[INTERVIEW] From Chroma to Nova Neon and the way back

Led by Bianca Lewis powerful and soulful voice, NOVA NEON created a very strong stamp and released what can be the best debut album of the year.

Photo credits to Adrienn Pucher

Nova Neon is a London-based band launching their very first album called Chroma. Connecting Bianca’s powerful and soulful voice with some rock arrangements and great samples they create a very groovy and strong style. Very loyal to their principles, they impress a clear and very-own “stamp” in every single track, constructing what is, for us, and until this date, the best debut album of the year.

This is the second time we write about Nova Neon (you can check the first here), and this time we had the opportunity to chat with them about the album and their origins.

Getting to Know NOVA NEON

[WtMM] Hi there, how are you?
[Nova Neon] Good thanks, hope you guys are fine too!

First of all, who are Nova Neon?  And where this name came from?
There’s 5 of us, Aaron, Biancajay, Leon, K & Tom, all London based. Actually we used to be called Chroma and the name came from a lyric in one of ours songs, which is called Ghost, you can hear it on our album. We had lots of issues with the name Chroma because there are other bands with variations of that name and it’s also trademarked, so we had to go back to the drawing board. Coming up with a band name is harder than writing music. After loads of bad name suggestions we eventually came up with Nova Neon, and after a thorough check online to see it wasn’t taken, we settled on it. We think it accurately represents our music. We then decided to call our album Chroma for sentimental reasons.

When did you guys met and decided to start playing together?
K and Leon new each other and K had some tunes he wanted to bring to a band, K also knew our old guitarist who was the person to bring in our new guitarist and the bass player. K and Bianca had jammed a few times to write some tunes and then just decided to bring this whole project together. At the start we had an extra keyboard player but then we forced Bianca to start playing so we can just be a 5 piece.

The Beginning Sofar

When we first discovered you, we heard “Stone to a Balloon” in an acoustic version for Sofar Sounds. This song is a bit different from the others, especially when compared to “Geek Freak” or “Break Out”, is more R&B/Soul, do you agree?
Yes it is, but that’s the stripped down version for Sofar Sounds. The full version of the track available on the album is quite similar in mood and feel to the rest. It’s still a ballad but has those elements that make Nova Neon what it is, big powerful arrangements that develop throughout the track, fusing the early melancholy of the song with an energetic outro. We’re really proud of what we achieved on the studio version.

The UK, and London specifically, has an enormous music industry and fabulous new talents coming up every day. How hard it is to grow and to be heard in there?
It’s really hard work as there are so many good acts out there and at the same time labels aren’t what the used to be so a lot of artists are going down the DIY route. Like it’s great to see Skepta win a Mercury on a self-released album. That might be the future, who knows, but it’s clear that the bulk of the work now has to come from the artist, then if you’re lucky someone will come along and help with that process. The other thing is how the consumer is really hungry and you’ve got to keep on it all the time and try and stay connected with your audience. There’s so much music out there is hard to get yourself heard and it’s become all about PR, if you know to do that well you’re buzzing.

Building Chroma Songs

How was to be on studio recording your very first album?
It was fun but felt rushed. We would have loved to have more time to refine a few of the songs, but I guess it’s always going to be like that. There was a few moments of when we heard the track back and thought that the arrangement needed changing than what we were doing already. Listening back to it in the studio makes you realize what elements are important or not and you start piecing it together in a different way, that was the case with Stone to a Balloon and Tonight Tonight. Other tracks such as Geek Freak and Close Your Eyes were really straight forward.

“I Would Die For You” is a deep song, lyrically speaking. What was the inspiration for this song?
Like a lot of pop songs it’s about a broken relationship, questioning what is important, the decisions made and the realization that it’s not going in the right direction. The chorus signifies those strong feelings you have for someone regardless of what will end up, that you’d do anything for them, but if the time is up, it’s up. I guess that makes it sound quite melancholy but it’s actually positive, to understand the situation and deal with it.

You are five talented musicians that combine perfectly together, but we believe that each one of you has different influences and creative methods. How does it work as a band?
It started off with the songs that K brought to rehearsal and we’d work on them as a group, refine them, changing it up a bit and make them more interesting and lively. At that early stage it was more about learning those songs. As things progressed then jams would be based around chords progressions to get some grooves down, that way everyone gets to influence the songs in their own way through their playing. K and Bianca would then work on melodies on those progressions to put the final building blocks to those songs.

Following that line of thought, who would you point out as your main influences?
Oh god so many! This is always the hardest question, but there’s clearly elements of Alt and Indie in there such as Radiohead, Alt-J and James Blake, but there’s also Pop, like Prince and Daft Punk. As a band we listen to a lot of more progy staff too like Hiatus Kayote and Snarky Puppy, and you can hear some of those elements in our arrangements like in Ghost and Sycophant.

Future, Collaborations and Whishes

How have your days been after releasing the album?
Busy as we’ve had gigs, our last one on this run will be tonight [23th october] for Sofar Sounds actually. We’ve also had a few good meetings with industry that we hope will lead to some opportunities but you never know with this business.  Support from people like you really help the process and get the band out so we really appreciate you taking the time to interview us.

You have been playing in the UK, are you considering to play in other European countries soon? Is Portugal on your plans?
Would love to play everywhere, UK tour, EU tour, World tour, bring it on. We’d be in our element if we got to do that a lot. Portugal definitely, but let’s see what happens.  Maybe we’d get a random call from the NOS Alive promoters.

If you could invite anyone to make a song with, who would it be?
You know how to ask the hardest questions. Right now It would have to be a really top producer. Mark Ronson would be cool to work with or Pharrell, you know you’d get something good out of either one of those guys, or the guys from Daft Punk, the production on their most recent record is simply amazing.

We predict a great future for Nova Neon, but how do you see yourselves in three to five years?
A World tour that ends with the Pyramid stage Glastonbury 2020, that should really be the aim. A number one record would go nicely with that.

We at Where the Music Meets would like to thank you very much for this interview, and congratulate you for the beautiful, electric and soulful music you make. Nova Neon is a very special band for us. Best of success.

You can purchase Chroma on iTunes and hear it on Spotify. Or by hitting the play button below:

You can follow Nova Neon on the following accounts:

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