NewTracks New Artist: Nova

NewTracks New Artist: Nova

Bryn Van Vliet is just one half of Wellington band Nova, the other half being Eliza Pickard who provides the smooth vocals. Nova released a very tasteful self-titled jazz pop EP in 2021, and a year on have a bunch of new tracks that show their jazz-pop sound becoming more electronic. NZ On Air Music featured their track Floating Away on their NewTracks compilation this December.

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

Kia ora, thanks for this opportunity! My name is Bryn van Vliet. I’m from Kerikeri in the Far North, but am basically a Wellingtonian these days. I play keyboards, synthesiser, saxophones and vocals in Nova.

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

I had formative experiences both at high school and Te Kōkī NZ School of Music. There wasn’t much happening musically in Kerikeri so I’d say the journey that really led me to wanting to go professional was my time at university. Many people I met there 12 years ago have become my closest friends and most trusted musical accomplices.

Any other musical projects we might know you from?

I’m privileged to work with many wonderful people and artists. Namely TOI (formerly Tunes of I), Rodger Fox Big Band, Creative Nātives and Taylah Barker might ring a few bells.

What’s the background story of how Nova came to be? Who else is directly involved?

Nova is really the passion project of Eliza Pickard (vocals, guitar) and myself. But lucky for us, we have our close friends Phoebe Johnson, whom you may know from her group Revulva, on bass, Luther Hunt (TOI, Sky Canvas, Taylah Barker) on drums, Jacob Pritchard on electric guitar. And Conway Jeune (TOI) also tracked on the new releases.

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

I’d say that the writing style of our first EP (released in October 2021) more captured the live sound of the band. Our sound now encompasses more electronic production, courtesy of Anna Edgington who produced Floating Away and three other new tracks, elements, as well as the regular instrumentation. The songs I feel are also more palatable for commercial radio in today’s market.

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

Eliza and I met by chance in 2018, and we started writing together in 2019. We quickly discovered that our writing styles really complimented each other, and through that, we found that we were able to write strong songs, efficiently. A helpful combination! Coincidentally, we later learned that both of us had wanted to name a band, Nova. So we couldn’t really not name the band Nova after learning that!

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

The release of our first EP in 2021 was a highlight, as it kind of put us on the local map. From there we have slowly been building up our live profile. So experiencing the growth in our sound and our name has been a highlight for me.

What makes Floating Away stand out for you as a single?

Floating Away is our humble entry in the legendary Kiwi summer pantheon. This song is a slight departure from what we normally do, however, I feel it’s a great, palatable track to release just at the crux of summer. Getting that rolling playlist action is definitely a goal here!

What is the story behind Floating Away?

I’m heavily inspired by songwriters and composers who write with particular members of the band in mind. The likes of Duke Ellington, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon. Luther Hunt had just joined the band, and I wanted to write a song that he would gel instantly with. Luther and I have played in TOI together for over 10 years, having extensively played genres of dub and reggae. So I wanted to incorporate those elements that he’s so great at, in the song.

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

My favourite moment is actually right at the start of the track where Phoebe does the most majestic fill into the deep low note of the groove. That combined with Luther’s cymbal and the organ bubble puts a smile on my dial, every time.

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

Eliza and I co-wrote the song together. For this track, I wrote the groove and brought it to Eliza to write the melodies. A funny story about this song is that it only took us about one hour to write the entire thing and record it. We finished the song and went straight to the beach for the rest of the day! This song/project was funded through NZ On Air New Music Development fund. Fortunately, we were able to record four tracks at Massey Studios in Wellington with Anna Edgington producing, Dave Carter engineering and Ben Horton (Benny Tones, Organik Musik Works) mixing and mastering. A dream team if you ask me!

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

I’d love listeners to hear the song once, and want to listen to it on repeat all summer! The chorus lyrics are rather uplifting, though it’s a song about taking your moment, and following your heart – but in a fun way.

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

Usually, the songs that get written easily and efficiently are the ones that end up being the best ones, for us! Also if they earworm you. We generally give the song space after writing it, and if it sticks, we take it further. Showing family and friends is also a large part of the process.

Who else is in your team?

We currently don’t have a manager or label. Right now it’s me sending A LOT of emails, so if anyone wants to take us on – my Gmail, thank you!

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

Eliza has a wonderful group named, Octopus In Heels. An original folk group, based in Wellington that plays Eliza’s folk songs. They have a track and music video coming out in a few months, through the Tiny Triumph recording grant. They are definitely one to look out for!

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

  • The Black SeedsFire
  • Revulva: Stop Pulling On My Hair
  • TOI: I Wanna Rock

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

We’ve only applied for that one round of funding, fortunately, we got it! Floating Away also just got picked up for NewTracks in December, so that’s exciting! However, I’ve experienced many rejections from other groups. My advice would be to spend a good amount of time developing your brand/music concurrently. I feel that’s one of the hardest things about releasing music, getting the visual and marketing aspects right in addition to making a track you are happy with.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I’m super into the Kiefer “Approachable Music” podcast. I really appreciate the realness of the guests who join him. It’s really validating to have people of high stature in the music industry like Amber Navran (Moonchild) and Braxton Cook talk about their struggles and victories throughout their career.

Any last words?

Thanks for reading!

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