When writing a bio for somebody like Nina Las Vegas, you tend to get carried away trying to list all the things they might list on their CV. If we go that way, we'll be here all day.
Let's talk about the last 12 months. After being a driving force in the Australian dance music scene for more than a decade now, the last year has signalled a huge step-up in NLV's career: ending her huge career hosting at Triple J, launching her label NLV records, releasing her latest EP EZY OR NEVER, playing Coachella, and launching her new podcast, Collect All and Rave.
Phewf! As she tours Australia on one of her biggest runs yet, we caught up with NLV for a chat about success, change and the challenges of being an artist in Sydney.
THUMP: Hey Nina, how's it going?
NLV: Good, thanks!
How's your day going?
The day is long. I just got back from LA, so I've been up since four. So this is my seventh hour awake?
Oh my god, it's basically 6pm for you now.
How was LA?
I was really only there for a brief minute, I was in New York more of the time, because I did PS1, the MOMA festival. And then a bunch of shows around the mid west and New York. Then I did my own headline show in LA which was so cool. It was so good,
Did you catch the heatwave in New York?
Um, yeah, I was pretty sweaty the whole time.
Well lucky you're well equipped. Coming from here.
Yeah, I mean, it's funny because I've been in London, too and I see on Snapchat people being like "Heatwave" and it's like 27 degress and I'm like "you're fuckin' nuts." It's not hot all at all.
Yeah I just came back from there, too, and when I was leaving I think it was a fourteen degree day, and there were like, people sunbaking in bikinis at the park.
Congratulations on the record and the label and the radio show. There's so much happening it must be exciting.
To be honest it's super cool but I'm just still, like, for me it's just how I roll. It's super exciting but it never stops. I'll have moments where I'm like, "Did I do the right thing leaving Triple J?" and then I realise how busy my week is and that I'm travelling the world and it's all I ever wanted.
And the record label I did the amazing show in LA, and half my set was from the label, and I thought "this is just so fucking cool." It's only just been seven months. Having people know the tracks you release and your own songs it's just so cool.
Yeah, of course. What's it like finally putting your own voice to your music, has that been a long time coming?
I don't know. I have this new song that I'm on as well. The thing is, if you write club music, a lot of it is popified. The thing is, if you do it yourself, it makes you a better producer and songwriter, because you don't have to worry about anyone else. I don't know if I like it. The more that I think about it, I just like my songs that don't have my voice on them. I'm having this existential crisis of, like, maybe I am just better as somebody who makes instrumental stuff.
Of course. And there's gotta be that element of listening back to your own voice and thinking "fuck, do I really sound like that?"
Yeah I think it's little things, like how the more that I produce, I notice that the quality of the mic makes a difference. All that stuff is so important. And I'm just learning so much, all the time. And the thing about travelling and touring is that you can't do everything at once. I want to write better stuff and I wanna release better stuff. And I always thought, "I should move to LA" but now it's like, "nah, I just need to work more on my music." And I'm super proud of that EP but it took me like a year so I don't know why I'm wasting away without doing another body of work. So it's both exciting and daunting.
I guess that's the funny thing about success—the kind of think about and dream about as a kid—that in reality, it kind of turns out to be, equal parts rewarding and, a total whirlwind of "What the fuck is happening" at all times…
Yeah, and I think there's a big part of, like, it's been seven months since I left Triple J and I'm starting to realise that you really need to enjoy every moment of the work you do. So the moment it becomes too busy, that's not cool. You have to actually step back and say "What makes me the happiest? How am I going to look after myself? And how am I going to be the best person for everyone on this label?" Because that's their music as well, and it has to be as important as mine. So it is this balancing act, but I really do feel like I'm getting there. And all I can think about is that, we've put out like ten or twelve tracks in seven months and that's better than most labels! And we're brand new! So it's super exciting.
And heading up a label, I guess, how do you make your own music? Are you the type of artist that has to block other things out to make their own stuff or?
I was away and I was trying to make new music on the plane and I was like "This just sucks!" I was lucky enough that, one of my closest friends is this producer called Cashmere Cat, and so he was mixing his record and he let me use his studio with him. And it was pretty inspiring just to watch his pace. Sometimes you have to just block everything out, and turn the lights off, and just sit with you and your music. Instead of going "alright I've got a couple of hours I'm gonna fit it all in." You just have to do it 'til it's done and if you're not feeling it, it's not right. But I'm trying to do both.
I guess the other thing is that like, running a label and so many producers talk about having to, not listen to other music when they're trying to make their own, and it kinda puts you in the position where you basically can, you know, never not do that now.
Well I think because I started as a DJ it doesn't really worry me. If anything it makes me really inspired. I think having that history with the radio, when I'm talking with the acts, I'm able to have to have those really strong conversations about what the music is for.
I read that you were born in Wagga. What kind of music were you into as a kid?
I was a Triple J kid, and I was in bands. I listened to the Hottest 100 and went to Big Day Out. Then I really started to love the Kelis album and The Neptunes. By the time I left school it was pretty obvious that I was getting into the electronic stuff.
And when did you move to Sydney?
As soon as I finished school. I was out of there [laughs].
You've been in Sydney a while, then. Is it hard to see it changing in the way that it is? What's it like living there as an artist? Does it, you know, kind of feel like the NSW government doesn't really give a fuck about you or your career?
Oh, they definitely don't give a fuck. But if this is how they want it to be, they want heaps of people to give up? No. This next run of shows I'm playing at Pacha and five years ago I would've thought "no, that doesn't suit me" but these days I just wanna play where people want to hear music. And if it means it's at a big club, that's fine.
I definitely think there is stuff going on, though. And I also believe that things have to get shit to get good. And LA survives with a 1.30-2am lockout. So we're just going to have to keep getting better at underground parties. And I think that's exciting.
And when the government changes, and they realise the hole that's left—then we can really revive. But until we just have to make do. It does affect me because I can't play as much, but I'm still happily part of it. I don't have the energy to keep being negative about it, I just have to move on from it. Otherwise you get too disheartened. Because it's your whole life! It's my whole life. And if I sit there and rip it, I'm going to hate what I do.
Do you ever think about packing up and moving to Melbourne?
I spend a lot of time there. But I have the best place in the world in Sydney, I'm not moving.
Fair enough. So you're touring the country soon, which we're lucky enough to be partnering with you guys on. There's been a lot of development lately, what can audiences expect from an NLV live show?
Since I last played Australian clubs, I've released an EP, I've had songs played on Triple J, I've played Coachella and big places, and I just feel like I've really stepped up. I've been working really hard at my show. I feel like the club music that they'll hear from me, you won't hear from anybody else touring.
Next question: Have you ever thought about writing for anybody else? Where the real money is?
That's definitely a goal. I would love to write for other people. Also, when you're a girl and you make beats, people assume that you don't do it. So the moment you start sitting in a session and you're the one writing everything, tracking everything, shifting the beats and actually laying the session out, then you open yourself up to so many opportunities. Because so many top-liners are female, and so many pop stars are female.
You know I have friends that worked on Kanye's record and that's just so cool.
So what are you listening to right now? What can we recommend to our readers who are fans of NLV?
Well I just put out the new Hi Tom track, it's called "Tablet." It's amazing. I'm listening to a lot of Lewis's stuff, we're nailing the new Lewis Cancut EP. I've been listening to "LUV" by Tory Lanez, and the new Popcaan. I'm just looking at this playlist on my phone, it's called "G Up" and it's basically like stuff that I love. There's this guy called v1984 who makes really beautiful music. Um, I just did a show with AJ Tracy who's this grime guy—Adam Lewisham—and he's so sick. He has a couple of songs that I've been listening to. There's so much!
Super cheesy, final question: if you could've written one song, what would it be?
I wish I wrote "Where R U Now." I can't tell you anyone that doesn't like that song. They keep putting out remixes but the OG is the best.
Thanks so much for talking to us and congratulations on everything. Can't wait to see the tour.
Thanks so much!
Nina Las Vegas is on tour now. Check out the upcoming tour dates below, and buy tickets here.
Sat Aug 13, Pacha, Sydney
Fri Aug 19, Animal House, Perth
Sat Aug 20, Deja Vu, Wollongong
EZY OR NEVER is out now via NLV Records. Check it out here.