Interview by Erin Waks. Images by Marko Vrbos.
So, ÖZ explores your multifaceted identity, particularly in relation to your national identity. How do the music and lyrics represent you?
Gorgeous specifically is a song about self-admiration being a political act of resistance. From a production point of view – I wanted to make something sonically that defied people’s expectations of me whilst simultaneously referencing those expectations. So I’m singing in this really high, hypnotic voice that’s emulating old Bollywood vocals – yet I’m performing like that over an incredibly hard, bass-heavy, electronic beat. So there’s a real juxtaposition and sense of irony there. In the first verse I’m saying “no more shy love on the screen, if you wanna question it come see me” so I’m saying no more lousy representation of women like me being portrayed as meek and lacking power. If you want the real representative then come look at me spitting over this beat. And I kind of keep that ethos for the whole project. I’m borrowing from parts of my ethnic background in the music with my percussion and string choices across all three tracks but at every opportunity, I’m subverting expectations as much as I’m leaning into them to avoid pastiche. I guess I’m just the personification of this EP itself. You might look at me and expect one thing but as soon as I open my mouth – you’re probably surprised at what comes out of it.
If you had to describe the project in one word, what would it be?
What did it feel like the first time you listened to the EP in full?
They say it takes years for your ability to catch up to your taste – and when I listened back to ÖZ for the first time I felt like I’d finally arrived there.
How did you become interested in music? Has it always been a passion? Was it an important part of your childhood?
I fell in love with music through dance. I used to dance for eight hours a week when I was younger and wanted to be a dancer. That’s how I learned to listen to all of the intricate details in a song and became fascinated with the different layers that make up a piece of music. Then as I got older I learned how to play the piano and guitar and how to produce my own music and it flowed naturally from there.
What is your aspiration for the EP in terms of how it makes people feel?
I hope it challenges people and makes them feel uncomfortable…in a way. It’s not meant to be listened to in the background on some soulless playlist while you scramble eggs. I was trying to push myself out of any confinements of genre and form on this project and hope it pushes the listener out of their safe zone too. I hope they feel like they’re hearing something new and exciting for the first time in a while.
What was collaborating with Denzel Himself like?
Easy and wonderful. He’s a creative genius and has the warmest smile and purest energy that’s so nice to be around.
Do you have a favourite track on the project, and why/why not?
Mummy is probably my favourite. I love the N.E.R.D / 00s Britney vibe it has. It’s probably the most fun song I’ve ever made. I’ve never made a song for the club but I can imagine this one in the club. Jyoty said it was a club banger when she heard it. Hopefully I’ll get to hear it played out on a loud sound system soon.
Who has inspired you most for ÖZ?
ÖZ means ‘self’ in Turkish so this project was really just inspired by my own desire to dig deeper into my own identity and psyche. Like why don’t I feel good about myself or at ‘home’ in my home country? Why am I worried about my younger brother growing up in London? Why am I thinking about empty nest syndrome when I’m not even a mother myself? This project served as an opportunity to explore all of those questions that I needed to answer for myself.
So, what’s next?
A holiday. Then I’ll make my first album.