Nilüfer Yanya on Her Whirlwind, Rewarding 2022

Yanya talks PAINLESS, opening for Adele in London, and her next album plans

nilufer yanya interview
Nilüfer Yanya, photo by Molly Daniel

    Our 2022 Annual Report continues with a wrap-up interview with Nilüfer Yanya. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2022. You can find it all in one place here.

    Few artists arrived in 2022 with an album as emotionally vivid as Nilüfer Yanya’s stunning sophomore effort PAINLESS, which is Consequence’s No. 10 album of 2022. Across 12 dynamic indie rock tracks — including “The Dealer,” which is also our No. 7 song of the year — Yanya filled her Miss Universe followup with evocative riffs, crisp production, and an almost surprising sense of catharsis. These songs are spine-tingling, goosebump-raising, and crafted with a great deal of care and detail. It’s undoubtedly Yanya’s most vulnerable and intriguing statement yet, and she’s deserving of all the success 2022 has brought her.

    It’s been a longer year for Yanya than most. The first single off PAINLESS, “midnight sun,” was released in January, and she’s been busy promoting and touring the record since then. When she connected with Consequence over the phone in late November, Yanya had just finished her eighth consecutive month of touring, and was a day away from a well-earned vacation.


    In addition to runs in North America, the UK, and Europe, Yanya appeared at Coachella and Glastonbury, and even opened for Adele in London’s Hyde Park over the summer. Needless to say, she’s been taking every major opportunity to give audiences of all kinds an intimate experience with the highs and lows of PAINLESS.

    But despite playing those major world stages, Yanya maintains that her favorite show of the year was her intimate New York City concert at Webster Hall in May. “It was such a moment, and it was such an important show, a big show, and it kind of lived up to the hype,” Yanya recalls. “We had a really good time on stage and everything went well, everything went smoothly… until later that night, when we learned our drummer had tested positive for COVID.” Despite the setback, Yanya continued her North American tour, even if she had to carry on with a Detroit performance without her drummer behind the kit.

    Elsewhere in the conversation, Yanya digs deeper into the sounds of PAINLESS, sharing that “the way we finished the songs actually weren’t too different to the original demos,” and detailing the album’s barebones production. “I wanted this to sound cohesive, more like a record and less like a patchwork of songs,” she says, and she’s certainly achieved that. PAINLESS is an emotive journey from start to finish, and it’s all tied together through Yanya’s inimitable voice and guitar prowess.


    Read below for the full Q&A with one of the brightest songwriters around, and see what Yanya has to say about PAINLESS, her whirlwind of a year, and what’s next.

    It’s been a busy time for you since you’ve released PAINLESS. What has this year been like for you overall?

    It’s definitely been busy! I’ve been doing lots and lots of shows. Basically, I’ve been touring since March until this last weekend, and now I’ve finally got a good amount of time in between shows to rest. But it’s been a wild year.

    It’s been eight months since PAINLESS came out. How do you feel about it being a bit more removed from the release and having to play those songs over and over?


    I’m really proud of it. I’m also… I don’t want to say I’m “over it,” but I definitely worked my way not through all the songs, but through most of the songs. I feel like I played them enough. But yeah, I’m really proud of the record. I guess I’m already thinking about, “What would I have done differently to accommodate or change it?” But I’m also wondering, “How do I want to move on to another album or to new music?” Yeah, that’s kind of where I’m at, really. But it’s been a really beautiful experience, and I’m exciting to keep working on music again.

    Are you the kind of artist that puts out an album and then immediately moves on to writing new songs? Or is there a little bit of a grace period or rest time in between?

    There was definitely a period in between. I haven’t really written anything, but I’m thinking about it. I’m excited about the prospect, but I definitely need a little rest before I start doing anything actually useful, not just jamming things out. I do want to start next year and feel quite fresh about working on new material, and I want to be writing for as long as possible, really, before starting to record the next album.


    You’ve gotten to tour a ton this year — any fun tour or festival memories?

    I still think New York was my favorite show of the year. It was such a moment, and it was such an important show, a big show, and it kind of lived up to the hype. We had a really good time on stage and everything went well, everything went smoothly… until later that night, when life happened and we learned our drummer had tested positive for COVID.

    Sounds like a rite of passage for touring in 2022.

    Definitely, it was bound to happen at some point.

    I got to catch your performance at Coachella during Weekend One this year and loved it, and you also played Glastonbury this year. Any memories from playing those marquee festivals?

    You were there Weekend One? Okay, I’m not sure what you saw [laughs]. The first and second weekend felt very different. I feel like the second weekend, it was a little more, “Okay, we know where we are,” but I hadn’t been to the US for like three years. So that first weekend, everyone was like, “Ahhh!” and then Coachella was like, “Go, go, go!” But it was a great experience.

    Glastonbury was also good — I think big festivals, they’re always such a whirlwind, there’s a lot of hype. That’s kind of what I was saying about my New York show; it’s a rare thing when the show and the memories live up to the hype, whereas I think Coachella and Glastonbury, they probably weren’t my best shows. I feel like I can say that this time… but it definitely was an experience and I experienced it [laughs].

    You also opened for Adele at Hyde Park this summer. What was that experience like?

    Yeah, again, it’s one of those things where it sounds so good on paper — and it was amazing experience — but we were on there quite early in the day, it was us alone on the stage. People were watching and kids were there and we were supporting Adele and there were also lots of other artists there supporting Adele. It sounds better than it kind of was, but it was really cool. I never really get to do these kind of bigger… I guess the festival itself is a bit more like mainstream, so it was nice to try and take that opportunity and connect to a different audience. And I loved Adele’s show, it was beautiful.

    PAINLESS was definitely special because it was one of the best sounding indie rock albums of the year. Everything is so crisp! When you were working on the album, was it always intended to be produced this way?

    Yeah, it’s interesting to me. It was quite a hands-off approach on the production side, Will Archer and I wrote and produced most of the songs on the album. We wrote together for a big period of time, we started with the music and added the melody and the lyrics, so it was a different kind of collaboration from what I’m used to working with. I didn’t have a lot of confidence at the time, in the ideas I was having. I wasn’t feeling very creative. So this made that hands-off approach like a necessity, and it was a real joy once it started. I tried not to let that concern me so much in a way, so I was like, “Well, at least I’m making music.” That’s kind of all I wanted to do at the time.


    Believe it or not, the way we finished the songs actually weren’t too different to the original demos that we had. And we didn’t go over the top with it. There certainly was more production overall, but that’s actually been very stripped down and very simplified. A lot of the guitar sounds, some of them were recorded just using like laptop mics. It’s kind of crazy, the only other place we splurged out was vocals. I needed a lot of tracking on vocals, and we had a couple of days tracking drums, but otherwise it was pretty… I don’t want to say DIY, but not too overly complicated. I wanted this to sound cohesive, more like a record and less like a patchwork of songs.

    Is there a song on the album that surprised you?

    I think all of them, really. But I would say “anotherlife,” because that one came at the very end of the process, like two weeks before I submitted the album. It just came off like this random idea I had on my phone and we were talking about maybe recording something else, we had finished “L/R” already and we took a lot of time doing that song. And I was kind of worn down, I thought we had finished the record. But I was actually going for a walk, going to the studio, and I was so enamored with this idea. I just ran with it and yeah, that became “anotherlife.”

    What’s inspiring you creatively right now?

    Musically, I feel I’m more interested in solo kinds of things, if that makes sense. One of my favorite albums lately has been the Sudan Archives album [Natural Brown Prom Queen].

    What are some other of your favorite albums of the year? Do you get to listen to a lot of music on tour?


    Yes and no. I’m big fan of Big Thief and their new record [Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You]. It came out a while ago now, actually. I really like Grace Ives’ new album [Janky Star]. I can be a bit of a scatterbrain when it comes to new music.

    Are there any producers, songwriters, or other musicians that you would love to collaborate with for your next record?

    Honestly, Alex G, I really like his new record [God Save the Animals] and the stuff he is doing. So I guess that would be cool if we did something together.


    What can we expect from Nilüfer Yanya in 2023?

    As of right now, I’m about to go on holiday in Barbados tomorrow. My granddad is from there originally, and I’ve never been, so I’m excited. But looking ahead to next year, I’m going to be hopefully working on a new album. I mean, I don’t know when it’ll be finished or when it will be coming out, I definitely won’t be touring as much or doing shows because I find it really hard to do work at the same time. I just want to give the music as much time as possible. I’m also gonna be putting out a deluxe version of my album at the end of the year. Other than that, that’s about it.