdown, we collated 89 videos from 89 households all over the world in lockdown for our previous release ‘Try to Find a Way’. The videos came to me at a particularly difficult time during the lockdown, and these snippets into people’s lives were incredibly moving. Most of the songs on this album were written during the lockdown, I see them as such potent time capsules of everyday thoughts during that time. And they were all so different. One day’s thoughts travelled so far into the next day’s.

What’s the story behind the single Private Lives?

I wrote this song in the kitchen during the lockdown. I decided to move my energy around a bit in the house and set up my recording gear that day by the stove as I drank my coffee. The ideas that wafted into my mind for this song were dark. I thought to myself, this would be a terrible time for anyone to be having a terrible time at home. My thoughts went to domestic violence. My thoughts travelled to so many possibilities. My thoughts entered the homes of all of my neighbours I know, all of the ones I don’t, and that kept expanding outwards. 

A big part of my toimahi is to find common ground between our differences. To evoke compassion in a (sometimes) very hard world. My imaginary thoughts about the private lives of people highlighted for me we just don’t know what people carry with them. Although the inception of the song was from a dark place, I wanted to write a narrative of hope for the video that we made for it.

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

Ooooooh tough question. I particularly like the beginning. Because I feel it really paints the feeling of Te Whanganui-a-tara. It feels like how Peter Jackson would depict Wellington in his old films, with the model cable car travelling up the hill. I feel imagery-wise it plays a movie in my mind. I like painting pictures with sounds and words.

“The view from the window sill
almost seeing almost hearing
toy cars
travel up the hill
their lights disappearing.”

I have been working on songwriting with an incredible man who is a tetraplegic. During the lockdown in Aotearoa, his experience really highlighted how difficult it is for people who live with physical disabilities. Without a world-pandemic, his life was already about determination, and a fight to regain his strength, a fight to walk again despite what doctors may say or think. Those of us without physical barriers struggled hard with the lockdown alone. He had to deal with both. The second verse was my little tip of the hat to him because John is a hero to me.

“He must stay inside
he is fighting to survive
strength he must regain
to look life straight in the eye.”

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where? Got a fun story about the making-of?

This was recorded in Wellington’s The Armoury Studio, produced by Tommaso Colliva. Tommaso had flown over from Italy to record our EP, but when we recorded this album the world was in lockdown. Italy was hit especially hard. Due to the time difference, we had to record very early in the morning for Tommaso, and much later than I would be used to in Aotearoa, so that we could Skype in real-time at the studio. It was quite an amazing process.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

I’d hope it would plant seeds for compassion plants to grow in the hearts of our listeners.

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

I play under my full name Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant when I perform solo, and I still once in a blue moon perform with my folk band Nikita the Spooky and A Circus of Men. Ed Zuccollo you definitely want to see in action as Zuke (drum and bass meets jungle filth), all beats are made and produced by himself. Rick Cranson our drummer plays with Little Bushman, if you ever see them advertised – go!  Think Aotearoa’s very own Jimi Hendrix meets NZ soul/roots. 

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song?

Any last words?

Remain, in love.