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Artist Feature: NTS WIP Participants 2021 - Part One

Click here to listen to the Carhartt WIP Radio Show featuring NTS WIP Participants.

This month’s Carhartt WIP Radio show delves into the work of multiple artists, each of whom is part of the 2021 installment of the NTS Work In Progress artist development program. The mix has been carefully assembled by London based artist Lauren Duffus in collaboration with each artist.

Her mix features a wide array of styles, melding grimey, bass-heavy hip hop; dreamy slow-mo psychedelics; ambient-skewed folk music and meticulously designed electronics, with elements of catchy Hypnagogic pop, heavy phased and filtered d’n’b, and a slew of other sounds in between.

The versatility of the show mirrors the universalism of the 2021 NTS WIP crew, which includes the futuristic UK grime producer brbko, Lithuanian composer and singer Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė, pop songwriter Piglet, South African duo Queen Black Acid, artful advanced RnB artist Tweaks, and the host of this month’s Carhartt WIP Radio show, Lauren Duffus.

To complement her aural journey, we also spoke to each artist, touching on their career to date, and how each of them is crafting their unique sound under NTS’s mentorship. Read part one below, and stay tuned for part two.

What does participation in NTS WIP 2021 mean to you? Do you think the program can help elevate your artistic expression as well as your career?


Lauren Duffus: Getting onto WIP firstly helped to alleviate my imposter syndrome. It was nice to feel recognized. As well as that, it has given me the confidence to try new things and create in new ways. The Real World studio trip really helped with that. It's an amazing program; so much equipment and access is provided to really get you going. I was working on a little two octave mini keyboard before WIP, now I have a lovely big one along with lots of other stuff. It’s also helped me with getting gigs too, as we got some great stuff for DJing, so I can practice at home.

What’s your earliest musical memory that has influenced you?


Lauren Duffus: I remember, in music lessons at primary school, studying Peter and the Wolf and being really hypnotized by some of the themes – the grandfather and the wolf theme especially. I also had a Yamaha keyboard that had saved songs on it, and I remember being obsessed with the Slavonic Dances.


How did you first get into music and performing?


Lauren Duffus: I started making music during the first lockdown. I got the Logic free trial and messed about on it and impulsively shared what I made. I’m thankful for that impulsivity because I’m not afraid to share incomplete or new things. However, that has definitely changed now, which is both a good and bad thing.


What is your creative process like?

Lauren Duffus: I really don’t have a set process, it's very random. I don’t really plan songs. If I’m taken over by the desire to make something, I get on the keyboard and tinker around with melodies until I get a base and build from there. I have tried starting with a beat but it doesn’t help to move me as much. I usually find a chord or a combination that really gets me going, and then it gets exciting.

The role of an artist is always subject to change. What's your view on the political and social role of artists today?

Lauren Duffus: Music will always highlight social issues or represent the state of a part of society, because artists don’t exist in a vacuum. There’s always plenty of context to a piece [of music] whether or not the artist is conscious of it or not.

How much are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences? And conversely, how much is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?

Lauren Duffus: It’s interesting to see how certain songs I make are perceived differently. For example, I’ve had some people find my song Soho Road comedic and sarcastic and for some people it has made them fully cry. I can't say what influenced these two contrasting perceptions specifically, but it was really cool to see how that happens. In the same way, I love Chief Keef but find his music really melancholic, whereas some people find it very hype-y.


What are your thoughts on the accessibility of music today, through large streaming platforms, compared to the bigger but more romantic effort of discovering music through record stores, concerts etc?

Lauren Duffus: I think it’s really cool that anyone can make quality music now for free and share it on platforms alongside big artists. Social media has given lots of talented musicians opportunities that wouldn’t have existed a few years ago – I feel lucky to be working in this age. It's also great that we can listen to whatever we want from around the world without a space being curated for us like in a record shop. I understand how some people may miss a more “romantic” music culture, but if you think of that as superior, I think that’s a bit pretentious/exclusive.

You started making music quite recently, but have already managed to reach a sizable audience. Are there any milestones that you want to reach in the future?

Lauren Duffus: I’d love to score something visual, be it a film, documentary, game, or even just one scene or one moment. I’d really like to do some commission work but I’m not really sure how or where to start. And I’d also like to use my voice more.

Where do your melodies come from?

Lauren Duffus: I just improvise on the piano until something interesting or moving gets made! I wish my process was more exciting than that.

Do you think you could do what you do anywhere in the world, or does London have a special influence on your artistic output?

Lauren Duffus: I could definitely create anywhere because the emotions I use to make my music usually come from self-reflection and thinking about memories that only really live within me. However, I guess London can trigger these, as I grew up here and have specific attachments to certain places and objects. Then again, in the right mood, everything has the potential to trigger nostalgia.

If you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life, who would it be?

Lauren Duffus: SALEM

Favorite NTS show?

Lauren Duffus: Mine ;) listen to it mwahahaha.


What does participation in NTS WIP 2021 mean to you? Do you think the program can help elevate your artistic expression as well as your career?

Piglet: It means so much to me! NTS are an amazing squad, their assistance has allowed me to create things on a different scale, which is such a blessing. It’s very validating to me to think that they see something in me that they would like to support. NTS has also hooked each of us up with a bunch of equipment and software and stuff I’d never heard of or had no clue how to use. I think I make the best stuff and have the most fun when I am just messing about with something I don’t quite understand yet, so it’s led me to a lot of fun experimentation.

How did you first get into music and performing?

Piglet: I think probably the first time I performed would’ve been choir in school. I loved lots of things about that – and hated lots of things about it too haha – but yeah, singing with loads of other people at the same time is quite a mad thing.

What are your favorite NTS Radio shows and why?

Piglet: That’s difficult. I always rate Moor Mother’s shows, and have been working my way through them today, so right now, those.

What are your thoughts on the accessibility of music today, through large streaming platforms, compared to the bigger but more romantic effort of discovering music through record stores, concerts etc?

Piglet: Obviously, it's shit that streaming platforms don’t like paying artists very much but I think it's an overwhelmingly good thing that lots of people are able to find things that they bond with and that they otherwise might never have come across.

How much do other forms of art influence your sound?

Piglet: I always end up writing more words when I am reading more of other people’s words.

What are the pros and what are the cons of working alone?

Piglet: For me, the pros are the same as the cons: working on your own, you can do whatever you want! On the one hand you can experiment with a million bad ideas without feeling like you’re wasting someone else’s time, but on the other, sometimes you can get stuck down rabbit holes and completely lose perspective by obsessing over one wee sound that, in the grand scheme of the track, doesn’t really do anything.


What does participation in NTS WIP 2021 mean to you? Do you think the program can help elevate your artistic expression as well as your career?

Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė: I am really happy and thankful to be a part of the NTS community, it is one of my favorite radio stations. Participating in this program brought me new ideas, [helped me] set new goals, and I'm very grateful to get some reflections and help from the NTS team.

How did you first get into music and performing?

Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė: In my childhood I started singing and playing music in different folk ensembles and choirs in my hometown Panevėžys, in Lithuania. We rehearsed, traveled and performed a lot – this felt like exactly what I wanted to do. I remember a long bus ride for a concert, from Lithuania to Portugal and back, everyone singing together with different landscapes passing through the window. I also remember going to see every concert that was happening in my hometown, I felt curious and drawn to it. Later on I got to hear different music, meet new people, learn and search [for] my own path. All the choices to continue music came very naturally.

What is your creative process like?

Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė: This process feels like a natural part of everyday life. I get inspiration from great musicians – I love listening to music, going to concerts. I like moving, traveling, and connecting with nature. I spend a lot of time listening to folk music archives and field recordings. I love to dig into different songs, books, texts, pictures, poems, ideas, sounds and then let my mind wander freely for something new to emerge. It's a very intuitive process. A lot of [my] ideas are inspired by people I meet or little glimpses of life.

A few years ago I had a chance to study music in India and the master musicians, whose devotion and approach to their art, plus their deep focus on note and sound, and the spiritual meaning of music, are still one of the biggest inspirations I have in my creative process.

Also a lot of inspiration comes from playing with great musicians, like the kora master Solo Cissokho from Senegal, who sadly is not with us anymore. I learned so much from him. We recorded our album just as we met. Sometimes people and music connect, spontaneously, powerfully and beautifully, just like that.


For how long have you played the Kanklės and what made you decide to use this rather uncommon instrument as your main instrument for making music?

Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė: I have played Kanklės since I was seven years old. I first discovered the instrument at music school and instantly felt drawn to it. Since then, this instrument has been with me in every musical direction I took – naturally searching for new personal ways of playing and experimenting with new possibilities of sound. Kanklės comes from traditional music, it's an instrument connected with rituals and sacred music. It is said that it used to be played at home during the dusk hour – "when sparrows go to sleep''. The shape of kanklės resembles a boat in which the soul travels beyond worldly realms. It's important for me to keep and honor this spiritual meaning.


You have performed live since 2015. How much has your show changed over the years and what have you learned from performing that informs your own compositions?

Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė: I have been performing live since much earlier, in various settings, but I started to work on my solo set around that time. Playing concerts is a very big part of learning and creating for me, because it gets you to be in the moment, it elevates music to a certain state of mind, an imaginary space and mood which I can share with other people and feel their response. The audience shares their time with me and I see it as a great gift to shape this time the best I can at the given moment.

In your music you also rearrange traditional Lithuanian tunes. How much do you consider your work as a cultural continuation of the music from your home country, and what does this continuation mean to you?

Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė: Lithuanian folk songs are the main inspiration for my music. [They’re] seeds for creation, some of them have been with me since my childhood. I want to keep this continuation open, respectful, transforming and breathing. I weave them into my own compositions, combine them with sounds that I love, keeping their spirit. This process is like a river, constantly flowing, always changing, moving forward and shaping into different landscapes.

After being part of groups, ensembles, and bands for a long time before going the solo route, do you feel like the experiences you’ve had as a solo artist can fuel the creative processes in collaborative projects?

Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė: For sure, both experiences are fueling each other. I guess the solo set is a more concentrated version of expressing my ideas, it keeps me vulnerable and strong at the same time. It's full of possibilities. But playing with great musicians always leaves a spark of their sound in me and can inspire and lift the music to unknown territories. Playing together with musicians that I love, to listen and share the energy, feels like a very special gift and important connection – deeper than words.