The South London experimental hip-hop group guide us through the process and ideas behind their latest release.
Nukuluk sound like nobody else. On their second EP, ‘SUPERGLUE’, they advance once again into the unknown, drawing on pop, hip-hop, nu metal… anything they can get their hands on. Their tracks cycle ingeniously between chill atmospheres and moments of chaotic sprawl, as the five-minute journey that is ‘Feel Awful Now’ will demonstrate for you.
Guiding our focus are the twin vocals of Monika and Syd, trailing through lyrics exploring acceptance, escape and sin. Syd explains, “There is this loose narrative we discussed whilst finishing the EP.” Centring around perspectives that, “feel a bit monstrous and ill-fitting”, the collection is about “desiring acceptance whilst embracing difference”. In this way, ‘I Just Wanna Luv U’ is “a statement of intent”, describing how “we need acceptance, internal and external”. Later tracks nuance and challenge this position. ‘Feel Awful Now’ is concerned “with putting on false characters and personalities in social spaces”. Monika sarcastically casts himself first as the self-destructively fun-loving “n*gger with the party hat” and later as a call girl, “hot, single and in your area”. ‘Covered in Gold’ translates the old school hip-hop trope of bragging about riches into fairy tale terms, leaving the fingerprints of modern anxieties on the words in the process. Bullshit, even “covered in gold”, is “still stinky”. ‘Make It Out’, meanwhile, returns us to the purity of the EP’s premise, cataloguing, “the tender desire for escape.”
Though the lyrics give the tracks a more tangible meaning, Nukuluk’s music primarily begins with the abstract expressiveness of a certain sound. Syd describes how “one of the producers in the group (myself, Louis and olivia) will be fucking around with whatever sonics or software and find a sound that expresses something unique. There’s an ideal in there, that any one element of a produced track can stand alone by itself and express as much as the rest of the music.” These ideas bounce around the group, and since developing a live setup there has been even more room to evolve a tune. “When our last EP came out we weren’t really a live band, far more a studio project, but since then we’ve grown a lot and our sound has followed suit.” This has brought, Syd feels, “a change of breadth and scope; it’s a very expansive body of music exploring a lot of genres and feelings, and everyone brought every idiosyncrasy they have to the table.”
It is still the case, however, that, “Each track tends to have a leader and they will often shape the direction of that track, guiding the collaborations that happen within it.” Monika explains that, “We work with each other because we have a similar approach to making sounds. You recognize each of our creative voices across the tracks, even if they speak a different language.”
Though the band evolve largely through moments of individual, Syd does recall the completion of ‘Feel Awful Now’ as a “breakthrough” moment shaping the direction of this EP. “It had a great journey from laptop trip-hop track to a rock song in our live set to becoming a hybrid with great offerings from everyone and now feels like the big banger on the record.” Speaking of the process of its completion, he further recalls, “A favourite day at my old flat where everyone had been out late the night before. Mateo arrived, wrote and laid down this perfect bassline, threw up and then went and got curry goat with rice and peas all in the space of about an hour.”
Now boasting two cutting-edge EPs as well as one of the fiercest live sets on the circuit, Nukuluk are firmly entrenched as a compelling and unique voice in new British music. Their songs speak of Playlist Generation eclecticism and the post-modern metropolis, full of industrial scale and alienated terror. Considering the context they imagine people listening to their music, the lead singers’ contrasting responses combine to get to the heart of the experience of their music. Monika describes it as music for people, “feeling like they are bursting at the seams!” Syd, however, looks at as channelling “sitting on the unhoovered floor of your bedroom, dust and detritus all around, sad and happy and not quite yourself.” Between these twin states is this journey the band describe, of confrontation and ultimate acceptance of streaks of the monstrous and awkward within all of us.