Toronto pagan-punk Nyssa is Dublin-bound this month for two gigs.
The Canadian artist’s family originates from just outside Dublin, so this trip is a homecoming of sorts for her and her recent rock-infused single ‘No More Bodies’ explores the deep disconnect of being severed from one’s ancestral family home.
She has just announced her second album ‘Shake Me Where I’m Foolish’, which is set for release on February 1st to coincide with Imbolc, so we caught up with Nyssa to learn more.
1. What’s the music that you listened to growing up, that you still listen to today?
As a toddler, I used to fall asleep to Enya’s ‘Shepherd Moons’ and Neil Young’s ‘After The Gold Rush’ on cassette. My mom (a Belfast native) introduced me to Sinéad O’Connor’s ‘Lion and the Cobra;’ when I was a baby, and - I’m not just saying this because this is an Irish outlet - but she’s really been a constant for me, a forever touchstone. I recently even performed a set of her songs as part of Toronto’s annual Halloween covers show, Death to T.O. It was one of the most emotional, raw, tear-stained performances I’ve ever given. And, last but never ever least: AC/DC for the rascal devil in me who has always felt the need to power-walk to mid-tempo hard rock.
2. In three words, describe the minute before you walk on stage.
The river, the river, the river. (I chant this either to myself or holding hands with my bandmate, Jess. It came in hot and fully-formed as the ideal pre-show chant at the tail-end of a wild ayahuasca trip)
3. How do you wind down after a gig?
I don't! I ride that wave. Post-stage is when I’m at my most energised and alive. It’s easier for me to stay up all night than it is for me to get to sleep. The afterparty’s at my place.
4. What’s the one song (by another artist) you wish you’d written or recorded first?
‘Night Moves’ by Bob Seger. It’s hard to nail reminiscence in a song, to actually summon nostalgia, but Bob does it so perfectly here. Bittersweet melancholy at its best. And the wailing! The moaning! The throaty freakout! The way the storm breaks in the second half of the song! And what 1964-tune is he humming?! Extra points for having been recorded in my hometown of Toronto.
5. What is your pet peeve?
Most of my pet peeves revolve around my decade-plus in the service industry waiting tables. I could really go off, but I think the one that still gets to me most is people who line up outside the restaurant before it’s open. Take a walk around the block! You’re stressing us workers out!
6. Name one record, one book and one film that everyone should hear / read / see.
Record: ‘Mr. Lucky Goes Latin’ by Henry Mancini. My friend, Liza, played this album for me when we were watching blue jays fly from tree-to-tree in the park while on a psychedelic adventure. It’s the perfect soundtrack for such beautiful moments. Or for cooking! Or hosting a dinner party! It’s got this real skinny-dipping-at-night texture, a full moon radiance. It plays like one long, soft shiver of delight.
Book: ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck. I read this for the first time at the beginning of the pandemic and it continues to entwine itself around my thoughts. I can’t recommend it highly enough as fuel for the kind of rage that’s necessary in times like these. So vitriolic. So poetic. A flag of rebellion planted in the heart.
Film: ‘Cemetery Man’ by Michele Soavi. This movie is WILD. 1994 Italian horror-comedy starring Rupert Everett. Gory. Disgusting. Hilarious. Disturbing. Medieval. Modern. Hot. Sexy. Lush. Delicious. Dreamlike. By the end, it’s as surreal as a De Chirico painting.
8. You’re ordering take-away, what do you get?,
Nicaraguan: mashed potatoes, fresh cheese, plantains, beans, creamy jalapeño sauce…
9. Describe your perfect day off.
Wake up. Write down my dreams. Get myself to the thermal waters spa. Disrobe. Soak. Sweat. Journal furiously. Late afternoon aimless walk. Bonfire with friends. Freely-flowing red wine and deep chats.
10. Tell us, in one sentence, why we should come to your next gig (whenever it may be.)
It's our party and we’ll cry - and beat our chests, and howl, and thrash around - if we want to.
BONUS QUESTION: Recommend a podcast and tell us why we should subscribe to it.
‘Everything Is Stories’. Beautifully produced podcast that showcases stranger-than-fiction human narratives. There’s a recently-coined word - “sonder” - that I think speaks perfectly to what’s at work in this podcast: “The profound feeling of realising that everyone, including strangers passing in the street, has a life as complex as one's own, which they are constantly living despite one's personal lack of awareness of it.”
Nyssa plays the Ruby Sessions @ Doyle’s, Dublin on November 21st and Whelan’s on November 30th.