A breathtaking and luscious country, famous for rubgy, kiwis and Lord Of The Rings, New Zealand has struggled to establish its creative, homegrown talent over the decades. Pop starlet Lorde shone a spolight on the island recently — encouraging contemporaries to come forward and to represent. And that's exactly what one artist has done.
Enter Noah Slee — a talented singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist fronting the burgeoning Kiwi class of 2017 and progressing the aesthetic of international music with originality and fresh feels. Channeling real life experiences—revealing his sexuality with poetic delicacy—Sir Slee speaks from his heart, creating music to unite lovers from every corner of the world. Nomadic and genre-bending, Slee's music channels the vibes of New Zealand culture but also infuses the energy of European cities he has inhabited, inspired by the people he's encountered on his creative journey.
Noah's debut album, Otherland, is a brilliant first body of work. Coming together to record the 12-track set with Ben Esser—an established musician and close friend—Otherland is a truly unique exploration of communication; love and loss comes to life on record. Today, Complex premieres "Lips", Noah Slee's mesmerising new song, and chats to the reflective artist about his wild, wild thoughts.
What impact do you hope the album has upon the world, from a humanistic perspective?
Otherland is a small piece of who I am. This offering is a humbling experience to be able to share. I know everyone has a unique story to tell, whether it's intimate with their loved ones or on this scale with musical expression. I think it's all pretty scary and the most important part is the honesty; it's deep and personal and liberating. I don't expect too much, but I have hope that there is a connection. I'm just doing my part.
You make brave disclosures on "Told" about your sexuality. How did your family and friends react to the track?
I think through writing songs, I found that missing piece of me. I was able to become completely open and accepting of myself. My friends and family are dope, but it's a treat to be able to be free in music. I'm passionate about music; it felt like I was missing out by not expressing fully.
Do you find it harder to exist as a gay man in New Zealand as opposed to Europe?
Europe is a little more open, but it's not a big deal—you can run into confrontation anywhere. The pace of Europe is perfect for me at the moment, but I am looking forward to settling down back home one day. I think there needs to be more stories centered around minority groups in mainstream music and things are progressing slowly. I do think there is more universal acceptance and understanding of homosexuality now—more walls are coming down. I'm just doing me and I can't over-think it.
How would you define spiritual progression from an artistic perspective?
Artistic expression is a privilege to me. You have moments that allow you to feel spiritual; it's addictive and my development makes being constantly broke, totally worth it. I think that, as long as your ego ain't tripping, you can grow and share deep moments within your community.
You've mentioned before that Thom Yorke's "Eraser" has been an overriding influence throughout your career. What is it about that song that has this effect on you?
I listened to it the other day... I can't really explain why I love it so much. This song was a trigger for me when I first heard it. It's soul music and, sonically, it's pretty mind-blowing. With "Eraser", I discovered something I knew was the beginning of creative inspiration. Before this moment, I was only playing and recording live instrumentation. My first few songs after this realisation, which are no longer online, were much different to what you're hearing now. Everything was heavily inspired by this moment.
Why did you decide to collaborate with Ben Esser on this album? How easy was it to allow another creative to take control of such a personal body of work?
We just connected. It's super rare to find someone who you can communicate with so effortlessly. A good team collaborate to create exactly what the artist wants to record. Esser is definitely a toko [brother] for life.
Whose opinion is the most important to you when it comes to achieving your potential?
To be honest, my whole little circle. I love my soul friends and family. I think it's beautiful that we can be honest with each other and this keeps me when life can get overwhelming. Honesty keeps me creative.
"Lips" is out on June 23 and 'Otherland' lands on August 18 (both via Majestic Casual).