NewTracks New Artist: Laiika

NewTracks New Artist: Laiika

Auckland pop duo Laiika is made up of two 18-year-old girls who have been making music for a lot longer than you might imagine. A similar time warp can be observed of the music they make; dream-pop dosed with the musical aesthetics of ’80s new wave and ’70s disco. Their first official release, Crush, is filled with jumpy bass and drums, as well as atmospheric synths and vocals that are relaxed and grooving. The easy-going pop sound convinced NZ On Air Music to feature it on their NewTracks compilation this November.

What are your names, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Laiika is Grace Moller and Heidi Simpson. We both grew up in Auckland and have been playing the piano and the guitar from a young age. Now we predominantly use Logic Pro X which is a DAW in which we produce and create songs.

Was any high school or other music training especially important?

We both grew up in very musical families where we were taught how to play the guitar, sing, write songs etc. We were lucky to attend schools with immersive and rich music departments that encouraged us and provided lots of good opportunities, for example working with professional producers through Play It Strange and performing original songs in front of large crowds through Smokefree Rockquest. 

Any other projects we might remember you from?

This is our debut single as Laiika! We’ve been working on stuff for years behind the scenes but this is our first official release. 

What’s the background story of how Laiika came to be? 

We met at a family dinner when we were 13 and we decided to put on a concert for our parents and write a song together because we discovered that we were both singer-songwriters.

How has your music evolved from that early beginning in songwriting to now?

When we first started writing songs together it was predominantly on the guitar and piano but even then we were devoted to well-crafted pop structure and song. Over the years we both got Logic and started experimenting with new sounds, which opened up a brand new world of pop possibility. 

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

Grace heard the story about the Russian Soviet space dog Laika and how she was tragically burnt to death in her spaceship. She was very saddened by the story yet intrigued and liked the name and it kind of just stuck. The two i’s were added later on because there are two of us! 

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

Over a year ago we were lucky enough to open for The Beths in two back-to-back shows in Wellington and at Leigh Sawmill. Another highlight would have to be our debut show at Whammy Bar which was the first show we played with our new set and band. 

What makes Crush stand out for you as a single?

We wanted to start off with something simple and truly pop, yet different to the kind of thing you hear on the charts at the moment. We think this song gives us a unique and original introduction to the world but will fit into the modern pop scene and is a song we think a lot of people will be able to enjoy.  

What is the story behind Crush?

At the time when we were first making Crush we were listening to a lot of classic pop, from the ’80s and the 2000s and wanted to make a really well crafted and punchy pop song like that. Something lyrically and structurally uncomplicated, without losing the true emotion and feeling a lot of pop songs do. This song is about having an intense crush on someone and spilling over with a feeling that is so good yet so bad at the same time. An infatuation that takes over your thoughts and drives you a bit crazy. Crush is a catharsis for that feeling. 

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

Probably ‘Oh no, oh yeah,’ because it sums up in four simple words exactly what it’s like to have a crush on someone. Oh no, I’ve been infected! Oh yeah, I’m obsessed, and I’m so glad I met this person.

Another highlight is the eighties’ synth stab in the second verse. It’s very cheesy but we wanted it to be, as it’s almost a direct reference to The Power Of Love by Huey Lewis And The News, which is an over the top loved up pop song from the eighties. 

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where? 

We recorded this song with producer Rory Noble and we co-wrote it with Grace’s dad, Buzz Moller from Voom. The three of us thought it would be funny to write a song with the most popular BPM, chord progression, and topic of hit songs from all time. We ended up liking how it was starting to turn out so we spent ages working on it and polishing it up to make it into the song it is today.

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

Obviously, this song doesn’t touch on any hard topics. We just want listeners to dance and have fun, which we could all use a little bit more of in these times. 

How do you generally work out what would make a good single?

Something a lot of people will like, yet original. A song that is catchy yet gives the listener a strong emotional reaction.

Who else is in your team?

We are managed by Poppy Tohill of CRS Management who is amazing and has been so incredibly helpful. We’ve also been working with Lucy Macrae from The Label for PR. We don’t have one go-to producer, but we write and self produce all of our own demos and songs. 

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

This is just the start of Laiika and we have so much more material to share with the world to keep an eye out for. We also have a great live band and many shows coming up in the next few months including Grey Lynn Park Festival and Waterbourne Festival next year. 

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside yours.

Staring At The Sun by Daffodils and Dread! by Maxwell Young. Also Goodtimes by Deryk. They are all great pop songs by local artists.

How can we find you on social media? 

Is there a Crush video? Who did you make it with?

We filmed the video ourselves during a trip to Wellington to record some songs, the footage was edited by Julia Morris and will be out very soon!