Noisey

Noita Confronts Anxiety And Lust On Somber R&B Track "Oxygen"

The Toronto R&B artist talks about the "rainbow" that is Mexican culture and finding her artistic release.

by Diyana Noory
Aug 24 2018, 2:41pm

Photos By Diyana Noory

Noita’s double life consists of working as a bartender at a former strip club, and making moves in Toronto’s underground scene. Her persona as a singer is decidedly anti-Hannah Montana, though—just swap out the blonde hair for dark flowy locks, and the pop for brooding R&B. “I wanna be a stripper. Honestly, I would bring fake blood and go in for my performances in some Catholic fucking outfit,” she jokes. The singer is gushing with kindness from the moment we meet. “I’m so excited we’re finally meeting, you’re such an angel! Interviews in general aren’t my thing, but I was like this is a cool gal. Just make me sound really cool,” she laughs.

The duality of playful narcissism and self-loathing is a theme that constantly resurfaces throughout our talk. “It’s really bad,” she confesses. “I make jokes about both things, but I’m also not joking so I’m just the worst human being in the world.” Music is her best outlet for self-expression; talking about it, however, is another story. “I’m really good at talking about absolutely nothing, but when it comes to saying things that are important [about music]… I feel so smart when I speak to myself in my head, but then I say things and I’m like, I’m a fucking idiot!” Self-deprecation aside, Noita is has no issue sharing that pursuing music has always been her goal. The 21-year-old artist, née Noa Southcott, grew up in Playa del Carmen Mexico, relocated to Victoria, BC and dragged herself through a two-year Music Industry Arts degree at Fanshawe College in London, ON—all before she finally set up camp in Toronto last spring where her new life “has been 100% music.”

Noita credits her success to “being really online” and being discovered through Instagram, since she has yet to do a lot of performances. Gaining recognition online is a key opportunity for young artists in a city that has been struggling with many recent venue closures, which fellow Toronto artist Just John discussed with Noisey last year. The internet has also afforded her opportunities like collaborating with German duo Konsequence and landing premieres across different publications, as well as being featured on Spotify playlists.

Although Noita’s honed a distinctive hazy sound, she gives her producers room to breathe after handing over the bare-boned beats she creates and writes her music to. Her current main producer and engineer, Dylan King of Glass Face, is also among her best friends and she expresses great trust in his work. “I’m not shepherding the process as much as you might expect,” she tells me. “It’s really laid back, we just trust each other.”

The young musician’s debut EP, Pink Noise, is a triptych-style introspection of her fears and desires that invites the listener into her stream of consciousness. In regards to the juxtaposition between the record’s bubbly title and its gloomy mood, she states: “Noita, in general, is a lot of darkness and a lot of sadness, but super feminine, super girly, and fun too… I kinda wanna touch into both sides.” She sings of running away from her feelings while simultaneously drawing the listener in closer, and the tick-tock pulse of “Over Here” creates a sense of urgency. The musician describes her upcoming EP, Blood and Honey, as being darker and more true to herself since she’s now more comfortable with her artistry and the process of releasing music.

“The first time I was like fuck, this is like, the release,” she says with a sigh. “But I feel good, I feel really good about this. It’s really fucking raw, I’m really giving myself to people on this one.” With vulnerability comes more anxiety, but she admits that when she writes a song about someone she wants them to hear it. “You know certain people are gonna be looking at what you do. It’s hard to differentiate who you are as a regular human being and who you are as an artist. So, I’m trying to put myself into a place where I’m playing a character, and I’ll find that it’s a lot easier to step back and not care what anyone thinks because I’m this character. And I think I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I’m not going to be 100 percent okay all the time but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. People aren’t going to always love it, but it’s still my art and it’s something that needs to be out in the open.”

The artist’s upbringing in Mexico for eight years is inextricable from her work despite her attachment to her home in Canada. After moving to Toronto, she quickly amassed a group of close artist friends despite initially worrying about encountering a competitive atmosphere. Her stage name means “little Noa,” which she explains is “a cute nickname that people used to call [her] in Mexico.” Her background has been especially influential on her visuals. With her upcoming projects, she’s gunning for sensory overload and a goth bae aesthetic.

“Mexican culture is really vibrant,” she tells me. “When you’re there you’re just surrounded by colours and sounds and scents and it just engulfs you … [Canada’s] full of culture, but Canadian culture, in general, is like grey and Mexico’s a fucking rainbow. I love Mexican religious visuals, and I was surrounded by that a lot because Mexico’s very Catholic. I’m gearing up more towards really sick Mexican style visuals for music videos and cover art and everything.”

I ask her what she thinks of how the scene is growing back in Canada, as she frequents Secret Service Club events in Toronto but many self-starters aspire to relocate to NYC or LA to reach the pinnacle of success. “I’ve talked to a lot of people and they’re like, the hip-hop scene in Toronto is like bigger than anywhere else in the world right now, and I kind of agree,” she answers. “I’m such a mover; I get really sick of things really easily, but I think in general a lot of artists really do wanna stay for the music scene.”

“Oxygen,” Noita’s latest effort, is the first single to arrive from Blood and Honey. Throughout the track she showcases her spin on Toronto’s trademark sound with a sonic confessional in the form of haunting vocals that echo fears of unrequited love. The artist worries about opening up to someone who might ghost her afterward, questioning: “If I let you in, would you still love me?” The uncertainty of “Oxygen”’s lyrical content is reflected by its unconventional structure, which is a far cry from her past singles.

Noita says she writes the best music when she’s out of love or pining for it, and her new song was inspired by the latter feeling. “When I’m in love and I’m happy I’m like, fuck, I’m not gonna make any good music right now. It’s like, the breaks in between the crying and wanting to die that I write the best.” While “Oxygen” is about the thrilling fear of the chase, on rare occasions everything works out and Noita’s love life is cute for a while.

“Life is fun for a second. I don’t know how long it’s gonna last… I’m a self-sabotager for sure. Not this time, though,” she proclaims.

Diyana Noory is on Twitter.