Austin-based electronic-indie duo, NÄM is creating transcendent music: ethereal vocals layered over daze-inducing instrumentals, all DIY-style. Their new single “490”, debuting today, is no outlier to the otherworldly tracks they’ve been producing. NÄM discussed their humble beginnings and honest harmonies both musically and as a two-person team with Local Wolves.
For those discovering your music/band for the first time, can you tell us a little about who you are and what brought you together?
NORA — I think our music is definitely a reflection of our different backgrounds and the way those collide in a unique manner. I’m less a music theorist, in fact I know almost nothing about music theory, and I’ve consciously been keeping myself naive in that field. I’ve always preferred to make music something in which I think less and feel more. And to me, Sam has a lot more knowledge in the technical aspects of sound but the cool thing is that it balances out really well. I’m able to be pretty careless with music sometimes, and Sam has the ability to shape certain logistical errors in my ideas to make them fit to whatever we are making. I’m very grateful for that, because at the same time I’m still working with someone that is 100% artistically acute and driven.
SAM — As to my history and how we met; I’ve played instruments since I was a kid, mostly guitar and piano, but I only started learning how to produce music with my laptop about three years ago. Before NÄM, I played in a series of garage-punk type bands. I moved to Austin two years ago and didn’t know hardly anybody. I got lucky and found Nora on a social media website for musicians. She had posted a YouTube video of her singing a cover song and hearing her voice for the first time blew my mind! Around that time I was learning how to produce music with my laptop, and Nora was about to release her own solo EP, so I sent her some examples of my stuff and asked if I could remix one of her songs. Nora was living in Berlin at the time so our collaboration began with us sending recordings back and forth over the internet for months. I’ve never made music like this before and Nora and I never had a clear image of what sound or genre we’re going for. I think the evolution of our sound has been pretty organic because, for the most part, we’re both flying blind and going with whatever is appealing to us. So far, we’re doing everything DIY style. We’ve written, recorded, produced, and mixed everything you hear.
What made you decide on the moniker NÄM?
SAM + NORA — Nora + Sam = NÄM, the umlaut because Nora is half German!
Does being an Austin-based band play into your identity as musicians? If so, how does the city influence your art?
SAM — Performing live is really important to us, and Austin is a great city for it! I think being in Austin has put pressure on us to have a good live set.
NORA — Yeah for sure. I truly think Austin is something special and I’m actually re-learning that, since I’m currently in Berlin again and am able to look at it from an outside perspective. Not only is the city a hub for artists of all kinds, it epitomizes effortlessness and openness to me and I think this makes me feel very comfortable to express myself in that world.
What was the process behind creating your new single, “490”? What makes it special to you?
SAM — “490” is special to me because it started out as a completely different song. It was just a random idea and Nora and I kept rewriting and crafting I produce new music ideas almost every day and sometimes I number those ideas as I go… hence 490.
NORA — With “490” there definitely were a lot of different versions, and its kind of hard to specify one certain process. It was a mixture of working on it together in person and working on our own and constantly checking in on each other. It’s special because it’s yet another tangible experiment we created in our endless search for different sounds.
A lot of your songs involve more somber lyrics layered over eccentric, upbeat tracks. Can you tell us about your creative and writing process?
SAM — Our creative process is all over the place. Sometimes we record ourselves directly into my laptop while we’re jamming and writing together, but I also come up with a lot of random ideas on my own time and send them to Nora so that she can write to whatever tickles her fancy, and vise versa. I tend to write super melodic instrumentals because I’m a sucker for pretty harmonies and melodies. And I guess Nora tends to write somber lyrics but the way she sings those words somehow still fits with the totally un-somber tracks.
NORA — I totally agree with what Sam said. Our process really is all over the place and we still haven’t really found a set way of doing things; it always ends up being different for every song. The dichotomy of somber lyrics compared to upbeat tracks is mostly because Sam produces the beats and I write the lyrics. Haha, so I guess I have a tendency to express my somber side a lot more.
Lyrically, your music is very honest and at times, even heartbreaking. How have your personal experiences shaped your songwriting?
NORA — Thanks, honesty is important to me! I can definitely see how people would think this… the ability to express dark/sad emotions through music is what hits home to me. I think I’ve always resorted to music as a way of releasing my fair share of sh*tty life experiences. My past experiences are my music, because they are me. I think at the end of the day, I’m always yearning for better ways to express a part of me that feels either hurt or misunderstood.
What is the most important aspect about music-making for you?
SAM — The feeling of beauty that music gives people. Being creative with music is important to me. I don’t really enjoy practicing my instrument or playing other people’s music. Being able to start with nothing and make something is really rewarding. Also performing live for people is 50% of the reason why I love making music.
NORA — Music can be a representation of true, bare emotions and therefor has the capability to evoke true, bare emotions in others. It makes people feel things! You can’t say that about a lot of other things. In our day and age leading an artistic, emotionally driven life (or a life that flows from the inside out as I like the call it) is subpar to all these societal structures we’ve got going on— music transcends this to me.
NÄM’s “490” (Cover Art) by Jesus Acosta
What kind of experience do you want listeners to have when listening to your music?
SAM — Everybody experiences music differently, so I just want people to feel something when they listen. I want people to be interested!
NORA — Same, I want people to feel things! This is what life is all about and I feel like it’s so easy for people to forget that now a days.
What musicians/bands are you currently listening to?
SAM — Tribe Called Quest, Crystal Castles.
NORA — London Grammar, RY X, Chet Faker.
What can listeners expect in the future from NÄM?
SAM + NORA — Expect our sound to keep changing and expect us to get better and better!