This article was first published on CLUAS in April 2000
Caroline chats with Nina about tunes & things...
Dublin based Nina Hynes gets compared to a lot of different people - Bjork, PJ Harvey, Mazzy Star, even on one memorable occasion in New York to Dolly Parton! But although her debut mini-album, Creation, is somewhat derivative in places, she's working towards a sound that is uniquely hers. Nina refuses to follow the clich? girl-with-acoustic-guitar path and this is immediately obvious from the opening moments of Creation's first track, 'William Tell'. The most successful song on the album has been 'This Magic Stuff', a perfect pop moment where Nina captures the altered state of perception that affects those in love: 'you make me feel so beautiful/you take me somewhere so beautiful'.
Early on she reveals that she enjoys working within the 'discipline of a pop song' and finds it challenging to 'try and capture something magical in three minutes with something that's as structured as verse, chorus, bridge'. Talking to Nina about her music you get the feeling that she would like to seduce people into entering her world using an accessible song like 'This Magic Stuff' and then get them to listen to music they wouldn't normally pay attention to.
At the time of our recent meeting Nina had just finished a tour around Ireland, had recently played a few gigs in New York and was rehearsing and playing with two bands - her own Nina Hynes band and K-Dek (previously known as 'Reno Five', containing members of Dublin and Derry bands Tension, Mexican Pets and Schtum). She can't wait to get back to the studio again and plans to record a new album in the summer, finishing it by August, and book-ending the recording time with tours in May and October.
She never really thought about music as a career although she has always sung and 'fiddled with the piano' - she wrote her first song when she was eight. A passionate performer, Nina looks most at home on stage, lost in and absorbed by her music. She started off busking and playing at the songwriter nights in the International Bar, which she describes as 'a great training ground...like a little university'. Her first major support slot was with Kila at a time when she was 'terrified at the idea of playing somewhere with a roof'. It wasn't until Nina had a gig in Whelan's that she got around to putting a band together. The packed line-up included 'a cello player, a drummer, bass player, bodhran player and Joe Chester [still the guitarist in the band] on electric guitar.' That night Nina realised what she really wanted to do, she says, 'being on stage surrounded by my favourite musicians gave me a real buzz, it was incredible! She borrowed some money to record with that original line up and, after many fits and starts, Creation was born.
The album belies its genesis, which Nina describes as 'a scattering of demos, recorded over about a year and a half.' She wrote most of the material herself: 'I would come in with songs and everybody would work around them.' Two of the songs - 'He Turned The Light Off' and 'Bring Me Alive' - developed more organically from the band jamming together. 'Bring Me Alive' stands out as a darker, more complex song and ends with Nina hypnotically whispering 'this music brings me alive' over and over again. Nina enjoyed working in this spontaneous way and intends to do it much more in the future 'the plan in the next few months is to rehearse a lot and write as a unit, not just me coming in with songs.' She has already written a few 'shiny, happy songs' and hopes to create the album as a band and release it under a name other than Nina Hynes.
The work that she does with K-Dek is different again, and 'not so song orientated.' Nina puts vocals and keyboards around pieces of music that the band gives her on tape and then they all rework it together. She likes this different approach which she feels is 'more tongue in cheek'.
Nina has a sense of disbelief about what she's doing. Sometimes there's something of the little girl lost about her, especially when she describes standing on stage on front of an audience and thinking that she hasn't really come to terms with her life at all. She sometimes feels that what she does is 'crazy...the whole act of playing music is invisible, it doesn't exist'. At the same time she believes that 'music is powerful, there's a magic there that takes you away'. She often manages to transmit this to her audience - at one of her gigs in Whelan's last November you could have heard a pin drop as everybody was totally focused on the stage. Nina found this 'very odd, it's a weird feeling, looking at so many people looking at you'. Although it can be intimidating she gets a 'total buzz' out of it - 'people coming to be quiet'.
Other than working with her own band and with K-Dek, Nina has plans for many other things, like releasing a solo album and maybe doing some soundtracks. Let's hope we don't have to wait too long for whatever comes next.