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Interview: Neko Peoples Chats About Her History And Latest Single, "Mutations" — Bushwick Bandstand on Bushwick Daily

Interview: Neko Peoples Chats About Her History And Latest Single, "Mutations"

The Bushwick-based singer-songwriter fills us in her excellent song "Mutations," her experiences growing up in a religious community in Idaho, and her plans for 2020

Tom Gallo



Tom Gallo is the host of Look At My Records! on Radio Free Brooklyn.

Bushwick songwriter Neko Peoples will rope you in with her lyrical storytelling. The songwriter, originally from Idaho, released a brand new single called “Mutations” late last year, which sees her delving into some personal lyrical territory while setting out a new course for her sound. Experimenting with more electronic elements, the expansive song maintains a steady, pulsating eletronic beat while the lyrics tackle issues of identity.

On the heels of the release of her latest single, I caught up with Peoples to talk about her history as a songwriter, the inspirations behind “Mutations,” and what’s on deck for 2020:

Tell us a little bit about your musical background.  What were some of your first experiences writing and playing music?

I started playing guitar around age 14 and began writing songs around that time. I’, self-taught and I’ve always wanted to pursue music. I kind of kept putting it on the shelf, but I still did it as a hobby. Then I moved to New York in 2014 to try to pursue more music-related stuff because I love it. I write a lot and I wanted to figure out how to do music in a way that was more sustainable. Since then, I’ve done a bunch of different stuff. I’ve done some self-taught jazz projects and now I’m trying to focus on playing music that’s more my own.

Have you played in bands before? Or have you primarily written and recorded your own music s a solo artist?

I previously lived in Seattle and I played in another band for about two years after I left Idaho. I played bass. I’m not really a bass player, but it was fun. It was more along the lines of getting together with friends and having fun playing music. But, I just started taking it more seriously in the past few years by trying to get my music out there. I’m currently working on putting a band together for my music. I have a bass player and we’re looking for a drummer to round out a trio. 

For a project like this, when you’re looking for a bass player and a drummer, is it for people to collaborate with? Or is it primarily for people to play the songs that you’ve written?

I'm definitely open to collaboration. We want to play music that we enjoy and express ourselves creatively. However, it is mostly playing songs that I’ve already written. We’ve done a lot of cover gigs together, and we’re ready to move on from that and express ourselves by playing music we enjoy. 

Your latest single, “Mutations,” is a really powerful song that’s driven by your guitar.  Tell us a little bit about the sonic and lyrical influences for for that song. What type of message and vibe were you going for?

"Mutations" is about being extremely anxious and also kind of dealing with religious leaders posing as therapists. I grew up in a very religious household and it addresses that a little bit. It came out all in one take, basically. I was just playing my acoustic guitar and I came up with the bass line. It was written on a very frustrating and emotional day. For the sound, I wanted to explore more electronic and new wave elements. Kind of like early Talking Heads. I wanted to make it sound big within the limitations that I have at home. At the time, I didn’t have a bass player, so I experimented with different percussive things with the guitar and a delay pedal to try to get a big sound out of the recording.

Do you have any other releases scheduled for 2020? What’s next as far as new music?

Yes, I have another song that I'm working on and hoping to release soon. It’s about planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is when something is still good, but we're like, “well, it's old. It's time to replace it and move on.” So it addresses how our culture is so youth-obsessed and fast-paced, but I feel like I have a lot to give and a lot of music I have to release, while at the same time realizing that I’m 35 and I’m not a young kid who is just coming up. It’s in the same realm of “Mutations” sound-wise.

“Mutations” sounds like a very identity-driven song to me. How have your personal experiences shaped your music? How much of your lyrics address your personal experiences?

I feel like a lot of my music does reflect my personal experiences. For example, some of my older songs deal with my experiences feeling alienated in the religious community and trying to find my own way. They also address dealing with the internal conflict that I have because I miss certain aspects of that community - like the built-in family and friends that come from being raised within it. At the same time, the love is not really unconditional. I don’t belong there as a gay person. It’s an anti-gay community. So, a lot of my music is very personal in that respect and explores those experiences. I'm trying to branch out to spin it into positive messages and create more upbeat sounding songs. But a lot of my music has been a way of coming to terms with my past, exploring who I am today, and where I want to go.

In reading about you, I learned that you busk on the subway. How have those experiences helped you develop as a musician and a songwriter?

It’s fascinating because I think it has helped me get less shy, for sure. You have to put yourself out there and it's fun to see peoples different reactions when they pass by me while I'm playing. Sometimes I’ll play something that I write on the spot and gauge their reactions to see if it’s something I can use and expand on. Busking is interesting because it’s more about finding the right spot before another busker takes it. It’s how I met my bass player! I was waiting for him to finish up playing so that I could take over his spot. It’s fun. 

Who are some local bands/artists that you’d recommend to Bushwick Daily Readers? 

My favorite right now is E.W. Harris. He’s very operatic. He does a lot of sci-fi and anime-inspired song-writing. He just released an album called Homunculus and went on tour on Europe. His lyrics are great and he sings with such an angelic, operatic voice. He’s a great storyteller. 

What are your plans for 2020?

I’ll be playing shows. I’ll also be releasing an EP and playing shows around the release of the EP. 

Stream “Mutations” via your platform of choice.  Follow Neko on Instagram and like her on Facebook for updates on her soon to be released EP. 

All photos courtesy of Neko Peoples.

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