“Life Feeds Into Art” Audrey Nuna Interviewed

A multi-hyphenate who revels in the luxury of boredom...

A walking art piece drenched in effortless cool and a humble witnessing of the world, Audrey Nuna is unlike most. 

From musical genres to the immigrant story, Nuna has embodied defiance by doing it her way and perfecting it on first execution. Her work is aged far beyond her years, both sonically and visually, landing her countless accolades as one of the first female Korean-American acts to break into mainstream culture. 

Her first single of 2024, ‘Starving’ is a bold reintroduction, enlisting Teezo Touchdown to tell a story of insatiable thirst, whether it’s for food, connection, or a digital hit of dopamine. 

Audrey Nuna’s stardom is not only an offshoot of her objective talent, equipped with slick storytelling and an intoxicating voice that melts genre. It’s also the spark of her spirit, a young creative who only wants to keep coloring. Beneath big-time management and the clout of a devout fanbase, she’s a young 20-something who finds warmth in the aisles of a grocery store and the suburban luxury of boredom. 

We got a chance to meet who Audrey Nuna is today and the secret this sophomore project is keeping.

Clash: You’re an East Coast girl through and through. How was the adjustment moving to LA?

Audrey Nuna: I felt for a long time like I didn’t fit into this city. It’s just so different and I think as soon I got here, being with a bigger management company for the first time, I was being put in a lot of sessions and just immediately got a very LA experience. I’m just now beginning to feel like I’m carving out a community for myself that isn’t so embedded into the matrix of what LA is and that feels great. I’m starting to enjoy the city for what it is.

How do you find a sense of home when everything around you feels foreign?

Grocery shopping. There’s something I find very therapeutic about doing very mundane things in a city like LA where this is so much stimulus. Just going to buy some oat milk and just be bored. So much of my creativity growing up came from being bored in the suburbs. Life feeds into art and that’s really important to me.

It’s sobering to think that we’ve reached such an overstimulating place socially in which we need to effort ourselves into being bored.

It’s such a weird thing. I feel like I was taught to work really hard, especially coming from an immigrant family, it’s such a staple of every aspect of our lives. I’m trying to find the balance of it being more energy than muscle and consistency than stress. I’m trying to find the freedom in that. For me with LA, that has been the journey. There’s so much to do and you can be outside all the time, so I’m selective with my time and energy. Going to a DJ set and then getting a facial and just doing normal life shit. 

That sounds like heaven for an inner child. How is yours right now?

I think she’s good. She’s chillin’ right now. This whole project has been such a journey of returning to that honestly, that ties into the boredom thing. Kids are good at finding something to do when they’re bored. That’s been a great source of creativity for me. My inner child is good, I’m enjoying the process a lot more than I did even two years ago. I’m making shit with my friends again and that feels so good and familiar. I’m still making music in someone’s living room, not going to a cold ass recording studio. I’m keeping it suburban, grassroots. That’s important to my inner child.

One thing about you is that your eras are very marked by not only what you’re doing visually but also what you’re doing sonically, lyrically. You step into new iterations. When you embark on a new musical era, does that bleed into your life outside of the music? 

For me, it’s reversed. Certain changes in my life inform the music and the visuals more so than the other way around. Me and my producer have been going to see a lot of DJs and appreciating dance music more. Just exploring new territory. All of those things really play into what the next project sounds like. I feel like it’s very organic so it’s interesting to hear that it seems stark. I guess it’s because of what I choose to share within the art, but I feel like it’s such a living, breathing, changing thing. This next project is just a diary of everything that’s happened over the last two or three years.

You mentioned that you “Never put out a song like this before,” speak to that. Are you nervous for the world to hear something different?

Not nervous, no. I don’t really get nervous to share music or visuals. For me, when I know I fuck with something, it brings me a lot of calm. A lot of peace. I’ve never done this to see what other people think, I’ve always done this to understand how I feel about myself. For that reason, it’s never really given me a lot of anxiety. 

You can feel that rooted sense of self in your work, which is why so many people gravitate towards it. What story did life lay into this project?

Looking back, there are always themes of outsiderness. The idea of being in the trenches and being on the outskirts and looking in. Growing up in a place without a lot of diversity while being Korean American, I’ve become very comfortable with being on the outskirts. Navigating both worlds, being American and coming up in a Korean household. Navigating duality has been such a theme in my music. For this particular project, I moved to a new city that felt super dark at times, but then there’s that weird contrast of synthetic perfection in LA. I’ve just been processing that, going through relationships, loss of friends, the dark underbelly of adolescence. 

What would a past version of you think about what you’re about to put out?

She’d be like “What the fuck?” It’s a pivot. Playing it for people, they’ve told me it’s very sonically developed. It’s just a teenager. If the first project was the child of my sonic landscape, this second project is the angsty teenager who is going through it and has experienced deeper emotions and more challenging things. There are more dark corners of this body of work, sonically and lyrically. 

What are the roots of your genre versatility, was it nurtured and cultivated in your upbringing?

Everything for me has been very push-pull. Growing up in a Korean-American household, there was a lot of that. For example, my grandpa would tell my dad to not go into the kitchen because men aren’t supposed to be in there. But then at the same time, my mom moved to the Bronx when she was 11 and has this spirit of freedom. Just a “Fuck you all” type of energy. That push-pull has been genetic and ingrained in me as a person. Growing up in the suburbs and being confused about what the world really looks like, especially when no one looked like me. Then going to NYU and realising so much. That push-pull has been a constant drive of trying to find what I actually think is cool. Working with someone like Anwar who has been my producer since day one, who gets my weird. You have to find that person who sees the weird in you and is down for it and encourages it. My upbringing and my collaborators are the answer.

You’ve certainly found that collaborating with Teezo on ‘Starving’, there’s a lot of overlap in how boundlessly expressive you both are. Talk to me about that experience.

We got connected through my A&R. It’s so funny because I didn’t think of Teezo at all for this record and when I heard the feature I was like “This is so interesting because it doesn’t sound like a song that either of us would do.” But that aspect of flipping something on its head as a fuck you to the rules is where I get my life. Meeting him on the video shoot was so cool because I feel like I can learn a lot from him. Even on set we were trying to shoot something for social media and he was like “This is feeling a bit content-y.” He was telling me that creativity is always more important than getting content and that was something I really needed to hear in the moment. I’ve always been on that wave and seeing peers who have a similar outlook is so energising.

And the ‘Starving’ video truly speaks to that devotion to art rather than content. During the process of building out visuals, how much of a role do you play? 

I’ve been involved in everything visually, whether it’s as a creative director or co-director. I really love visuals, to me it’s as important as the music. For this video, we worked with Khufu Najee who I met when I was 19 and had just signed to Arista. We started making art around that time and took a break because I was working on the project and life things were happening, but we reunited for this video. The thing we both really wanted to illustrate was this return to purity. What we used to do in Bushwick in 2019. Just getting a camera and shooting and making something beautiful out of the ordinary. Finding a random industrial storefront and seeing the art in it. I really wanted to bring that feeling back so we focused on compositions and making everything look like it could have been a photograph. I also brought this idea to him of The Simple Things by Takashi Murakami and Pharrell Williams. They did a collaboration sculpture with these bedazzled objects which I’ve always loved and I thought about the idea of starving for something and only having bedazzled food you can’t even eat. You want to be fed and can’t. We took that idea and ran with it.

Yes! I thought about the bedazzled banana when you were speaking to LA’s synthetic perfection.

Definitely. He’s been around since prehistoric times when it comes to this universe we’re building so it was great to come back to that clean, minimal storytelling.

It’s incredible to see an artist with so much say and sovereignty regarding what they’re putting out. Within your music, you’re giving a lot of young artists and creatives and people who feel like outsiders permission to live the fullness of their colors because of how loudly you are. Who did you grow up witnessing that gave you permission to do the same?

That’s such a great question. I was not super tapped in as a kid because my parents listened to like Destiny’s Child, Whitney Houston, and then Korean singers. That was my scope. But then I discovered Yeezus when I was in high school, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Hype Williams as a director. Even on the KPOP side, seeing G-Dragon in 2010 do his thing and being like “Oh, this is an Asian person who doesn’t care about the rules” was definitely cool. That was incredibly influential for me as a 10-year-old.

And lastly, as this rollout continues, how are you enjoying the calm before the storm?I’ve honestly just been working on this next project. I’m in such a great creative space right now that I just want to upload as much information as possible at a pace that feels different than what finishing the album felt like. There’s more freedom in my schedule for grocery shopping, wandering and reading fonts. Going out and listening to music. It’s a very exploratory time with the intention of “What’s next?” while still painting the last strokes of this project. I’m a bit ADHD, I like to work on a lot of different things; it keeps me energised.

Audrey Nuna’s new single ‘Starving’ is out now.

Words: Jazmin Kylene

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